As the title implies, a Human Resources (HR) specialist deals with the people in the organization, helping them develop their skills and enhancing their sense of job satisfaction. HR specialists also interpret and administer many complicated governmental rules and regulations, from equal opportunity requirements to labor union contracts. A career in HR will provide you with many different ways to showcase your talents in data analysis, interpersonal communication and negotiation.
As an HR specialist, you may be asked to perform a wide range of duties, a few of which are:
• Assist with the recruitment, employment and placement of new employees. • Analyze and create accurate job descriptions. • Maintain the company’s compensation system to ensure fair and equitable pay rates. • Design and administer the company’s benefits program, including health insurance and pensions. • Assess employee performance and report any gaps between expectations and outputs. • Conduct training programs that enhance employees’ skills and improve their abilities to work as a team. • Evaluate training programs and suggest future options for continual learning.
In the past, a career in HR was seen as somewhat of a “dead-end job,” with little chance of promotion to the highest levels of the organization. To avoid this career-track limitation, you will need to position yourself as a well-rounded business player, one who can advise upper management on specific strategies for expansion and warn about potential roadblocks (governmental or social) that will impact the company’s ability to stay competitive and profitable.
When HR professionals are tasked with devising strategies for motivating employees to do their best work, many of them turn to Douglas McGregor’s two models, Theory X and Theory Y (published in 1960). Theory X managers, according to McGregor, perceive their employees as recalcitrant workers who must be rewarded or punished to perform up to expectations. HR professionals who regard this “carrot and stick” approach to motivation as outmoded and ineffectual will then attempt to instill in such managers the Theory Y model, in which each worker’s unique skills and desire for self-improvement are encouraged and supported.
A common misunderstanding about the HR profession is that you have to be a “people person” whose goal it is to counsel and comfort employees who feel threatened in some way by the system. Providing some sort of “corporate therapy” should not be your objective as an HR specialist; rather, your goal should be to demonstrate specifically how your own job duties (whether training or administrating) impact your company’s financial bottom line.
It’s not the organization that must adapt to change—it’s the people who work there. By helping to recruit and retain the best workers, analyze and evaluate the company’s performance systems, and generate comprehensive, quantitative information to upper management, the HR professional plays an important role in ensuring the company’s future success.
2016 Salary Information for Human Resources Managers
Human resources managers earned a median annual salary of $106,910 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, human resources managers earned a 25th percentile salary of $80,800, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $145,220, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 136,100 people were employed in the U.S. as human resources managers.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: Human Resources
- HRM Guide: The Myths About HR Careers
- The Human Side of Enterprise; Douglas McGregor; 1960
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Human Resources Managers
- Career Trend: Human Resources Managers
Ellen Dowling, Ph.D., is a communication skills trainer and consultant based near Albuquerque, N.M. She has published many articles on training and development, and was formerly a writer for the Motley Fool. She is also a visiting professor at the University of Beijing, China, where she teaches business communication courses to international MBA students and Chinese business and government leaders.