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Role  of the HR Specialist                            Home           HR Strategy  & Planning 

Attracting the most qualified employees available and matching them to the jobs for which they are best suited is important for the success of any organization. However, many enterprises are too large to permit close contact between top management and employees. Human resources specialists and managers provide this link. 

These individuals recruit and interview employees, and advise on hiring decisions in accordance with policies and requirements that have been established in conjunction with top management. In an effort to improve morale and productivity and limit job turnover, they also help their firms effectively use employees' skills, provide training opportunities to enhance those skills, and boost employees' satisfaction with their jobs and working conditions. Although some jobs in the human resources field require only limited contact with people outside the office, most involve frequent contact. Dealing with people is an essential part of the job.

In a small organization, a human resources generalist may handle many, or all, aspects of human resources work, requiring a broad range of knowledge. The responsibilities of human resources generalists can vary widely, depending on their employer's needs. In a large corporation, the top human resources executive usually develops and coordinates personnel programs and policies.  These policies are usually implemented by a director or manager of human resources and, in some cases, a director of industrial relations.

The director of human resources may oversee several departments, each headed by an experienced manager, who most likely specializes in one personnel activity such as employment, compensation, benefits, training and development, or employee relations.

Employment and placement managers oversee the hiring and separation of employees and supervise various workers, including equal employment opportunity specialists and recruitment specialists.

Recruiters maintain contacts within the community and may travel extensively, often to college campuses, to search for promising job applicants. Recruiters screen, interview, and test applicants. They may also check references and extend offers of employment to qualified candidates. These workers must be thoroughly familiar with the organization and its personnel policies to discuss wages, working conditions, and promotional opportunities with prospective employees. 

Other Roles include:

Maintaining working relationships with local employers 

Employment interviewers—whose many job titles include personnel consultants, personnel development specialists, and human resources coordinators—help match jobseekers with employers. 

Job analysis, sometimes called position classification involve collection and examination of detailed information about job duties to prepare job descriptions. These descriptions explain the duties, training, and skills each job requires.

Establishing and maintaining a firm's pay system. HR Executives devise ways to ensure fair and equitable pay rates. They may conduct surveys to see how their rates compare with others and to see that the firm's pay scale complies with changing laws and regulations. In addition, they often oversee their firm's performance evaluation system, and they may design reward systems such as pay-for-performance plans.

Employee benefits managers handle the company's employee benefits program, notably its health insurance and pension plans. Expertise in designing and administering benefits programs continues to gain importance as employer-provided benefits account for a growing proportion of overall compensation costs.

Training is supervised by training and development managers. Increasingly, management recognizes that training offers a way of developing skills, enhancing productivity and quality of work, and building loyalty to the firm. Training is widely accepted as a method of improving employee morale, but this is only one of the reasons for its growing importance. Other factors include the complexity of the work environment, the rapid pace of organizational and technological change, and the growing number of jobs in fields that constantly generate new knowledge. In addition, advances in learning theory have provided insights into how adults learn, and how training can be organized most effectively for them.

Training specialists plan, organize, and direct a wide range of training activities. Trainers conduct orientation sessions and arrange on-the-job training for new employees. They help rank-and-file workers maintain and improve their job skills, and possibly prepare for jobs requiring greater skill. They help supervisors improve their interpersonal skills in order to deal effectively with employees. They may set up individualized training plans to strengthen an employee's existing skills or to teach new ones. Training specialists in some companies set up programs to develop executive potential among employees in lower-level positions. In government-supported training programs, training specialists function as case managers. They first assess the training needs of clients, then guide them through the most appropriate training method. After training, clients may either be referred to employer relations representatives or receive job placement assistance.

Planning and program development is an important part of the training specialist's job. In order to identify and assess training needs within the firm, trainers may confer with managers and supervisors or conduct surveys. They also periodically evaluate training effectiveness.

