Whether you're experienced in the field of human resources or aspire to someday work in HR, the reality is that building strong leadership skills is an important part of this role. From handling conflicts in the workplace to training and strategic planning, HR professionals need effective leadership skills to do their jobs well.

So, what are some things you can do now to work toward HR leadership development in your future career? There are quite a few strategies to consider.

1. Enhance Communication Skills

Communication skills are critical in the field of human resources management, so working on your verbal/nonverbal communication and your listening skills will pay off in your interactions with others.

Mastering Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

HR professionals are in constant contact not just with other employees, but the organization’s leaders, stakeholders, and other HR professionals as well. That said, being able to communicate effectively is a must. Whether it's communicating company policies to a new employee or keeping management informed on an important issue, verbal and written communication skills are vital to keeping everybody on the same page. To improve verbal communication, practice clear and concise language, maintain an appropriate tone, and be mindful of your audience. For nonverbal communication, pay attention to body language, facial expressions, and eye contact to ensure your message is consistent with your words.

Effective Listening Techniques

Of course, HR isn't just about communication. A substantial part of the job involves simply listening. This might mean listening to an employee's grievances to understand their perspective or listening to instructions from management. Regardless, working to become a more focused and intentional listener will serve you well in HR. Specifically, you'll want to focus on sharpening your active listening skills. To do this, practice maintaining eye contact, nodding or giving verbal affirmations, summarizing what the speaker has said, and asking clarifying questions. Additionally, minimize distractions and focus fully on the speaker to show that you value their input.

2. Foster Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence in HR is another skill you may want to focus on if you're looking to become a more effective HR leader. This refers to your ability to be aware of your own emotions, as well as those of others.

Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation

Being in any kind of leadership requires a strong sense of self-awareness or understanding how others may perceive you. Likewise, being able to self-regulate your own emotions (especially during times of stress) will pay off well in this field.

Empathy in the Workplace

Of course, emotional intelligence isn't just about focusing on your own feelings. In HR, you must also be able to tune into the feelings of others, including the employees you lead. With this in mind, having a strong sense of empathy (or the ability to put yourself in other people's shoes) can make you a more compassionate and effective leader.

3. Cultivate Strategic Thinking

Working in HR leadership is a rewarding job, but it also comes with some inherent obstacles and challenges that you'll need to overcome. Enter strategic thinking, an important HR skill that can help you make your next moves with confidence.

Analyzing Long-Term Impacts

Part of HR strategic planning is being able to look beyond what's happening right now to see the big picture. This means looking closely at potential long-term impacts before making decisions in the workplace.

Proactive Problem-Solving

The most effective HR leaders are those who engage in proactive problem-solving; they don't wait until problems arise to address them. Instead, they think critically to get ahead of potential issues and avoid them before they have a chance to affect the organization.

4. Commit to Continuous Learning

HR isn't a static field. It's constantly changing, evolving, and growing with the times. Because of this, human resources leaders need to be committed to a lifetime of HR professional development to remain relevant in this dynamic field.

Staying Updated With HR Trends

Part of this means finding reliable ways to stay up to date on the latest HR trends and innovations. As an HR leader, you'll want to find a reliable source of news and information. Publications like the Journal of Human Resources and SHRM Magazine can be excellent sources of news.

Personal and Professional Development

Likewise, leaders in human resources should be constantly looking for opportunities to learn new things and grow professionally. This includes taking advantage of any HR training programs or other professional development opportunities that may be available to them.

5. Build Strong Teams

An important aspect of an HR leader's job is recruitment, onboarding, and training. All these responsibilities can help build strong teams, which can make all the difference in the success of a company.

Effective Team Composition

What does it take to build strong teams? A lot of this goes back to hiring decisions and strategies. This includes making sure that teams are diverse, which can encourage the flow of new and innovative ideas.

Maintaining High Team Morale

Another important responsibility for HR professionals is that of building and maintaining morale among team members. After all, with high morale comes higher levels of motivation and productivity. HR leaders should explore some strategies and best practices for improving morale, such as:

  • Team-building exercises
  • Employee incentive programs
  • Individual recognition

6. Improve Conflict Resolution Skills

No matter where you work, conflict is inevitable. It can (and will) arise at even the most harmonious of workplaces. And often, HR leaders are the ones responsible for handling conflict as a neutral third party. With that in mind, having strong HR conflict resolution skills is a must in this line of work.

Identifying Sources of Conflict

HR leaders must be able to pinpoint sources of conflict quickly to address them proactively. This can be easier said than done but is a skill that can be strengthened over time. Taking the time to interview employees can be one effective strategy for identifying potential sources of conflict in the workplace.

Mediation and Negotiation Skills

Once conflict is detected, HR professionals must work quickly to address issues before they snowball and affect the company. This is where having a strong background in mediation and negotiation can come in handy, as HR leaders are often relied upon to mediate issues between team members or departments.

Of course, another important part of working in HR leadership is knowing when to get involved and when to keep your distance. In some cases, conflicts may resolve themselves without intervention from HR. Over time, HR leaders will develop a better sense of when to get involved in workplace conflicts and when to avoid intervention.

7. Lead by Example

HR leaders are in constant contact with team members across all departments and areas of the company, which is why setting a positive example is crucial. They demonstrate integrity and ethics in the workplace, while also leading and inspiring others.

Demonstrating Integrity and Ethics

As an HR leader, integrity and ethics must be at the forefront of every decision you make and action you take in the workplace. Your fellow co-workers and team members are watching, and all it takes is one mistake to lose the respect that you've worked so hard to build.

Inspiring and Motivating Others

HR leaders are also responsible for inspiring and motivating employees to be the best versions of themselves in the workplace. This can be easier said than done, which is why HR leaders must always be looking for innovative and exciting ways to build momentum among teams. By encouraging a culture of growth and productivity, HR leaders can do their part to keep projects on-track and boost the bottom line.

8. Leverage Technology in HR

The HR digital transformation is one that has been hard to ignore, especially with innovations over the past few years. Today, the most effective HR leaders are those who can use these technologies to their advantage to save time and focus more on the things that matter.

Tools for Enhancing HR Processes

These days, there are so many human resources management tools that can automate time-consuming manual tasks and save HR leaders a lot of time. Some examples of these include software for HR operations, payroll processing, onboarding, hiring/recruiting, and more.

HR leaders must know how to choose the tools that will be most useful to them, as well as how to integrate them and use their features to the organization's full advantage.

Implementing Data-Driven Decisions

When it comes to decision-making as an HR leader, using data-driven decision-making is a must. Today's HR leaders must be able to make sense of large amounts of data and use those insights to inform their decision-making. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools and resources that make it easier to gain insights from data. This includes artificial intelligence (AI) tools that have recently hit the market. HR leaders should familiarize themselves with these tools because there's a good chance they will be used regularly in the field moving forward.

Learn More, Today

HR leaders need to be prepared to manage conflicts in the workplace, communicate effectively with employees, and lead by example to do their jobs effectively. Fortunately, by following these strategies and committing to a lifetime of learning and professional development, you can lead with confidence and take your HR career to the next level.

Enrolling in a dedicated HR leadership training program can help you gain the essential leadership skills you need while setting yourself apart from other HR professionals. The University of Minnesota's College of Continuing and Professional Studies offers a variety of human resources certificates, including our HR Generalist Certificate, Organization Development Certificate, and Professional Train-the-Trainer Certificate.

Learn more about our certificate programs at UMN CCAPS by reaching out today. Our enrollment advisors would be happy to answer any questions you may have.