July 15, 2020

What is Human Resources?

Whether you work as part of a multinational corporation or a small local business, it’s likely that your company has its own Human Resources department. 

Despite being commonplace in most workplaces, Human Resources is one of the most misunderstood business areas. In fact, some employees don’t even know what the department does. 

To help you better understand why Human Resources is a crucial part of your business, we’ve created an in-depth guide to help you not only better understand the day-to-day roles of Human Resources, but how the department relates to your own career.

What is an HR department?

HR is the department that is responsible for managing assets related to employees as well as the development of workers. It’s named after ‘Human Resources’ which refers to the personnel of an organisation who make up the skilled workforce of a business.

The size of an HR department will differ depending on the size of a company. Small businesses may only require a single HR Manager whereas larger companies will hire a full team due to their increased workforce. Although it’s not a legal requirement to have an HR department, it’s advised that companies do so, especially larger ones, as HR-related incidents are more common than you might think.

What does HR do?

Human resources encompass all aspects of people management and communication within a company. 

For employers, HR is a tool to keep a business running smoothly by ensuring that the best people are being hired, retained and happy. 

For employees, HR is a department that is there to support you through difficult times, ensure you have everything you need to perform at your best and to help you develop further in your career. 

Here are some of the most common daily tasks of a Human Resources department:

1. Foster company culture

Once seen as a nice-to-have employee benefit, strong and positive business culture is now essential for the modern workplace.  Everything from team building days and lunch & learns to work flexibility falls under the umbrella of company culture — all of which require the input of the HR team.

By creating a consistent and nurturing culture, Human Resources helps to create an environment for workers that supports their work life and the values of the business. 

2. Recruitment

As people are HR’s bread and butter, it’s only natural that they play an important role when it comes to the hiring process. 

Human Resource managers know both the calibre of a company’s workforce and what values the business is looking for in an employee. As well as the actual recruitment stage — a critical moment for any business — HR also ensure that the onboarding process is seamless. This means getting new starters set up in the workplace, fully orientated and ready to hit the ground running.  

3. Promote job training and educational development

Performance management and employee development is a big part of Human Resources. Every employee has strengths and weaknesses and it’s HR’s job to help each person make the most of their talents and help them improve in areas that can be developed.

HR managers are in charge of ensuring that all employees have access to a development plan, in which they will communicate with their line manager to highlight performance areas that can be improved. These plans give both managers and employees clarity on how an individual is working and provides a clear development path to follow.

HR is also responsible for finding opportunities for further training. A worker’s development plan will indicate if they are more interested in widening their skillset or improving in a specific area. This allows HR managers to recommend training programmes and seminars that will help employees close in on their targets. 

4. Supporting management

Employees are not the only ones who need guidance. Human Resources is also tasked with providing support to managers, ensuring they are capably leading their teams within the business.  

As a department, HR knows the employees of a business better than anyone else. This allows them to give advice and guidance to managers as to how best to deal with employees in a healthy and productive way. Human Resources often organise training events for managers in the same way as any other employee — helping them improve in skills such as people management and public speaking.

5. Manage communications

In business, there is a lot of important information that needs to be relayed to both managers and staff. Whether it’s an important company-wide update or an employee grievance, Human Resources ensure that crucial information reaches the people who need to hear it. 

Good communication within your business eliminates misunderstandings, saving time and resources. It also creates better relationships, further strengthening company culture.

6. Supporting health and wellness

As much of an asset to businesses as they are, employees are people at the end of the day. Human Resources have a duty to support the health and well being of employees as a priority. 

This can relate to a number of issues, both at work and on a personal level, such as health issues, debt, childcare, coping with mental health and much more.  

Why is HR important?

At the heart of every business is its people, which is why HR is instrumental to the success of a company. A poor Human Resources department will leave employees feeling like their voices aren’t being heard, leading to demotivation and an overall sense that the company they’ve dedicated their work lives to doesn’t have their backs.

Ensuring your business is equipped with a strong HR team, on the other hand, will work wonders for company morale. With a clear communication stream, opportunities to develop and a place to confidently voice any employee concerns, you’ll earn a solid reputation as an employer — essential for attracting new talent to the business.

When to contact Human Resources

HR has many resources at its disposal and can be called upon in the workplace for a number of reasons. 

Here are a number of situations where you should contact your HR department:

  • When you have questions about company benefits, including holidays, travel allowance and claiming expenses
  • When your personal circumstances change. This could include having children, changing your working hours or needing the business to accommodate for a disability
  • When you have questions on advancing within the business or developing through training
  • When you experience or witness harassment or discrimination from a colleague or manager. This includes any form of discrimination; gender, race, religion, etc
  • When you need to discuss a work-related issue with an objective third-party

How to start a career in HR

As Human Resources is an important ingredient for a business’ success, a career in HR is an appealing proposition for many. But where do you start?

At DPG, we help prospective HR and L&D professionals start their careers with our range of CIPD courses. Learn all the skills and knowledge you’ll need to become an HR Administrator with CIPD Level 3 in HR Practice. Or if you are already working in Human Resources and wish to expand your knowledge and further your career, CIPD Level 5 and CIPD Level 7 can help you climb the HR ladder and implement new HR strategies and policies.

Join the DPG Community to learn more about the world of Human Resources from industry experts and current HR professionals.