What Does HR Do? 5 Frequently Asked Questions about HR

You are here:

What does HR do is an often-Googled question. Although the occasionally bad-tempered manager may tout out: “Nothing!”, the reality, fortunately, is different. In this article, we will answer the question “What does HR do”?

What’s in?
What does HR do?
What does the HR department do?
What does an HR director do?
What does an HR manager do?
What does an HR analyst do?
Wrapping up
FAQ


What does HR do?

Answering this question is difficult. In short: HR is the key enabler for the employee journey. The employee journey involves all the touchpoints of the employee in their work. This includes employer branding, selection, onboarding, performance management, learning & development, compensation and benefits, workplace safety, culture, and so on.

  • Employer branding. This involves the reputation of the employer as a place to work. Although there are similarities, the employer brand is different from the consumer brand.
  • Recruitment & selection. Recruitment & selection is about hiring the right people for the job. Different recruitment methods can be used, including (un)structured interviews, IQ tests, and reference checks. Based on the findings in this process, the best candidate for the job is selected.
  • Onboarding. Bringing people up to speed quickly is a key part of people management.
  • Performance management. People are evaluated and coached on their skills so that they perform optimally in their jobs.
  • Learning & development. New skills are learned, and existing skills are honed to do the job better.
  • Compensation & benefits. Compensation and benefits are (for a big part) the incentives for people’s work. Fair compensation and relevant benefits increase motivation and productivity.
  • Workplace safety & culture. Creating a culture that fits the work, leads to better safety practices, better performance, and higher engagement. This is another key role for HR.

In addition to this list, there are 12 key functions of Human Resources. In addition to these functions, there is also a set of 15 HR roles and the classical 7 HR Best Practices. The linked support articles will give you a great overview of these functions, roles, and practices.

15-Key-HR-Roles

Not all these are 100% HR’s responsibilities. Oftentimes, they are a shared responsibility between HR and the front-line managers. However, HR plays a key role in coaching and guiding the manager.

Still, for many of these responsibilities HR is in the driver seat. This means that it’s HR’s responsibility to create and execute an HR strategy. This HR strategy is based on the organizational strategy and states how HR can best add value to what the organization is doing. This HR strategy leads to strategic HR practices, which then, in turn, lead to HR outcomes and improved performance.

Standard-Causaul-Model-for-Human-Resources

To give an example: a company like Facebook a few years ago will have different HR policies than a company like Shell. For Shell, safety is important, while Facebook’s motto was for a long time to “move fast and break things”. These translate into very different HR policies. Where Facebook may select talent with a desire to innovate or disrupt, Shell will be more likely to hire engineers that are highly disciplined and risk-avoidant.

You can imagine how this fits into themes like learning & development as well. Shell will focus a lot on safety procedures and mandatory safety training. Facebook will focus more on multidisciplinary education that enables people to work together to create novel products and offerings.

What does the HR department do?

The answer to this question is similar to the one above. The only thing important to remember is that a lot of the things that HR does are done together with the manager. This is a so-called shared responsibility. The HR department thus cooperates with the manager to ensure that HR practices are done right.

What does an HR director do?

The HR director is tasked with translating the organizational strategy into an HR strategy. In addition, he/she is responsible for focusing the HR efforts on those areas of the business where they will have the biggest impact.

The HR director is very much involved in the strategic parts of the key areas of HR that we listed above. Other examples include:

  • Overseeing HR systems. HR systems, like the Human Resource Information System, or HRIS, are a vital part of the HR service delivery. Ensuring that these systems operate well and can report relevant data to HR and the rest of the business is key.
  • Ensuring compliance with the regulation. Alignment between HR and legal.
  • Designing training programs. Creating focus in the training programs that are offered is an important element in planning the future of the workforce. These programs are very much a strategic decision as they can help in shaping the workforce.
  • Developing compensation plans. Compensation plans have a similar function. Certain skills can be rewarded while others can – literally – be devalued. This can create an incentive to develop certain skills more.
  • Management of the HR team. The HR director also manages the HR team, including the HR managers and HR business partners.
  • Stakeholder management. A key responsibility of the HR director is managing a large array of stakeholders, both inside and outside the organization. Ultimately, collaborating with these stakeholders is the HR director’s responsibility, so he/she will be involved with labor unions, employee councils, the board of directors, the internal HR organization, and other groups.

Usually, the HR director is the most senior HR professional in large organizations. In smaller organizations, that role is filled by the HR manager.

Digital HR Certificate Program Future-Proof Your
HR Skill Set
Gain the skills to combine digital savviness, technology, and design thinking to lead the Digital Transformation of HR
Download Syllabus

What does an HR manager do?

The HR manager has a lot of responsibilities that are similar to the ones listed for the HR director. Themes like managing their internal team, stakeholder management, and specific responsibilities assigned to the manager are very much part of their portfolio.

In addition, the HR manager plays a key role in aligning with (senior) management in the organization. As one of the most important points of contact for line managers, the HR manager often sits in meetings where expectations are managed and new policies regarding recruitment, selection, compensation, and performance management are discussed.

In larger organizations, HR managers report to the HR director. In smaller organizations, the HR manager tends to be the most senior HR professional in the organization.

What does an HR analyst do?

The HR analyst focuses on the collection, analysis, and reporting of data. The analyst works with HR IT and the HRIS to create (ad-hoc) reports. For a full description of the HR analyst role, competencies required, and even salaries, check out our full article on the HR analyst.

AIHR-HR-analyst-job-competencies

Wrapping up

That’s it! In this article, we provided a brief description of what HR does, and how the HR manager, director, generalist, and analyst fit in there. For more information, check out the support articles and if you want to learn these skills yourself, visit the Academy to Innovate HR!

FAQ

What does HR do?

HR is the key enabler for the employee journey. This involves employer branding, selection, onboarding, performance management, L&D, comp and benefits, workplace safety, culture, and so on.

What does the HR department do?

The HR department cooperates with the manager to ensure that HR practices are done right.

What does an HR director do?

The HR director translates the organizational strategy into an HR strategy. They are also responsible for focusing the HR efforts on those areas of the business where they will have the biggest impact.

HR 2025
Competency Assessment

Do you have the competencies needed to remain relevant? Take the 5 minute assessment to find out!

Start Free Assessment
What does an HR manager do?

The HR manager has a lot of responsibilities that are similar to the ones listed for the HR director. Think of managing their internal team and stakeholder management for instance.

What does an HR analyst do?

The HR analyst focuses on the collection, analysis, and reporting of data. They work with HR IT and the HRIS to create (ad-hoc) reports.

Are you ready for the future of HR?

Learn modern and relevant HR skills, online

Browse courses Enroll now