Five Key Traits of a Successful HR Department

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Effective HR Strategy

Five Key Traits of a Successful HR Department

In a perfect world, every human resources department would run smoothly, efficiently, and without incident. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that type of world, and there are always going to be imperfections in any department at any company.

That said, there are countless examples of very successful HR departments. If you want to maximize the success of your HR team, here are five of the traits you should be focused on.

A balance of loyalty

There’s a tendency for employees to see their company’s HR department as an entity that works in favor of the company and at the expense of its employees. In fact, according to a Twitter poll created by People HR, 55% of respondents felt that HR works on the side of the company, and only 15% felt that HR works on the side of the employee. That other 30%? They felt that HR doesn’t work in the best interest for anyone.

There’s a long history of why this viewpoint has become so prevalent. We won’t get into the details here, but suffice it to say that the idea that HR is working against our best interest is sort of baked into our culture.

This is a symptom of a greater problem: The loyalty of HR departments has shifted out of balance. One key area of improvement for any HR team to focus on is re-balancing that loyalty. While HR is certainly working for the company, there also needs to be a sense of responsibility that extends to employees. People should know that they can come to your HR department with their concerns and not feel like they’re putting their employment – or their coworkers – in jeopardy.

This is a tough balance to strike, which is one of the reasons it’s gotten so far out of hand. Nonetheless, it does needs to be maintained, even If that means making some tough choices.

A great deal of knowledge about their company

HR should have a holistic understanding of the workings of their company. A vast wealth of knowledge is acquired over time, for certain, but it should be a goal of every member of every HR department to seek that knowledge and to constantly be learning.

There are several reasons for this. The most important being that when a person understands a company’s workflow, priorities, and values, they’re better equipped at aiding those things. When people don’t take those things into consideration, they can oftentimes wind up being disruptive to the company as a whole.

On top of that, employees need to trust their HR department (we’ve said this already, but it bears repeating here). When a person comes to you with a concern, and you don’t understand what they actually do, you might not be able to understand what their concern even is. That goes double for the company – you need to know what’s going on so you are prepared to respond to your leadership accordingly, and in a way that doesn’t cause problems down the line.

A knowledgeable team is a well-equipped team. That’s true for pretty much any department, and it’s just as true for HR.

An objective point of view

As humans, it’s far too easy to get swept up in our own personal emotions, values, assumptions, and biases. A good HR team must resist this temptation, however, because those things can undermine your accountability.

Facts and data must outweigh personal opinions when evaluating any situation. A good HR manager must be wiling to make decisions that go against their best interest at times to assure a fair outcome for all parties. While it’s easier said than done, emotions should be left at the door when dealing with any sort of dispute.

This applies to conflict resolution, certainly, but that doesn’t mean this advice should be exclusively applied to situations involving conflict. (If you’re specifically interested in conflict resolution, however, we do have a great article that covers handling employee complaints.) Policy-making and enforcement are additional areas where objectivity needs to be practiced, and even the most mundane tasks can benefit by applying analysis that uses unbiased data.

Try to maintain objectivity whenever possible, and make sure you create data-driven safeguards that root out bias and produce solutions that benefit everyone.


HR needs to be accessible. There’s just no way for an HR department to be successful if it is tricky to get in touch with team members. This doesn’t just mean having the right work hours, though – we’re talking about things like open-doors policies, strong communication skills, an ability to listen to people’s concerns with empathy, and more.

On top of that, your HR department shouldn’t be out of reach for anyone in the company. Anyone who works for the company should be able to get to the office, and you should position your department with this in mind. Don’t tuck HR into an office at the top of a stairway without elevator access, for example.

Employees and company leadership alike should be able to access the HR department, communication should be open, and there should be no barriers to entry.

A comprehensive viewpoint on how these things work together

All the things we’ve mentioned are important, but even if you consider all of them, they’re far less effective when considered individually. A siloed approach to addressing all of those will still be an ineffective one.

The reason for this is that these things all work together. You can see how accessibility and objectivity would aid in a balance of loyalty, or how knowledge of the company would make all the other items on this list more effective. What we’ve expressed is a machine made of interconnected parts. When you focus on any one part while ignoring how that part interacts with the others, you’re looking at an incomplete picture.

It’s not always easy to understand the interconnectedness of the various facets of your complex operation, but doing so is an important step in bringing success to your team, as well as your organization.


Human resources is a vital part of any successful company, oftentimes serving as the connection point between laborers and leadership. When you’re evaluating the successes (and perhaps even failures) of your HR department, the five traits we’ve listed above need to be considered.

Hopefully you’ve come away with some useful information that, when applied, will bring great success to your team. Good luck!