Of all the different working parts in an organization, human resources (HR) is perhaps the most reviled and least understood. Viewed by many as pencil-pushers at best and corporate mouthpieces at worst, HR actually has one of the most important roles in the organization. Particularly in recent years, a good HR department is critical to a business’s growth and success.
To understand that, it’s important to first understand what HR is, what it does, and how it’s evolved over the past several years.
HR Does More Than Just Manage People
Traditionally, the HR department’s role was largely clerical. HR professionals managed hiring, promotions, terminations, and (occasionally) payroll and benefits. They were also at least partially responsible for onboarding and recruitment.
Today, the HR department has expanded far beyond these basic functions. Rather than treating employees as a resource (as the name might imply), HR is now a cornerstone in the development of employee engagement, wellness, and productivity initiatives. It also plays an extremely important role in the development of corporate culture.
HR professionals are responsible for identifying and managing negative attitudes and behaviors amongst staff. They are a point-of-contact between employees and organizational leadership. And they must ensure that everyone understands their organization’s policies, processes, and values.
HR Is A Leadership Position
As part of their day-to-day, HR professionals must routinely mitigate workplace hostilities, navigate uncomfortable situations, and ultimately conduct themselves in a way that keeps everyone satisfied and productive. This is not a job you can do if you lack people skills. Being an effective HR professional requires, among other things:
- Empathy. In HR, you need to be able to not just understand what someone is saying, but why they’re saying it. This means recognizing body language, reading between the lines of someone’s statements, and being able to demonstrate that you relate to and understand their struggles. The ability to read and analyze people is critical not just for conflict resolution, but for recruitment and onboarding.
- Communication. A good HR professional is able to convey exactly what they need to in as few words as possible. Whether in writing or face-to-face, you need to be able to conduct yourself in a way that you inspire trust in people.
- Expertise. HR is about more than just people management. It’s about talent management. About helping employees grow and excel. In that regard, HR professionals need to be teachers as well as negotiators. They must be capable of mentoring employees as-needed.
- Accountability. No one trusts someone who doesn’t hold themself accountable for their own mistakes. And since HR is built on trust, losing it can be catastrophic.
As you’ve doubtless already guessed, the above traits are also what’s required to be an effective leader. That’s because HR, at its core, is about leadership. It’s about being able to inspire, engage with, and understand a business’s employees.
HR Is Increasingly Technology-Driven
Part of the reason HR has shifted from clerical work towards a more active organizational role is technology. Through cloud-based software, everything from payroll management to scheduling to benefits can largely be automated. This achieves a few things.
First, it leaves HR free to focus on larger-picture work, such as enhancing corporate culture. Through analytics, it also provides deeper knowledge of an organization and a deeper understanding of its needs and problems. This, in turn, allows HR to take a more active role in recommending new technology solutions, while also enabling them to apply much greater insight to its interactions with employees.
HR Is About More Than Rules and Payroll
An organization’s HR department is every bit as fundamental to its success as cybersecurity and information technology. From recruitment and onboarding to corporate culture, HR in many ways is the heart and soul of a business. Only by understanding this can leadership unlock and leverage its true potential.
About the Author: Brad Wayland is the Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.