Despite the tremendous rise in technology and artificial intelligence, organizations will never be able to replace the people that turn the wheels of business. Nearly every company acknowledges that its greatest asset is its human factor - the workforce that keeps it operating. As a result, companies need people to manage all aspects of hiring, retaining, and releasing those employees.
What is Human Resources?
Human resources refers to the department within an organization that is responsible for coordinating, creating, and/or maintaining the resources companies need to effectively serve their employees and providing those resources to employees so they remain satisfied, engaged, and equipped to perform their duties well.
These resources can include recruiting and hiring; onboarding and training new employees; administering company benefits; assisting with, maintaining, and disseminating corporate policies; managing compensation; handling personnel performance; ensuring legal compliance, and overseeing the release and exit of employees.
How Big is an HR Department?
The size of an HR department will be determined primarily by the size of the organization. For large companies, the human resources department can be quite large, with an HR director and several managers. These managers and their HR personnel will often specialize in one area of human resources, such as hiring or benefits. This allows each sub-department to gain a high level of expertise in its targeted role, which generates greater efficiency of the overall human resources function.
Smaller businesses with fewer employees don’t require a multi-level HR department. Instead, they might need only a manager and one or two HR generalists who are versed in all of the functions required to service employees.
What is an HR Generalist?
Even though HR generalists may have more training or experience in a specific area of human resources, they will likely have a human resources bachelor’s degree. Their value lies in their broad knowledge of all major HR functions. In addition, their capacity to fulfill nearly all duties associated with the oversight of a company’s workforce makes them a particularly valuable asset, especially for smaller organizations that simply don’t need or can’t afford a large HR team. The HR generalist usually reports to an HR manager or director, depending on the size of the department.
Because of the HR generalist’s knowledge base, they will be called on not only to perform the everyday functions associated with the human resources department, but they will also be a primary communicator of human resources information directly to company employees and department heads.
What Does an HR Generalist Do?
The range of duties that an HR generalist performs are similar across organizations; however, the scope of those duties will vary based on the number of employees and the nuances of the specific company and industry. Some of the common responsibilities can include:
- Recruiting and hiring employees that fit with the organization’s goals and vision.
- Onboarding new employees, including compiling materials, filling out any required documentation, conducting background checks, reviewing compensation and benefits packages, etc.
- Providing or coordinating any required training, such as active shooter or inclusivity education.
- Disseminating and reviewing information regarding the company’s policies and procedures.
- Maintaining/updating company policies and procedures.
- Handling employee issues that cannot be mitigated at the department level, including conflicts between peers and between employees and their managers or directors.
- Releasing/firing employees whose services are no longer needed, conducting exit interviews, and completing all related paperwork.
- Coordinating reductions in force (RIFs) when the company must downsize.
- Communicating regularly with executive staff, managers, and employees regarding policy changes, training, legal concerns, new employees, or benefits.
- Monitoring HR budget.
- Developing programs or holding events to motivate or inform employees.
- Staying abreast of HR regulations/policies and labor laws and ensuring that the organization remains in compliance.
Top HR Skills
Because an HR generalist is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to administering the functions of the human resources department, he or she must also possess versatile professional skills to effectively wear so many hats. Some of the more important skills include:
- Conflict resolution – Often serving as a mitigator of conflict at all levels of the organization, having the right tools and training to resolve issues effectively is a must-have skill for the HR generalist.
- Balance – Roles in human resources call for a great deal of compassion coupled with ever-present professionalism. While you should genuinely identify with employees and their concerns, your compassion must be balanced with objectivity when simultaneously serving the employee’s and the company’s needs in an HR capacity.
- Administrative expertise – The HR generalist deals with a lot of paperwork and digital information. There are also many plates spinning at the same time. This calls for a high level of organization, prioritizing, and scheduling so that time is not unnecessarily wasted.
- Confidentiality – This is critical to any role in human resources, as you have access to sensitive and confidential information of all employees. If a company cannot trust its HR professionals, it can lead to termination.
