Human Resources. HR. It’s an industry that is elusive in understanding to many including your CEO, hiring manager or employees. Just exactly who is HR and what do they do for your business, compliance and for the employee? I’ve often said that HR has a PR problem, but in truth it’s more than that. It’s a full on branding and communication problem mainly due to the complexities of the industry.
This complexity starts with the history of HR having its roots in administration, filing, personnel and compliance for your company. HR grew out of necessity as employment laws, government requirements and other employee documentation became more complex starting with the creation and storage of employee files, OSHA documentation, I-9’s and the hiring and on boarding process of new employees. Organized HR ladies and gents were rewarded for these skills in policy writing, payroll processing and filing organization by becoming the HR Manager or Director given the size of the company.
The ROI of HR as a Business Partner
As HR grew in it’s complexity becoming more involved in business forecasting, establishing business ROI and executing progress that could be directly tied to future and current business success, so evolved the role of the HR professional into something more than it ever intended to be. We are strategic business partners forcibly involved in the success of organizations evaluating not just hiring, firing and traditional hiring advisory roles but so much more. This is where the HR ROI Scale developed by Paul Kearns (seen below) comes into play.
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Job titles, responsibilities, business involvement and other factors make HR an interesting and challenging career to work and play. A lonely yet noble profession, it’s not uncommon for HR professionals to have little to no friends of work social life due to the complexities the industry brings. Thursdays happy hour work drinking buddy could be the subject of Friday’s termination meeting, and HR doesn’t like being seen as favoriting employees or silly little things like feelings getting in the way of being the voice of reason at your company.
Understanding Job Descriptions & Responsibilities in HR
As the HR ROI Scale above suggests, the more strategic the role, the more complex strategies and decision making becomes in your HR role at the company. While I’m not an advocate of using the term personnel management, it does sum up a great deal of what the lesser strategic but not less important roles might be.
- HR Coordinator. A true administrative position. An HR coordinator has responsibility for filing, maintaining reports, processing payroll and typically the scheduling of interviews. HR Coordinator’s might plan and organize events, develop email content for newsletters and other inter-office communication within the department and the company. Their roles are focused on administration providing a valuable service to the organization in maintaining order and a system for everything. They are hourly non-exempt workers.
- HR Specialist. Typically 1-3 years of experience working in HR. Still focused on administration, payroll processing and other administrative tasks. HR specialists can gain additional experience working on speciality projects, employee orientation, training, and pre-screen interviewing. Human Resource Specialists have a basic understanding of some employment law. They are hourly non-exempt workers and serve as a go-t0 resource for employees and managers alike.
- HR Managers. Typically a salary level position these human resource managers may or may not oversee and supervise a staff of employees. Generalists in their roles these individuals often do a bit of everything including benefits, compensation, recruiting and handing employee relations issues each and every day. The responsibilities in this role are very wide. I’ve experienced everything from location forecasting and budgeting, recruiting and interviewing, compliance to overseeing EEOC investigations and claims. HR Managers sometimes process payroll but are less administrative than coordinator or specialist roles. Often they are cross-trained in the administrative tasks for emergencies.
- HR Directors. Often responsible for HR teams of 2 or more, human resource directors oversee a region, a number of locations or serve as the highest ranking member of HR within the company but this is not always the case. HR Directors often are responsible for building annual budgets and often times have decision making when it comes to buying software, systems and negotiating benefits offerings for the company. Less likely to be a department of 1 than the HR Manager, their responsibilities are less compliance and policy and more focused on building relationships with executive team members and driving results for the organization focused on human capital and company.
- HR Business Partner. This role is seen less of a generalist or manager and someone who takes a more consultative role working in HR. Human resource business partners have clients within the organization they provide resources and build relationships with focusing on the missions and objectives set forth by the organization. There is much less focus on compliance and administration. An organization instead typically has a HR Services Center or central department to help provide support in the form of policy development and enforcement, benefits and compensation. This person is seen as an operational and more strategic resource for the region or area in which they support. This is a exempt level position.
- VP of HR. Depending on the size of organization, the vice president of human resources often reports directly to the CEO or COO of an organization although sometimes the CHRO or chief human resource officer has this distinction. Depending on the structure and size of the organization, the VP of HR works with the executive team to discuss business objectives. They view financial documents and work to understand how the focused programs and services they offer the organization drive revenue. The VP of HR works to integrate people into the full scope of business operations evaluating how the impact of human capital benefits the overall organization. This position is heavily focused on business metrics, reporting and analytics directly in contrast to the administrative roots of the industry. This is a exempt level position and often a key decision maker at the company.