Working in the human resources department is an interesting and diverse opportunity that allows you to meet and work with new people all the time. Human resources employees have a large number of responsibilities that help businesses remain productive on a daily basis.
The idea of human resources is to ensure that the company employs the correct balance of staff; otherwise known as workforce management. This has to do with more than just numbers – experience, skill level, and performance are all factors that you will need to account for while working in human resources. Startup Hiring provides a good overview of human resource planning and techniques.
There is a need for human resources employees in any company that employs people. Work practices, recruitment, payroll, conditions of employment and termination are all duties taken on by the human resources department in any company.
In order to be an effective human resources officer, you must have a clear understanding of the company’s business objectives. You need to take these business objectives and convert them into a combination of policies, staff, and development opportunities. When these three things combine successfully in a business environment, success is typically the outcome.
Historically, HR professionals were hired for the well-being of employees and employee related administrative tasks (such as payroll) exclusively. Today’s HR employee needs to take these things into account while still focusing on the overall strategy and mission of the company. In other words, you are expected to add value to the business by cultivating a productive workforce that meets the needs of your employer now and in the foreseeable future.
Some of the typical tasks you may be asked to perform as an HR employee include:
Working closely with other departments within the company to instruct employees and lower-level management understand company policies and procedures. In many respects, this is a consulting role that assists departments implement business practices that complement the company’s goals.
Promoting equality and diversity throughout the organization. This may include holding training sessions regarding sexual harassment and other forms of workplace abuse.
Recruiting new staff as requested by management or as you deem necessary based on current needs. The level of autonomy you experience in your role will vary from company to company, but recruiting efforts remain relatively the same. You may be required to perform interviews, post job openings on local job boards, and develop training material for new hires. After an employee is hired, you may also be required to participate in training these employees on company policies and procedures to ensure they acclimate quickly.
Creating and implementing employee handbooks as requested by management. Most companies of more than a handful of employees distribute a handbook which outlines all standing policies and procedures. It is usually your responsibility as an HR professional to keep these handbooks updated and current.
Assisting employees with payroll related questions and problems. HR is typically responsible for all payroll discrepancies and works with employees to correct these issues when they occur.
Advising upper management about employment legal issues. For instance, management may ask you what the law requires for a specific job function so they can maximize performance without endangering employees or breaking the law.
Your role as an HR professional will vary based on your employer’s requirements. In some companies, your primary focus may still be the welfare of employees while other companies may look to you in a strategic role as a consultant for current and future staffing needs.
Skills & Tools
Working as an HR professional is definitely a people centric role. You will be required to communicate with upper management and employees throughout the company on a regular basis. Learning how to effectively communicate in a business setting is a skill that you need to master as an HR employee. Working with Difficult People sheds light on the art of communicating with anyone in the workplace.
Most of your work will be done on a computer. Specifically, HR depends heavily on Microsoft Excel for creating and modifying spreadsheets and Microsoft Access, a simple to use database program for storing employee information. You can learn more about using Excel in Microsoft Excel Foundations.
Microsoft Word is also used quite heavily in the human resources department. The employee handbook, training materials, and internal memos are usually drafted using this program. Advanced Microsoft Word 2010 breaks down some of the more complicated Microsoft Word features you might be required to use in HR.
Since you are most likely going to be responsible for training new employees, familiarize yourself with PowerPoint as well. PowerPoint creates slideshow presentations that can be a very effective training tool. Slideshow presentations can also be used effectively to train existing employees on new policies and procedures.
Even if you are not an HR manager, your role in the HR department often puts you into situations where you take on a managerial role. Consulting with employees and making recommendations to management requires an understanding of business and management best practices. Introduction to Management is a good place to start.
Your job may also require that you work on team projects frequently. It’s important to have a solid foundation in project management and leadership as you will be working with other employees on your team that may or may not work well together. Applying leadership techniques learned in Becoming a 21st Century Leader helps ensure your team projects are smooth and productive.
There is certainly a lot of responsibility inherent to a human resources job, but the rewards often outweigh the challenging tasks you may face. As an HR professional, think of yourself as the “glue” that holds a company together. You are the portal between upper management and employees that enables communication between all levels within the company.
Skilled human resources employees are in demand everywhere. Brush up on any of the skills that you are not familiar with and you should be ready to ace your next human resources job interview. Good luck!