What does HR do? Understanding the role of an HR Department.

HR is the most confusing department in an organization,  everyone knows that HR people are essential, but What does HR do? 

There is a decisive difference between a healthy human resources department that contributes to the healthy growth of the organization and a distant HR that exists near the executive offices and only emerges during appraisal times. 

The following is an in-depth description of what an ideal HR department should be doing) to meet a business’s and its employees’ needs. 

Understanding Human Resources (HR) 


An HR department is essential to any business, regardless of size. It is tasked with maximizing employee output while protecting the company from any legal and regulatory issues that may arise within the workforce.

Critical areas of HR responsibilities include employee compensation and benefits, recruitment, firing, and keeping up to date with any laws that may affect the company and its employees.


Key HR Activities

There are six primary employee-related activities that HR should carry out effectively to add value to a company. These are:

  1. Managing and utilizing employees effectively
  2. Linking performance appraisal and rewards to job competencies
  3. Designing competencies that ensure better individual and organizational performance
  4. Supporting innovation and flexibility in the business and staff to improve productivity. 
  5. Apply new approaches to work process design, succession planning, career development, and inter-organizational mobility

What does Human Resources Do?

Ask an employee about what an HR department is, and you will usually get an answer that covers the most uncomfortable aspects of work: HR violations, layoffs, and firing. But the truth is that human resources is there to support employees. It literally means a resource for humans. 

Following are some tasks your HR department is busy completing every day.

1. Recruit candidates

HR assesses the organization’s needs and ensures those needs are satisfied when recruiting for new positions. It’s not as simple as posting an ad on HR sites. HR usually analyzes the market, consults stakeholders like managers and their executives, and manages budgets to see how much pay scale can be afforded. 

Then, once the role is advertised, more research is done to ensure that suitable candidates are attracted and interviewed. Recruiting is a massive and expensive process; the right candidate can energize an organization, but the wrong candidate can affect work.

2. Hire the right employees

Human resources are in charge of arranging interviews, managing hiring activities, and onboarding new employees. They’re also responsible for ensuring all documentation involved with hiring someone is filled out. They ensure the business does not end up employing a fraudulent or dishonest employee. They also ensure that the employee is the right fit for the company. 

3. Process payroll

Payroll is an arena of its own. Every pay issued needs its taxes calculated and hours collected. Expenses need to be reimbursed and raises, and bonuses need to be added in as well. If you find it challenging to manage your taxes just once a year, imagine what it feels like in HR to make sure taxes are correctly deducted every pay period. 

4. Conduct disciplinary actions

This responsibility is why HR gets a bad reputation among employees. Issues like punctuality, leaves, misbehaviour and other regulatory issues are managed by HR. When handled without finesse, disciplinary actions can lead to the loss of a valuable employee and can even result in litigation or a poor market reputation. But when handled appropriately, corrective action can result in the success of all stakeholders, including the disciplined employee.

For example, if a company notices that a particular employee is coming late, even receiving warnings from their supervisor. HR should step in and investigate the reason for the delay. It may be a chance to extend benefits like job relocation, additional support like a car or bike loan allowance, or any additional resources to help the employee learn to be on time. Instead of taking on the cost of firing and then recruiting a replacement for that employee, it could be a learning opportunity to enhance that employee’s career.

Sometimes disciplinary action is the only course to take, and an employee should be let go. The best human resources departments know when an employee isn’t the right fit for a company and would be happier somewhere else. 

It’s up to HR to develop a strong enough relationship with managers and employees to identify a team’s cohesiveness and health.

5. Update policies

Employment policies need to be updated (or assessed) every year as the organization changes. HR’s job is to make official policy updates and suggest changes to policies when they no longer serve the company or the employees. 

6. Maintain employee records

Maintaining HR records is mandated by law. These records help employers identify available skills and gaps that need to be filled in the hiring process.  Records also contain personal and health details and emergency contacts for each employee. 

7. Conduct benefit analysis

Staying competitive as a business is essential as attracting the best talent. A promising recruit may choose a different company with lesser pay if the benefits are more attractive. HR should routinely investigate peer companies to see if their benefits are market competitive.

How does HR support employees?

Besides the seven functions above, which are mainly operational in nature, HR also has qualitative functions. It help employees thrive in their professional life. 

After all, employees are the single biggest asset of an organization. Protecting their well-being is of utmost importance. Here are four ways HR helps support the emotional and career needs of employees:

1. Providing career growth

Stagnation is bad for business, and keeping your best employees with the company is wise. HR can provide career paths to help retain each employee in a long career within the company. HR can then check in periodically to further guide employees on their career paths. 

2. Offering continuing education

At times, the career growth mentioned needs additional education. Companies usually provide educational assistance, based on HR policies and recommendations, to help decide which classes and training programs would be best for an employee on their designated career path. 

HR also works with managers to ensure that the employee’s work schedule is flexible enough to support an employee pursuing further education. 

3. Training and supporting managers

Managers are rarely born. They are trained, mentored and guided to become more effective managers. Strong managers ensure that their departments and teams are healthy and functional. 

4. Supporting health and wellness

Just like HR supports managers, they also support employees. It is critical to know that It’s important to remember that employees are people. They’ll need help weathering the many issues that crop up during life. This could be health or financial issues, debt, and many other life occurrences. HR should play a supportive role for employees through any of these and other circumstances.

A Hands-on HR

An HR department disconnected from its employees isn’t performing well. While onboarding new employees, let them know when and how they can reach out to HR and what resources it offers.

Employees should feel comfortable reaching out to their HR departments in the following or similar circumstances:

  • When you (or a co-worker) experience harassment or discrimination from your colleagues or manager
  • When you have questions about benefits, including company-provided health insurance or rights guaranteed by law
  • When an employee’s personal circumstances change (e.g. having a child, needing to reduce your hours, needing accommodation for a disability)
  • When you have questions about advancing at the company, including opportunities to shadow other employees or participate in additional training
  • When you need an objective third-party to work through a work-related issue

The human resources department heavily contributes to a company’s culture. If HR is empowered enough to genuinely care about employees’ well-being, the culture will be one of openness and growth. 

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