6 Skills You Need to Boost Your HR Career
These days, human resources professionals wear many different hats. If a CEO proposes a new business initiative or an update to employee benefits, it’s an HR professional’s job to advise them on the regulations their business operates under. If an employee has a concern about a new company policy, they have to know that policy inside and out and make that employee feel seen. HR professionals are a business’ GPS, guiding them down the right path to success and ensuring they follow directions to the letter.
“There’s an appreciation today of HR functions and employee engagement as well as the value of human capital,” says Heather Gelting, an adjunct professor teaching HR management courses at the Villanova University College of Professional Studies (CPS), which uses its philosophy of lifelong learning to help adult learners of all ages find their passions. “HR professionals have the talents to tap into the drivers of employee engagement, help avoid certain risks within the workplace and assist companies in being as successful as possible.”
Villanova already has a highly regarded graduate Human Resource Development program as well as professional education human resources programs and courses, but Gelting and other faculty felt that there was an opportunity to more fully teach the skills needed to be a successful HR professional at the undergraduate level.
That’s why they created a new undergraduate major in Human Resource Management within CPS’ Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies — set to launch in its Spring 2022 semester — designed specifically for adult students seeking to earn or complete their bachelor’s degree who have an interest in HR and a goal of career advancement. Additionally, students in the human resource management major have the ability to continue on into a combined bachelor’s/master’s in Human Resource Management where a number of prerequisite courses will be waived.
Villanova CPS’ HR classes stress the idea that not just anybody can step into a career in HR — students have to be trained around the field’s core technical and behavioral principles before they’re ready for the bright lights. To get the lowdown on the qualities an HR professional has to have to go from amateur to professional, we spoke with the Villanova faculty designing and teaching the courses in the new major to get their take on all things human resources.
Simplifying a complex situation or problem into messaging that employees can understand doesn’t always come easy. Understanding what employees respond to and how they learn is an important consideration for HR professionals.
Communication skills in HR settings have a wide range — a few examples include explaining policies and benefits as well as detailing the steps in company protocols. HR professionals also help develop employee training manuals and must consider the who, why and how regarding the information employees receive. At Villanova CPS, students will be taught how to become company leaders, armed with the language they need to handle situations of all kinds.
“HR professionals need to know how to present issues to employees and know their audience,” says Roz Schaffer, an adjunct professor at Villanova CPS who will be teaching an Intro to HR class under its new undergraduate major. “That extends to company pursuits — they need to know what specific initiatives entail and what the goal is in communication.”
When HR professionals speak to employees, they have to understand its business practices and be a leader within the organization.
That means knowing how to navigate a company’s different departments — how they work best, the different roles within each and the resources they can use. HR professionals have to be as comfortable with a company’s bylaws as they do its financial statements. That’s why Villanova CPS’ new major will help students learn how to do research about a company and its competitors as well as the different sources they can draw from to become sharper professionals.
“I always tell students that everything you do as an HR professional has to align with an organization’s mission, values and vision,” Schaffer says. “You really have to know your business inside and out.”
More and more, the “people” side of HR is merging with the “business” side. That requires HR professionals to be adaptable around employee concerns and any challenges that come their way.
To prepare students to provide these services, Villanova CPS’ major curriculum classes cover the evolution of compensation and benefits, how to recruit new talent and employee retention.
“If the people side of a business cannot understand the business side, there’s going to be a real disconnect when it comes to strategy,” says Bethany Adams, Associate Director of Marketing & Strategy in Villanova’s HRD program who also helped write the curriculum for its new undergraduate major. “For example, HR professionals can’t hire for jobs — or provide proper compensation for them — if they don’t know the organizational responsibilities.”
The decisions an HR professional makes on a day-to-day basis can affect a business’ success and set the tone across the office.
For example, acquiring new employees is an important part of an organization’s growth. New perspectives can help expose a company to ideas and concepts it hadn’t considered before. HR professionals often lead this process and must understand who might be a good fit at their organization. They also have to consider how new hires will adapt to company policies and processes and design an onboarding program to help their transition go as smoothly as possible.
“Understanding how to think about specific problems and then how to get the evidence and information you need to make those decisions effectively is so crucial for HR professionals,” Adams says. “They have to look at the issues in front of them and anticipate ones that might arise so they can be prepared.”
Rules and Regulations
For HR professionals, understanding the rules that a company is bound by is extremely important. Laws and compliance regulations are constantly changing, which means that those in HR need to be up to date to protect their companies from any legal or financial risks and take action when they see a problem.
At Villanova CPS, students will be taught employment law and how to apply it in specific situations so that when they enter a role in a company, they’ll be equipped with the knowledge necessary in helping company leaders make decisions.
“HR professionals need to understand what a law covers and understand the context in which it was formed,” Schaffer says. “At Villanova, we’re excited because with this major, we have more flexibility to dive into this topic than in the past.”
Managing employees is far more than arranging contracts and paperwork. To be successful in their roles, HR professionals have to consider employees’ thoughts and feelings in their decisions and communication.
“I preach to students that emotional intelligence is a skill that can be developed,” Adams says. “It’s important to think about handling company decisions like remote work and changing policies with empathy and consider how people will respond.”
An HR professional with strong emotional intelligence is someone who can turn book learning into an ability to listen and respond to employee concerns with empathy. With its new major, Villanova CPS hopes to nurture students’ existing skills and personality to prepare them for a career in HR.
“There is such a demand for trained HR professionals,” Gelting says. “We are going to set students up for success with all the tools they need to learn to prepare for a career in HR. Students who find HR appealing and have some of the skills in place already — they’re really going to have limitless potential for their career with a Villanova degree behind them and on their resume in the workplace.”This is a paid partnership between Villanova University College of Professional Studies and Philadelphia Magazine's City/Studio