What Personality Traits and Soft Skills Make a Good HR Manager?

What Personality Traits and Soft Skills Make a Good HR Manager?

When it comes to the subject of what makes for a good HR manager, the most common answer you will hear is that you need to be a people person. That is true, of course, as you probably won’t enjoy working in an HR role if you don’t really like interacting with people, but the term itself is a bit nebulous. You also need to be a people person to be good at customer service or sales, but these are very different roles to human resources. 

Just being comfortable around all different kinds of people and interested in working with them is not the only thing someone looking to make HR their career focus will find to be an asset. 

Here, we are going to look in better detail at what kinds of soft skills and personality traits employers tend to look for in their HR hires. It goes without saying that these are things most people can work on if they are not traits they have naturally and are additions to a high level of knowledge and competence about HR itself that might be gained by doing a master of HR online, like this program at


An HR manager needs to be someone that people feel they can be open with. Employees may sometimes need to raise difficult issues with HR, including difficult topics concerning other people in the workplace and perceived unfairness or bullying. In order for staff to feel like HR are worth opening up to about their concerns, especially when they may be of a sensitive nature, they need to trust their HR representatives. 

This means that as an HR professional you not only need to be someone people can trust with their personal information but also someone who can be trusted to actually take action when they are approached about things. If people feel that going to HR won’t make any difference to a situation that is making them uncomfortable at work or that the complaint (or the fact that they made a complaint) may well get back to their manager or a person they are complaining about, they certainly won’t risk it. This will make many initiatives created to try and make the workplace a better environment ineffectual, and it will also mean that HR will be out of touch with what is going on in the company.


A member of HR may well have to deal with unpleasant interpersonal situations fairly frequently. They may need to be the person to break the news about redundancies or to become involved in disciplinary procedures. Nobody enjoys this side of working with people, however being someone who can calmly and rationally deal with these experiences in a professional manner is key. 

While in many cases the HR department is not responsible for the decisions that they have to talk to employees about, they still need to be able to tell staff where they stand and what their options are in situations that may be very unpleasant and even come as a shock to them, such as finding out about redundancy. Those in HR who can be sympathetic and caring but also strong enough to avoid being emotionally swayed (at least visibly) in difficult situations are more useful to both the staff they are dealing with and the company they work for.

Flexibility and Adaptability

An HR leader may be with a business, working to strengthen its staffing strategies through all kinds of business phases. They may be the ones to handle mass onboarding as a business expands or to decide strategies when working with third parties if a business decides to outsource or use offshore resources. Due to the emergence of technologies and tools that aid in strategic sourcing management, HR leaders have had to become quite adept in improvising and adapting to gain the skills necessary to use them effectively. They may also be someone who needs to react to changes in the industry or the working world in general to keep the business they work for from falling behind. 

Even in the last couple of decades, we have seen major changes in the ways that people hire and work. Flexitime and remote working have become commonplace, for example, and businesses whose HR teams were slow to find ways of making these things possible for their staff have generally been at risk of losing talented people to other companies that can offer these more appealing ways of working. An HR leader may also need to stay on top of things like regulation changes, such as those around diversity policies. 

All of this means that a good HR professional needs to be able to not only move fast to make change happen within their company but also be involved with identifying trends and innovations in working approaches that could be implemented in their business to provide an edge.


Many aspects of HR are not interpersonal at all, and while a lot of the time people in HR are dealing with the human aspects of human resources, at other times they are working on administrative things and business processes. HR, as far as a business is concerned, is necessary and important, but it is also an overhead. The company doesn’t usually make more money, improve its stock prices, sell more products or strengthen its brand based on what its HR department does. 

So, for a HR department to really shine, it needs to be as efficient and cost effective as possible and possibly even innovate (by looking at ways its data can be used to improve efficiency, staff retention or productivity, or reduce recruitment costs for instance). A HR leader who can look at business processes and identify bottlenecks, suggest improvements, and implement them is one employers will value immensely, so being an efficiency driven person who is also a keen problem solver is a good attribute to have.

As you can see, there is much more to being able to excel in HR than simply being a good communicator! If you like the idea of working in HR for your career, why not consider studying for a master of HR?

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