Communication skills rank among the most important for HR personnel, from entry-level generalist to C-level executive on the human resources organizational chart.
For about two decades, the organizational role of HR has been evolving from a mostly transactional function into a more strategic business operation. As companies' HR departments continue to adapt to the profession's changes, HR personnel at all levels are expected to demonstrate good communication skills.
HR personnel must be able to express themselves clearly. Depending on the role, they may require skills for speaking comfortably in interviews, in small groups or to large audiences.
Some may need writing skills to produce documents such as policies, memos, reports and maybe even social media posts.
However, all HR personnel, regardless of position, must have good listening skills, which may be the most important communication skill. Whether answering a simple question on the phone or listening to a concern or conducting a job interview, the ability to listen with empathy is an essential skill for HR personnel.
HR personnel help deal with problems employees experience on or off the job, and listening empathetically helps earn their trust.
Communication Matters Inside the HR Organization
It's important for HR leaders to know how to communicate across the organization. It's also necessary that they convey the department's role, mission and programs to the team members responsible for getting the work done. When team members are well-informed, they can help establish the department's value and improve employees' perception of HR.
Communication Matters in the C-Suite
Top-level HR leaders communicate frequently with their organization's top leadership, who expect the HR department to create strategic value by implementing cost-effective programs and delivering a great "employee experience." This in turn can help nurture an engaged, productive workforce.
HR leadership also reports the department's financials to top leaders and justifies HR programs like training and development.
Without this high-level communication, HR leaders risk losing their stake in helping guide the organization's strategic direction and choice of programs.
Communication Matters in Strategic Program Implementation
HR strategy often involves leadership's development of new initiatives, which may consist of implementing new programs, procedures and systems. Implementing strategic initiatives typically includes keeping the following audiences informed throughout projects:
- Executive leadership
- HR staff
- Employees (the HR department's internal customers)
- Job applicants, job candidates, vendors and others (the HR department's external customers)
Communication Matters in Developing Effective Relationships
HR leadership can extend their influence across the organization through interdepartmental support. Offering to train supervisors and managers on how to handle routine employee issues is an instance of such support. Additional examples include training for conducting annual performance reviews, coaching employees for performance improvement, and assessing strengths of rising leaders.
Communication Matters in Mitigating Risk
Effective communication can often help resolve issues, pre-empting litigation and potential settlements. It can also minimize the organization's liability for potentially unfair employment practices. Communicating the organization's equal employment opportunity policies and documenting decisions properly helps ensure compliance with local, state and federal employment laws. Periodically communicating these policies to leadership and staff can ensure that the workforce understands the organization's commitment to fair and equal treatment, regardless of race, sex, religion, disability and other job-related factors.
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