Depending on the size, goals, and nature of the organization, trainers may differ considerably in their responsibilities and in the methods they use. Training methods include on-the-job training; schools in which shop conditions are duplicated for trainees prior to putting them on the shop floor; apprenticeship training; classroom training; programmed instruction, which may involve interactive videos, videodiscs, and other computer-aided instructional technologies; simulators; conferences; and workshops.

The director of industrial relations forms labor policy, oversees industrial labor relations, negotiates collective bargaining agreements, and coordinates grievance procedures to handle complaints resulting from disputes under the contract for firms with unionized employees. The director of industrial relations also advises and collaborates with the director of human resources, other managers, and members of their staff, because all aspects of personnel policy—such as wages, benefits, pensions, and work practices—may be involved in drawing up a new or revised contract.

Industrial labor relations programs are implemented by labor relations managers and their staff. When a collective bargaining agreement is up for negotiation, labor relations specialists prepare information for management to use during negotiation, which requires familiarity with economic and wage data as well as extensive knowledge of labor law and collective bargaining trends. The labor relations staff interprets and administers the contract with respect to grievances, wages and salaries, employee welfare, health care, pensions, union and management practices, and other contractual stipulations. As union membership is continuing to decline in most industries, industrial relations personnel are working more with employees who are not members of a labor union.

Dispute resolution—attaining tacit or contractual agreements—has become increasingly important as parties to a dispute attempt to avoid costly litigation, strikes, or other disruptions. Dispute resolution also has become more complex, involving employees, management, unions, other firms, and government agencies. Specialists involved in dispute resolution must be highly knowledgeable and experienced, and often report to the director of industrial relations. Conciliators, or mediators, advise and counsel labor and management to prevent and, when necessary, resolve disputes over labor agreements or other labor relations issues. Arbitrators, sometimes called umpires or referees, decide disputes that bind both labor and management to specific terms and conditions of labor contracts. Labor relations specialists who work for unions perform many of the same functions on behalf of the union and its members.

Other emerging specialists include international human resources managers, who handle human resources issues related to a company's foreign operations, and human resources information system specialists, who develop and apply computer programs to process personnel information, match jobseekers with job openings, and handle other personnel matters.

  Home           HR Strategy  & Planning 

  Home           HR Strategy  & Planning 

Competencies of an HR Specialist

Able to Assess and Balance Competing Values and Priorities

Manages competing priorities and work assignments by continuously evaluating the needs of the organization's mission against pending work. Maintains contact with senior management to ensure a clear understanding of mission priorities. Uses this information to allocate effort to those items with greatest importance. Explains priorities to key customers to ensure that they understand the rationale for decisions regarding work priorities. Monitors implementation of HR activities to ensure that the desired result is being achieved. Makes corrections if necessary to better focus the HR organization on the desired outcome. Accepts accountability for effectiveness of advice and monitors implementation to ensure desired results are achieved. Seeks to maintain physical and mental health by living a healthy life-style and adopting stress reduction strategies.

Able to Be Innovative and Creative

Thinks outside of the box. Creates and presents new approaches which are outside the context of current policies when warranted by mission needs. Refuses to accept the status quo as a given. Maintains enthusiasm despite criticism of unique ideas. Understands and applies techniques which are designed to encourage creativity and innovations such as brainstorming, T-groups, and use of groupware technology to address new solutions to problems or concerns. Maintains currency with new developments within the human resources and related fields as a baseline for developing innovative solutions to organizational goals and objectives. Appreciates the hard work between a good idea and effective implementation of a new program concept.

Able to Build Trust Relationships

Has integrity and demonstrates professional behavior to gain the trust and confidence of customers. Follows up on commitments made on a timely, accurate and complete basis. Takes action as expected and strives to do what is right without prompting. Can keep confidences and does not abuse the privilege of accessibility to confidential information.

Able to Design and Use Surveys to Obtain Feedback From Customers

Knows and uses data gathering tools to obtain organizational and workforce information for developing courses of action and making recommendations. Uses a variety of survey techniques to obtain valid and reliable views from customers. Develops new or redesigns surveys to meet specific data-gathering needs or tailors formats targeted to specific issues. Analyzes results to identify patterns and trends of behavior which require management attention and action.

