If you have ever wondered “What do HR people do all day?”, then this article is for you. Human Resources (HR) is one of the most misunderstood professions in the business world. Most CEOs and Managers see little need for the function until they find themselves in hot water with an employee.
To make matters worse, many HR professionals seem to struggle to find a solid footing in their roles within the organisation.
Questions such as, “Who does HR serve?” or “Who benefits from the work of HR?” create much discontent and division amongst staff and management alike. HR more often than not buries itself in its conflicted role allowing itself to settle disrespectfully in the back of the room and being pulled along, rather than leading from the front.
Why is that?
To be better able to answer that question, let’s walk through what HR does, or is expected to do, on an average day.
Where Is HR On The Organisational Chart?
Let’s start at the beginning. The Organisational Chart. This will provide an idea of what is expected of HR on a daily basis.
HR could be positioned to report (A) directly to the CEO or Managing Director or, (B) to a member of the Executive Team. If it is the latter, the effectiveness of HR starts off being weak and credibility is jeopardized.
(A) HR reports to the CEO or Managing Director
This is the ideal organisational structure for Human Resources. The Head of the function reports directly to the CEO or MD and is also a member of the company’s Executive Team.
As a member of the Executive Team, the Head of HR has direct, open-door communication with the leader, final decision maker and other key functional Heads. To staff members, this highlights the importance of HR. It builds credibility and confidence that HR matters will be seen as important and addressed accordingly.
(B) HR reports to a member of the Executive Team
Houston, we have a problem!
For organisations who voice that their most important asset is their Human resources, this structure is a dagger in the heart. It signals that HR is not (as) important as other functions such as Sales and Finance.
In addition, HR holds no direct ear of the CEO or MD. In this design, what HR people do all day is usually minimized and not as effective or impactful as it should be.
Here, HR people would struggle to be heard, seen and achieve results that benefit and engage employees at all levels.
HR As An Executive Leader And Manager
With its Head reporting directly to the CEO or MD and sitting at the same level as other Heads of Functions, HR’s work can spread all through the organisation. Their reach will be high, deep and wide.
This pivotal role will ensure that HR not only administers and manages the work to be done but even more important, HR will lead the implementation of strategic interventions and contribute to shaping the ethos and culture of the organisation.
There is a caveat though.
Leading HR work at this level demands that you understand the behaviours that are needed to perform effectively in the role. The leadership of any function is NOT for the fainthearted or the thin-skinned.
Your daily HR work may look something like this:
While it is not uncommon for HR Executives to support the needs of Staff members, this should not be encouraged unless the organisation is lean and flat and HR’s own resources are limited. Staff members should be directed to their Direct Managers. Their Direct Managers, in turn, should be held accountable and responsible for the performance, behaviours and results of the Direct Reports (Staff).
Too often, Managers and Executive give up their power by directing matters to HR and allowing them to manage their human resources on the Line. HR should help Managers become more decisive, persuasive and assertive at work.
HR Manager Reports To An Executive
When HR’s line into the CEO or MD is shortened by having no Executive representation, the HR Manager usually reports to a member of the Executive Team. This minimizes HR’s effectiveness, decision-making and involvement in strategy development.
In organisations like this HR’s role is limited primarily to implementation and administration. Their duties and responsibilities may look something like this, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM):
Note that the first responsibility is to “partner with the [company’s] leadership team to understand and execute the organization’s human resource and talent strategy“. At this level, there is limited involvement in designing strategy. The company’s Executive Leadership Team drives that mandate.
HR management and staff will deliver by implementing as designed and decided.
That said, an effective and assertive Manager will focus on how to influence the decision-making process and therefore indirectly contribute to strategy design. This may also serve him/her well for getting recognised, rewarded and promoted.
HR Officers And Assistants
HR Officers (HROs) and HR Assistants (HRAs) hold staff positions on the organisation chart and report directly to the HR Manager. Some very small organisations may have their HRO or HRA report directly to another Line Manager such as the Head of Legal or the Finance Manager.
Typically though, an HRO or HRA would work alongside other HROs and HRAs and provide support to the HR Manager or Director to get the following HR tasks completed each day:
- Recruiting and interviewing
- Preparing HR procedures
- Administrative tasks such as filing and recording
- Employee health and safety procedures
- New employee orientation, on boarding and training programs
- Updating job requirements and descriptions
- Contacting references
- Criminal background checks
- Getting information on employee benefits, such as health insurance and activities
- Responding to employee questions and concerns
- Organising social events for employees
Does A Career In HR Interest You?
Perhaps you are curious about HR or you are thinking about starting a career in HR. Either way, knowing what HR people do all day is a great place to start researching.
HR is one of the most misunderstood and confusing professions yet, it is a discipline that was designed to support an organisation’s most important asset – its people.C. Patrovani on ‘Understanding HR’
Too often though, we tend to forget the “human” in HR. This results in a lot of conflicts and behavioural incongruency between HR Practitioners and the people they were intended to serve.
Whatever your interest in HR – as an employee or a Practitioner – taking the time to understand the profession and how it may benefit you is an excellent first step.
Some Closing Thoughts
HR was not my first or chosen profession, I often tell people that I fell into it quite by accident and necessity.
My career started in the Insurance Industry as an Actuarial Science Intern. That led me to mainframe programming and my first professional qualification as a Systems Analyst/Programmer.
From there, I was “rewarded” with a promotion to Supervision. That, I believe, is where my HR profession began. I was a terrible Supervisor and eventually fired myself.
At that juncture, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery, awareness, mindfulness and personal development. I mean, how could I be an effective Manager if my own self-esteem and self-confidence were lacking?
It is that journey that led me into HR, Communications and eventually, coaching and personal development. My beginnings and journey have made me an nontraditional HR Practitioner. However, because of all those experiences, I am today, a successful entrepreneur who has built an international business that serves and supports thousands of people around the world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cassandra is an internationally qualified and experienced professional and founded LaMP International Limited.in New Zealand in the late 90s. Her belief is that an organisation is made up of humans and therefore becomes a living system. Through that belief, she works actively across many industries helping organisations and individuals to discover and harness the transformational powers in their own lives.
She currently resides in her Birth Country, Trinidad, with her tween daughter. Together they travel the world, exploring cultures and making phenomenal memories.