What Does HR Actually Do? Detailed Guide

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HR may be the most perplexing department in your organization—everyone knows they’re vital, but few employees understand why. So, what exactly does HR do?

A healthy human resources department that contributes to the success of the organisation is vastly different from a distant HR department that exists someplace near the basement archives and only appears once a year for the company holiday party.

Here’s a detailed explanation of what the HR department does (or should do) to address the needs of employees.

What is Human Resources (HR)?

Human resources (HR) is in charge of screening, recruiting, and training personnel, as well as establishing employee operations inside a corporation. In effect, HR departments are especially responsible for managing a company’s complete employee experience, from the time an individual applies to a position to the time they start working there and, finally, when they leave.

HR also manages compensation benefits in some businesses. HR departments exist to offer value to an organisation by providing objective advice on people-related issues to managers and employees. This work is accomplished through a combination of day-to-day employee support, project work, and long-term strategic planning. A well-managed human resources department identifies the proper individuals for the job and does all possible to keep them happy and productive.

Why Does a Company Need Human Resources?

Every business is unique. Some businesses, particularly small businesses, may believe that a specialised HR function is superfluous. Another company of a similar size, on the other hand, may deem it essential.

In general, you may want to consider an HR role if:

#1. You’re expanding rapidly.

Human resources may assist fast-developing businesses with a high volume of recruitment, training, and development. They can also handle difficult onboarding duties like benefit rollouts. HR can assist you with performance assessments and salary conversations as your workforce grows. Human resources can also help you ensure that your job offer is competitive, giving you the best opportunity to attract top personnel.

#2. You are unable to keep up with developments in employment law.

Employment law is subject to rapid change. We’ve witnessed in recent years:

  • Changes to IR35 to tackle ‘disguised’ employment
  • Amended ‘fit note’ rules for sickness absences
  • Gender pay gap reporting for companies
  • Centralising certain right-to-work checks for non-British and non-Irish workers in the Home Office
  • The introduction and subsequent rapid scrappage of increased national insurance contributions to fund the NHS and social care

Keeping up with such legislation is critical for any organisation, and an HR expert can help.

#3. You’re devoting too much time to personnel concerns.

Although the cost may dissuade organisations without human resources from implementing it, there are possible hazards connected with not having human resources. There’s a chance you’ll become mired down with personnel issues, including policies, procedures, training, development, employment law, recruitment, onboarding, and so on. This could prevent you from performing critical tasks that actively grow the firm.

#4. You want to foster a positive corporate culture.

Human resources, with responsibility for employment regulations and working conditions, help shape, improve, and sustain company culture. This can be useful when attracting and maintaining employees. For example, a Unum study from 2022 discovered that more than one-third (36%) of employees who left a business would ‘boomerang’ back to that firm due to a mix of work culture and greater employee perks.

#5. You’re introducing employee benefits or upgrading an existing offering

Employee benefits are critical to rewarding and eventually keeping employees. If you’re considering implementing employee perks or updating your current package with this in mind, HR will be crucial.

This is especially crucial if you wish to provide a benefit that interacts with and supplements your existing employment policies, such as Group Income Protection, which kicks in after your sick pay runs out to support an employee over an extended period of sickness leave.

What Does Human Resources do?

Ask any employee what an HR department is, and you’ll receive an answer that focuses on the most unpleasant aspects of the job: HR infractions, layoffs, and firing. However, the truth is that human resources exists to assist employees. It is, quite literally, a human resource.

Here are some of the things that your HR staff is doing on every day.

#1. Find candidates

When recruiting for new positions, HR must understand the organization’s needs and ensure that those needs are addressed. It’s not as straightforward as posting an ad on Indeed; you’ll need to conduct market research, communicate with stakeholders, and manage finances.

Following that, extra research must be conducted to ensure that the right applicants are attracted and presented. Recruiting is a massive—and expensive—task; the perfect individual may revitalise an entire business, while the incorrect candidate can destabilise operations.

#2. Hire the appropriate people

Human resources is responsible for scheduling interviews, managing hiring initiatives, and onboarding new employees. They are also responsible of ensuring that all paperwork associated with employing someone is completed and that everything from the first day to each following day is properly managed.

#3. Payroll processing

Payroll is a beast unto itself. Every payday, taxes and hours must be calculated and collected. Expenses must be refunded and raises and incentives must be included. If you think completing taxes once a year is a hassle, consider being in HR and making sure they’re properly deducted every pay period.

#4. Implement disciplinary measures

This is possibly why human resources has a negative reputation. When handled incorrectly, disciplinary proceedings can result in the loss of a valuable employee as well as litigation or a terrible reputation. However, when handled correctly, disciplinary action might result in an employee’s success.

For example, if a company detects that a specific employee is often late and continues to be late despite receiving multiple warnings, HR could step in and examine the cause of the tardiness. It could be an opportunity to provide additional advantages to the employee, such as counselling, or to provide additional resources to help the person learn to be on time. Instead of incurring the expense of terminating and then seeking a replacement for that employee, it might be a learning experience that will help that employee advance in his or her career.

On the other hand, disciplinary action isn’t always the best option, and an employee should be let go. The greatest human resources departments recognise when an employee is not a good match for a firm and would be happier elsewhere. It is essential for HR to have a strong enough relationship with managers and employees to determine a team’s cohesiveness and health.

