Operational human resources refers to day-to-day functionality and HR transactions. This differs significantly from strategic HR, which refers to long-term goal setting. In developing an HR strategy, company leadership – along with HR staff experts or consultants – determine the long-range goals for HR. Long-range HR goals then require implementation steps to meet the organization's objectives.

Operational HR consists of the steps necessary to implement the objectives that enable the organization to achieve its strategic goals.


Operational HR comprises the human resources activities you see on the ground: hiring, firing, training and implementing HR policies and procedures.

Recruitment and Selection

Recruitment and selection strategy aims to attract the best-qualified talent as part of creating a company that people want to work for – an employer of choice. Operational recruitment and selection begins with sourcing candidates by tapping professional networks and selecting venues for posting job vacancies.

In addition, HR recruitment and selection operations include interviewing applicants. Recruiters and employment specialists prepare job offers, conduct background checks, schedule pre-employment drug tests and process new employees' paperwork.

Training and Development

Strategic training and development focus on needs assessments, current work force skill levels and organizational goals that will require upgrading employee skills to support the company's future progress. Operational HR for training and development involves hands-on delivery of employee training, starting with new employee orientation.

In addition, training and development specialists create Web-based Internet and intranet training modules, track the number of employees for whom professional development opportunities are available and document employees' completion of mandatory training.

Compensation and Benefits

Becoming an employer of choice also depends on an organization's ability to pay competitive wages and benefits that convinces employees to stay with the company because of handsome salaries, rather than a gold handcuff strategy. The operational side of compensation and benefits includes coordinating open enrollment activities, counseling employees on selecting benefits best suited for their health needs and facilitating the changeover for terminated employees to continue their benefits, such as COBRA.

Compensation and benefits operations also include processing payroll, calculating salary increases based on performance appraisals and answering employees' questions about retirement savings accounts and flexible spending accounts.

Employee Relations

The strategic goal for many companies' HR employee relations section is to ensure that employees trust leadership and are fully engaged through an enthusiastic approach to work and developing productive relationships with their peers and managers.

Operationally, employee relations consists of administering and analyzing employee opinion surveys, interviewing witnesses about employee complaints and resolving workplace conflicts, planning employee recognition and reward events and conducting regular walkabouts to give HR a face. This conveys an important message that HR is an advocate for the employee and employer.

Safety and Risk Management

The safety and risk management strategic goal is quite simple for HR: Employers are obligated to provide their employees and customers a safe work environment. To accomplish this, HR safety specialists and risk managers evaluate workplace safety concerns, prepare logs for compliance with federal and state government agency record-keeping rules and develop workplace safety programs.

They also oversee routine activities such as ensuring that devices such as fire extinguishers, sharps containers and hazardous chemical antidotes are accessible throughout the premises.