Working in Human Resources

The role of the human resources (HR) wing of a business can vary widely with the size and operational style of the company. Traditionally, human resources staff have handled employee hiring and exit paperwork, benefits and other ancillary employee matters. HR personnel have also interviewed and made hiring decisions based on the policies and needs established by management.

Today these multiple roles have been divided among specialists, to some degree, especially in larger businesses. In addition, some corporations have allowed personnel departments to acquire a role in strategic business planning. In a world where personnel costs are an overwhelming portion of any business’s annual budget, management has increasingly turned to their HR personnel for advice on fiscal savings and productivity issues.

A large HR department will, of course, have a director. Other employees may include an employment and placement specialist who oversees hiring and employee separation. EEOC conformity may fall within the purview of this employee, or in a larger corporation with multiple sites EEOC may require one or more specialists dedicated to that particular federal mandate. Discrimination complaints would flow to this employee as well.

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HR may have an employee or two who act as recruiters, actively seeking to fill difficult posts and looking for entry level professionals in accordance with management desires. Recruiters for the largest firms will make a circuit of college campuses and MBA schools in search of new graduates as potential hires.

Job analysts develop detailed job descriptions for the various positions within the company and design placement strategies within the corporate hierarchy. Job descriptions are critical components of the hiring process, particularly in a union shop.

Benefits specialists act as liaison officers with insurance companies, handle workman’s compensation grievances and see to benefits oversight on a case by case basis. The benefits specialist makes sure that the company is in compliance with state and federal regulations regarding benefit coverage and, in the case of union shops, that the benefits specified in the contract are being supplied.

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Training and development managers will create and supervise training programs for new hires or new job classifications. They assist department managers in developing work improvement programs: this might involve orientation sessions for new equipment or operational changes. Training management for businesses with seasonal cycles and hiring spikes can be a critical position.

Labor relations manager is a human resources job that deals with collective bargaining issues. This person has to have extensive knowledge of job skills, pay scales, pay and labor agreement trends in the industry, and an understanding of labor/management history within the company. The labor relations manager will develop information and play a critical role in advising management during the negotiation of new labor agreements.

Human resources work ranges from handling family insurance issues in a ten-man shop to oversight of contract negotiations involving the livelihood of thousands. In nearly all its iterations, human resources work requires quality insight into human behavior in the workplace and an understanding of the role as liaison between the employee as an individual and the company as institution.