What Are the Duties of an HR Department?

by Ruth Mayhew; Updated September 26, 2017

Human resources departments have undergone significant changes in the past 25 years, with the functions increasing to include a broad array of services supporting an organization’s employees and management. The generally-accepted ratio of HR department staff to total employees is 1:100. In other words, the HR departmental responsibilities for a mid-size organization with 1,700 employees can be accomplished by an HR department staff of about 17 professionals.

Recruitment, Staffing and Employment

Prospective new employees’ initial exposure to a company is usually through interaction with an HR recruiter. This area of the HR department is responsible for calculating workforce projections, determining availability of applicants and assessing the suitability of candidates for placement throughout the organization. HR professionals in this area are likely to establish relationships with outside entities such as colleges and universities for recruiting purposes. Recruiters also contact newspapers and other media outlets to advertise vacancies.

Benefits and Compensation

Benefits and compensation specialists handle matters concerning the financial aspects of employment. Salary administration, compensation structure, payroll distribution and coordination of benefits such as group health insurance and retirement savings are core duties. Benefits and compensation specialists work to create a company-wide compensation program that is satisfactory to employees yet enhances the firm's profitability.

Employee Relations and Labor Relations

The employee relations and labor relations areas of HR are jointly responsible for strengthening the employer-employee relationship. Employee relations representatives resolve employee conflicts, design performance management systems, create employee recognition programs and assess levels of employee satisfaction. Labor relations specialists are concerned with employment issues that involve the unionized workforce. They process grievances, participate in bargaining sessions for union contracts and represent the employer during arbitration, mediation and other dispute resolution processes.

Workplace Safety and Risk Management

Depending on the organization, the workplace safety duties of an HR department may vary greatly. Often acting in more of a training than oversight capacity, the workplace safety and risk management section is ultimately responsible for maintaining a safe workplace. Many safety professionals coordinate their efforts with employee relations representatives and benefits specialists to establish guidelines pertaining to issues such as on-the-job injuries and compliance with employment laws and regulations.

HR Training and Development

HR training and development is the area responsible for encouraging professional and personal development in the workplace through the delivery of organized learning opportunities. Training and development professionals are well-versed in matters pertaining to needs assessment, curriculum design and developmental strategy. They work to counteract attrition and accompanying declines in workplace skills.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.