The human resources department is responsible for designing and implementing HR programs and policies that help company leaders better manage the workforce. HR managers often play a role that is both strategic and operational, with an overall goal of building and developing a workforce that is capable of helping the company meet its goals.
For the C-suite, the human resources department can be one of the strongest strategic partners within the entire organization. “HR should be every company’s ‘killer app,’” former GE CEO Jack Welch wrote. “What could possibly be more important than who gets hired, developed, promoted, or moved out?”
Under the umbrella of HR responsibilities are several key areas that have a particular focus and drive value for companies in specific ways. Here are the answers to nine key questions about the duties and responsibilities in a human resources department:
Before we get into roles and responsibilities, here’s a quick peak into how companies organize their HR department:
Team members in payroll don’t just ensure that employees are paid accurately according to a specific schedule, but they also ensure that payroll systems are aligned with other systems in the company and that employees can easily access their payroll information when needed. When an online payroll system, for example, Paychex or Paycor, is integrated with other HR systems, such as the company org chart, this team can ensure that when an employee is hired and comes onto the payroll, they will also appear on the company org chart and have access to internal team information that is critical for their onboarding.
Employee development comprises a number of activities, including training, leadership development programs, mentorship, and cross-team rotational programs. Team members focused on employee development manage programs designed to equip employees with the tools and knowledge they need to grow and take on new challenges in the workplace.
Employee development professionals can be trainers, but they may also be coaches who help leaders hone their employee management skills. Employee development activities within an HR department can include the following:
Communicating with company managers to understand the training and development needs of employees on their team
Examining each level of the company org chart to determine which groups of employees can benefit from certain kinds of development
Providing employees with learning tools that make skill development fun and engaging
Glassdoor research revealed that 76 percent of hiring decision-makers say attracting quality candidates is their No. 1 challenge. This reality highlights both the importance of effectively competing for talent and the need to have an HR department that partners with the business on all recruitment activities. Recruitment professionals in the human resources department support the business by attracting qualified applicants, building a quality talent pipeline, and ensuring key roles are filled in a timely and efficient manner.
Recruitment team members also develop and execute the company’s talent acquisition strategy, which includes employer branding, leveraging social media, and developing a robust onboarding strategy to help new hires find success in the company. A few common recruiting tools include Sourcehub, Contact Out, Email Finder, and Hiretual.
Keeping employees engaged and committed to company goals is one of the top concerns of businesses today, despite the reality that only one in every three employees is engaged. Employee engagement specialists are focused on designing programs and introducing tools that measure and increase employee engagement. Examples of solutions this team produces include:
An interactive org chart that provides opportunities for employees to learn about their coworkers, make connections, and collaborate. An interactive org chart also gives employees visibility into what their potential career path might look like, and allows them to clearly see opportunities for advancement.
Employee surveys that gauge employee engagement and help guide actions that will improve it
Workplace activities such as lunch-and-learns or focus groups, which give employees opportunities to interact and learn from their shared experiences
At different stages of its growth, a company may undergo a reorganization, acquisition, or merger. Workforce planning specialists support the company by developing a plan to organize the workforce to accommodate future growth or a change in strategy.
Workforce planning team members may represent a stand-alone function within the human resources department, or they may be a part of the staffing and recruiting function. Workforce planning professionals may also work in concert with employee development team members to ensure the creation of a robust succession plan that addresses the company’s leadership needs into the future. Key workforce planning activities include:
Providing headcount reporting and analysis to company leaders
Identifying leadership gaps as well as the individuals who can fill those gaps
Determining how to organize and align new and existing teams
Achieving an optimal balance between external hiring and internal moves
Creating an HR dashboard that compiles information from a variety of sources
To attract and retain quality talent, companies must offer competitive compensation. Compensation professionals collect and analyze market compensation data and advise senior leaders on the necessary adjustments that may be required to retain key talent.
The compensation team also creates a balanced mix of different kinds of compensation—salary, cash incentives, equity, and perks—to meet the needs of the workforce. To maximize the value of the compensation team, members should work closely with recruiting and workforce planning professionals to determine the optimal compensation structure for prospective and existing employees.
The importance of company benefits has grown, with some employees valuing benefits even more than an increase in compensation. In a Glassdoor survey, 79 percent of employees said they would rather have new or additional benefits than a pay raise. Benefits team members research and recommend employee benefits packages, helping to ensure the company offers a competitive and attractive one to employees.
Benefits professionals conduct the annual open enrollment process and also connect employees to benefits providers, who can answer specific questions, resolve claims, and recommend healthcare services. To ensure that employees have a competitive total package, benefits team members must work closely with the compensation team.
In any organization, there is always a need to ensure employees are working well as a team and that employees and their managers have a productive, mutually respectful relationship. Employee relations professionals support the organization by helping to resolve conflicts that may arise among employees, or between a manager and an employee. They also help employees get back on track with performance, attendance, or other issues that are affecting their work.
In the case of companies with collective bargaining groups, employee relations professionals may also play a key role in resolving conflicts or managing contract negotiations between unions and the company.
Sometimes called HR advisers or HR business partners, HR generalists often bring together the many different HR department responsibilities into one role. HR generalists are typically the key interface between the HR department and the workforce, often meeting regularly with company leaders, attending their staff meetings, and supporting one or more company divisions for all of their day-to-day HR needs.
Because HR generalists are embedded into the employee groups they support, they are often a key liaison between employees and other HR team members, such as compensation, payroll, or employee development professionals. Generalists are also valuable change agents, as they help communicate new HR policies and practices to the employee population, and they also help build a positive work culture throughout the company.
In much the same way as the finance and accounting department is comprised of generalist accounting managers and specialists who focus on tax, AP/AR, budgeting, analysis, and so forth, many different HR roles and responsibilities comprise the human resources department. However, despite the varied responsibilities, everyone in HR must work together to support the development of an engaged and skilled workforce. When the various functions of HR are all represented and contributing, the whole company benefits.