Publisher's Desk|Canadian HR Law|HR Policies & Practices|Employment Law|The C-Suite|HR Guest Blog

Do you know – and agree with – HR’s essential skills?

HRSDC has identified the 4 most critical skills for human resources professionals

By Todd Humber

There’s a good chance if you’re reading this that you’re an NOC 0112.

While that may sound like the registry marking on the Starship Enterprise, it’s actually the National Occupational Classification code for HR professionals.

The codes aren’t new, nor are the Essential Skills Profiles compiled by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC). But I stumbled upon the profile for HR professionals recently — it was last updated on Sept. 20, 2012 — and thought HRSDC’s take on what HR professionals do was an interesting read.

Here’s the job description for HR:

“HR professionals plan, organize, direct, control and evaluate the operations of human resources and personnel departments, and develop and implement policies, programs and procedures regarding human resource planning, recruitment, collective bargaining, training and development, occupation classification and pay and benefit administration. They represent management and participate actively on various joint committees to maintain ongoing relations between management and employees.”

That’s seems pretty solid, even though the personnel department reference sounds dated.

Here’s where it gets interesting. From the following list of essential skills, HRSDC has picked the four “most important” ones for HR.

a) reading text

b) document use

c) writing

d) numeracy

e) oral communication

f) working with others

g) computer use

h) continuous learning.

Thinking skills:

i) problem solving

j) decision-making

k) critical thinking

l) job task planning and organizing

m) significant use of memory

n) finding information

Which four would you have settled on? Keep in mind HRSDC defines essential skills as “not the technical skills required by particular occupations but rather the skills applied in all occupations.”

They are the skills that help people perform the tasks required by their occupation, provide a foundation to learn other skills and enhance people’s ability to adapt to change.

If you answered a, c, e and i — you’re correct. According to HRSDC’s Essential Skills Profile, reading text, writing, oral communication and problem solving are the most important essential skills for human resources professionals. (HRSDC compiled its information based on interviews with HR professionals across the country and validated it through consultant with industry experts.)

Reading text

This made the cut for obvious reasons. There’s a lot of reading that goes on in human resources — from memos to resumés, from performance evaluations to updates on legislation and workers’ compensation regulations, there is no shortage of words to consume.


Like many professionals, HR folks spend a lot of time at their keyboards. HRSDC listed a wide range of examples including writing policy papers to “provide advice, guidance and recommendations on a wide variety of HR matters such as worker health and security.”

Plus there’s crafting analyses of draft legislation and how it might be applied to the workplace; formulating, synthesizing and summarizing bargaining strategies; and evaluating HR information management needs.

Oral communication

HR is all about people, after all, and nearly every HR person I’ve met has been a strong communicator.

Examples of tasks from HRSDC requiring oral communication skills include:

• discussing job requirements with managers

• interviewing candidates

• communicating with labour and management representatives

• counselling employees about training and career development opportunities

• mediating disputes

• making presentations to managers and colleagues.

Problem solving

This was the only “thinking” skill that made the cut. And there’s no doubt HR professionals are problem solvers.

Examples include:

• discovering, and finding solutions for, skills shortages

• identifying and dealing with causes of high turnover

• dealing with accusations of harassment — examining the context of the problem and seeking a solution, taking into account that the solution must be strong enough to withstand a judicial review.

What the future holds

HRSDC also offered a summary of the future trends affecting essential skills for HR professionals.

HR is expected to “be more adaptable and to focus on continuous learning as a means of seeking creative solutions.”

Globalization will put diversity issues on the front burner and professionals will need to work across national boundaries.

And, as the need for strategic management increases, HR “will be viewed as a greater source of leadership within their organizations.”


What do you think? Are the essential skills and future trends identified by HRSDC the correct ones? Enter a comment below to join the conversation.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. He can be reached at 

© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
(Required, will not be published)
All comments are moderated and usually appear within 24 hours of posting. Email address will not be published.
1 Comment