Remarkable Human Resources (HR) employees are critical at every company. They handle all employee relations so you can focus on your side of the business.
Before we discuss more reasons why your company needs an impactful HR department and how you can go about building one, let's talk more about what human resources actually means.
What is Human Resources?
Human resources is the person or group of people at a company who manages all things related to its employees. This includes — but is not limited to — hiring, maintaining a budget, recruiting, managing benefits, ensuring employee satisfaction, implementing a company culture, and training new hires.
Based on this definition alone, you can see how it would be difficult to run your operation successfully without the assistance HR provides. That’s why even small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have HR departments with employees who oversee all management, engagement, and development between the company and its employees. HR departments exist to support you and your employees so you can continue doing your jobs successfully.
The work and responsibilities of a human resources employee will touch a large portion of your business every day. So what does that mean for you? Let's review some of the most common responsibilities these employees have so you can better understand the impact HR will have on your company.
Human Resources Responsibilities
- Handle employee relations
- Create an employment structure
- Manage employee job satisfaction
- Manage employee benefits
- Handle compensation
- Maintain the company business plan
- Handle new hire training
- Screen job candidates
- Create company culture standards
- Maintain a healthy work environment
- Handle necessary administrative work
Handle employee relations
HR handles the employee-to-employee relationships as well as the employee-to-company relationship. This means they work to develop positive interactions and treatment among all employees within your company so they feel good about coming to work, are committed to their jobs, and are invested in the growth of the business.
Whether it’s a personal matter or a work-related issue, human resources will handle all issues with care and keep the best interest of both your company and employee in mind.
Create an employment structure
Your HR department will handle your entire staffing plan — meaning they’ll identify the gaps in your current employee structure and fill them by acquiring new talent. They’re also in charge of firing any existing talent that isn’t meeting company standards. Your company’s HR team will ensure you have the right people to help you grow your business.
Manage employee job satisfaction
Once your employees have begun work, you’ll want to make sure they’re excited to come to the office every day and add value to your company — their excitement is directly related to their level of job satisfaction. If your employees are happy in their roles, feel as though they can grow at your company, and can change departments down the road if they choose to, they’re more likely to be productive team members. Your HR team ensures your employees really do feel satisfied in their roles and will work with them if they feel unhappy or unsatisfied at any point in time.
Manage employee benefits
Your HR department will handle the amount and type of employee benefits your company offers. Providing good employee benefits is critical to the success of your business because they’re proven to attract and retain talent and increase employee productivity. Benefits keep employees satisfied by giving them a variety of perks and making them feel secure in their roles.
HR manages all payroll and compensation work, including employee salaries, payment schedules, W2s, and all other tax-related paperwork. If an employee is offered a promotion — or awarded a bonus — HR will handle all changes in their regular payment schedules.
Maintain the company business plan
Your HR department will help you create, distribute, and maintain your company’s business plan — this serves as an overview of your company’s organizational structure. It covers your company’s philosophy and culture code, how you manage your employees, and how you’ll distribute your resources.
Handle new hire training
When an employee is hired, HR will often take them through the necessary training they need before diving into their everyday tasks. Whether one day or six weeks, new hire training is critical to making that person feel comfortable in their new role. It’s also a great way to set expectations early on and get them prepared so they can make an impact as quickly as possible.
Screen job candidates
In the beginning of the hiring process, you may be tasked with screening job candidates. In this initial screening, you have the opportunity to ask candidates about their previous roles, core qualifications, and salary expectations.
Keep in mind that as you evaluate each job candidate, they're also evaluating you. Presenting yourself — and your company — in a good light is crucial, especially considering that 67% of job seekers have had at least one negative experience in the hiring process, and more than half have declined an offer because of a poor experience.
Create company culture standards
HR is in charge of helping you create and maintain your company culture — this includes your philosophy, mission statement, and work environment. It also includes your company’s ethical standards, values, goals, and expectations. HR may implement programming, activities, check-ins, or events at your office so your employees can learn and develop a better understanding of the culture.
Maintain a healthy work environment
Your HR team will assist you in creating a healthy and safe work environment for all employees. Their role includes setting health and safety standards in the office, communicating these standards to all employees, and upholding them as the business grows. These standards should be written so they can reference them at any point in someone’s time at your company.
