Not all human resources managers are created equal. In fact, they come from a variety of backgrounds on their way to higher-level HR positions. Still, despite these different paths, many still share basic HR manager responsibilities.
Wondering what a day in the life of an HR manager really entails? Let's take a closer look at the commonly asked question, “What do HR managers do?”
A Microscope on HR Managers
Whatever the title or specialization, HR managers serve as a vital link between employees and management. A part of doing this well is realizing that 21st Century employees have very different expectations compared to the past.
HR managers who understand, acknowledge, and respond to these expectations help create a culture of respect, trust, and engagement – all keys to reducing turnover and fostering retention.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines HR managers as professionals who “plan, direct, and coordinate the administrative functions of an organization.” While this is an adequate description, other skills are required to successfully accomplish what's needed from a modern human resources department.
- A modern HR is a place where employees feel comfortable going to with questions and concerns.
- It's a place where small issues result in proportionate changes and not over-reaction.
- A modern HR department knows employees have a lot going on and bend over backwards to make sure explanations of policy and changes are clear.
- It's a place that makes it easy to know what's expected of all employees, rather than just throwing a lot of information out and expecting employees to absorb it without reminders or updates on progress.
To summarize, the modern human resources department shapes everything about employee's day-to-day life at work and should strive to be a well-regarded part of a company. Work in an HR department these days has evolved into prioritizing inclusion as well as planning what's best for people, at every level, who work there.
There are still many duties – benefits and payroll for example – that have to get done as a matter of routine. Though they can feel more administrative than developing and executing strategy, these day-to-day functions are obviously quite important.
To get more specific about what an HR manager does, their duties include all or some of the following, depending on the size of the business or organization where they work:
- Consult with executives on human resource strategies and values
- Act as an advocate for employees, and a liaison for employers
- Set up fun internal company events and activities to develop an environment of workplace community
- Oversee hiring processes, including recruitment, interviewing and selection
- Handle employee benefits
- Handle staffing, including conflict resolution and disciplinary procedures
Not only do HR managers work in all industries, but they're also employed in different capacities. While some human resources managers act in a more general capacity, others have more specialized expertise, such as labor relations directors, payroll managers, and recruiting managers.
Becoming a Human Resources Manager
While there's no single formula for becoming an HR manager, there are several factors which can enhance marketability with today's employers. A bachelor's degree program in human resources or an alternate field such as finance, education, or information technology is a strong start. It's not necessarily enough in today's competitive business climate, though. Catching the eye of employers takes something more.
Many management-level jobs require advanced studies in HR or HR-related fields. However, even for positions where a Master of Science in Human Resources Management is not required, an advanced degree can set you apart – and get you in the interview door. That demonstration of commitment can also put you at the front of the queue when promotions come around.
What can you expect to learn in a master's degree program? Being a people person who is empathetic to different personal circumstances of employees is merely the beginning.
A quality degree program in HR focuses on the human side of business. The University of Scranton's program is aligned with the HR Curriculum Guidebook created by the Society for Human Resource Management. What this means is that our curriculum stays contemporary with what's going on in the world and up-to-date with the enhanced and changing role of working HR professionals.
The more informed you are on ethics and organizational behaviors, the greater the contribution you can expect to make. These are covered in Scranton HR courses, along with a focus on rewards and promoting and managing diversity in the workplace
Certifications, also, build on a degree. They demonstrate a continued desire to improve and learn more. They are clear marks that you've attained expertise in a certain area such as executive HR leadership or benefits management.
Any HR work experience, even in a supporting role or as an intern, helps as well.
Characteristics of Highly Effective HR Managers
In addition to similar duties and responsibilities, many HR managers also share key competencies, including the following 10 characteristics:
- Decision making
- Critical thinking
- Interpersonal skills
- Conflict management
- Change management
The last two, in particular, can be the differentiating factors between a good HR manager and a great one. Contemporary organizations are anything but static and HR managers are charged with helping organizations manage change to remain competitive. HR professionals who are prepared to cope with change and lead them through a business, offer sought-after added value.
Beyond Human Resources
HR managers don't exist in a vacuum. Rather, they function as one of many moving parts within the companies they represent.
Bob Brady, founder of BLR, a business compliance firm, says that, “HR is a creature of, and serves, the business strategy. It's important for HR people to know what that strategy is and what makes the business tick so the approach to HR can be tailored accordingly.”
In other words, it's not enough for HR managers to simply understand the field of HR. It's not even enough for them to understand how best to put employee talents to work for their organizations. They must also understand the roles and responsibilities of an HR manager within the overall context of an organization and its objectives.
Ultimately, whether you have years of experience in human resources or want a career change to this increasingly popular field, understanding both the day-to-day responsibilities of an HR manager as well as the strategic “big picture” of the role within the organization is essential.
The truth is that there's no such thing as “typical” or “average” day when it comes to human resources. The right background, experiences, character traits and education help you stay flexible and open to what works best for the employees and to further company goals and culture.