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5 Habits of Highly Successful HR Managers

Here’s another article from Lee Bob Black of SkilledUp. Also check out SkilledUp on LinkedIn.


#1: Look inward first

This year’s PayScale Compensation Best Practices Report hits home how difficult it is to keep top talent. It found that between 50 percent and 70 percent of employers in the following industries have concerns with staff retention:

·       Information, media and telecommunications

·       Manufacturing

·       Professional, scientific and technical services

·       Healthcare

·       Finance and insurance     

Since 2009, the number of companies that consider retention a “main concern” has grown steadily.

A key ingredient to retaining top talent is simple: don’t overlook them. When a new position opens up, successful human resource managers make a habit of first looking to existing employees. Only after confirming a position can’t be filled internally do they focus on external candidate recruitment.

Preferring to promote from within helps create companies that people don’t want to quit. It also links with how successful HR managers realize that retaining top talent isn’t just about writing bigger checks.

#2: Listen

Not every HR problem must to be solved quick-smart. Sometimes it’s helpful to just lend an ear. Open yourself up to your staff. Give them space to talk about what irks them.

Keep in mind some of the benefits of giving someone your full attention:

·       Listening to people precedes understanding them

·       Listening is the best way to learn about people’s problems

·       Listening can prevent problems from escalating

Many great leaders prioritize listening — Richard Branson, Indra Nooyi, Ursula Burns, and Howard Schultz. Perhaps more should. Indeed, there’s compelling evidence that leaders need to shut up and listen more.

If you’re an HR professional and want to improve your listening skills, consider reading this McKinsey guide for executives. In it, the author goes into detail about three behaviors to practice:

·       Show respect and let everyone around you know they have something unique to contribute

·       Keep quiet and make your speaking time count by asking questions rather than having your say

·       Challenge the assumptions that are beneath the surface of every conversation

#3: Know the business inside and out  

All-star HR managers have an acute understanding of their company’s business and clients. They know how the company earns revenue. They know who are their MVPs (most valuable clients; often considered the most profitable) and who are their whales (largest clients; which aren’t necessarily the most profitable). They can have insightful conversations about all kinds of topics related to the business — What does our social media strategy need? Will this product be successful?  

High performing HR managers don’t just consider the role of HR as being hiring and firing, employee training, managing payroll and handling internal communications.

#4: Let it get messy

HR can be a minefield. Always do performance reviews. Never withhold praise. Don’t have favorites. Update the employee handbook. By all means, the job of a truly successful HR manager is never done.

Along the way, you’ll make a few mistakes. Well, perhaps more than a few.

Within an HR department, successful HR leaders don’t just adopt a “fail better” approach that supports employee experimentation. They also acknowledge that creative and innovative companies are often necessarily messy. It’s not realistic to expect perfection every time.

#5: Know when to enforce and when to ignore

Do successful HR managers stick to policies and procedures 100 percent of the time or occasionally let them slide?

HR professional Mary Anne Osborne writes that if you’re going to make an exception for one person, then you should be willing to make the exception for all. HR consultant John F. Schierer writes that the least successful HR people blindly follow policies and procedures. Between them, Osborne and Schierer have over 50 years of HR experience. Saying that one’s right and the other’s wrong would be too simple. The successful HR manager applies a more nuanced approach. She knows it’s impossible to follow all rules all of the time. Yet she weighs up this fact of business with knowing that it’s perilous to break some rules — and she knows which ones.  

In practice, successful HR managers go beyond weighing up which policies and procedures to follow. You’re more likely to find them wiping old HR policies from the books and contributing to business strategy.

HR practitioner Vs. HR leader: What’s the difference?

In its 17th Annual Global CEO Survey, PwC identified the following “megatrends”:  

·       Technological advances

·       Demographic shifts

·       Economic power shifts

·       Resource scarcity and climate change

·       Rapid urbanization

These megatrends are affecting organizations all over the globe. For the unprepared, they’re viewed as risks. For companies open to reassessing how they function, they’re viewed as opportunities.

In the survey, PwC asked CEOs how prepared HR was to capitalize on these megatrends. Only 34% felt that HR was well prepared. 9% said HR wasn’t prepared at all.

While these figures don’t answer the question, “What’s the difference between HR practitioners and leaders?”, they certainly shed some light on it.

(Author’s note: If you’re thinking of rebooting your HR career, consider reading our careers pages for HR managers and HR coordinators. On these pages, you’ll find out about how HR jobs are distributed across the US and the average salary ranges per city.)   

Retenion graph source: PayScale

Listen photo source: B Rosen

Window photo source: Mai Le

Office photo source: Jeffrey Beall

Beach photo source: Raymond Shobe


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effective we will recommend to my office Hr ;)
we are also software development agency

this topic is very nice to have good ingormation

I completely agree with this. We should all learn from this article. Listening, I think is the best start for everything else. And just doing your job all together.

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