Able to Effectively Manage Resources

Manages resources within a well planned approach and considers immediate and long term needs to make good use of resource allocation. Uses resources within a framework that includes clear goals and objectives to assure that available resources are effectively devoted to priority and critical issues. Continually looks for efficient ways of providing services by minimizing procedural requirements. Develops plans which provide the flexibility to quickly reassign resources to meet emergency work needs. Able to Influence Others to Act: Involves and motivates others to participate and contribute to HR activities and projects. Recognizes degrees of interest and skills and abilities to encourage new ideas, creativity and willing involvement by others. Develops individual or team participation to meet specific goals and objectives.

Able to Influence Others to Act

Involves and motivates others to participate and contribute to HR activities and projects. Recognizes degrees of interest and skills and abilities to encourage new ideas, creativity and willing involvement by others. Develop individual or team participation to meet specific goals and objectives.

Able to Make Decisions

Makes timely and well thought out decisions without equivocation. Impartially considers all sides of an issue and makes logical decisions that are clear and easily explainable to interested parties. Listens to different opinions and considers more than one option before making a decision. Takes risks and encourages risk taking in others. Always keeps in mind the potential immediate and long-range impact of decisions on the needs of the organization and customers.

Able to Work in Teams

Works effectively as a team leader or as a team member. Understands the differences in roles to build team cohesiveness, reach consensus and achieve team and mutual goals. Uses both roles to strengthen the participation of the other team members. Shares information, knowledge and expertise with the team without reservation. Applies Organizational Development Principles: Maintains knowledge of social science and human behavior strategies which can be used to improve organizational performance. Develops information about the health and readiness of the agency's workforce to meet current and future mission requirements. Proposes interventions that will contribute to improved employee understanding and commitment to mission goals and priorities, increased morale, a sense of accountability and sense of urgency. Promotes teamwork within the organization. Establishes strategies to promote greater learning within the organization. Provides advice that supports creating opportunities for employees to grow.

Applies Mentoring, Coaching, and Counseling Skills to Develop Talent

Actively takes action to develop and strengthen others' skills, abilities and professional knowledge. Is aware of formal and informal techniques of staff development and uses them according to individual needs. Makes good use of special assignments, team participation, formal short and long-term training, personal career counseling and on-the-job training to develop staff.

Applies Organizational Development Principles

Maintains knowledge of social science and human behavior strategies which can be used to improve organizational performance. Develops information about the health and readiness of the agency’s workforce to meet current and future mission requirements. Proposes interventions that will contribute to improved employee understanding and commitment to mission goals and priorities, increased morale, a sense of accountability and sense of urgency. Promotes teamwork within the organization. Establishes strategies to promote greater learning within the organization. Establishes strategies to promote greater learning within the organization. Establishes strategies to promote greater learning within the organization. Provides advice that supports creating opportunities for employees to grow.

Communicates Well

Expresses ideas and exchanges information clearly and persuasively. Speaks in terms of business results and goals rather than HR technical terms. Shares information with HR staff and line managers that is important to their mission goals. Listens for understanding before offering opinions. Communicates effectively with all levels of the organization from top level political appointees to entry level support staff. Accurately passes information from source to different audiences without personal bias or distortion. Delivers information effectively in a variety of settings including; one-on-one, team settings, presentations, and various written forms such as letters, memos, analytical reports, and decision documents.

Customer Service Orientation

Has a clear understanding that the principal reason the job exists is to provide a services to management, employees, and the public. Keeps abreast of organizational climate and mission changes and is keenly sensitive to customer needs and concerns. Responds to clients needs, questions and concerns in an accurate timely manner.

Develops Effective Solutions to Mission Requirements Using Principles/Programs

Understands customers' mission needs and context in terms of people needs, and proposes proactive solutions. Conducts research and analysis to ensure an understanding of the issues and desired mission outcomes prior to proposing solution. Proposes solutions that integrate various human resources areas such as compensation, staffing, performance management, and training/development rather than providing piecemeal advice as issues arise. Assumes accountability for quality of assistance and advice. Monitors implementation of HR activities to ensure that the desired result is being achieved. Makes corrections if necessary to better focus the HR organization on the desired outcome.

