HR Jobs / Human Resources Jobs and Careers
Once a business or organisation reaches a certain size, its infrastructure will often include a Human Resources (HR) department. Formerly known as Personnel, this department is concerned primarily with staffing and the effective management and training of the workforce, while taking in the ramifications of restructuring, changes in working styles, meeting the organisation's goals and objectives, etc.
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Human Resources is concerned to varying degrees, depending on the organisation, with recruitment, training of staff, welfare of staff, staff performance and evaluation, working conditions, health and safety standards, crèches for working mothers and recreational facilities.
If you are very interested in people, HR can provide a rewarding career. As staff are involved in every corner of the organisation, it follows that HR will have a contact with every area too. In fact, the department can have a considerable interplay with major business decisions being made at executive level.
Working in an HR department guarantees a varied, stimulating and rewarding professional life. Responsibilities can be wide if you're a generalist, or more focused if you wish to specialise, but the people you work with are always changing. There are constant opportunities for your own development, as this is such an evolving sector.
Areas of Employment in HR
As the name suggests, the generalist works in many areas of HR. This ranges from recruitment to working on compensation and benefits packages, from organising staff development to monitoring performance and leading staff reviews. It also means ensuring diversity policies, relating to equal opportunities, are set up and adhered to. At the management end, you could be liaising with team leaders on the style with which they manage their sections.
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With a firm focus on the organisation or business' objectives, you'll be involved in helping to identify staff needs, managing the shape of the workforce to meet the organisation's needs, and moving the strategy forward through effective recruitment. This means understanding and applying concepts such as scarce skills, human resource supply and demand, and demographic change.
When recruiting, your task is to identify and attract the best candidates, thereby helping the organisation to move forward and be competitive. It also means focusing on the retention of the existing workforce, through increasing opportunities for development or progression through the staffing structure. This is achieved through effective performance monitoring, evaluation and review.
Once the workforce is recruited, you'll be involved in drawing out their potential and establishing connectivity based on skills and knowledge throughout the organisation. Known as 'learning and talent development' (L&TD), this means identifying training needs and providing training solutions through a coherent plan.
It may be formalised group training, supplied in-house or provided externally. Or it may mean setting up mentoring and coaching arrangements. Once training has been established and supplied, you'll be involved in monitoring and analysing outcomes, both in the short term and longer term developments.
One of the basic functions to arise out of the beginnings of personnel management, when it was largely concerned with welfare and working relationships between organisational managers and the workforce, is employee relations (ER). This is where the HR professional acts as the linchpin between different areas of the organisation.
On the one hand, this means communicating organisational goals to employees effectively, to encourage engagement, motivation and improved performance. This is known as its own specialist area - Employee Engagement.
On the other hand, it means ensuring effective internal systems for communication and indeed grievances from the employees, so they are heard without experiencing discrimination, with problems dealt with effectively and fairly.
Trade relations, consisting of the relationship between the business or organisation and the employee unions, also fall into this area. Equal opportunities, or the implementation of a diversity policy, is also a crucial area - this ensures that no employee or candidate or a job receives less favourable treatment on the grounds of their age, nationality, ethnic origin, disability, gender, sex or sexual orientation.
Performance reviews and evaluations are a means of considering employees as individuals, by listening to their concerns about their work, while rewarding good performance and finding constructive ways to alleviate failing performance. Ultimately, the organisation's progress is improved by this focus on employees' individual contribution and needs.
As well as scheduling and conducting reviews, you'll be involved in establishing pay scales and incremental increases due to employees, as well as managing and evaluating compensation packages. This is integral to the culture of rewarding performance. There are many legal constraints around benefits - you need to be aware of these and to communicate them to managers.
What Skills Are Needed
In such a people-focused job, it's no surprise that you are going to suit it best if you love working with people. Beyond this, you have to be extremely interested in what motivates people in a professional capacity. Here are the skills that you need to progress:
- A deep interest in business goals and how an HR strategy contributes to success.
- Strong numeracy and analytical skills - a large amount of quantitative and qualitative research is involved in many HR positions, not to mention the analysis of salary and benefits packages.
- Being able to work closely with individual employees at all levels throughout the organisation is crucial.
- Powerful communication skills are essential if you are going to head training and professional development programmes, whether delivering them or campaigning for them.
- Emotional intelligence is vital when undertaking appraisals and listening to individual employee experiences.
- As in many areas of business operations, IT skills are now essential for delivery of the HR functions.
- You need to be able to persuasively communicate ideas and change to other members of the organisation, including management, so being able to deliver proposals in writing and speech is important.
- Decision-making abilities are more than useful, as there are times when you need to respond to survey data with developed strategies for the workforce.
- Team working ability is essential - almost by definition, HR is a team operation.
- Strength of character will help you when having to stand up to a manager or employee who is breaching regulations or failing to follow policy.
- Individual credibility and an understanding of confidentiality are essential if you are to maintain the respect of those you liaise with throughout the organisation.
Finding Employment in HR
Many large organisations and businesses offer graduate training schemes, with jobs available to recent graduates. Some positions can be applied for before graduation. It's currently forecast by the Chartered Institute for Professional Development (CIPD) that opportunities will reduce slightly in the current economic climate. However, starting salaries for graduates are likely to increase to around £25,000.
For those who are not graduates, the typical entry route is via a clerical, secretarial or administration assistant position in an HR department. It's then possible to start training on some of the many courses offered by private training institutes, or to embark on the CIPD's own programme.
HR directors can earn in the region of £75,000 - £100,000 and higher.
Human Resources Job Sites
- Opportunities are listed on www.simplyhrjobs.co.uk
- HR jobs, career advice and networking is available at: www.changeboard.com
- People Management lists HR vacancies: http://pmjobs.cipd.co.uk/
- Career information from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD): HR Careers Information