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Working in HR

What is HR?

A career in human resources is all about ensuring that an organisation has the right people to work for it and that their rights and benefits are effectively administered. HR looks after functions such as employee relations, applying and advising on employment law, health and safety, pay and benefits, recruitment and training.

Building a career in HR

HR is a competitive area so it helps to have a good degree, in any discipline.

If you really want to stand out, consider studying for a qualification from the CIPD. The CIPD run qualifications across basic introductions, undergraduate and postgraduate courses and senior management courses. Your commitment to the industry will be obvious if you choose to study, and some employers may encourage you to study part time once you start work.

Useful skills for a career in HR include:

  • Excellent interpersonal skills such as empathy, sensitivity, tact and discretion.

  • The ability to get on with a range of people and work well in a team.

  • Strong organisational and administrative skills.

  • Good time management.

  • Flexibility.

  • IT skills, particularly if you’re interested in training, much of which is done on computers.

Day to day in HR

In the course of a day you will have a variety of very different tasks. These may encompass routine administrative duties such as taking care of payroll and entering information about employees, but you’re also likely to spend some time dealing with individuals’ concerns and working with people. You might advise an employee on how to deal with a difficult manager, provide advice on maternity leave, or interview prospective employees.

Many human resources professionals work across the board while others specialise in certain areas. A small employer may only have one personnel manager, who covers all areas. You’re more likely to focus on one area if you work for a large organisation with a big HR department.

Areas of work include:

Employee relations: Designing and implementing policies to balance the needs of employees and management in terms of working conditions, equal opportunities, grievance procedures, etc. The idea is to make employees happy so they’ll work hard, thus increasing productivity, efficiency and profitability.

Employment law: Understanding the laws relating to employment and providing advice to employees and the organisation. Making sure equal opportunities legislation is followed during recruitment, understanding the laws about unfair dismissal, and providing advice to employees regarding maternity leave, harassment and work-related benefits.

Health and safety: Looking after the mental and physical health of employees. This involves providing support during illness or stress, and preventing injury by such means as implementing rules for lifting heavy objects and providing advice on correct chair height to minimise back pain.

Pay and benefits: Developing an organisation’s salary structure, including bonuses, managing payroll and negotiating pay rises. Arranging, overseeing and providing advice on a range of benefits, including pensions, health insurance, holidays, loans and company cars.

Recruitment: Overseeing the entire recruitment process, from finding potential candidates to recruiting new employees: writing job descriptions, advertising for staff, analysing applications, holding interviews and assessments, helping select candidates and issuing contracts.

Training, learning and development: Co-ordinating external training and delivering or organising internal training sessions and running induction schemes for new employees.