Has Analytical Skills

Is able to analyze a multiplicity of data and information from several sources and arrive at logical conclusions. Can recognize the gaps in available data and suggests other ways to obtain the needed information. Arrives at integrated and cogent recommendations based on the results of the analyses.

Has Marketing Skills

Persuades internal and external customers of the needs and beneficial outcomes of particular programs or actions. Develops the pros and cons of an issue and persuades interested parties of the best course of action and the need for change. Ensures that customers are aware of the importance and effectiveness of established HR programs in supporting organizational goals.

Knows, Applies, and Manages Best Practices for Maximizing Human Potential

Keeps up to date with HRM state-of-the-art thinking and innovative ways of doing HR business to maintain a highly qualified and versatile workforce. Uses techniques to measure HR program and individual HR professional performance. Encourages and recommends developmental opportunities for gaining professional experience and knowledge in as many HR areas as possible to colleagues.

Knows Business Systems Thinking and Information Technology

Applies whole systems thinking to HR work processes by ensuring consideration of all external and internal environmental factors in providing advice and solutions to customers. Maintains awareness of current and emerging technologies which have potential to improve the efficiency and/or effectiveness of HRM within the organization. Understands information technology concepts and processes well enough to effectively communicate with technical information resources management staff. Develops proposals to implement new HR-based technology within the organization when justified based on cost-benefit analysis. Understands the agency's information resources management programs and strategy, and is able to articulate staff resource requirements within that context. Manages effective implementation of technology within the organization through change management and training.

Knows HR Laws and Policies

Keeps current and understands statutory and regulatory requirements affecting HR programs. Sees and uses intent of requirements as an HR tool to assist in managing resources. Assures that procedural guidance issued to implement requirements is customer-friendly by minimizing complex bureaucratic language and burdensome administrative steps and processes.

Knows Individual and Team Behavior

Applies knowledge of individual and team behavior to help achieve organizational goals and objectives. Maintains currency with new approaches to human motivation and teamwork that may apply to the organization being serviced. Shares information with staff and line management regarding human behavior research which is relevant to organizational issues. Advises on improved job design, staff development strategies, selection criteria, performance management techniques and dispute resolution approaches to enable the organization to optimize human performance in support of mission goals and objectives. Accepts accountability for quality advice.

Knows Mission

Understands the purpose of the organization including its statutory mandate, its customers, its products and/or services, and its measures of mission effectiveness. Is able to articulate the relationship between human resources activities and successful mission accomplishment. Keeps current with factors which may have a future impact on mission including legislative initiatives, changing priorities within current mission activities, and use of new methods or technology. Facilitates mission accomplishment by proactively developing HR based solutions to new mandates before they are required.

Knows Staff and Line Roles

Understands the HR role(s) within the organization and adapts behaviors and approaches that are consistent with the role(s). Understands delegations of authority for specific HRM matters and respects the authority of line officials to take action in accordance with their authority. Does not second guess decisions by line officials to HR staff or employees. Reconciles disagreements with officials through reasoning and presentation of facts. Uses differences of opinion to build alternative solutions to problems or concerns. Understands when and how to elevate issues to higher level line officials when actions being taken are inconsistent with legal or higher level policy requirements. Has courage to take a stand when an issue is considered important to the well-being of the organization’s mission or reputation.

Manages Conflict

Takes the initiative in solving or helping to resolve problems. This includes being able to analyze and anticipate potential problems and recommend preventive action. Initiates attempts to resolve issues informally before they become major sources of concern to the customers. Knows a variety of problem-solving techniques and uses them or recommends them to involved parties. Determines origin of problem and analyzes it in manageable steps differentiating among causes, symptoms, and perceptions. Applies negotiation and consensus building skills to arrive at acceptable solution.

