Not long ago, human resources was the department you would meet with on your first and last day on the job. They would walk you through new hire paperwork and show you around the office when you joined and conduct your exit interview when you were leaving. Between those two milestones, you might have brief interactions with the team to request days off or enroll in new benefits.
From the company’s perspective, HR was viewed more as a necessary overhead than a driver of success. They ensured the company followed labor laws and enforced the rules in the employee handbook. They were there to keep things running smoothly and prevent big problems from occurring.
In many ways, the HR team personified bureaucracy. However, that’s no longer the case. The role of HR has evolved to better serve both the company and employees.
What are the responsibilities of a modern HR professional?
The emergence of new technology is a big reason for the transformation of the HR profession. Traditional tasks like hiring, onboarding, preparing payroll, sharing benefits and more are largely automated by software. HR professionals are now free to focus on strategic work that aligns with the needs and wants of today’s employees and puts the business in a place to be a great employer. Let’s explore some new responsibilities today’s human resources professionals take on:
An advocate for employee experience
The median employee tenure is now only 4.2 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It will likely only get shorter as more millennials enter the workforce. This means recruiting, hiring and employee retention is more important than ever. Here are some ways HR helps:
- Company culture – Companies are now far more conscious of the workplace culture. HR professionals can articulate the culture to the staff and make sure every employee is happy and comfortable at work.
- Employee recognition – Employees appreciate when their hard work is noticed by others. Today’s HR teams can ensure no employee is overlooked and come up with programs for acknowledging great team members.
- Career advancement – Giving employees the necessary resources to take the next step in their career is great for retention. HR can create internal training programs and continuing education benefits that aid both the company and employees.
- Onboarding – Starting a new job can be a scary experience so it’s important to make new hires feel welcome. Modern HR specialists can form an onboarding program that eases the new hires nerves and helps them hit the ground running.
- Employer branding – It’s never been easier for job seekers to learn what it’s like to work for a company before they apply. HR professionals can help their colleagues in recruiting form a positive image about the employee experience that encourages the right candidates to apply.
- Employee happiness – It should come as no surprise that unhappy employees eventually move on. HR should monitor employee happiness through surveys, annual reviews and general observations.
A seat at the leadership table
Most companies now have a human resources leader who is part of the executive team. They ensure the company’s plans and decisions are fair, legal and properly communicated to the wider company. Here are a few responsibilities of HR leaders:
- Voice concerns of employees – Some leadership teams can be unaware of the thoughts and feelings of the general staff. HR heads can bring common problems to their attention so individual employees don’t have to speak up.
- Help with the realignment of teams – Most growing companies eventually shake up teams or the entire organizational structure. HR leaders can assist with these changes in a way that doesn’t overly impact individual team members.
- Implement and communicate new policies – Policies concerning employees are most often lead by HR. The team can research, implement and communicate any new policy concerning staff.
- Compliance – Compliance has always been an HR responsibility but there are now even more employment laws to be aware of. Human resources stays on top of changes in the legal landscape and ensure the company acts accordingly.
Always improving business operation
While it’s not solely their responsibility, modern HR professionals look for ways to improve business operations. They can form initiatives that help each employee reach their full potential so the company as a whole succeeds. Here are some ways HR improves operations:
- Performance management – Every team member needs to help the company reach its goals. Modern HR teams can help team leaders monitor employee performance and take action if an individual is coming up short.
- Ways to increase efficiency – There is a lot that goes into a company operating at full speed. HR specialists can make changes that increase efficiency, like adjusting office hours or rearranging the workplace.
- Trends the company should implement – The way people work is always changing. Today’s HR departments should be aware of trends and implement cutting-edge programs the company can benefit from.
Address hidden problems
Some companies have problems that affect only a portion of the staff. Those impacted are often not comfortable voicing their concerns so it’s up to human resources to be aware of issues that aren’t front and center. Here are some hidden problems HR takes on:
- A lack of diversity or gender balance – Too many companies struggle to have a diverse workforce. HR professionals can create hiring and training initiatives that help the company include people from all backgrounds.
- Pay disparities – The gender pay gap and other instances of income inequality still exist. HR should identify who is underpaid and take the necessary steps to correct the situation.
- Hostility between teams or employees – The best companies are made up of teams and people who collaborate and support each other. HR specialists should take steps to resolve any issues between employees.
- Negative cultural elements – The company culture has to be 100 percent positive. HR should identify negative parts of the culture and do whatever necessary to eliminate them.
Keep the organization moving forward
Modern HR professionals help their companies achieve its goal by ensuring every employee is treated well and supported.
Source: Erin Engstrom
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