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Changing HR Manager Responsibilities in the 21st Century

6 Min Read

Not all human resources managers are the same. They come from a variety of professional backgrounds on their way to higher-level HR roles. Still, despite these different paths, many share basic HR manager responsibilities.

Wondering what a day in the life of an HR manager 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 are a vital link between employees and management. Doing this well is realizing that modern 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 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines HR managers as professionals who “plan, direct and coordinate the administrative functions of an organization.”1 While this is an adequate description, other skills are required to 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 HR department shapes everything about employee’s day-to-day life at work and should strive to be a well-regarded part of a company. Working in an HR department has evolved into prioritizing inclusion and planning what’s best for people in every role who work there.

There are still many duties – benefits and payroll, for example – that have to get done routinely in the average day in the life of an HR professional. Though they can feel more administrative than developing and executing strategy, these day-to-day functions are important.

A modern HR manager has a variety of duties 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
  • Administer employee benefits
  • Handle staffing, including conflict resolution and disciplinary procedures

Not only do HR professionals work in all industries, but they’re also employed in different capacities. While some HR managers act in a more general capacity, others maintain 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, several factors can enhance marketability with modern 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 changing business climate. Catching the eye of employers takes something more.

Many management-level jobs require advanced studies in HR or HR-related fields. However, even for roles 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.2 What this means is that our curriculum stays up-to-date with the enhanced, changing role of modern 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 modern 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 professional HR experience, even in a supporting role or as an intern, also helps.

Characteristics of Effective HR Managers

In addition to similar duties and responsibilities, many HR managers also share key competencies, including the following 10 characteristics:

  • Organization
  • Decision making
  • Critical thinking
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Organization
  • Decision making
  • Critical thinking
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Multitasking
  • Ethics
  • 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 frequently changing, and HR managers are charged with helping organizations manage change to remain competitive. HR professionals are prepared to cope with changing circumstances 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 the business compliance firm BLR, said that out of the many skills HR managers should practice, none is as important as collaboration within the business: “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.”3

In other words, it’s not enough for HR managers to simply understand the modern field of HR or the best way to put employee talents to work for their organizations. They must understand the roles and responsibilities of an HR manager within the overall 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 and the strategic big picture role within the organization is essential.

Grow as an HR Management Professional

The truth is that there’s no such thing as a typical day in the life of an HR manager. The right background, professional experiences, character traits and education help you stay flexible and open to what works best for the employees and further company goals and culture.

Prepare for the future of human resources with an advanced online degree from the University of Scranton. Explore what the online Master of Science in Human Resources Management has to offer and stand up to the challenges of the evolving HR field. Request more information to get started today.



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