Models Ethical Behavior

Serves as a role model for others by behaving in a professional manner. Behaves in ways that demonstrate trust and gain the confidence of the customers. Treats customers fairly and courteously and effectively responds to their needs regardless of organizational location or grade level. Avoids all appearance of favoritism to assure that the HRM program is viewed as supportive of the needs of all the customers.

Practices/Promotes Integrity

Maintains a high level of integrity in dealing with customers. Gains the confidence of the customers by respecting the confidentiality and privacy of their concerns and needs. Treats individuals with dignity and respect and avoids all appearances of conflict of interest, cronyism and favoritism.

Promotes Worklife Issues and Integrates with Results-oriented Organizational Planning Process

Is sensitive to, introduces, and customizes worklife policies that will improve the quality of the work environment in balance with accomplishing the organization's mission and operational goals. Based on understanding of the culture and needs of the organization and in partnership with employees, their representatives, and managers, designs worklife-based options that (1) accommodate employee needs without compromising individual responsibility for results and (2) contribute to enhancing organizational performance.

Understands Business Process

Approaches assigned HR program responsibilities with a broad perspective of the way business is done within the organization. Is able to translate budget and financial management issues to staff and customers in terms of their impact on HR related activities. Uses knowledge of interrelationships of HR activities with those of financial management, information management, facilities management, and general administration to develop solutions which are well coordinated and can be implemented on schedule and with minimal disruption.

Understands Clients/Organizational Culture

Researches unique characteristics such as goals, objectives, vision, values, norms, beliefs, and business philosophy of client organizations to ensure that assistance and consultations are appropriate to the situations. Maintains awareness of differing cultures based on the mission, skills, and backgrounds of various organizations. Provides service that is tailored to the requirements of the culture rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach.

Understands Public Service Environment

Keeps current on political and legislative activities which may affect the organization and/or the HR community. Prepares for the HR issues which impact legislative actions so that actions to implement changes can be accomplished quickly. Seeks to understand the intent as well as the letter of laws, orders, and regulations which result from the political process so that implementation is consistent with the intended outcomes of legal and policy changes.

Uses Consensus Building Skills

Enhances collaboration among individuals and groups by using consensus building skills. Objectively summarizes opposing points of view. Incorporates all points of view and assists in arriving at a consensual position or agreement. Reconciles disagreements with officials through reasoning and presentation of the facts. Uses differences of opinion to build alternative solutions to problems or concerns. Understands when and how to elevate issues to higher level line officials when actions being taken are inconsistent with legal or higher level policy requirements. Has courage to take a stand when an issue is considered important to the well-being of the organization's mission or reputation.

Uses Consultation and Negotiation Skills

Uses consensus building techniques to resolve conflict and obtain agreement on issues affecting customers with differing views. Understands who are the principal stakeholders and decision makers. Is sensitive to the need to bring all stakeholders on board and assure that their views are considered. Assures that end products do not compromise HRM principles or the goals of the organization.

Values, Promotes, and Manages Diversity

Understands the potential contributions that a diverse workforce can make to the success of the organization. Is aware of the potential impact of HR processes and assures that diversity needs are considered. Identifies and informs management of survey results and observed organizational practices that do not take full advantage of diversity inclusion in the organization's business.

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HR: A Business within a Business       Home           HR Strategy  & Planning

In the new millenium, HR departments need to view themselves as a key business component of the organization. HR should operate as a “business within a business” by developing and working from a well-designed business plan. HR needs to identify goals and objectives over the short and long term. They need to be able to monitor and measure their progress in achieving targets or goals. To justify activities necessary to hit the targets, they should maintain a Return on Investment (ROI) analysis that can be used to prove how planned tactical activities meet strategic requirements that translate directly to the organization’s bottom line.

Over the last several years, HR professionals have done a good job of positioning themselves away from an administrative role by focusing on playing a strategic role in the organization. A Human Resources Business Plan will help guide and focus HR's growth and development as a strategic partner and ensure their goals align with the organization’s overall business goals.

