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What Does a Human Resources Manager, Generalist, or Director Do?

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By Susan M. Heathfield. Human Resources Expert

Susan Heathfield is a Human Resources expert. She is a management and organization development consultant who specializes in human resources issues and in management development to create forward thinking workplaces. Susan is also a professional facilitator, speaker, trainer, and writer.

Susan is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Susan contributes regularly to professional publications including a book chapter for ASTD and a recent article in the American Society for Quality 's Journal for Quality and Participation. This Web site is recommended as a resource by many colleges and universities including the ILR School Catherwood Library at Cornell University.

Susan has covered Human Resources for since 2000.

You can read more about Susan's current and past work on her Google Profile: Susan Heathfield .

Question: What Does a Human Resources Manager, Generalist, or Director Do?

HR directors, and occasionally HR managers, may head up several different departments that are each led by functional or specialized HR staff such as the training manager. the compensation manager. or the recruiting manager .

Human Resources staff members are advocates for both the company and the people who work in the company. Consequently, a good HR professional performs a constant balancing act to meet both needs successfully.

The Changing Human Resources Role

The role of the HR professional is changing to fit the needs of today's modern, fast changing organizations.

In the past, because the original HR personnel functions were often provided by accounting, the HR role was focused on administrative tasks such as paying employees, administering benefits, and keeping track of sick and personal days off.

But, a more comprehensive approach to the management of people in the organization was needed. Programs and processes that systematically hired employees, retained employees, and dealt with all aspects of talent management evolved in the best organizations.

Then, the role evolved again.

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Still responsible for the administrative tasks and the programs and processes related to people, the best HR professionals are now leading the charge.

They are developing systems and processes within the organization that address the strategic needs of the business. So, what was once the task of hiring employees is now the process of team-based hiring of the best possible talented employees who are

recruited via methods that range from employee referrals to social media sourcing.

These employees are also congruent with the company's culture. This is quite a different journey, one that continues to evolve.

New HR Role

The role of the HR manager must parallel the needs of this developing, changing organization. Successful organizations are becoming more adaptable, resilient, quick to change direction, and customer-centered. They recognize that organizations will vie for talent in coming years.

This recognition brings about the need for employee oriented workplaces and programs that meet the needs of employees for meaningful work, growth, challenge, communication, and effective leadership.

Within this environment, the HR professional, who is respected by line managers and consequently, whose talents are utilized by managers, is responsible for new roles. In Human Resource Champions . Dave Ulrich, one of the more popular speakers and writers in the HR field. and a professor at the University of Michigan, recommends three additional roles for the HR manager .

  • a strategic partner,
  • an employee sponsor or advocate and
  • a change mentor.

At the same time, especially the HR Generalist, still has responsibility for the day-to-day employee problems and complaints, employee benefits administration, often payroll, and employee paperwork, especially in the absence of an HR Assistant .

Responsibilities of the HR Professional

Depending on the size of the organization, the HR manager has responsibility for all of the functions that deal with the needs and activities of the organization's people including these areas of responsibility.

When you ask the question, what does the HR manager, generalist or director do, as you can see, the answer is a lot. The role bears responsibility for all of the processes and systems related to people in an organization. The role must support the work of managers who supervise and lead the work of these people.

The HR professionals must develop the skills of their managers and their organization to do these activities well. The job of the HR professional is a constant challenge as HR staff balance many roles and activities in support of their organizations.

Want even more detailed information about the job descriptions and responsibilities of HR professionals? Take a look at these job descriptions.

Human Resources Job Descriptions

More About a Career in Human Resources

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