Chapter 1: The Role of Human Resources
- Explain the professional and personal skills needed to be successful in HRM.
- Be able to define human resource management and the certifications that can be achieved in this profession.
One of the major factors of a successful manager or human resource (HR) manager is an array of skills to deal with a variety of situations. It simply isn’t enough to have knowledge of HR, such as knowing which forms need to be filled out. It takes multiple skills to create and manage people, as well as a cutting-edge human resource department.
The first skill needed is organization. The need for this skill makes sense, given that you are managing people’s pay, benefits, and careers. Having organized files on your computer and good time-management skills are crucial for success in any job, but especially if you take on a role in human resources.
Like most jobs, being able to multitask—that is, work on more than one task at a time—is important in managing human resources. A typical person managing human resources may have to deal with an employee issue one minute, then switch and deal with recruiting. Unlike many management positions, which only focus on one task or one part of the business, human resources focuses on all areas of the business, where multitasking is a must.
As trite as it may sound, people skills are necessary in any type of management and perhaps might be the most important skills for achieving success at any job. Being able to manage a variety of personalities, deal with conflict, and coach others are all in the realm of people management. The ability to communicate goes along with people skills. The ability to communicate good news (hiring a new employee), bad news (layoffs), and everything in between, such as changes to policy, makes for an excellent manager and human resource management (HRM) professional.
Keys to a successful career in HRM or management include understanding specific job areas, such as managing the employee database, understanding employment laws, and knowing how to write and develop a strategic plan that aligns with the business. All these skills will be discussed in this book.
A strategic mind-set as an HR professional is a key skill as well. A person with a strategic mind-set can plan far in advance and look at trends that could affect the environment in which the business is operating. Too often, managers focus on their own area and not enough on the business as a whole. The strategic HR professional is able to not only work within his or her area but also understand how HR fits into the bigger picture of the business.
Ethics and a sense of fairness are also necessary in human resources. Ethics is a concept that examines the moral rights and wrongs of a certain situation. Consider the fact that many HR managers negotiate salary and union contracts and manage conflict. In addition, HR managers have the task of ensuring compliance with ethics standards within the organization. Many HR managers are required to work with highly confidential information, such as salary information, so a sense of ethics when managing this information is essential. We discuss ethics from the organizational perspective in Section 1.1.2 “The Role of HRM”.
Dilbert and the Evil HR Director
Human Resource Recall
Think of your current skills. Are there personal or professional skills you would like to work on?
Finally, while we can list a few skills that are important, understanding the particular business, knowing the business strategy, and being able to think critically about how HR can align itself with the strategy are ways to ensure HR departments are critical parts of the business. HR is a specialized area, much like accounting or finance. However, many individuals are placed in HR roles without having the specific knowledge to do the job. Oftentimes people with excellent skills are promoted to management and then expected (if the company is small) to perform recruiting, hiring, and compensation tasks. This is the reason we will refer to management and HR management interchangeably throughout the chapters. In addition, these skills are important for HRM professionals and managers alike.
Having said that, for those of you wanting a career in HRM, there are three exams you can take to show your mastery of HRM material:
- Professional in Human Resources (PHR). To take this exam, an HR professional must have at least two years’ experience. The exam is four hours long and consists of 225 multiple-choice questions in a variety of areas. Twelve percent of the test focuses on strategic management, 26 percent on workforce planning, 17 percent on human resource development, 16 percent on rewards, 22 percent on employee and labor relations, and 7 percent on risk management. The application process for taking the exam is given on the Human Resource Certification Institute website.
- Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). This exam is designed for HR professionals who focus on designing and planning, rather than actual implementation. It is recommended that the person taking this exam has six to eight years of experience and oversees and manages an HR department. In this test, the greater focus is on the strategic aspect of HRM.
- Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR). This exam is for HR professionals who perform many of their tasks on a global level and whose companies often work across borders. This exam is three hours long, with 165 multiple-choice questions. A person with two years of professional experience can take the certification test. However, because the test has the international aspect, someone who designs HR-related programs and processes to achieve business goals would be best suited to earn this certification.
The benefits of achieving certifications are great. In addition to demonstrating the abilities of the HR professional, certification allows the professional to be more marketable in a very competitive field.
Perhaps one of the most important skills in any kind of management is the ability to communicate. Credit: “Baltic Development Forum” – CC BY 2.0.
Most companies need a human resource department or a manager with HR skills. The industries and job titles are so varied that it is possible only to list general job titles in human resources:
- Compensation analyst
- Human resources assistant
- Employee relations manager
- Benefits manager
- Work-life coordinator
- Training and development manager
- Human resources manager
- Vice president for human resources
This is not an exhaustive list, but it can be a starting point for research on this career path.
People Skills in HR
This chapter makes the point that communication and people skills, or “soft skills,” are necessary to be successful in any job. This video addresses the importance of these skills.
- There are a number of skills crucial to human resource management. First, being able to organize and multitask is necessary. In this job, files must be managed, and an HR manager is constantly working in different areas of the business.
- Communication skills are necessary in HRM as well. The ability to present good and bad news, work with a variety of personalities, and coach employees is important in HRM.
- Specific job skills, such as computer skills, knowledge of employment law, writing and developing strategic plans, and general critical-thinking skills are important in any type of management, but especially in human resource management.
- A sense of fairness and strong ethics will make for the best HR manager. Because HR works with a variety of departments to manage conflict and negotiate union contracts and salary, the HR professional needs ethics skills and the ability to maintain confidentiality.
- Since one of the major responsibilities of an HR department is to align the HR strategic plan with the business strategic plan, critical and creative thinking, as well as writing, are skills that will benefit the HR manager as well.
- Many people find themselves in the role of HR manager, so we will use the term HR manager throughout this book. However, many other types of managers also perform the tasks of recruiting, selecting, and compensating, making this book and the skills listed in this section applicable to all majors.
- Certification exams can be taken to make you more marketable in the field of HRM. These certifications are offered by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI).
What are your perceptions of what an HR manager does on a day-to-day basis? Research this job title and describe your findings. Is this the type of job you expected?