There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that HR teams can be credited for. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s a whole lot more than simply hiring and firing. Keep reading to learn what HR is responsible for and why the team is so integral to every company’s day to day functioning, as well as tips on solidifying a career in HR if that’s your chosen path.
What is HR?
HR (short for human resources), sometimes known as the ‘People’ team, is responsible for managing and developing everyone who works at a business. That includes the CEO, engineers, salespeople, interns – everyone with an employment contract. Their job is primarily focused on optimising employee performance, from recruiting the best talent to making sure employees have regular appraisals and ensuring salaries are appropriate for each job and level.
Some HR teams prefer to be referred to as People teams, particularly if they have a stronger focus on, well, people. People teams have historically been built to optimise employee practices, boost retention and facilitate employer branding. So if you work in HR and prioritise these kinds of ‘human-centred’ tasks over admin and drawing up contracts, you might prefer to be called ‘Head of People’ or ‘People Partner’, for instance.
What does HR do?
HR teams usually focus on, but are not limited to, the following tasks:
This is the process of finding and bringing on board the right employees for the business. That’s everything from establishing gaps that need to be filled, creating job descriptions and publishing them on the Careers site, combing through CVs and scheduling interviews with relevant members of the team. Then, once a person has accepted the job, HR often assists with getting contracts signed, creating welcome packs, overseeing a ‘buddy’ system and generally making sure that individual has everything they need to do their job.
- Company culture
Many HR people see a large part of their job as instilling a positive and collaborative company culture. For example, they might set out to boost creativity and innovation by setting up a Slack channel for different teams to brainstorm ideas. Or they might try to make lunchtimes a more sociable experience by adjusting the layout of breakout areas and ordering new furniture so everyone can eat together. Office Manager roles usually sit within the HR team, and they look after organising office parties, ordering fruit or snacks for meetings and organising inductions for new employees. Another important part of company culture is belonging, and HR often plays a significant role in making sure employees feel included, welcome and happy.
- Performance management
Learning and development is key to any employer. After all, who doesn’t want to excel in their job? HR can help with this by providing data and metrics to make sure teams are aligned, by creating appropriate feedback channels and by making sure every employee has a regular performance appraisal. They might help leaders establish what’s meant by a ‘high performer’, and how to identify and reward these individuals. HR are also crucial in understanding an organisation’s goals and making sure these are aligned to teams’ and individuals’ objectives.
The arguably less glamorous and exciting side of HR is safety and compliance. Companies might require HR staff to have a solid understanding of compliance laws and make sure these filter down to all managers. Things like the statutory minimum wage and anti-discrimination laws are key for HR teams to know. They might also need to know about building policies, for example, if an alarm needs to be triggered if employees are coming or going after a certain time of day to keep the office secure. You might ask HR if you need a new keycard to access the office building, or you could let them know if there’s structural damage to the building that could be hazardous for people working there. For companies that deal with union workers, it’s essential that HR has a good grasp on union law compliance.
- Internal comms
Keeping everyone up to date with what’s going on in the business is the final piece of the puzzle for HR. That might involve organising the monthly Town Hall meeting for leaders to communicate updates and promotions, or initiating a weekly newsletter to share exciting team news. Crisis management also falls under this umbrella, so if an employee has behaved inappropriately and action needs to be taken, HR might address this with the rest of the company in the spirit of transparency. Or, it could be as simple as informing the office that the kitchen tap is broken and to use an alternative while they get a plumber in to fix it.
5 reasons HR is important
By now, you should have a good idea of the kind of tasks that fall within an HR team’s remit. But how is this integral to a company’s performance and success?
- Promoting the employer brand and reputation
Employer branding is the outward message a business puts out about who they are, what they believe in and what makes them special. And HR (as well as marketing) has a big impact on the way a company differentiates itself, helping to attract top talent. The fact that 84% of jobseekers say the reputation of a company is important when looking for a new role says it all. From building an enticing – and accurate – Careers page to using social media to share company updates and quotes from the team, HR can help to position a company in a positive way.
- Retaining staff
Of course, once you’ve hired talented people, you want to keep them. On average, a third of people leave their employers every year, and this costs businesses time and money. As the saying goes “people leave bad managers, not bad jobs” as this trickles down to HR, too, as they’re partly responsible for training people up to become inspiring and effective managers. Working conditions can also be a make or break reason for people deciding whether or not to leave a job. HR can cement these by making the office an enjoyable, inclusive place to work, complete with enticing benefits to keep people engaged.
- Developing better managers
Part of employee retention comes down to a company’s learning and development initiatives. For example, what sort of training is in place to help more junior staff upskill to become managers? Almost 10 million UK workers are line managers, and many people see this as the biggest indicator of success at work. HR plays a pivotal part in helping people rise through the ranks into management roles, whether that’s by preparing them for common challenges and obstacles, aligning them with the organisation’s goals or offering a budget they can use for books, courses or mentoring.
- Shaping and maintaining company culture
Company culture affects pretty much every area of a business, but particularly hiring and retention. A company’s culture is made up of the values, beliefs and behaviours that guide employees day to day. This study found that if the employer in question’s culture were to deteriorate, 71% of employees would look for new opportunities elsewhere. HR can help to maintain and grow this culture by establishing a clear set of values and expectations, and making sure these are tested against during hiring processes and during performance appraisals.
- Ensuring DEIB goals are met
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) are becoming increasingly important for businesses everywhere. This report found that belonging has a strong correlation to commitment and motivation at the workplace, suggesting why HR teams would do well to enforce these. Part of this involves making sure these are on the agenda when hiring, setting pay brackets, managing benefits and many other areas. For instance, HR teams might have quotas to stick to when hiring to make sure a company has a diverse workforce or leadership team. Similarly, they might instigate belonging initiatives like sending employee engagement surveys and asking different people around the business to share personal stories about their career paths.
Think HR might be the career for you?
Whatever stage you’re at in your career, a move to HR can be incredibly rewarding. Plus, HR professionals are usually in high demand. If you already have experience in the area, try making a list of the companies you dream of working for and keeping an eye on their open roles. In your application, focus on their values and ways of working and how you relate to them so they can get a feel for how good a fit you’d be. It’s also worth meeting with other HR professionals to exchange ideas and learnings, perhaps through a dedicated community or your own network.
If you’re brand-new to HR, emphasise your transferable skills. For example, soft skills (or ‘people skills’) are vital for working in HR, as you need to be good at communication and empathising, especially when things don’t go to plan. Businesses will also value organisational and prioritisation skills, as HR comprises a wide range of responsibilities. You could also try enrolling on some courses to boost your qualifications and stand out from the crowd, particularly if you don’t have much work experience.
Useful resources for HR teams
If you work in HR, you probably have a lot on your plate! Here are some useful resources that might make your 9-5 that bit easier:
- Check out our policy templates, from company expenses to compassionate leave.
- See how your employee benefits compare to the market with our Benchmarking tool.
- Discover the dos and don’ts of benefits in different countries with our country guides.
- Create your very own company policy with our AI policy generator.
At Ben, we’re an employee benefits platform on a mission to help HR teams do more with less. We can help you improve your monthly engagement with employees while simultaneously reducing your admin – all through the power of great employee benefits. See how easy it is to manage your perks, enrollment and payments in one place. We integrate seamlessly with your HRIS and accounting systems and enable you to measure employee engagement and identify areas for improvement. Book a demo now to see how simple it is.