The primary purpose of human resources departments is to serve the needs of internal customers -- the company's employees -- and external customers that include job applicants and candidates. Although large organizations have extensive HR departments with sections for the various HR disciplines, many small businesses have fully functioning HR departments with generalists who are qualified to handle the functions and duties for the various disciplines. Major HR disciplines include recruitment, training, compensation and employee relations.

Recruitment and Selection

The function of HR's recruitment and selection area is to attract a diverse pool of qualified applicants from which hiring managers select the best candidates. Recruiters play an integral role in shaping the company's workforce. Therefore, they need to be diligent about their responsibilities. Their duties include working with hiring managers to write job descriptions, posting job advertisements, managing professional and social networking accounts to increase the company's visibility related to recruitment, and scheduling telephone and face-to-face interviews. In addition, recruiters compose job offers, conduct reference checks, and schedule pre-employment drug tests.

Training and Development

HR trainers provide orientation for new employees, help improve employee skill sets, and prepare employees for promotion and advancement opportunities. The training and development function of HR is responsible for sustaining a well-qualified workforce and enhancing the capabilities of workers. The duties of trainers include arranging orientation and on-boarding schedules for new employees, delivering classroom leadership training, and constructing modules for training topics provided on the company's intranet. In addition, they conduct needs assessments to determine employees' skill levels and the kind of training that will enable workers to meet their professional goals.

Employee Relations

Employee relations specialists are specially trained to handle workplace complaints, but they're also charged with sustaining a productive workforce despite difficult-to-measure intangibles such as low morale and job dissatisfaction. Their function is to strengthen the employer-employee relationship. To do this, employee relations specialists administer employee opinion surveys, analyze employee feedback from focus groups, investigate and resolve complaints, and coordinate employee recognition events. Their duties run the gamut from activities that adhere strictly to employment laws, to planning social functions that reward employees for their hard work and commitment to the organization.

Compensation and Benefits

Some employees might think the compensation and benefits section is the most important area of HR because their paychecks come from a payroll clerk who works in this section. The function of HR's compensation and benefits section is to ensure employees receive fair wages for their work and that the company pays its workers competitively and consistent with the market. Compensation and benefits specialists' duties involve explaining health coverage benefits to employees, answering questions about retirement savings and pension accounts, handling medical leave requests, and maintaining HIPAA compliance for employees' medical-related file materials.