There are many ways to explore careers in human resources. You can talk to HR managers and other professionals about their work. Ask your school counselor to arrange an interview. Read human resources blogs to get an idea of the challenges and rewards of working in the profession. Keep up on news about labor issues, employment laws, the minimum wage, and so on. The Society for Human Resource Management offers a good list at http://blog.shrm.org/. Volunteer to serve as manager of your school’s business club or other student organizations to experience what it’s like to work closely with and manage others. Read books about the field such as Human Resources Kit for Dummies, by Max Messmer.
Approximately 60 percent of a company’s expenditures are tied to its workers, or human capital. Many companies have realized that investing in human capital pays off in improved worker productivity, better recruiting and retention of quality workers, and lowered human resources expenses.
Human resources managers help their employers manage this human capital by overseeing the administrative functions of HR departments. At small organizations, they are responsible for everything from payroll and benefits to training and development programs. At larger companies, HR managers supervise specialized managers who focus on individual issues such as labor relations, payroll, and recruiting. The following paragraphs provide examples of management specialties.
Recruiting managers develop recruiting strategies for their organization and manage recruiting department staff.
Compensation managers develop and administer their organization’s pay system.
Education and training managers conduct a wide variety of education and training activities for both new and existing employees. Training programs cover sales techniques, health and safety practices, and other topics.
Benefits managers oversee insurance and pension plans. Since the enactment of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, reporting requirements have become a primary responsibility for personnel departments in large companies.
Prior to negotiation of a collective-bargaining agreement, labor relations managers counsel management on its negotiating position and provide background information on the provisions of the current contract and the significance of the proposed changes. In the actual negotiation, the employer is usually represented by the director of labor relations or another top-level official.
Human resources managers have a wide range of duties. For example, they identify staff vacancies and recruit, interview, and select applicants; plan and conduct orientation programs for new employees to encourage a positive attitude toward organizational objectives; and provide current and prospective employees with information about organization policies, job duties, wages, opportunities for promotion and employee benefits, and working conditions. Human resources managers must perform challenging staffing duties such as refereeing disputes regarding gender or racial discrimination or other issues, administering disciplinary procedures, firing employees, and conducting exit interviews to identify reasons for employee termination.
HR managers spend a lot of time in the areas of compensation and benefits policies. They analyze and modify compensation and benefits policies to create programs that are both competitive with other companies in their field and that ensure compliance with local, state, and federal laws. They also administer compensation, benefits, and performance management programs; study legislation, collective bargaining contracts, and arbitration decisions to assess industry trends; negotiate bargaining agreements and help interpret labor contracts; work with organization executives to determine long-terms plans for staffing and benefits programs; and develop or administer special projects in areas such as pay equity, employee awards, and savings bond programs, and day-care.
Other important duties for HR managers include preparing and following budgets for HR department operations; analyzing training needs to design employee development, health and safety, and language training programs; and overseeing the evaluation, classification, and rating of occupations and job positions.