What Does a Human Resources Manager Do?

Updated Feb 27, 20223 min

What Does a Human Resources Manager Do?

Updated Feb 27, 20223 min

The COVID-19-related "Great Resignation" and the effects on the availability of talent, has brought HR and talent professionals into the limelight. Companies are relying on talent seekers to find them top candidates while HR managers are finding new ways to engage and retain existing employees.

This article gives a deep dive into the role of an HR manager, including some of the niche areas an HR manager might focus on. We explain what qualifications an HR manager needs, their salaries, and the outlook for their profession considering the recent shifts in the labor market.

The Extensive Role of an HR Manager

Employees are an organization's most important resource. HR managers protect and manage that resource to ensure the organization has sufficient skills and talent to fulfill its mandate. HR managers oversee the recruiting, interviewing, and hiring of new employees, create recruitment and retention strategies in conjunction with top executives, ensure administrative requirements are taken care of, and act as an interlocutor between an organization’s management and its employees.

Here are some of the functions that HR managers fulfill.

Staffing Plans

Before any recruitment can occur, an organization must know what skills they need for its operations. In a small business, staffing is usually fairly simple. For example, a coffee shop might need two or three front-of-house servers, a manager to oversee the operations, a dishwasher, and a cleaner.

However, when a business scales, staffing becomes more complex. Some organizations have in-house HR departments while others use external HR services or a mix of both to help them develop staffing plans and use employees' talents optimally.

Administrative Functions

A good portion of an HR manager’s role is to oversee the administrative functions. Much of the administrative work is now automated; for example, payroll, onboarding, benefits documentation, performance appraisals, recruitment and hiring processes, and tracking of career development. There are digital solutions for all aspects of HR.

Conflict Resolution and Support 

An HR manager may also be the go-to person for everything from work harassment to personal problems.

HR managers must be skilled in people management at all levels. They must be competent in skillfully counseling executives and employees at all levels, including mediating disputes and instituting disciplinary procedures. They resolve conflicts among peers and between managers and direct reports and are knowledgeable in legal and human resources issues, such as equal employment opportunity and sexual harassment.

Strategic Recruitment and Retention Planning

HR managers consult with top executives for strategic planning regarding talent management. They identify ways to maximize the value of the organization’s employees.

Part of a human resource department’s role is to assess employee performance and recommend changes to the operational structure to help the organization meet budgetary goals. Organizations often undergo restructuring (reorganization of departments and staffing) to achieve economies and increase productivity.

In large organizations, there may be different HR managers overseeing the various HR functions. For example, one manager might oversee compensation, health insurance, and the benefits program. Another might manage employee training and development. HR managers might also be in charge of employees geographically. For example, one HR manager might oversee global recruitment, and another may manage local recruitment. Thus, not all HR managers are generalists, and many have niche specialties.

Examples of Niche Specialties for HR Managers

Labor relations directors, also known as employee relations managers, oversee employment policies for both union and non-union environments. They manage labor contracts and address grievances about wages, benefits, and union and management practices. They are experts in employment laws and step in to mitigate and negotiate conflicts between unions and the organization along with any mediators.

Payroll managers manage the organization’s payroll department. They ensure that all administrative and legal aspects of payroll are processed correctly and on time. They manage and update payroll procedures and prepare reports for the accounting department.

Recruiting managers, also known as staffing managers, oversee the recruiting and hiring responsibilities of the HR department. They liaise with executive leadership to set recruitment and retention strategies. Some organizations also use third-party talent seekers and headhunters who are experts in implementing recruitment and HR initiatives.

Most entry-level and experienced HR professionals work full time, and many work more than 40 hours per week.

Education and Experience

Candidates need a combination of education and several years of experience to become an HR manager. A bachelor’s degree is sufficient for most entry-level positions, but some jobs require a master’s degree.

Depending on the role, candidates may need a bachelor’s degree in HR or in another field, such as finance, IT, business management, or education. Courses in subjects such as conflict management or industrial psychology may be helpful.

Some specialized jobs require a master’s degree in human resources, labor relations, or business administration (MBA).

In some cases, it’s helpful if the HR manager has experience in a specific job. For example, if an HR manager is hiring an investment officer for a global organization. It would be helpful if that manager had experience as an investment officer role to create the right job description and find individuals who best fit the role.

Some HR managers earn certification such as the programs offered by The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), HR Certification Institute (HRCI), WorldatWork, and International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

HR Manager Characteristics

HR Managers are typically interested in others. After all, their role is to manage people. This means that their soft skills are often as important, if not more so, than their hard skills.

For more details on soft and hard skills, read, "What's the Difference Between Hard Skills Vs. Soft Skills?"

In addition to HR knowledge, the following are common soft skills required by HR managers.

Decision-making skills. HR managers weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a decision and its consequences on the parties involved. For example, the decision to fire someone affects the individual, their teammates, and the company.

Interpersonal skills. HR managers need strong interpersonal skills. Their job is to manage people, so communicating and interacting with others must come as second nature.

Leadership skills. HR managers must be able to direct a staff and oversee the operations of their department. Without the ability to build trust and earn respect, they will find it difficult to lead. 

Managers with charisma often find it much easier to coordinate work activities and motivate their teams because they have a natural ability to engage others. HR managers are often naturally interested in others and communicate a commitment to support them. 

Organizational skills. Organizational skills are essential for HR managers. Their task portfolio can be extensive, and they are expected to manage several projects at once, prioritize tasks, and meet deadlines.

Speaking and presentation skills. HR managers rely on speaking and presentation skills. They effectively communicate company policies and strategies to staff and report on staffing results to executive management.

HR Manager Salaries

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for HR managers in 2020 was $121,220. Below are the average salaries for HR managers in various sectors.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for HR managers in 2020 was $121,220. Below are the average salaries for HR managers in various sectors.

  • Professional, scientific, and technical services: $138,030

  • Management of companies and enterprises: $133,860

  • Manufacturing: $119,880

  • Government: 105,830

  • Healthcare: 101,990

Visit Job Search 2022 for HR job opportunities

Future Outlook for HR Managers

Job growth for HR managers is expected to average 9%. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a seismic shift in the way that organizations structure their workforces and hiring and retention strategies. This new focus on HR is likely to increase the demand for recruitment and talent professionals and advance their career paths.

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