Human Resource Management (HRM) is one of the most vital functions of any successful organization. Over the years, HR experts have evolved from being a group of administrators to being change leaders and organizational drivers. Just like every other team in the organization, the HR team also comes with its own competencies.

HR core competencies are essential skills needed for HR professionals to do their tasks well. Every role within the HR department will have different requirements in terms of competencies. Some are required, and others are preferred. However, despite their individual roles, we have compiled a list of common HR skills and competencies needed by all HR professionals to deliver successfully on their jobs. These competencies will ensure the professionals keep their A-game on and contribute effectively to the organization’s growth.

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1. Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skill is the ability to interact with people around, both verbally and nonverbally. Without a doubt, this is one of the primary key competencies for HR professionalsAs the name suggests, the first job of any HR person is being human with the employees.

From the day an employee is recruited to the day they walk away from the organization, HR’s support is needed, which is why interpersonal skills become essential.

Some of the features of interpersonal skills are:

  • Being approachable
  • Being available in person and emotionally
  • Ability to interact with employees, making them feel at ease
  • Knowing the art of being professional yet friendly

2. Communication skills

Communication skills can be considered a sub-sect of interpersonal skills. While this is important for everyone, for an HR professional, this is vital. Many HR professionals assume that they have great communication skills because they constantly converse with employees. However, conversation and communication are two completely different skill sets.

A conversation is the mere exchange of words and thoughts and can be done by anyone at any point in time. Conversation is mostly informal. Communication, on the other hand, requires the person to think, validate their thoughts, and then speak. A person can alter the next course of action by communicating right. HR professionals need to learn the art of communication. Sometimes, they would be required to pacify employees and, at times, speak for them.

In some cases, the way they talk could be the difference between an employee staying back or quitting. So, communication is one of the vital HR  competencies professionals need to learn and master over time.  

Here is our popular blog on constructive and positive employee feedback examples at the workplace that will help you craft constructive communication at the workplace.

3. Active listening skills

Did you know that a person spends 55% of their time in a day listening? However, research states that only 17-25% of this information is actually listened to and retained. Active listening is the process of listening to someone, understanding the meaning, responding to it the right way, and retaining the information.

This is one of the HR core competencies that HR professionals need to build over time.

Here are a few ways to actively listen to employees.

  • Maintain eye contact
  • Show nonverbally that you are interested in the conversation
  • Keep an open mind and do not rush with judgments.
  • Ask questions in between to show that you are actively listening.
  • Do make notes if necessary.
  • You can nod your head, smile in acknowledgement, or politely ask them to continue in between pauses.
  • Give regular verbal and nonverbal feedback

4. Learning and unlearning competence

Learning is an important competency skill. Surprisingly, unlearning is too. Unlearning is the ability to move on from outdated skills, competencies, and beliefs and learn new things. One of the HR skills and competencies that HR experts need to know is unlearning. The faster an HR individual unlearns and relearns, the more effective they will be as a backbone for the organization.

As a team, make sure you invest in HR-based learning and development programs for everyone in the HR department. As an HR individual, take an active interest in finding new trends and keep updating your knowledge and skills.

5. The ability to be flexible

An HR manager is not just someone to manage the HR team and answer grievances. HR leaders are a part of the global CXOs and are a part of every business decision taken by the organization. That is why one of the competencies of HR managers is to be flexible and adaptable. They need to rethink company policies and find best practices from competitors constantly.

These managers need to be on their toes to find newer tactics to keep employees engaged and productive. This needs to happen, even if it means changing processes upside down and making completely new policies and procedures.

6. Critical thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to critically analyze evidence, facts, and observations and come to a solution. It is one off the HR skills and competencies that help steer clear of stereotypes, judgments, and partialities in the workplace. When you learn to think critically, you will approach problems methodically, with the highest quality of fair-mindedness and analysis. As a result, employees and the management would be more comfortable coming to you with grievances and issues, knowing you will analyze them and put forward the right solution.

7. Emotional intelligence (EI)

Now, this is one of the HR core competencies that has gained popularity in the recent past. For those with no prior introduction to the term, it is defined as the ability to control, understand, manage, and showcase emotions correctly.

EI is a competency that is      valued during high-pressure situations. This term was introduced only during the 1990s and became popular when Dan Goleman wrote a book about Emotional Intelligence. So, what can you achieve with the right levels of EI at the workplace?

  • You can resolve conflicts better
  • You can encourage and motivate others
  • You can prevent personal emotions from affecting workplace relationships
  • You can build qualities like collaboration and synergy with teammates

A 2003 article in Harvard Business Review mentions that about 80% of all the top competencies needed to become top performers in an organization fall under the bracket of Emotional Intelligence! No wonder this is listed as one of the top HR competencies.

8. Conflict resolution

This is one of the most straightforward of all the HR competencies. As an HR individual, you will be required to resolve conflicts regularly at the workplace – between employees or between an employee and the management. De-escalating tension and helping the concerned parties to reach a reasonable consensus is an essential role of an HR professional.

9. Expertise in using Technological

The sheer amount of technological growth the HR industry has seen in the last decade is astonishing. HR individuals, who, ten years back, collected resumes from peers, shortlisted them and arranged for interviews, now use AI to automate the initial recruitment processes completely. HR experts, who used time sheets to measure productivity, now use smart tools.

HR technological expertise has become one of the game-changing competencies of HR managers and experts to grow in their roles and become a thought-leader in the industry. PossibleWorks makes it easier for HR experts to understand and use the latest technology tools by simplifying and customizing them based on requirements. Our tools support the HR team like a rock and help them get more effective, analytical, and critical in their decision-making processes.

10. Analytical expertise

Analytical expertise could be a derivation of technological expertise. The right tools give you enough data to analyze employee behavior, productivity levels, and workplace trends and make data-driven decisions. Analytical expertise is one of the key competencies for HR that will be a strategic advantage to the organization. As HR processes get more analytical, solutions get better and more streamlined.

Again, investing in the right technological tools will help make processes more analytical. So HR experts, along with picking the right tools, need to train themselves to use the vast amount of data mines these tools offer.


Most      HR folks come with the right educational degree to work in this particular field. However, these 10 HR core competencies need to be inculcated over time. They need to be learned, practiced, believed in, and upgraded regularly if an HR professional wants to make a difference. Just like how you have competency-based assessments for other employees, creating competency evaluation sessions for the HR department will help understand competency gaps and allow these experts to hone their HR skills and competencies and grow as a professional.

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