Businesses are run by people. Who are the people who focus on the people and their experience within that business — AKA personnel management? You guessed it! The human resource management team. The work that the human resource management (HRM) team does is what keeps the business running. Think about it: no matter the industry or focus, businesses are comprised of human beings who have thoughts, feelings, experiences, hope and dreams. A human resource manager or HR professional — or an entire team, depending on the size of the organization — is therefore needed to focus on organization management, which means the total experience of employees in order to keep them engaged, goals oriented, and performing for the business in the best possible way leading to overall organizational success. That all sounds well and good, but what does it really mean? Ok. Let’s break it down into chunks.
What Are the Responsibilities of HRM?
• Talent Acquisition.
Before you even apply to an organization, you hear about them somewhere. Employers have a brand and not only should the HR or personnel management team be a leader in helping to craft that brand they also bring it to life in various ways throughout your experience. When a role becomes available within the organization, the talent acquisition people talk to hiring managers to figure out what is truly needed. What level? What will be the focus of the work? What does someone need to be successful in this role?
The talent acquisition or talent management team takes lead in posting, finding, weeding out individuals who may or may not be a right fit for the role in particular based on their experience or capabilities as well as the organization overall. (i.e. Not a right fit for this opportunity but let’s talk to them about a different gig on the horizon they’d be perfect for!)
They take candidates throughout the recruiting experience from how they conduct themselves with potentials (Responsive? Funny? Buttoned up?) down through the offer and getting started. This team is really the shepherd of that experience often coaching, wrangling and assisting hiring managers and other interviewers to create the right feel for potential employees along the way. Now, that’s great but what about once you’re in the door? Beyond sourcing, recruiting and hiring, what’s going on?
• Orientation & Onboarding.
Once you’re there, you’ll have some sort of orientation and onboarding. Fingers crossed that it’s beyond paperwork but you never know. Some facet of the HR team (again, along with their partners the hiring managers!) oversees organizational aspects of the business to make sure you get paid, enrolled in benefits, know where things are, help you to navigate processes and personalities and make you feel welcome as best they can. Even for the most seasoned HR professional, this takes time and thought to pull off well.
You’ll likely run into this team again later when we discuss overall learning and development. Since I mentioned benefits as a part of orientation, let’s dig a little there.
When you think of benefits, whether it’s medical, maternity leave, dental, life insurance, disability, personal time, or retirement, all are researched, built, created, strategized and regularly audited and brought to life by the HR team. It’s a hard world to keep up with as it’s constantly evolving and changing. (think about the headlines & politics…)
The human resource professional focused in this space needs to be rock solid and up to speed and have in-depth knowledge on what’s happening at all times, ready to make change and communicate it effectively to all levels of the organization. This is a tricky realm. Not only are there constant legislative changes but most people find the offerings to be confusing and costly though extremely crucial for them and their families so it can lead to highly sensitive and emotional conversations with employees for the members of the benefits teams. You’ll often find this group leading wellness initiatives or a related program that fits hand in hand with the rest of their work.
Another area this team can be focused is compensation, auditing, researching and building out levels or scales within the organization. Asking “are we fairly compensating our people? What is our competition doing? How can we be competitive and control costs simultaneously?” is important for any human resource professional. It’s a lot of work and incredibly important to the overall success of the company.
• Employee Relations.
When employees are struggling in some way, they can seek out the human resources team or a particular human resource manager. “Struggling” in this respect could mean a personality conflict with a colleague or manager and you’re looking for anything from tips to handle personally or mediation help to reporting harassment and looking for advocacy. In these instances, the HR team is there to listen objectively, assess, and address as best they can which depending on the situation itself can vary drastically.
This is an extremely crucial part of an employee’s experience. If they trust the individuals on the HR team and have had positive experiences with them, it increases the likelihood that employees will seek them out during tough times. And the best HR team will do everything they can to remedy scenarios as fairly and appropriately as possible leaving the employees feeling supported and safe and able to perform at their best.
A big part of the employee experience is learning and growing as a practitioner. Getting feedback from not only your manager but also colleagues on how your performance is impacting the big picture and company goals. Enter performance management. Yes, for some it’s the dreaded annual performance reviews, for other organizations it’s more about ongoing coaching conversations throughout the year.
Either way, people from team HR are laser-focused on making certain these conversations are happening in some way and that employees are receiving the feedback they need to advance their careers. This can include creating the process, coaching on how to bring it to life successfully as well as accountability to be certain they are happening within the parameters suggested.
• Learning & Development.
Performance management is a process or tool that organizations use to help their employees and leaders to facilitate the right dialogue to identify what everyone needs to learn next to grow and develop their skills and knowledge. Once identified, in come learning, training and development. The team focused on L&D or training and development could be partnering with outside facilitators to offer sessions or a program within the organization or could be sending employees out to attend conferences or trainings.
They might be leaning on internal subject matter experts to train teams or create and deliver content themselves. Their focus is to create the opportunity for people to learn by providing support and training be it financial or emotional, opportunities and working with managers to identify the right fit for each individuals, depending on their skills.
• Employee Engagement.
This area can be a stand-alone focus of its own where individuals are leading surveys and analyzing data to truly assess where things stand within an organization and hopefully fuel where the rest of the team should focus their efforts next. For instance, if surveys give heavy data pointing to the fact that people aren’t being challenged or pushed by managers or learning and growing, it’s immensely helpful information to be shared with those in learning and development and well as the teams leading the performance management process.
This could also mean getting a sense of how people feel in the environment everyday separate from their career. Is it uplifting or draining coming into the office? Do you feel you can ask questions? Can you fail and be supported for doing so? And then identifying ways to create the best environment for people to feel engage and deliver great work.
Certifications and Degrees for HR
Certifications and degrees can help you gain skills and knowledge in HR, as well as move up the ranks and earn a greater salary more quickly.
Degrees in the field include:
• MA in Human Resource Management
• MS in Human Resources
• MA in Management (HR concentration)
• MBA (HR Management concentration)
There are also advanced degrees you can earn in related fields, such as a master's in Organizational Psychology.
• Associate Professional in Human Resources (for entry-level professionals)
• Professional in Human Resources (for early-mid-level professionals)
• Senior Professional in Human Resources (for senior-level professionals)
• Global Professional in Human Resources (for professionals working in international human resources)
• Human Resources Management Professional (for managers)
The Bottom Line: Human Resources
As you can see, the human resources team is responsible for so many facets of the employee experience and I’ve only touched briefly on each. There is so much more. And depending on the size of your organization, you might have one person handling all of this or a team of thousands each with their own area of specialty or focus. No matter what, this team is there to create the best possible experience for you during your time with an organization. That is no small feat and WAY bigger than the paper pushers people sometimes assume they are. Props to my fellow HR peeps out there. Keep up the great work!
Kelly is a human resources pro and coach who helps people find and achieve what they want career-wise and beyond. Coaching, training, recruiting – if you name it in the world of HR, she's done it in a variety of industries. Her advice has been featured on The Muse, Career Contessa, Levo, Workology, among others. Learn more by scoping her out at www.kellypoulson.com.
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