In the old days the HR department was known as Personnel, and people who worked there were responsible for doing the paperwork for hiring and firings and leave and that was about it. Today not only is the role of the HR professional far more demanding than it’s ever been before, its also now seen as essential to the success of the business.
Whereas before someone working in an HR position would have been viewed as a function of payroll, nowadays they’re often regarded as a partner of senior management in devising growth strategies for the company.
Over the last 20 years the HR function has evolved into a dynamic and popular career choice and the role now encompasses a number of areas.
Today’s HR professional will find themselves dealing with a range of issues, like time planning, pension, staff development and training, and occupational health and safety, among others.
The role has changed in response to progressive legislation that governs the relationship between employers and employee, which has grown complex in recent years. Legislation has evolved to reflect the contemporary culture of equity and human rights.
It’s an exciting time to be an HR practitioner. The field has widened so much that human resources is now shedding its image of a little grey, back office, job and is now considered one of the hot careers for people entering the job market.
Why the HR role is important
Employees can make or break an organisation. Organisational success therefore depends on finding the best qualified people for a job and then nurturing and retaining their talent and skills and this is where a good HR practitioner can play a vital role. Equally, HR is important in communicating with employees that no longer fit the organisational profile or who no longer have goals that are congruent to that of the organisation.
Human organisation and relationships can be incredibly complex, more so when there is compensation and defined hierarchical structures involved. It needs specific expertise and skills to manage those relationships.
For a career in the field of human resources, you need to possess a range of personal qualities and skills including so-called ‘soft skills’ like integrity, fair-mindedness, and a persuasive, congenial personality. You should be able to cope with conflicting points of view, function under pressure, and be skilled at communication at all levels.
It needs a good level headed approach and it is important to remember that many of the responsibilities of the job are very confidential.
‘Hard skills’ are also necessary, which includes things like computer proficiency, strong written and oral communication, math, and principles of business.
Human resources managers are there to assist companies to utilise effectively the best of their employees’ skills, to provide the appropriate training opportunities to enhance those skills, and to look for ways to boost the employees’ satisfaction with their jobs and working conditions.
A good HR manager therefore should be able to bring a range of skills and experiences to the table that can be used to support the organisational team in achieving the appropriate goals. Any organisation can benefit from the focus that an HR professional brings to the company, but this relationship can be especially beneficial to large companies where employees and employers do not have many opportunities to meet with each other.
Whatever the size of the company, the choice of sectors and roles for an HR graduate is diverse.
Massive range of career choices
There is a substantial range of levels of human resource management positions with differing levels of responsibility. Because qualifications in this field can be employed in virtually every industry, the choices of where and how to work are enormous.
HR graduates can choose from a range of jobs that include roles such as personnel administrators, human resource managers and consultants, industrial relations officers, personnel managers, union representatives, management trainees and recruitment specialists.
Recent graduates will probably start off their careers by working in a some sort of a general capacity which will see them do a little bit of everything rather than focus in one area. Some people like working like this and will stay an HR generalist all of their working lives, especially if they prefer to work in a small company.
Others will find their interests drawn into one specific area and may choose to specialise in this area, for example as a compensation and benefits manager, an employee relations officer, a recruitment and procurement manager, or someone who spends time in helping others learn new skills and develop their own career.
Headquarters of companies with hundreds, if not thousands, of staff members are more likely to offer this level of specialisation in HR roles.
The future of HR
Although the HR profession is constantly evolving and adapting to the changing needs of the working environment, experts have identified several critical roles for the HR manager in the future.
The Financial Officer
A numbers based role, where the HR practitioner applies metrics to support the decision-making process in companies. How much do certain employees contribute to the bottom line? How much value does specific training add to the business? Which functions or programmes do not add value and should be eliminated?
The Internal Consultant
This role supports specific managers throughout the organisation by empowering them to recruit, interview, hire and retain the talent that they need. It also includes counselling line managers on key legal and ethical matters such as disability and age discrimination laws.
The Talent Manager
A role that is responsible for finding, developing and keeping the best talent and skills needed within the organization. The HR professional will manage learning and skills development as well as succession planning.
The Procurement Manager
A role that decides what jobs can be better handled by outsourcing. This professional monitors quality and costs, stays on top of trends in this business, and maintains a close working relationship with outsourcing firms and vendors.
The Self-service Leader
This person works with internal and external information technology specialists to establish and run web-based portals for various automated functions, such as benefits and pension administration, that support employees.
What is notable in the description of these roles is that the profession of HR has definitely moved away from a paper-shuffling, desk bound position towards a essential, strategic, forward thinking role. HR is attracting talented graduates and continues to evolve to best match a changing business environment.