Handle necessary administrative work
A lot of your company’s administrative work is handled by HR. This includes paperwork related to federal and state tax laws, job applications, time-keeping and payroll information, and employee contracts.
How to Build an HR Department in 10 Steps
- Create a company-wide staffing plan
- Set an HR budget
- Make a payroll and administration system
- Write job descriptions
- Lay out a clear benefits plans
- Create an employee handbook
- Set safety procedures
- Collect administrative records
- Display necessary employment posters
- Create performance and feedback processes
We’ve put together a list of 10 steps — not listed in any specific order — you should take to build a successful HR department. Whether you begin working through this list with or without your company’s first (or first few) human resources employee(s), all 10 items on this list should be thoughtfully considered.
1. Create a company-wide staffing plan
Create a company-wide staffing plan so you can identify all positions you’ll need to fill with your new hires. This may also include moving current employees into new roles or even removing employees and/ or their roles entirely from the company.
2. Set an HR budget
You'll need a budget for your human resources department to cover the costs of building the department and hiring your HR team. The budget will also go to company-wide programming, and culture and team building activities HR may organize.
3. Make a payroll and compensation system
You’ll need to ensure you have payroll and compensation plans in place for all types and levels of employees. Your employees will want to know how, when, and the frequency in which they’re going to be paid the moment they receive their job offer. You’ll also need this information to determine salary ranges for all of your employees.
4. Write job descriptions
Job descriptions posted on your website and job sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor are how you’ll attract applicants. You’ll want to create job descriptions for all of the HR roles you need to hire for. Then, as you fill some of these HR openings, those new hires should be able to assist you in creating all other job descriptions for your growing company.
5. Lay out a clear benefits plans
A clear and thorough benefits plan is crucial for attracting and retaining talent. You’ll want to lay out all of the benefits you offer to your new hires so they can feel good about their decision to join your team as well as secure and supported in their roles.
6. Create an employee handbook
An employee handbook (whether print or digital) is a great way to set clear expectations from day one about workplace behavior, safety, health, and culture. Your handbook should include answers to all the questions your employees may have about these topics — and any others you see fit — as they go through training and begin work at your company.
7. Set safety procedures
Your employees are most likely in the office for approximately eight hours per day — meaning it needs to be a healthy and safe place for them to spend large amounts of time. If one of your employees ever felt unsafe or at risk of mental or physical harm at the office, it’d be very difficult to expect them to be productive.
To avoid this, you should set workplace health and safety standards, which you can include in your employee handbook. State your safety procedures for different types of personal altercations and procedures for emergencies and other potential unexpected or dangerous situations so everyone can handle them appropriately.
8. Collect administrative records
Although you may have an executive assistant who collects and organizes a lot of your company's administrative records, plenty of documentation should be collected, organized, and managed separately by your HR department. These items may include job applications, benefit plans, tax documents, and compensation and payroll details.
9. Display necessary employment posters
State and federal laws require companies and their HR teams to hang specific employment posters around their offices so they're visible to everyone who enters the space. Some of these required posters change over time, so be sure to keep up with the laws and requirements of your state and country.
10. Create performance and feedback processes
Employee success and satisfaction are major components of a prosperous company — without these two things, it’d be challenging to retain your best talent. In fact, companies that implement regular employee feedback have turnover rates that are 14.9% lower than companies who do not.
You’ll want to create company-wide performance and feedback processes to ensure everyone is held to a specific standard that you and your HR team set and maintain.
Employee performance evaluations ensure all employees are working up to their full potential. This time should also be spent making sure your employees are satisfied with their jobs, feel as though they can grow with your company, and enjoy being a member of your team.
What to Look For in an HR Candidate
Now that you have a better understanding of HR’s responsibilities and how you can start building your own department, let’s review some of the things you should identify in potential HR candidates, including education type and work experience.
Human Resources Candidate Education and Background
It’s no secret that many people often “fall” into the human resources field. By this I mean a lot of people who end up in the field don’t necessarily go into their undergraduate education thinking they want a career in HR. If this is the case for some of your HR applicants, there are a few indicators that you’ve found a great candidate despite their educational background.
- HR certifications, such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) certification or one of the various others offered by the HR Certification Institute.