- Expert communication – As an HR generalist, you will be dealing with different types of people all day, every day, including others on your HR team. Learning how to effectively listen, build trust, and get your message across without letting emotions get in the way is one of the most important skills you can develop. Learning how to write clear, well-crafted emails and other correspondence that set the right tone is another vital area to master.
- Problem-solving – You may be surprised at the things you’re called upon to find a solution to, whether at the company, department, or individual level. Being resourceful, creative, and open-minded can turn many of the problems you encounter into opportunities to make a positive impact on your organization.
- Technological proficiency – Similar to administrative skills, being tech-savvy will make your job as an HR generalist a lot easier. Becoming familiar with HR software, spreadsheets, employee portals, data collection, reporting, online research tools, and other HR-related technology functions will help you stand out in the office.
- Decision making – Confidence in the area of decision making will grow as you become more and more familiar with the HR role, but making informed decisions based on your company’s policies and procedures, labor laws, corporate values, and the circumstances surrounding the individual situation must be made without wavering.
- Social and emotional intelligence – This skill will serve you very well as an HR generalist. Think of it as always having your antennae up to assess what motivates and inspires people, what they are averse to, what their values are, what incentives they respond to, how they prefer to communicate, and what their goals are. This skill is important not only with existing employees but also when going through the hiring process to ensure the person is a good fit for the company.
How to Get a Job in HR
The first step towards getting a job in HR is usually to get a bachelor’s degree in human resources, whether it’s through human resources online degrees, such as the ones offered at Ottawa University, or one based at a physical location, like OU’s Kansas City, Milwaukee or Phoenix campuses. Once you’ve earned your degree and worked on honing the skills outlined above, you will most likely seek an entry-level human resources position to get experience and use the knowledge you gained to advance your career.
You can decide if you would like to focus on an HR specialty area, such as benefits administrator, compensation specialist, or training coordinator. You can also decide if you want to work in a larger HR department and perform all the primary HR functions within an organization. Keep in mind that today’s HR specialists and managers increasingly consult with top executives regarding strategic planning. They have moved from behind-the-scenes staff to leading the company in suggesting and changing policies.
The median salary for human resources generalists/specialists was $63,490 in May of 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Of course, salaries vary depending on geographic location, employer, and experience. The job growth for human resources generalists is projected to be 10% through 2030, which is average for most occupations. As you gain experience and additional education, you may advance to become an HR manager, which increases your earning potential to over $120,000 annually.
Types of HR Degrees
Whether you are ready to start preparing for a career in human resources or you’re ready to move up the ladder, Ottawa University offers human resources online degrees to achieve your goal. Our online human resources bachelor’s degree will equip you to land your first HR job with confidence. With four concentration options to choose from – Finance, Economics, Health Care Management, and Leadership and Management – you can set yourself up for even greater marketability.
OU’s human resources master’s degree program will take you to the next level, increasing your opportunities for management positions and a significantly higher salary. With OU’s accelerated online MAHR degree, you will be poised to lead HR teams in organizations of every industry. Whether it’s in education, manufacturing, local government, private corporations, or non-profits, every organization wants to attract the most qualified employees for their job opportunities. This graduate program is designed to help you increase your human resources skills and positively impact the lives of others. Two concentrations allow you to tailor your degree in Leadership Development or Population Health/Health Care Management.
SHRM Aligned Program
Ottawa University’s BAHR degree fully aligns with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) HR Curriculum Guidebook and Templates. Throughout the world, only 252 programs in 201 educational institutions have been acknowledged by SHRM as being in alignment with its suggested guides and templates. Ottawa University’s online Master of Arts in Human Resources degree also prepares you to take the exam leading to designation as a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) or SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). The master’s program is also fully aligned with SHRM’s HR Curriculum Guidebook and Templates.
Today’s job market is in crisis, so a good HR generalist can be a gold mine for employers. If the field of human resources is the career you have wanted to pursue, why put it off any longer? Contact an enrollment advisor today.