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What It’s Like to Work in HR

Human resources personnel can take on a variety of roles, depending on the size and needs of the organization.



By U.S. News University Directory
Posted 2012


Small companies may only employ one or two HR professionals who manage the entire HR process. In a larger company, HR roles tend to be more abundant and specialized, and there is often a vice president who has several HR directors who report to him or her. Even larger companies typically have several layers of management with progressively greater levels of responsibility.

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Within the HR department, there may be several specialized sub-departments with staff for functions such as training, recruiting and hiring, compliance, and compensation. HR directors and upper level managers may head these departments. In smaller organizations, HR staff may be required to cover several functional areas and the organizational structure may be flatter, meaning that there are fewer levels between departmental or functional staff and the director or vice president level.

Core Human Resources Responsibilities

In the past, human resources personnel were frequently focused on policy enforcement and were sometimes seen as an impediment to other business areas. While developing and implementing consistent and equitable policies is still a large part of HR, HR professionals are now often seen as strategic partners in managing employees and fostering company growth.

HR managers and staff are responsible for all of the functions that deal with the needs and activities of the organization’s people including:

  • Recruiting and hiring
  • Training and development
  • Compensation, benefits, and payroll
  • Labor laws and other compliance issues
  • Performance management
  • Employee relations, engagement, and team building

The broad role of human resources means that HR staff is sometimes called upon to help settle disputes and resolve certain employee issues. They may coordinate employee assistance for substance abuse or alcoholism and may also help employees with other personal issues such as bereavement.

HR departments also oversee key business functions such as payroll and benefits administration. They answer questions related to paid and unpaid time off, such as vacation, maternity leave and other leaves of absence, and civil and military service.

Human Resources Can Help Position a Company for Growth

HR managers and staff must be able to meet the needs of a dynamic organization and respond to changes within the organization’s environment. Successful organizations are becoming more adaptable, resilient, quick to change direction, and customer-centered. Human resources staff may be at the forefront of administering and incorporating new technologies, such as social media, to ensure that the organization’s needs are being served and that the use of these new technologies is compliant with company policy and any relevant laws and regulations.

HR departments are also responsible for creating and updating training manuals and job descriptions. They also help develop the overall organizational structure and create succession plans to make sure that the right personnel is in the right position within the company.

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Balancing the Needs of the Organization and the Individual

Regardless of the size and structure of the organization, human resources staff members serve the needs of both the organization and the people who work there, requiring HR professionals to balance the sometimes conflicting needs of the two groups. HR departments advocate for individual employees, their rights, and their needs while also making sure that the company’s best interests are considered.

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