Operating as a business within a business may require some significant changes. Successful businesses recognize their core competencies and eliminate activities that distract them from being competitive. HR departments should evaluate their strengths and weaknesses as well and look for ways to be more competitive as a business. HR should look for ways that allow them to better serve their constituencies.Critical and non-critical functions that require a high level of expertise or a high level of tracking and reporting are good candidates for out-sourcing. 

Successful businesses operate in the present but look to the future. A successful HR organization will do the same. As a strategic business partner within the organization, HR professionals must be keenly aware of the organizations’ business objectives. HR professionals need to understand the nuances of the balance sheet and the basics of business realities. They should be able to answer the question, “What are we doing to prepare our workforce for the business goals the organization has set for the next quarter, the next year, and the next 5 years and beyond?”

The key to meeting business goals is to assemble the right individuals and teams with the right set of skills to perform business tasks, be they physical or cerebral. A failure to have the right people in place will result in both lost opportunities and lost revenue. Recruiting and retaining human capital is the number one key concern area of many CEO's in their quest to maintaining a competitive edge. HR professionals need to make sure the entire executive team understands that recruiting is key to the organization’s success, and all managers need to make recruiting new employees and retaining quality employees a priority.

It is interesting to note that despite the headlines on the constant career moves, employees prefer a two-way loyalty contract with their employer. While the compensation and benefits package was important, the top talent job seekers are equally interested in opportunities to contribute and develop. Job stability affords them the opportunity to build a foundation for home and family, and the opportunity to contribute to the long-term success of a company, a neighborhood, and a community.

The HR business plan should outline specific goals for recruiting and retention. Compensation and benefits programs should be reviewed regularly to ensure competitiveness. HR should work with managers to help them understand the importance of creating a culture for success where review, recognition, reward, and opportunity keep employees motivated. Technology solutions like workflow and employee/manager self-service should be employed to both enable and empower employees while removing an administrative burden from HR.

HR should create areas of influence throughout the organization where HR managers become an integral part of the various organizational teams. Areas of influence allow HR managers to tear down boundaries and become partners in developing strategies for the team. This interaction lends credibility to other HR initiatives, and to HR’s overall organizational strategies.

Recruiting, motivating, and retaining employees is critical, but equally important is developing employee skills to meet the changing demands of the future. Organizations will need to transform into learning centers. HR is in the driver’s seat when it comes to developing training programs to build competencies that ensure the organization maintains a competitive advantage. As well, HR should put into place a system to catalog skills and competencies as they are developed. This catalog helps HR quickly identify people with the right skills for dynamic, cross-functional teams. It also helps organizations stay competitive by identifying skills and competency gaps that need to be addressed through training or recruitment.

In the knowledge age, knowledge is the critical asset of the workforce, so HR should look for ways to manage knowledge. For some organizations, a codified database repository may be required. Other organizations will simply need to create directories of knowledge experts, then foster opportunities and incentive for those with knowledge to share with others. Knowledge management has quickly grown in popularity as organizations recognize the economies associated with the shared knowledge of best practices.

In the knowledge age, work will become much more collaborative. Traditional job descriptions will no longer apply as members of the workforce contribute in different ways on different teams. Teams will often be dispersed, meeting only via E-mail or videoconferencing. Employees may have multiple roles on multiple teams. HR needs to be prepared to help staff teams based on the skills required of team members and the team’s goals and objectives. Team-based compensation plans are also gaining favor, so HR will need a system to manage multiple compensation scenarios.


The new millenium brings many challenges and opportunities for the HR professional. A new focus will emerge for HR with an emphasis on developing human capital and managing organizational performance. HR people who are unwilling or unable to understand their organization's business needs will falter, and their constituents will suffer for it. Strategic HR professionals will:

Understand the core business objectives of their organization and the issues they face in reaching those objectives
Create and maintain a business plan that outlines specific activities and deliverables to get the organization prepared for its commitments
Monitor and measure HR's ROI to prove effectiveness
Create areas of influence throughout the organization to create a culture for success
Identify core competency and look for ways to add competitive advantage

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