There comes a time in every student’s life when they have to step out of the classroom and put into practice what they have learnt. All those years of sleepless nights in a last minute attempt to cram for the following day’s examinations, cold early morning classes, and the countless assignments and research papers finally culminate to an employment opportunity. It is akin to a rite of passage of some sort, where individuals transition from being mere students to active contributors to the economy.
However, this transition is not always a smooth sail. Most professionals become disillusioned after finding employment, when they realize that what they had imagined as students is not exactly what they find in the job market. That dream of a well paying job in a big company, which comes with a corner office in a sky scraper, and a posh company car, in most cases remains to be exactly that- a dream!
This situation can, however, be avoided. It is the duty of seasoned professionals to educate and sensitize ‘green’ students on matters relating to the job market and employment. In that respect, this paper seeks to sensitize and provide mentorship to junior professionals and students who would wish to make human resource their career of choice. This paper will address certain frequently asked questions such as:
- What changes have been witnessed in the HR field over the duration of the past decade?
- How does the Human Resource professional act as a strategic partner to senior leadership?
- What are main duties of the major areas of specialization such as Employee Development, and Employee Relations in the field of human resource?
- What is the difference between a human resource generalist and a human resource specialist? What are the different roles that they play?
In the past, the human resource department used to be referred to as the ‘personnel’ department. However, due to the paradigm shifts in the way in which companies view the human aspect of their employees, the department has steadily morphed throughout the course of the past ten years. The change has been necessitated by elements such as: amendments to employment laws, economic hardships, and improved working conditions in all the major industries. To this effect, the roles played by the average human resource professional have also had to change in order to keep up with the new demands of major industries (Ronald & Cooper, 2005).
Due to the widespread economic turbulence experienced by many developed countries in the past decade, the roles of the human resource personnel have also had to change accordingly. Apart from their previous role of performing simple and routine employment responsibilities, the modern human resource professional is also expected to perform other complex duties such as recruiting/ hiring, training, and developing employees (i.e., providing them with opportunities for career development.) in a safe and conducive working environment (Rothwell & Budscooter, 2012).
It is an obvious fact that human resource employees must be up to date on workforce recruitment procedures and the ever changing employment laws, but now they also have to track all the aspects of these processes, with great detail. From examining job application forms and conducting interviews, the modern human resource professional now also has to perform background security checks on job applicants and oversee employee wellness programs in its entirety.
Due to these changes, the top level managers are adopting a different perspective on how they view the value of their human resource departments. If for example, one were to ask a random group of present day human resource professionals what role they play in their companies, it is likely that they will receive as many different responses as there are members in the sample group. This is because human resource professionals have different responsibilities which adapt to the different needs of different organizations.
In most cases, the human resource officers work hand in hand with company leaders in decision making and strategy formulation (Jamieson et al, 2005). This has made them a valuable asset to various department heads and company leaders, thus becoming a strategic partner to senior leadership (Ronald, 2012).
In order to increase the efficiency of their human resource officers and departments in general, most organizations have incorporated certain specialty areas in the human resources field. These specialty areas include (Training and Development Specialists; they conduct and oversee training and development of employees.
These specialists collaborate with training managers and employee supervisors in order to improve the employees’ job skills through performance improvement programs, on the job training, and orientation sessions.), (Compensation and Benefits Managers; these are human resource officers who are responsible for developing, implementing, and overseeing a company’s rewards scheme in the form of salaries, commissions, bonuses, and insurance cover.), (Employment, Recruitment and Placement Specialist; they are charged with the duty of finding, recruiting, and placing employees.), (Human Resources Information Systems Analyst; the human resource officers in this field manage and make changes (where necessary) to human resource information systems.), and (Employee Assistance Plan Manager; is a human resource officer who develop and implement programs that ensure employee safety and maintain a reasonable work-life balance.).
Although both the human resource specialist and the human resource generalist perform seem to perform similar duties, their responsibilities totally different. The main difference between a human resource specialist and a human resource generalist is that, whereas a generalist may handle many or in some cases all the responsibilities of the human resource department, a specialist focuses only one area of human resource, e.g. recruitment or training, but not both. The other difference is that the generalists act in the capacity of an assistant to the generalists, while the generalist works in the capacity of a supervisor.
Human resource is a fulfilling and satisfying career. That said, it is however, not guaranteed to be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’. For college students who would wish to make human resource their career of choice, it is prudent that they consider factors such as current trends in human resource, future job demands, expected employment opportunities, educational qualifications, do they like working with other people, are they patient and accommodative with others, and of course there is the issue of compensation in the form of salaries and bonuses, i.e. how much do they expect to be paid by their employers? (Heathfield, 2013)
The best advice to college students, however, is that they follow their hearts and choose human resource as their career choice only if they are passionate about working with and training people. The salaries and job securities are worth nothing if they do not enjoy their work.
Heathfield, S. (2013). Human Resources Management and Employment Information and Advice. Human Resources Careers – How to Prepare for a Career in Human Resources. Web.
Jamieson, D., Eklund, S., & Meekin, B. (2005). The OD Center. Strategic Business Partner Role: Definition, Knowledge, Skills & Operating Tensions : The OD Center. Web.
Ronald, B. & Cooper, C. (2005). Reinventing Human Resources Management: Challenges And New Directions.
Ronald, K. (2012). Career Information and Job Search | CareerOverview.com. Human Resource Careers, Jobs and Training Information – CareerOverview.com. Web.
Rothwell, J. & Budscooter, R. (2012). The Encyclopedia of Human Resource Management, Volume III: Critical and Emerging Issues in Human Resource Management.