What is HR, really?

HR exists in all organisations, it’s a department that has many roles.  HR is the department of an organisation responsible for hiring staff, training them, looking after them, and even getting rid of them.  As staff are the most important element of any organisation, this department is undoubtedly very important, and the head of the department usually reports to the CEO.  They can then anticipate staff requirements for the future of the organisation.

But what does the department actually do? There are various specialisations with the HR department, headed up by a head of HR, or Chief People Officer, including: Recruitment.  Locating and hiring the right people to work in the organisation.  There are often sub-specialisations focused on early careers hiring, and executive hiring too. Compensation and benefits.  This team is responsible for making sure the staff are being paid properly, and have the appropriate benefits.  This team is mathematical, and work closely with the finance department Training and development.  In order to get the best of the organisation’s staff, this team ensures staff can learn by being trained / developed so they can continue to add value.  This enables staff members to stay relevant in fast moving organisations, and enjoy a career.  This might also include succession planning. Performance management.  Ensuring that the staff members are performing as expected, and if not, finding a way to make sure they do, or finding a way for staff members to exit the organisation. Staff wellbeing.  Making sure staff are looked after, and respected by their colleagues.  

How do you get into HR?  A common route is as a junior hire, starting as an HR assistant.  This role will probably give you exposure to a number of different specialisations within a department.  Remember, the larger the organisation, the more complex the HR department…  

What do you need to start in HR?    The first thing is a desire to deal with people – that is the role of the department!  You might be sympathetic, have high integrity, social responsibility, and excellent communication skills.  You don’t have to be a graduate, and nor do you have to have professional qualifications, but if you do, you will be promoted and paid more faster.  In the UK there is the CIPD, which offers training and qualifications, all the way up to CIPD level 7, the equivalent of a Masters degree.  You can also do an apprenticeship in HR.

What sort of starting salary do you get?  HR is not known as the most generous department to work in, and starting salaries vary depending on which sector your organisation works in, and where abouts in the country.  A starting salary of £25,000 would be a good average.

What are your career prospects?  An HR department is normally found in any organisation more than 50 people, but it might be only one person, in the smallest.  It is easy to move into different sectors via HR, and around the country.  Senior HR heads in large companies can earn very large amounts of money through salaries and bonuses, but are normally not as well paid as a CEO, or CFO.  There is also movement from the HR department to specialist HR consultancies.  

Funny HR characters from films…  Toby Flendersen from The Office (US version)