Human Resources Management

People are an organization’s most valuable asset, and professionals who can expertly manage this “human capital” are in demand. From the automobile and software industries to media outlets and cultural organizations, just about every industry employs human resource managers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

They are highly regarded team members who are skilled in organizational strategic planning and management, and they play a pivotal role in leading businesses to success. A degree in human resource management can offer the information and skill development required in the role. 

What Is Human Resources Management?

Broadly defined by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), human resource management (HRM) is the collection of systems and processes used in the management of people within an organization. The goal of HRM is to optimize workforce productivity by maximizing employee effectiveness. HR management has three key areas of responsibility:

  • Staffing
  • Employee compensation and benefits
  • Defining and/or designing the work to be done

Today’s HR managers wear a variety of hats: They oversee administrative functions associated with the workforce and serve as valuable points of contact connecting management and employees. HR professionals help manage the many aspects of the recruiting and hiring process. They also lend support to C-suite executives—a company’s top executives, including the CEO and COO—assisting with talent management and issues related to worker productivity and an organization’s structure.

An HR professional might be tasked with handling EEOC complaints and workplace safety issues. They implement employee engagement and satisfaction programs, too. If there is a business problem involving the workforce, HR is typically called in to help find a solution.

Successful HRM involves being able to connect management and employees in ways that meet organizational goals, which is no small feat. In a Forbes Community Voice post, the Forbes Human Resources Council shared their definition of being successful in the field:

  • Being a problem solver
  • Providing knowledgeable counsel to management
  • Being a “people person”
  • Acting as an ambassador for the organization’s values and culture
  • Multitasking well

Human Resource Management Functions

Human resource managers are tasked with recruiting top talent, interviewing and hiring new employees, and keeping an organization’s workforce running smoothly. Every employer wants to attract, motivate, and keep the best employees out there, and they rely on their human resource managers to make that happen.

HR managers at smaller organizations tend to be in charge of all facets of their company’s human resource needs. Those at larger companies may oversee a single HR department, such as employee benefits or recruiting. Depending on their industry, they may travel in order to visit their company’s various office locations or attend professional meetings and recruiting events.

Typical human resource management responsibilities include: 

  • Engaging in and developing strong employer-employee relations
  • Managing employee compensation and benefit programs
  • Advising managers on HR issues such as labor laws, including those related to discrimination and harassment
  • Overseeing various HR specialists and support staff
  • Onboarding new hires
  • Running rewards and recognition programs
  • Developing and maintaining employee engagement
  • Helping to build and protect the company’s positive culture
  • Handling recruitment, interview, and hiring processes
  • Organizing and overseeing training and development programs
  • Securing and maintaining a safe work environment that meets regulatory compliance standards
  • Assisting managers with performance appraisals and productivity expectations
  • Addressing disciplinary procedures fairly and in accordance with the law
  • Reporting and interpreting various HR analytics in order to monitor the effectiveness and costs of programs and benefits
  • Managing labor relations
  • Administering payroll

Sources: BLS, Forbes, SHRM

The New Role of Human Resource Management

Many of today’s human resources teams are light years away from the paper-pushing personnel departments of a few decades ago. They are a vital part of their companies—very much involved with shaping corporate policy and culture. This area of business plays an important role in talent management, employee retention, and much more. The workforce today is recognized as valuable human capital and is considered to be an organization’s most critical component and what gives it a competitive edge. Because of this, the changing role of human resource management has led to greater career opportunities for motivated and skilled HR professionals.

Technology holds a prominent role in human resource management. According to HR Morning, a human resource management system (HRMS) “integrates all of the core and strategic HR functions into one solution, improves recruiting, offers a self-service portal, automates data entry and administrative processes, streamlines information in a central database, reduces payroll and compliance errors, and facilitates data-driven strategies.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning systems are helping to close the talent gap, making it possible to shift HR’s work away from being mainly transactional in nature to being more focused on building relationships. These technology-driven tools and the people who are tasked with utilizing them are helping companies meet urgent talent-management needs.

Because of new technology and its more prominent role within organizational activities and planning, human resources managers now perform more analytical functions. Improved information systems and automation have given HR professionals access to better reporting tools, leading to better ideas and solutions. The role of HR will adjust and change as innovative new technologies come into play.

Human Resources Management Jobs

The outlook for jobs in the field is positive. The BLS projects that the number of jobs for human resources managers in the United States will grow 9% from 2016 to 2026. According to BLS, “Candidates with certification or a master’s degree—particularly those with a concentration in human resources management—should have the best job prospects.”

In addition, U.S. News & World Report ranks HR Specialist 13th on its 2019 "Best Business Jobs” list, citing flexible hours and telecommuting as growing perks within the field.

BLS data for 2018 shows the mean annual salary for human resources managers is $126,700. While the lowest 10% of HR managers earned less than $66,870, the highest 10 % earned more than $201,380 in 2018. Factors that can affect salaries include level of specialization, years of experience, level of education, location, organization size, and industry.

Human resource management careers include several areas of expertise.

Generalists: These professionals have a wide array of human resource responsibilities, including staffing, training and developing, compensation programs, policies and procedures, planning, employee retention, and compliance. Examples of managerial generalist roles include:

  • HR business manager
  • HR department manager
  • Chief HR officer

Specialists: Most often found in large organizations, specialists offer a higher level of technical knowledge and skills in a particular area of human resource management. Some common titles of advanced-level specialist are: 

  • Organizational development consultant 
  • Training and development manager
  • Employee and labor relations director
  • Payroll manager
  • Recruiting manager
  • Employee development manager
  • Benefits analyst
  • Compensation manager
  • Risk management
  • OSHA manager
  • Global HR director

Sources: BLSBusiness@Pepperdine, SHRM.

Becoming a Human Resource Manager

Human resource managers typically require a bachelor’s degree with a major in human resources or a related area, such as finance, business management, education, or even information technology. Training in conflict management and psychology is also a plus. More senior human resource management roles may require a master’s degree in human resources, business, or labor relations. And real-world work experience is also recommended, but not required.

Graduate programs, such as the online Master of Science in Human Resources from Pepperdine University, teach students critical-thinking, multitasking, decision-making, and interpersonal skills. Graduate-level courses and immersion experiences offer leadership, communication, and training in change-management and conflict-management that can be applied to future management jobs in HR. Understanding how to integrate best business practices and maintain high standards of ethics are also areas covered in graduate school.

For professionals who want to be a leader in their organization, set a tone for their company that people matter, create and support a vision for their organization, and help employees develop into their best selves, a career in human resource management may be a great fit.