October 28, 2016

The various roles of HR

A career in HR can mean many things. Just think of all the different job titles that come under the umbrella term of HR. There’s HR generalists, there’s L&D, there’s business partners, there’s HR administrators, there’s employee relations officers… it’s quite a long list.

There are all these different titles because the HR spectrum is a broad one. It includes employee engagement, performance and reward, organisation development, people analytics, employee relations and recruitment, resourcing and talent planning.

Plus, every organisation is different and an HR role in one organisation can be very different to an HR role in another organisation, even if they both have the same job title.

Anyone who wants to pursue a career in HR needs to understand all these different terms and titles and work out what interests them most. If it’s employee relations, then what do you need to do to move into this area? Do you want to specialise or be a generalist?

For those who aren’t sure what aspect of HR interests them most, it may be best to start off as a generalist and gain exposure to the whole spectrum. By being a generalist, you will gain experience in many different areas of HR and this should help you decide if you want to be a specialist or not and if so, in what discipline.

Let’s give a little insight into what the different roles can mean:

Employee engagement
A pretty self-explanatory title, this role involves knowing what makes the employees in an organisation tick and making sure they are engaged with their role and the organisation as a whole. Why are they working for your organisation? What do they want from the organisation and their career? What will help them to be more engaged, stay with the organisation and be successful?

Your focus is not just on the employees however – you will also make up part of the internal communications team. You will need to work in partnership with management as well, helping employees and management to have a strong, cohesive relationship.

Employee relations
Not dissimilar to employee engagement, employee relations is all about creating and maintaining good working relationships across an organisation. Employee relations specialists assist line managers in engaging the workforce and in ensuring that the employee voice is heard. They also have an important role to play in terms of overseeing the relationship between an organisation and its trade unions, in making sure diversity and equal opportunities are high on the agenda and that workplace practices are fair and reflect legal requirements.

HR generalist
As an HR generalist you get to dip your toes in lots of different areas of HR. This can be a great way for newbies to the profession to gain an overall understanding of HR and how it fits into overall organisational needs.

Learning and development is about helping employees learn and develop the skills they need. The scope of L&D has changed a lot in recent years. These days it is less about delivering training and more about facilitating learning. L&D has to help learners learn in the way that they want to learn – signposting them to information, creating a culture of continuous learning and ensuring that individuals and organisations are developing the skills and knowledge required to be successful.

Organisation development
Change is constant in organisations nowadays, so OD experts need to be experts at managing and driving change. OD roles encompass a whole range of activities and skills, depending on what change is required and how best to effect it. Typically, it involves practitioners having great communication skills, influencing skills and the ability to spot problems and obstacles and how to resolve them. Horizon scanning is also an important attribute.

Performance and Reward
Being an effective performance and reward professional requires a thorough understanding of what performance is required, how it is demonstrated and can be assessed and then how to reward it in a fair, transparent and appropriate way. It is important that employees are rewarded for the right behaviours and outcomes.The rewards need to be effective (rewards that employees actually want) and cost effective.

Recruitment and resourcing
Those involved in recruitment and resourcing need to meet organisational needs through good people strategies. This means knowing what the short term and long term recruitment needs of an organisation are, where supply is strong, where it is weak and how to find and attract the top talent. It’s not just about recruiting when recruitment needs arise – good recruitment and resourcing professionals manage the talent pipeline, both internally and externally, by managing the talent pool and maintaining a strong network.

That’s a snapshot view of the main different roles in HR. Of course, the profession keeps evolving and changing – people analytics is now a major area of HR, for example. HR professionals, those with bags of experience and those with very little, need to keep abreast of these changes.

To find out more about how you can kick-start your career in HR with a CIPD qualification, call one of our programme advisors on 0330 660 220.