5 of the Most Important Functions of a Modern HR Department

5 of the Most Important Functions of a Modern HR Department


Human resources (HR) departments are a critical part of any company. HR representatives are responsible for recruiting and retaining the best talent, helping individuals develop that talent, and ensuring that the workplace remains a supportive, uplifting space.

The role of HR departments ranges from compliance with employment and labor laws to resolving conflicts between employees. When HR departments function effectively, they build a strong team that can achieve incredible feats. Without quality HR professionals, productivity can quickly wane and employee satisfaction can drop sharply. Below are five of the key responsibilities of an effective HR department.

Personal Involvement

employeeIn recent years, some people have criticized HR departments for losing their human perspective. Today’s business world is increasingly driven by data and metrics, as well as technological advances. As HR departments begin to automate some processes and collect data on a wide range of metrics, they need to maintain a focus on humanizing their work, which means developing personal relationships with employees.

HR departments function most effectively when employees feel comfortable bringing their concerns and problems to an HR professional. This level of comfort is built by taking the time to forge personal relationships with employees during the onboarding process and then continuing to check in on them throughout their time at the company. When HR professionals understand what motivates employees, they can begin to construct policies and create opportunities that appeal directly to those values.

Conflict Resolution

When left unaddressed, conflicts can destroy a company. Conflicts can occur between colleagues or between employees and their managers. HR departments must understand how to approach these different situations depending on the seriousness of allegations.

For example, if an employee experiences harassment, the conflict resolution process will look much different than a case dealing with a passive aggressive manager. HR professionals must respect relevant laws while working to avoid litigation and come to solution that satisfies all parties involved.

Excellent conflict resolution largely depends on personal relationships with people at the company. These personal relationships help HR professionals better understand how different people communicate, which is vital for getting to the root of conflict and understanding what is at stake for all parties involved.

Talent Development

To attract top talent to a company, HR professionals need to provide opportunities for career advancement and professional growth. Talent development programs can take many different forms, from sending employees to industry conferences to organizing formal mentorship programs at the company.

While the task of talent development does not fall completely on the shoulders of the HR department, the department is largely responsible for developing and formalizing these processes. HR professionals should look into various training and education opportunities and meet regularly with employees to ask what type of development they want.

By directly asking employees about their future career goals, HR departments can strengthen the company’s workforce while making individuals feel heard by the organization and fulfilled by their jobs. The primary partner in talent development is the executive team, who can help create a strategic development plan and ultimately assume mentor positions.

Hiring Policies

office workerThe HR department ultimately sets the strategy for attracting top talent to the organization and vetting potential hires. In the extremely competitive market for top talent, HR departments need to figure out how to cast a wide net by engaging potential hires through a variety of methods — from traditional job listings to cutting-edge recruitment through social networks like LinkedIn.

The HR department also needs to set policies about interviews, deciding who in the company needs to speak with each candidate, and determining whether a phone, video, or in-person conversation is most appropriate. The policies that an HR department sets typically encompass the first contact that potential hires have with the company, so individuals need to think hard about the sort of impression that they are creating. In this sense, the HR department also has a strong branding responsibility and must ensure that recruiting efforts reflect the values and motivations of the company.

Safety and Security

Although it is perhaps one of the lesser-recognized aspects of HR, safety and security is in fact one of the primary tasks of the department. The phrase “safety and security” refers to a number of different aspects of the office experience, from guaranteeing that civil and human rights are protected to ensuring that an adequate fire protocol has been developed.

In many ways, HR is responsible for enforcing accountability. If upper management decides to take risks with anything from personal safety to financial solvency, HR professionals do not police this decision, but they do hold the right people accountable when the authorities become involved.

Safety and security also involves less-tangible parts of the work experience, such as creating a healthy culture and ensuring that a process exists for reporting personal issues. This mandate loops back into the conflict management function. In terms of financial security, HR professionals are responsible for ensuring that people are adequately compensated for their work and that they receive their paychecks on time each pay period.


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