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5 primary functions of Human Resources departments



Today’s human resources department is more complex than ever. And today’s human resources professionals are either generalists who know how to handle all human resources functions or specialists in a single human resources process.

In the workplace, HR is about more than just hiring people. Instead, it covers a wide variety of processes, all of which manage specific aspects of an employee’s life cycle.

For businesses to succeed, HR pros need to properly implement all of those processes – from recruitment and administration to benefits management and legal compliance.

With that in mind, here are the primary human resources functions, and how you can use them to improve your organization. 

Recruitment, selection and hiring

The first HR area covers recruitment, selection and hiring.

This HR function has a lot of subprocesses contained within it, such as:

  • Performing assessments. This includes analyzing the capacity of the current workforce to determine if additional hires are needed.
  • Starting the hiring process. If the organization needs additional people, HR will work with managers to identify job openings.
  • Writing job descriptions. Once that’s done, HR will sit down with department managers and write job descriptions for open roles. So if it’s a marketing position, HR will consult with the marketing team when crafting the job ad.
  • Posting on job boards. Then HR will market job openings to several online and offline job boards in order to attract the right candidate.
  • Performing initial screening. After enough applications have been submitted, HR will start reviewing the applications. The review process will assess the resumes and/or pre-employment tests of the candidates.
  • Initiating the interview process. Only the candidates that pass the initial screening process will be invited for an interview. The interview process can be structured (the same questions asked in the same order to all of the candidates to avoid bias) or collaborative. With a collaborative hiring process, HR will have to teach department managers how to conduct themselves during the interview and how to analyze candidates.
  • Performing background checks. After the interview, HR conducts background and reference checks on candidates.
  • Making an offer. The next to last step involves making an offer to the candidate who’s the best fit for the position and the company. 
  • Onboarding new hires. To complete the cycle, the final step in this function is to onboard the new hire. Only with successful onboarding is this process complete.

Employee relations

The job of HR doesn’t stop once the hiring is done. The team will need to handle employee relations inside the entire organization, including:

  • Employee complaints and concerns. HR will have to handle all possible complaints and concerns that can happen in the workplace.
  • Providing support and guidance. Investing in employees’ well-being will provide many benefits to any organization. So, HR will need to ensure they provide support and guidance to their fellow employees.
  • Managing conflicts and disputes. If there are more than two people in a company, conflict is inevitable. So HR will have to do conflict resolution and manage disputes that happen between employees.
  • Handling performance evaluations. Even though managers conduct performance evaluations with their team members, HR has to take in that data and handle it properly. The information will provide HR with the necessary information when creating development plans for their workplace.

Training and development

It’s HR’s role to also develop employees in a company. The half-life of a skill is five years so that means their skills can become obsolete in 10 years. So, HR needs to help train and develop employees, which includes:

  • Assessing the company’s needs when it comes to skills. A company’s success rests on the skills of its employees. So HR needs to ensure employees’ skills stay relevant. That’s why they’ll assess the current capacities of employees in the company to see what their strengths and weaknesses are, and opportunities for growth. Before jumping into program development, they need to know where the starting point is.
  • Developing and executing training programs. Once HR has analyzed the workforce and found the starting point, it’s time to determine the ending point. What do you want your employees to learn in the end? That question will lead HR to develop and execute a relevant training program – one that provides the company’s employees with just the right skill set to stay relevant.
  • Tracking employees’ development and progress. And the last thing when it comes to training and development is tracking the employees’ progress. Every HR professional wants to know if their training program was successful, which entails tracking the progress of employees. No plan will be perfect from the start, but that’s why you can always track your training programs to ensure they provide the right results.

Compensation and benefits management

HR’s function is also to manage compensation and benefits. When it comes to those two subfunctions, HR needs to:

  • Determine salary and benefits packages. HR needs to determine employee salaries and company benefits packages. To do so, they need to adhere to all the local, state and national laws, and provide a competitive benefits package to their employees. Salary and benefits can be great motivators for employees when done right.
  • Manage payroll and employee benefits. Managing payroll might not be a problem for companies that have a handful of employees, but doing it for enterprise-level companies can be quite challenging. That’s why many HR pros actively manage payroll and ensure everyone gets their salary on time. On top of that, HR keeps track of all the different employee benefits for all of the company’s employees. You wouldn’t want a miscalculation on your employee’s yearly bonus, PTO days or parental leave.
  • Administer raises and promotions. Another element that HR needs to take care of is raises and promotions. They’ll need to actively monitor the current compensation of the company’s employees, and properly administer raises and promotions.

Legal compliance

The last primary function of human resources is legal compliance. When it comes to legal compliance, HR needs to:

  • Ensure compliance with employment laws and regulations. HR needs to follow the employment laws and regulations and get themselves accustomed to them. On top of that, they’ll have to keep track of the changes to the laws and regulations in order to implement them as fast as possible in the workplace.
  • Managing employee records and documentation. Legal compliance doesn’t just include employment laws, but making sure that all the personal documents of each employee is being properly stored and kept safe. HR needs to manage employee records and documentation so they’re safe, secure and easily accessible. That’s why there needs to be the right amount of cyber security checks with the possibility to access data in a fast and reliable way, usually through all-in-one data platforms.
  • Handling discrimination and harassment claims. The last thing when it comes to legal compliance is to handle any possible discrimination and harassment claims that might happen in the workplace. First, HR needs to ensure there are no discriminatory practices in the hiring process. On top of that, they’ll need to monitor and handle discrimination and harassment cases that might occur in the workplace.

There are many other HR functions that can be company-specific, but these five are the core ones.

To get accustomed to additional HR functions, check out Talent management: The 4 big challenges for HR.

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