What is Human Resources, Really?

What is Human Resources, Really?


Human resources is probably the best kept secret at your company. It seems to be the media darling or on hitlist at the moment with HR making the front page cover of this month’s Harvard Business Review. While some may be in favor of “blowing up HR,” it’s clear in the HRB cover and from the many questions I get people don’t realize we are so much more than just hiring and firing. We don’t just sit around all day and talk on the phone or talk to employees. I’m not reading your company email or monitoring your internet surfing. What human resources is really depends on what your organization makes of it. So quit speculating and starting asking someone in HR what the heck it is that they do all day.

So What is Human Resources?

Human resources is often divided into two categories. Commonly you will find one or both types of human resources within your organization. The type of HR most commonly found in every organization is corporate HR, the other is field HR. This distinctions between the two are important because it determines where and on who your HR people are likely focusing their time, energy and your company’s money.

Field HR

This type of HR happens in the field and typically supports your employees outside of the corporate office. They might serve as the human resources point of contact for a combination of your retail stores, distribution plant and a call center. Or they might also manage all regional operations within a geographic area or one type of operations for your company. In my HR career, I worked most often in field HR and was often on the front lines engaging employees in their workplaces, locations and offices.

Corporate HR

On the other hand, Corporate HR might include your employee self service center where HR representatives field calls and questions from employees throughout your organization. This type of HR includes all human resource team members who are housed within the HQ and interact with less with the employees in the field, than the field HR members of the team. Some companies forego field HR altogether allowing for a central and unified HR effort, more similar that of the Corporate HR structure.

Responsibilities of Your HR Departments

1) Employee Benefits – they manage everything from your open enrollment to the various instances throughout the year that require the benefit selection. They make sure you new employees enroll and select within the allotted time at the beginning of their employment. They manage the midterm benefit selection changes due to the major life events of your employees. In addition to that they field questions and inquiries year round regarding the selection processes.

2) Compliance – many non HR folks don’t realize the extent of compliance within their organization. Whether it comes to legal standards, workplace audits or standards set by the organization themselves, it is a duty of HR to make sure that the organization as a whole is in compliance with them

3) Employee or Human Relations – I have made the argument before that employee and human relations should be more the duty of management but more often than not it falls on the heads of your HR people. Even if it doesn’t, it still is often regulated by them, whether it be the keeping of a personnel file or other administrative aspects.

4) Recruiting – this is one of the most recognized job functions of your HR teams. They are the ones who field potential candidates and in a lot of cases fill the positions you need filled in order to sustain business.

5) Learning and Development – while in some organizations this is an area that breaks off into its own department, it is still generally a function of the overall HR grouping. They are responsible for the continued learning and development of existing employees throughout their career with the organization.

6) Payroll – there are a lot of things that go into payroll and they take care of it all. The make sure exempt and nonexempt employees are adhering to the standards of the organization as well as the legislation surrounding labor laws. They make sure that time cards are submitted properly and then paid in a timely manner. If they don’t do their job, your employees might not be paid.

7) Training – similar to learning and development, HR makes sure that incoming employees and employees who are switching roles are properly trained and prepared for their new roles.

8) Compensation – whether it be expenses, bonuses or other forms of compensation, not part of regular payroll, they manage and make sure it is taken care of properly for the employees throughout your organization.

Most importantly human resources is a profession that HR is passionate about. We love what we do and take our roles extremely seriously whether it’s gaining field experience, HR certifications with HRCI or SHRM or obtaining a degree. If you are wondering what is human resources, the best source of information is talk directly and ask a member of your human resources team.

Posted in

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.


Newest Jobs in HR & Recruiting

Atrium is hiring a HR Operations Coordinator (Boston, MA) [Click to View]

TERRA Staffing Group is hiring a Recruiting Coordinator | Great Seattle Location (Seattle, WA) [Click to View]

The Mom Project is hiring a Human Resources Specialist (100% Remote) ( Boston, MA) [Click to View]

Catapult Learning is hiring a Talent & HR Coordinator (Remote) (Atlanta, GA) [Click to View]

Ultimate Staffing is hiring a Talent Recruiter (jr27) (Minneapolis, MN) [Click to View]

Pin It on Pinterest