“I want to work with people.” Those six words are a common sentiment among many aspiring Human Resources managers across the country. Yes, as a Human Resources manager, you will get to work with people. But you’ll also have to be sharp in many other areas in order to be effective. Those who run HR are not only people-savvy, but they’re also well-organized, task-focused, strategic thinkers who can play an outsized role in the success of their company. The role of HR is growing and becoming increasingly more important as business leaders see the value it can add. So, let’s break down exactly what Human Resources managers do and how they can help take their company from good to great.
What Does a Human Resources Manager Do
The roles and responsibilities of a Human Resources manager are numerous and will vary depending upon the size of the organization. This article will focus specifically on HR managers working in smaller companies of 200 employees or fewer. Even within these parameters, the responsibilities you take on may change based on whether you have a team operating beneath you, or if you’re alone in the department. However, the tasks are almost universal across any company.
Below is a list of tasks and responsibilities you’re likely to oversee as an HR manager:
- Recruiting potential candidates
- Hiring and onboarding
- Designing and administering orientations
- Organizing employee trainings
- Managing payroll (PTO, vacation time, paychecks, etc.)
- Planning company parties and celebrations
- Establishing company culture and recognition programs
- Following through with disciplinary action
- Administering company benefits
- Building org-charts and forecasting future employee growth
If people are the most important resource within a company, then the employees you choose to hire will greatly affect the success of the business. As an HR manager at a small company, you’ll likely be involved in the recruiting and hiring process. This may include creating job descriptions and posting job opportunities to online boards, reviewing resumes as candidates apply, conducting interviews (over the phone or in-person), and scheduling interviews for hiring managers or executives.
Success in this area will be greatly determined by your ability to remain organized and to follow up on tasks. The hiring process can be chaotic, especially when you’re dealing with large numbers of job candidates. Keeping track of who you’ve spoken with, who you’ve scheduled, and who you’ve interviewed can be tricky without a system to help you stay organized. Good software tools can automate a lot of this process for you.
New Employee Onboarding and Orientation
When you’ve found the perfect hire, it’ll likely be your job to help the new employee navigate the onboarding process and get oriented with their new company. For many companies, the “onboarding process” is nothing but a code word for “a lot of paperwork”, but for the best companies, it goes beyond a couple of signatures.
For better or for worse, paperwork is part of a Human Resources manager’s job and onboarding involves paperwork. You’ll ensure that the new hire completes mandatory government documents such as the I-9 and W-4 forms, and they may also have to sign company-related documents such as non-disclosure or non-compete agreements. Additionally, if your company offers health benefits, you’ll help the new hire navigate the paperwork so they can start their insurance coverage and/or be able to contribute to an HSA.
All this paperwork must be kept on file and stored securely when completed. Some documents, like the I-9 form, must be stored for years even after an employee’s termination.
To make the employee’s onboarding experience less monotonous and more informative, an HR manager should also actively participate in an employee’s orientation. This could mean reviewing the company mission and history, giving an office tour, explaining company values and culture, or introducing the new hire to different people and departments on their first day of work.
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Develop and Oversee Employee Trainings
HR managers are expected to oversee essential trainings, certifications, and instruction for the employees of an organization. For many companies, this may include yearly trainings on sexual harassment policies, on diversity and inclusion, or productivity and time management.
Other organizations may have industry-specific training or certifications that need to be maintained by employees in order to keep their job. Examples include food handler’s permits, OSHA, CPR certification, and many others.
When you join a company as an HR manager, you must be aware of the training requirements for your employees. Make it a priority to get up-to-speed quickly in order to ensure that no training is missed, and that no certifications are out of date.
Some companies will have a specific payroll manager who manages the company payroll, while others will outsource it to a third-party. However, many small businesses have their HR manager take on the responsibility of managing company payroll.
If you have no experience managing payroll and finances, this can be an extremely challenging task. If your company will not hire a payroll manager, an accountant, or outsource it to some other third-party, we’d strongly recommend using payroll software.
Payroll is a function of multiple inputs. You’ll have to track the number of hours worked for hourly employees, track vacation time or sick time, know the salary figures for full-time workers, and understand deductions for various taxes or benefits.
Company Events and Celebrations
For many, this is one of the highlights of the job. Whether it’s decorating the office for a company holiday, planning an off-site for employees, organizing a community service event, or celebrating company milestones, HR managers will often be involved, or even take the lead in event-planning and company celebrations.
If you’re at a company that does not do much celebrating, or wants to but doesn’t know where to begin, there are some simple steps you can take to kick this off. One easy thing to do is recognize employees on their birthday or on their work anniversary. On these special occasions, you might consider giving the employee a gift, a gift card, or even the day off work. You may also celebrate by grabbing dessert for the entire office and throwing a celebratory party at the end of the day.
Whatever you choose to do, celebrations and events can be a critical part of company culture, and as an HR manager, you’ll be able to directly influence the creation of such events.
Company Culture and Employee Engagement
Of course, there is much more to company culture than throwing an occasional party. When it comes down to it, employees want a place where they can feel comfortable, motivated, and challenged. Employees want to be able to see a career path, and receive consistent and constructive feedback. More than anything they want to feel valued, heard, and appreciated. Human Resources managers can monitor and improve the employee experience in a variety of ways.
