Every HR Manager Needs These 6 Key Skills

HR Manager

Key takeaways

  • HR Managers oversee the strategy and daily operations of the human resources function of an organization
  • HR Managers are uniquely positioned to shape an organization’s culture as they are one of the few individuals that are regularly involved with all parts of the business
  • The key skills that an HR Manager needs are stakeholder engagement, clear communication, coaching and mentorship, training, negotiation, and strategic thinking

What does an HR Manager do

The primary responsibility of an HR Manager is to oversee the daily operations of the human resource function. This spans everything from recruiting and hiring new employees to managing existing employees’ performance, to shaping the member benefit programs. They work with managers to ensure that the components of the HR operations are aligned with the strategic goals and vision of the organization. Some key functions that an HR Manager may oversee include:

  • Recruiting
  • Talent Management
  • Compensation
  • Benefits
  • Career Development
  • HR Policies and Procedures
  • Training
  • Employee Grievances

Human Resources functions in an organization

HR Managers play an instrumental role in supporting an organization’s success. Because of the inherent nature of their role, they have an opportunity to shape the end-to-end employee experience. They are also one of the few individuals who are in regular contact with all areas of the business. This enables them with a unique opportunity to craft a unified company culture through programs and initiatives.

In smaller organizations, leaders may opt to outsource their HR functions. This is because there may be a minimal daily need for the human resources function. Whereas larger organizations are likely to have teams with dedicated individuals overseeing each key area of HR. For example, organizations experiencing hyper-growth may have a recruiting manager that focuses exclusively on recruiting new talent. In other cases, companies may opt to contract out parts of or their whole HR function. They may opt to do if they feel that the role requires specialized knowledge that the company does not currently possess capabilities and resources to support.

Stakeholder engagement

One of the most important skills of an HR Manager is being able to cultivate and manage strong relationships with business leaders, employees, and external partners of a company. HR Managers collaborate with business leaders on compensation programs, recruiting strategies, and performance management. This way, the HR Manager can hire candidates that are more likely to perform well in the environment.

With employees, HR Managers serve as an advocate by being the defacto liaison between employees and leadership. In order to be effective, employees need to be able to trust in HR and their ability to stand up for employee interests in the face of grievances. As a result, being able to develop open relationships is key. This way, employees can feel their voices are heard and valued.

Team management

Another key skill of an HR Manager is being able to manage a team. In large organizations, the Human Resources department is likely made up of a team of individuals who are overseeing different parts of HR. The HR Manager is responsible for directing this team of individuals to ensure that all the parts of HR come together to support the business’s overarching strategic goals and objectives.

HR Teams are composed differently depending on the needs of the organization. For example, a technology with a focus on research and design may have an in-house HR Manager, recruiting manager, and training manager, while their benefits are managed through a contractor. Because of this, HR Managers must possess skills in managing a team.

Clear communication

While it is safe to say that communication is important in all roles, it becomes particularly important for an HR Manager. Certain situations, like the discussion around compensation and performance, can have real implications for both the company and employee. Therefore, clear communication is paramount to ensure that the employee hears and understands the intended message.

Coaching and Mentorship

Absence of a dedicated leadership development program, HR managers often step in as executive coaches for senior leaders. They lend as subject matter experts on how managers can inspire and motivate their teams. In other situations, they also serve as sounding boards for leaders who need to have difficult conversations with employees. Coaching moments are a key element in driving the right kind of company culture. Therefore, having an HR Manager empower senior managers with strong leadership tools can help minimize the risk of toxic company cultures.


Training plays a critical role in driving employee behaviors and ultimately company performance. However, managers of individual departments may not have the time, resources, and or specialized knowledge on how to create thoughtful and comprehensive training programs. With that, HR Managers may step in to design, implement, and even conduct training. In larger organizations, HR Managers are more likely to have a full view of the business needs and, as a result, can design a training program that is consistent and streamlined.


HR Managers are often liaising between managers, employees, and candidates. Those who are adept in negotiations can help ensure that all parties are benefiting from an agreement. This becomes imperative to helping an organization maintain a positive culture. Also, HR is seen as a neutral party to mediate. Thus, the ability to negotiate in fairways becomes very important.

Strategic thinking

Finally, as an HR Manager, senior leaders will lean on you to develop and guide the people strategy. Strong HR Managers will come to the leadership table with a vision on how internal and external individuals perceive the company’s culture. They will possess a playbook on how to attract, hire, and retain the talent that supports the growth of the organization while maintaining the values and culture of the business. By taking lead on the talent and people development, the senior leaders of the organization can stay focused on their respective lines of business.

Related Readings

Professional Leadership Institute (PLI) is an educational website providing professionals from all types of businesses with practical education in entrepreneurial leadership. To keep evolving your leadership toolkit, additional PLI resources below will be useful:


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