The Ultimate Guide for Human Resources

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Almost all employees have dealt with someone who works in human resources, but a lot of them do not actually know exactly what a human resources department does. If you work in human resources, some of these questions from friends or family members may sound familiar: Does that mean you hire people? Does it mean you help with benefits? Does it mean you deal with new employees? Does it mean you know employment law? Do you ever have to handle someone who’s angry? Of course the answers are yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and a lot more! In our ultimate guide for human resources, we want to answer the question of what it means to work in human resources.

Lifecycle of Employment: HR at Every Step

From the work that is done before someone is hired, through their entire time at a company, and after they leave – for any reason – the human resources department is involved. While human resources departments fill a wide range of roles at different companies, here are some of the most common responsibilities of a human resources team:

  • Identify roles that need to be filled
  • Onboard new hires
  • Manage compensation
  • Perform necessary administrative work
  • Conduct regular trainings
  • Create and support the company’s culture
  • Empower employees
  • Manage a process for feedback from and/or to managers and peers
  • Promote a healthy and satisfying work environment
  • Oversee employee transitions and terminations

Human Resources: Essential Skills and Why They Matter

When you’re looking to hire a human resources employee, you’ll likely consider the following factors.

  • College degree: Bachelor’s is often required, Master’s is often preferred
  • Field of study: while a degree matters, many companies consider it more important that a candidate’s degree is in Human Resources or Business Administration
  • Experience: relevant work experience can be one of the most important factors in hiring a human resources employee. Many of the necessary skills for these jobs cannot be taught in a traditional classroom, but are truly mastered through years of experience on the job.

Beyond education and work experience, there are some foundational skills that human resources employees will need. Here are what are often considered the most important of those skills:

Communications Skills

Many people will tell you that the most important skill a human resources employee can have is the ability to communicate well. From written communication to giving presentations and managing sensitive conversations, communication skills are at the top of our list in this ultimate guide for human resources. Human resources team members create formal communications materials such as job descriptions, company handbooks, workplace policies, and offer/termination letters. They also need to be able to communicate well on-the-fly by writing challenging emails, arbitrating conflicts, and managing company culture.

Showing Compassion

In addition to communicating well, good human resources employees should be compassionate. It’s important to understand that showing compassion and giving in to demands are very different. In a human resources department, you should be prepared to encounter many different scenarios from people who dislike a coworker, want a raise, have complex ethical concerns, or need advice about managing workplace relationships. You will need to have difficult conversations and defuse situations, at which point the ability to be firm and helpful, while showing compassion, is critical.

Being Organized

Yes, being organized is important in almost any job, but it’s especially important for those in human resources. You’ll be working with many different employees and managers, regulations on a variety of levels that change often, more paperwork than most people ever have to oversee, and what may feel like an endless stream of requests coming across your desk. When the ball is dropped on someone’s benefits, hiring paperwork, yearly review, workplace complaint, or training, that can snowball into significant consequences. Your ability to stay organized online, on paper, and in all communications, is essential.


There may be no greater example than COVID-19 to demonstrate how flexible human resource employees need to be in their work. In a matter of weeks, companies across the world were changing the way they operated. People who were in crowded offices every day were now working remotely; training was needed on security, remote resources, and managing in new ways; the ability to boost employee morale and foster a close company culture changed drastically; workers needed guidance on managing quarantines and home-schooling during their workdays; new and changing rules for office space were published regularly, leaving many asking the HR department what their future office would look like. The pressure of the COVID-19 uncertainty is an example of how changes that affect many people personally and professionally, affect the human resources department on an additional layer because they have so many factors to mitigate.

Popular Jobs in Human Resources

Across industries, and even across companies, you’ll see wide variety in the names of the human resources’ departments’ jobs. Here are some of the HR job titles we tend to see regularly:

VP or Human Resources, Recruiting Manager, or Human Resources Director are often top-level HR positions. People applying for these jobs generally have a Master’s degree, and at least 10 years of experience in human resources. Those in top HR roles generally play a more strategic part than those in mid level roles. They likely oversee a team of other employees and managers, they may advise upper management on creating company culture and workplace policies, and they may handle the most sensitive and confidential of issues.

Mid-level HR jobs often include recruiting managers, human resource managers, and benefits managers. This level of employee may oversee the entry level human resource workers, and usually focus more on tactical management. People in these roles may have at least 5 years of experience working in human resources, and often have a Bachelor’s degree. 

Entry-level human resources jobs include recruiters, generalists, assistants, and interns. Their focus is on the day to day operations of the HR department, and generally not on strategic decision making. These jobs are sought after by those who have recently graduated, or by those who are changing careers.

While human resources is a growing and dynamic field, there are certain aspects that you can rely on to stay consistent: like the importance of outstanding human resources services to the foundation of a company. If you have questions after reading our ultimate guide for human resources, specifically about how to outsource your human resource needs, learn more about what we offer at Benefit Leader.

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