To create a culture of feedback and mentorship, you’ll want to ensure that managers are meeting with direct reports regularly and giving honest critique and constructive feedback on job performance. As the HR manager, you may even want to sit in on a few of these 1-on-1 meetings to get a better understanding of how they run in your company.
Another thing you may choose to do is issue employee surveys on a regular basis. Whether this is done weekly, monthly, or quarterly may not matter as much as that it’s being done at all. Ask questions related to engagement, overall happiness, stress or anxiety, productivity, and anything else you might feel is pressing or warranted.
When surveys are completed and results are analyzed, be sure to inform company leadership about your findings. Don’t stay silent if your survey reveals something significant. This is a great opportunity to be strategic in your role and to help move the company forward. Your relationships and understanding of employee morale will certainly spark ideas on how the company can improve.
It’s unfortunate, but the HR department is likely best known for being a department of discipline. Although in our experience, disciplinary actions only play a small part in the day-to-day of an HR manager, it is definitely an important area of the job.
As the HR manager, you’ll likely be in charge of creating or maintaining an employee handbook or a company code of conduct. These documents will lay out the expectations the employer has for his/her employees. When rules are broken or expectations are not met, it often lies in the hands of the HR manager to issue warnings (either verbal or written), disrupt and discipline inappropriate behavior, and even terminate fellow employees.
To do this effectively, it’s best to have policies in place so that employees know what is expected of them. It’s even more advantageous when resulting disciplinary actions are also laid out for employees, so they’re not taken aback when they face punishment for breaking the rules. For example, you may have a no-tolerance policy for things like sexual assault/harrassment, or assault/harrassment based on a protected category such as religion, race, or sexual orientation.
Any and all incidents brought to your attention deserve a thorough investigation and understanding of the rules that were broken. Interview employees, managers, and others to gather all the information you can before moving forward on a decision.
As incidents take place and disciplinary action is taken, be sure to keep records of everything, including conversations with employees. Good note taking is not only a recommended practice, but can prove extremely helpful when past conversations are being disputed, or the timeline of previous events is put into question.
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Administering Company Benefits
Most companies offer a variety of benefits to employees that goes beyond monetary compensation. As the Human Resources manager, you’ll likely be involved in creating benefits packages for the employees in your company. These may include, but are not limited to, benefits such as health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, commuter benefits, wellness benefits, home office reimbursements, cell phone plans, and many more.
The most common benefits revolve around health, vision, and dental insurance. It’ll be your responsibility to work with health care brokers to pick the plan that best suits the needs of your employees. Plan to complete a fair amount of due diligence as you study up on the industry and discover the various plans that exist in the market.
Other benefits beyond insurance can also be critical when potential employees are deciding to work for your company or for a competitor. When assessing your current benefit offering, you should begin by talking to your employees to find out what matters most to them. Offer benefits that they actually want.
Work with your company leadership to supply the best benefits you can afford. Research benefit offerings from competitors in your industry as well as companies competing for talent in your area. You might find that you lose employees to certain competing firms again and again because of their superior benefits package. Building a quality benefits package should be among your top priorities when you join a company.
Organizational Development and Forecasting
This may be a less common responsibility for HR managers in smaller companies, but if your company is growing and expects to continue to grow, this will likely be a chief concern for years to come.
As organizations grow, they must be able to forecast the number of employees they’ll need in the future to sustain their growth. HR managers can help department heads with these forecasts, and can create budgets for financial teams so they can better understand the cost of growth.
HR managers can also play a role in building org-charts so that companies can maintain a semblance of organization. It’s important to uphold clear chains of command and simple reporting structures despite a rapid increase in employee count.
How to Become an HR Manager
Now what is required for someone to become an HR Manager? Above all, HR Managers need to know how to effectively work with people. This can be learned though and there are multiple ways to do it. Here are the most common requirements businesses are looking for when hiring an HR Manager.
Companies usually require their candidates to have at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources or Business Management. Some prefer them to have a Master’s Degree, depending on the position. As with most managerial positions, businesses like to see that you’ve had at least 3-5 years of experience in the field.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
HR Managers are required to obtain certain professional certifications. A few examples include aPHR, aPHRi, PHR, SPHR, GPHR, etc. Some require previous educational experience while others do not. You will need to find which certifications are right for you and the career path you’re wanting to follow.
Skills and Abilities
While people-skills are going to be the most valuable in this position, there are some other abilities that will also be incredibly helpful to you as you begin preparing. Some of these abilities are:
- Excellent communication skills
- Active listening
- Ability to support and motivate employees
- A solid understanding of laws surrounding employment
- Organizational skills
- Ability to stay calm in stressful situations such as disciplinary hearings
- A genuine interest in improving the workplace
Do you have what it takes?
Now that you know what Human Resources managers do, you’ll hopefully begin to appreciate what a challenging job it can be. To be great in the field of HR you need to be flexible, focused, and organized. You have to be able to get along with people from all walks of life, and genuinely want to improve their experience at work. You have to be willing to get in the weeds of complicated tasks like payroll, PTO-management, benefits administration, and certification training. You also have to be able to take a 30,000 foot view of the entire company and forecast growth, while keeping the org-chart intact.
HR managers are special people who have a challenging job. The job is filled with responsibility, but can be incredibly rewarding. Do you have what it takes?