#5. Update policies

Policies must be revised (or at the very least reviewed) every year as the organisation evolves. It is HR’s responsibility to make public policy updates and to advise on policy changes when they no longer serve the firm or the employees. As a result of an occurrence, a policy should be revised at times. HR should always be involved in and consulted on these choices.

#6. Keep employee records.

The keeping of HR records is required by law. These records assist companies in identifying talent gaps, analysing demographic data, and complying with legislation. They also include personal information and emergency contact information for each employee.

#7. Perform a benefit analysis

When striving to attract the greatest personnel, being competitive is critical. If the benefits are more appealing, a good recruit may select a different business with lower compensation. HR should study comparable organisations on a regular basis to evaluate if their benefits are competitive.

How Does HR Support Employees?

As a human resources specialist, you assist employees by providing ongoing education, training, and health and wellness support. Maintaining employee happiness and morale requires adequate human resources. HR support for employees may differ from one organisation to the next. Here are some ways your HR department can assist employees:

#1. Make a professional path available within the organisation.

As a human resources specialist, you assist employees by providing a career path inside the organisation. Your department should provide clear paths for progress, promotions, and transfers to other departments or divisions. This helps to guarantee that employees stay with the company rather than looking for new chances elsewhere when they are ready.

#2. Provide opportunities for ongoing education.

Human resources may be in charge of continuing education courses that benefit both the firm and the employee. This could include professional development, course tuition reimbursement, or certifications. Giving employees opportunities to expand their skill sets and industry knowledge can raise morale and encourage people to stay with the organisation. Education assistance schemes are frequently effective recruitment and retention tools.

#3. Coach and mentor managers

As a human resource professional, you may work with department heads and managers to develop their knowledge and abilities. By developing company leaders, you will benefit employees throughout the firm. Your training may concentrate on employee motivation, effective feedback, disciplinary issues, diversity, technical skills, and legal compliance.

#4. Promote health and well-being

Your human resources department will most likely aid employees by handling health insurance, employee assistance programmes, retirement planning, and disability benefits. This training can assist employees in resolving workplace disagreements and managing stress that would otherwise interfere with their work. In some companies, these programme benefits are extended to direct family members.

You might also help managers develop employee wellness programmes that incorporate fitness challenges, good eating guidelines, and stress-reduction techniques. Healthy employees take fewer sick days, which reduces company productivity. Some employers provide these on-site, while others work with outside providers to do so.

What Skills Do You Need to Work in Human Resources?

Working in human resources necessitates a mix of workplace and technological abilities, such as communication and talent management systems. The particular abilities you require will vary based on the job you seek, but the list below will give you an idea of the types of skills that are valued in HR jobs.

  • Active listening: You will most likely find that practising active listening skills will help you pay attention to essential details and demonstrate to employees that you appreciate their time and opinion.
  • Analysis: Data analysis is frequently used by HR professionals to analyse recruiting strategies and employee performance. Understanding how to understand this data can be beneficial.
  • Administrative: Administrative abilities such as organisation, data input and analysis, and the ability to manage many duties at once can be useful in HR employment.
  • Communication: As an HR professional, you spend a lot of time talking to individuals in interviews, training sessions, and casual discussions. You will almost certainly write a lot of emails, handbooks, and other papers.
  • Training: You may be required to create and administer training programmes for adults, including both new and existing employees.
  • Technical abilities: The specific technical skills required vary depending on the organisation, but being able to use a computer and handle word-processing documents, spreadsheets, and databases is useful in most jobs.

What Is the Role of Human Resources?

A company’s human resources department is responsible for the recruitment and retention of personnel. HR is responsible for finding, hiring (and firing), and training personnel. It is in charge of employee relations and benefit programmes. It’s where employees go when they have inquiries about their job, to resolve problems, and to express grievances.

What Is Human Resource Management (HRM)?

Human resource management (HRM) is a systematic approach to managing firm personnel, work culture, and work environment in order for people to function as efficiently and productively as feasible. Typically, it entails employing metrics to assess workforce success.

What Are the 5 Types of Human Resources?

An HR department handles a variety of key human resources functions. The following are five well-known sorts of responsibilities:

  • New employee recruitment, hiring, and onboarding
  • Taking care of employee compensation and perks
  • Offering job/career development to employees
  • Individual employee work-related difficulties are addressed.
  • Creating policies that effect the entire company’s working environment

Why Are HR Burnt Out?

However, as an HR professional, you confront particular obstacles and obligations, which can lead to burnout. Here are some of the forces at work: Compassion fatigue can result from repeatedly aiding others through troubles and difficulties. Putting people first at work might lead to a bad work-life balance.

Is HR a Lonely Career?

While working in human resources can be lucrative, it can also be quite lonely. HR professionals must maintain strict secrecy, which can isolate them and limit their social engagement with coworkers.

Can You Be Shy and Work in HR?

Managing firm payrolls, statistics, and ergonomics is frequently calm and relaxing, with few people and fewer interactions. This enables introverts to accomplish their employment objectives without risking the perilous social waters of the workplace.

The Bottom Line

The human resources (HR) department of a firm controls each employee’s life cycle, from recruitment and onboarding to training and termination or retirement. HR teams must also keep an eye on industry trends and rules in order to stay on top of compliance and legal challenges.

Human resource departments are increasingly focusing on human resource management, using strategic investments and efforts to strengthen an organization’s personnel. HRM’s long-term goal is to produce a more positive, loyal, and productive workforce, which helps the organisation in the long run.


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