5 Qualities of The Most Successful HR Leaders

Team of people, with people at center shaking handsVisionary human resource leaders are in strong demand. 

The Mercer Global Talent Trends 2018 Study argues that as organizations accelerate their transformation efforts, ”putting people at the heart of the change makes HR pivotal.” Gallup meanwhile calls HR leaders the “stewards and keepers of the culture of an organization.”

Gallup shows the numbers behind this claim: “Just four in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that the mission and purpose of their organization makes them feel their job is important. By doubling that ratio to eight in 10 employees, organizations could realize a 41 percent reduction in absenteeism, a 33 percent improvement in quality, or in the case of healthcare, even a 50 percent drop in patient safety incidents.”

So their impact can be change-making. But what makes a HR leader truly great?

Here are five qualities:

They’re coaches.

As an industry, HRs benefit the workforce by acting as coaches and relationship-builders.

In 2015, the professional services firm Zenger Folkman analyzed 360 degree feedback data on 2,187 HR leaders around the world. The findings were published in an article in Harvard Business Review. “One of the most positive areas for HR leaders in general was that they were truly concerned about developing others,” the article explains. “This set them apart from leaders in other functions, who did not score highly on this skill. They were also rated positively on providing coaching, acting as a mentor, and giving feedback in a helpful way.”  

They’re rich in knowledge.

HR leaders need a deep well of knowledge to draw from about everything from labor laws to benefits. This is something we’re particularly aware of at The Council for Disability Awareness. As benefits become important markers of a strong company culture—and voluntary or worksite benefits in particular rise in popularity—HR leaders need to be fluent in explaining the entire range of benefits. This is particularly true when it comes to knowing lesser known benefits like disability insurance.   

They see the forest for the trees.

A sports coach keeps their eye on the upcoming game as well as never losing sight of the championship. The same is true of the best HR leaders—they’re strategic. They have an ability to focus on the immediate problems while continually moving the organization towards long-term goals. This helps them drive business strategy and activate real change.

They know their metrics and analytics.

Metrics are vital to the HR function, from employer turnover rates to calculating the cost/benefit analysis of a financial wellness program. But you also need to know how to use those numbers.

“Most people use data the way drunks use the lamppost: for support rather than for illumination,” says Alexis Fink of Intel in a brilliant article about this by SHRM. Fink explains this further: “HR metrics are operational measures, addressing how efficient, effective and impactful an organization’s HR practices are. Talent analytics, on the other hand, focus on decision points, guiding investment decisions” that impact the workforce and related matters.”

They’re great humans.

Finally, this is human resources after all. Matthew Chapman, CEO and Executive Chairman of ChapmanCG, told Boss Magazine: “It may sound obvious, but fast-rising HR leaders are great humans. They look to make a connection, and because of that, they are respected by the business, their HR colleagues, their direct teams as well as their leaders.”