- Great work ethic, personality, and ability to be strategic. It’s key to find a candidate that will represent your company well and has the adaptability to grow into their role. If you see promise, you might also provide this type of candidate with the opportunity to earn a certification and/or postgraduate education in the field as they begin work at your company.
If you’re considering slightly more experienced candidates for your HR department, here are some indicators to look for:
- Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management, Business Administration, or a closely related field.
- Master’s degree in Human Resources or Human Resources and Employee Relations (HRER), or a closely related field such as Business Administration.
- Prior HR experience, whether it’s an internship or job(s) at another company.
Roles in Your Human Resources Department
Now that we’ve covered general requirements and characteristics that you should consider looking for in your HR candidates, let’s dive into some of the actual roles you’ll need to fill within the department.
We’ll start with your HR department structure. Depending on the size of your company, you may or may not need all of these positions and levels in your own HR department. Another important thing to note is that the titles of these roles and the level in which they’re placed also vary based on the company, but this diagram will provide you with a general idea of an HR department structure.
So what do HR employees in these roles actually do? And what are the differences between each position? We’ll cover the answers to these questions below.
Entry-Level Human Resources Roles
Entry-level HR jobs are fit for people in school, have recently graduated, or are entering the field for the first time. Their roles may include assistants and HR interns, specialists, generalists, or recruiters.
HR Assistant/ Intern
HR assistants and HR interns are typically in charge of the administrative work — such as organizing paperwork, completing the employer portions of new hire information, and other work their higher-ups ask of them — that needs to be done so everyone else in the department can remain productive and focus on more complex tasks.
HR specialists focus on one specific department or discipline within human resources. These specialties include HR development, HR management, and organizational development. Their goal is to become an expert in their chosen specialty. For example, a benefits specialist would be required to know and understand the intimate details of a company’s benefits plan and be able to explain that information to new hires and current employees.
HR generalists have knowledge that covers multiple different areas of the department and its needs. People in this type of role will work on the more typical tasks you may think of regarding HR, such as compensation, employee relations, and workplace environment.
The sole job of a recruiter is to bring in impressive talent for the company. They find new people to fill the gaps in the company’s staffing plan so the business can continue to grow and remain as productive as possible.
Mid-Level Human Resources Roles
As those in HR work their way up the ranks and acquire more experience, they’ll likely move into a mid-level HR role. Examples of these jobs include advanced specialists, HR managers, and senior recruiters.
An advanced specialist is typically someone who was promoted from an HR specialist role. Their work might include developing job descriptions for specific, technical roles within their specialty and training entry-level specialists in their chosen discipline. Advanced specialists serve as a company’s high-level experts regarding their specific topic within HR.
An HR manager might oversee a group of entry or even mid-level HR employees. They'll typically handle more of the complex HR tasks such as creating and managing company-wide policies, values, and culture.
Senior recruiters function as your very own staffing service. They may oversee a team of entry-level recruiters who work to identify ideal candidates for open positions at your company. Senior recruiters may work for your company, or you might hire them as a third-party service depending on your budget and resources.
High-Level Human Resources Roles
If someone ends up staying in the HR field for most of their career, they may move into a high-level position at your company. These roles may include an HR consultant, HR director, recruiting manager, or vice president of HR chief of human resources officer (CHRO).
An HR consultant typically oversees all HR administrative work and makes sure you're meeting all company, state, and federal policies and laws. They can be subject matter experts on a particular HR-related policy. People in this role may be hired as third-party help depending on your budget and resources.
If an HR manager is promoted, that person might move into an HR Director role. In most SMBs, the HR Director typically oversees all departmental activities and reports directly to the CEO.
Recruiting managers oversee your company’s recruiting teams. They sign off on your staffing plan and ensure all of your role gaps are filled and talent needs are met.
Vice President of HR or Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)
In a larger company, you may have a vice president of human resources or a chief human resources officer. This person reports directly to the CEO, oversees the entire HR operation, and creates overarching department goals.
Back To You
Having a fantastic human resources team is essential to the success of your business. Your HR department will manage your employee relations, hiring, training, career development, benefits, and company culture. Without HR, your employees simply wouldn’t be able to do their jobs. Start by thinking about the number and type of HR employees you'll need and start building your department so your company can continue growing.