What is Human Resource Management? Explore Career Paths, Tasks and More

By DeVry University

There’s no doubt that the field of human resources (HR) is a popular area of study for our students. Whether it’s the idea of serving as your company’s go-to point-of-contact or assisting new colleagues as they join the organization and shape their future careers, HR roles have a lot of appeal. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that positions in human resource management will increase at a rate of 6% in the coming decade, which is faster than average.

But, exactly what is human resource management? And what are the functions of human resource professionals? Read on to learn more about this broad and varied career path and some of the day-to-day tasks you might perform, including managing recruitment, overseeing talent retention efforts and coordinating insurance benefits.

What is Human Resource Management?

Human resource management refers to the management of people as well as all resources pertaining to the human capital of an organization. These resources can range from health insurance to employee assistance programs and may include labor relations issues such diversity, workplace safety, compensation and environmental conflicts.

Human resource professionals are needed in businesses of all sizes from small, family-owned establishments to multi-national corporations in virtually every industry. HR professionals should be able to:

  • Communicate clearly
  • Exercise good judgment and possess a keen sense of ethics
  • Think quickly and understand implications of decisions on stakeholders
  • Demonstrate organizational skills
  • Work independently or as part of a collaborative team
  • Effectively use problem solving and conflict management skills

What are the functions of Human Resource Professionals?

Human resources management is a profession with a broad scope, given that tasks can vary based on company size and needs. Some of the more common tasks associated with HR professionals involve staffing within an organization – such as onboarding new employees and advising or creating policies on employment and organizational development. Other typical responsibilities include:

Recruitment and Onboarding

HR professionals work closely with department heads, hiring managers and other decision makers to determine desirable qualifications, skill sets and education levels used in the recruitment strategies for new roles.

In the past, recruitment often meant manually sifting through hundreds of resumes, but today's professionals are more likely to depend on specialized software to maintain a database of applicants and jobs. This not only streamlines the process and potentially reduces the hiring costs associated with manual labor, but also helps them to quickly track down the right candidates by searching for key skills and experience.

Many HR positions require knowledge about employment and labor laws to ensure compliance. In many firms, HR professionals are often a new employee’s first contact within the organization because they:

  • Conduct the initial interviews in a hiring process.
  • Perform background checks and check references.
  • Onboard new employees and help orient them to company policies and procedures.
  • Assist new employees in getting set up with health insurance, payroll and other benefits.

Employee Training and Development

Human resource departments are also responsible for implementing both introductory and ongoing training programs designed to provide employees with the tools they need to do their jobs and stay current in their field. They produce employee handbooks, create and administer company training and facilitate conferences, seminars or other professional development opportunities for employees. These opportunities for development are all designed to help organizations cultivate and retain their workforces.

The health and safety of an organization is also an important priority for HR professionals. They may communicate workforce safety guidelines or develop trainings and procedures that encourage employees to report unsafe practices without fear of retaliation. It is often important for HR professionals to understand and remain current on applicable safety laws and regulations surrounding the workplace.

Performance Management

An ongoing employee performance management process is critical to ensure that employees are receiving feedback on their job performance and continuing to develop within their roles. Because compensation can be tied to performance reviews, it is vital that HR professionals implement systems and processes that aim to create consistency and fairness while minimizing opportunities for bias across the organization.

Compensation and Benefits Administration

Another responsibility of a human resource department includes determining compensation for a position based on the role, experience and equity across the organization and industry. HR professionals use industry data to determine appropriate compensation benchmarks and ensure the company remains competitive in the market. For example, an HR professional may gather data from a compensation survey to analyze market trends and make recommendations on pay bands for positions.

Similarly, HR professionals research employee benefits across comparable industries to ensure that their benefits packages are in line with other organizations. This may include health insurance, retirement, employee assistance and other benefits programs. HR professionals are often responsible for negotiating rates, performing cost analyses and making recommendations to leadership on the most cost-effective packages. In addition, HR professionals communicate and administer the benefits to employees.

What is the goal of the Human Resources department?

In a small organization, the HR department may consist of an HR generalist with many different responsibilities. In a larger company, they may have several HR specialists focusing in specific areas. For example, some HR professionals concentrate solely on recruiting or onboarding while others may work in benefits and compensation. No matter the size of the company, HR departments help their organizations:

  • Support and manage talent
  • Foster a positive working environment and workplace culture
  • Communicate its vision, systems and policies
  • Achieve its goals and successes

HR departments often serve as the link between employees and the leadership of the organization. They represent the moral compass of an organization, providing guidance on best practices and ethical behaviors. In this way, many people see the HR team as key to a company’s overall success.

What are some Human Resource career paths?

Because HR professionals are needed in every industry, they often come from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of experience. But the first step in pursuing a successful career in human resources typically involves advancing your education by pursing a bachelor's or master's degree or a certificate option.

Depending on the path you choose, your career opportunities may change. As an example, a graduate who has earned their bachelor’s degree from DeVry University with a specialization in human resources management may be eligible for positions including:

  • Administrative Services Manager
  • Compensation Analyst
  • Employee Benefits Specialist
  • Employee Relations Manager
  • Human Resource Generalist
  • Human Resource Information Systems Specialist
  • Management Analyst Consultant
  • Personnel Manager
  • Recruiter
  • Staffing Coordinator
  • Training and Development Manager

Because technology is rapidly changing the face of human resources, hands-on experience may also help prepare you for a successful career in the field. With advances in artificial intelligence, automated recruiting systems and data analytics, HR professionals will continue to be challenged to increase efficiencies and reduce costs while maintaining a safe and productive workforce.

Interested in learning more about earning your degree or certificate in human resources while balancing work, life and school? Contact us.

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