Human resources managers handle personnel decisions, including hiring, position assignment,
training, benefits, and compensation. Their decisions are subject to some oversight, but
company executives recognize their experience and skill in assessing personnel and rely heavily
on their recommendations. Although physical resources—capital, building, equipment—are
important, most companies realize that the quality and quantity of their output is directly related
to the quality and commitment of their personnel. Human resources professionals make
sure that appropriate matches are made between support staff and producers, between assistants
and managers, and between coworkers to
enhance productivity, support the company’s
business strategy and long-term goals, and provide
a satisfying work experience for employees.
A human resources professional in a smaller firm is a jack-of-all-trades who is involved
in hiring, resource allocation, compensation, benefits, and compliance with laws and regulations
affecting employees and the workplace and safety and health issues. This multiplicity
of tasks requires individuals with strong organizational skills who can quickly shift from
project to project and topic to topic without becoming overwhelmed. “You’re the last line of
defense between your company and confusion,” wrote one human resources manager at a
small firm, “and sometimes confusion wins.” Strong interpersonal skills are crucial for managers
at small firms. These managers spend much of their day handling questions, attending
budgeting and strategic planning meetings, and interviewing prospective employees. The
rest of the time, they take care of paperwork and talk on the telephone with service providers
(insurance, health care, bank officers, etc.). At larger firms, human resources managers often
specialize in one area, such as compensation, hiring, or resources allocation. Compensation
analysts work with department managers to determine pay scales and bonus structures.
Hiring specialists (also known as recruiters) place ads in appropriate publications, review
resumes, and interview candidates for employment. Allocation managers match assistants,
support staff, and other employees with departments that have specific needs. Sensitivity to
both personality issues and corporate efficiency are a plus for allocation managers.
The most difficult feature of the human resources professional’s job is handling the dirty
work involved in the staffing of a company: dealing with understaffing, refereeing disputes
between two mismatched personalities, firing employees, informing employees of small (or
nonexistent) bonuses, maintaining an ethical culture, and reprimanding irresponsible
employees. Performing these tasks can be disheartening for human resources managers who
are supposed to support and assist employees, and many human resources managers feel that
employees dislike or fear them because of this role.
Academic requirements for a career in human resources vary, but most employers prefer
that each candidate have a bachelor’s degree. Undergraduates should pursue a balanced curriculum
that includes behavioral sciences, English, economics, general business, business and
labor law, accounting, and statistics. Master’s degrees in human resource management,
industrial relations, organizational development, organizational behavior, and business
administration are also considered worthwhile. Each company has its own internal protocols,
and most new hires are trained in them when they begin. A human resources manager must
have strong interpersonal skills, and many employers conduct multiple interviews that test a
candidate’s ability to relate to a diverse group of people.
Many human resources professionals feel that they must focus too much on the financial
aspects of their duties to allow them to provide the assistance they want to give.
Individuals who leave the profession often go into career counseling, industrial psychology,
guidance counseling, and labor relations. Individuals who prefer the financial side of being
a human resources manager go into budgeting, inventory control, and quality control management.