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8 Most Sought-After Traits for Human Resources Executives

Over the years, Salveson Stetson Group has built a robust Human Resources Specialty Practice. As a result, we have had numerous conversations with clients and potential clients about their ideal profile for HR executives as they add talent to their organizations. Whether the company is small and privately held or large and publicly held, the profile for the HR executive is fairly similar. Highlighted below are the qualities most frequently requested:

  • Emotional intelligence: Almost every client on every search is looking for an executive with high emotional intelligence or EQ. As our businesses get more complex and are poised for continual change, the HR leader needs to have extraordinary interpersonal and communications skills. He/she needs to have strong instincts or “antennae” about interpersonal dynamics in the workplace as well as an ability to relate to employees at all levels to be effective in their role.
  • Leadership capabilities: An HR executive needs to be able to effectively build and motivate a team. HR is usually on the “firing line” and therefore needs to have the optimum talent to manage challenging and sensitive situations. Being able to navigate and build relationships with their peers as well as the external constituents or customers makes the difference in an effective versus an ineffective HR leader.
  • Lead, facilitate, and drive change: Change is inevitable and the HR leader is usually one of the key executives to help lead the organization when it makes small or significant changes. He/she will serve as a champion for change and reinforce the critical messages to keep change on the right track.
  • Coach and advisor: Serving as a coach and advisor can be one of the most valuable roles of an HR executive. Whether he/she is working with the CEO or another member of the senior team, the executive can provide direct feedback and perspective on what they have observed and how the individual can operate more effectively in the organization.
  • Adaptable: Human resources needs to be able to operate in a nimble fashion. That may mean shifting gears when the business scenario changes or helping others see the need to do it as well.
  • Strategic, but also rolls up sleeves: No matter how senior the executive, this dual competency is required in most businesses. As an HR executive, he/she needs to operate at a strategic level but at times will need to “get into the weeds” when required. Executives who believe this is “beneath them” may be missing key information and will not able to see the whole picture or have the right perspective.
  • Business-focused: Understanding the business from a strategic and operational level is critical to be able to navigate the business, anticipate changes, and contribute more effectively as an executive.
  • Functional expertise: The HR executive needs to be well-rounded with experience across most, if not all, HR functions. Two areas in particular that most senior roles emphasize are talent management and executive compensation. Organizations have an increasing need to attract, retain, and develop talent; therefore, having a leader with a demonstrated track record in this space is important. In addition, CHROs need to possess some exposure to or knowledge of executive compensation. If your goal is to become a CHRO, gaining this experience is an important skill set.

HR professionals spend a great deal of time and effort working with others to further their careers. Don’t forget to take the time to enhance your own. How do you become considered for the next CHRO role? How do you get promoted internally for the next HR opportunity? It is worth taking your own advice and ensuring you have the qualities, competencies, and skill sets highlighted above to elevate your career to the next level.

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