HR, Redefined: The Role of Human Resources Today

BY -

Evelyn Duskey

November 5, 2020

What exactly is the role of HR today? The job description of the modern HR professional involves so much more than administrative tasks such as payroll and benefits (although still important — more on that later). Today’s most impactful HR teams partner with the C-suite to deliver value on both a strategic and operational level. And with the advent of coronavirus and the rapid transformation of the workforce in its wake, this new HR capability has been in high demand. According to Thrive Global’s survey of 5,000 Americans, nearly 90% say workplaces need to do more than implement work-from-home policies to address the challenges faced by a pandemic-stricken world and its workers.

As the former CEO of GE Jack Welch wrote, “HR should be every company’s killer app. What could possibly be more important than who gets hired, developed, promoted, or moved out?” Whether you’re putting together your HR team for the first time, revamping your current program, or considering a career in the field, it’s important to consider both the basic responsibilities and exciting potential impact of human resource management today. 


Female HR professionals discussing a candidate

Traditional HR Responsibilities:

Even while the tectonic plates of our professional landscape shift beneath our feet with the weight of political turmoil and the continued Covid pandemic, business must go on as usual. For that to happen, there are certain integral responsibilities of HR that won’t be going away anytime soon. 

  • Overseeing Hiring: While plenty of organizations continue to utilize third-party recruiters, more and more organizations are opting to take the hiring process internal. In addition to running background checks and other business administration-related hiring tasks, HR departments that are integrated with internal recruitment teams are uniquely equipped to better align hiring decisions with overall company goals. 
  • Managing Payroll: A promptly paid employee is a happy employee. HR teams ensure that everyone is paid equitably, accurately and on time, as well as making sure that personal payroll information is easily accessible for employees. An easy way to accomplish this for HR teams is by using an onroll payroll system or software. 
  • Determining Benefits: While payroll is obviously an integral HR responsibility, employees choose to work for an organization based on more than just salary alone. In fact, according to Glassdoor, nearly four in five (79%) of employees would prefer new or additional employee benefits instead of a pay increase. Because of this, human resources is usually tasked with benefits administration, crafting the best possible package to retain top talent. The most important benefits include extra holidays, a continued education or training budget, extra paternity/maternity leave, childcare, and — perhaps most importantly — healthcare. HR departments should take negotiating these benefits seriously as they may just make or break their next round of hires, and have a direct impact on employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention.
  • Employee Onboarding: In a study by the Aberdeen Group, 65 percent of those surveyed stated that HR owns the onboarding process. From providing basic information for new employees — such as company policies, benefits, and payroll — to introducing company culture and conducting employee training programs, HR plays a critical role in the success of onboarding. While we highly recommend that organizations get both team leaders and upper management to buy into the onboarding process, it is vital that HR has a comprehensive onboarding strategy in place that creates a positive first impression with new employees and sets the tone for future labor relations. 
  • Ethical Monitoring: Employees need a safe place to turn when it comes to voicing their issues, from sexual harassment to unsafe work environments. But in addition to providing support and responding to situations accordingly, today’s HR departments hold the responsibility of collecting and safeguarding their employees’ private data. With cybersecurity threats on the rise, data protection will only become more important to the role in coming years. In addition, human resources remains the main monitor of leadership regarding ethical behavior. Failure on any of these fronts can be a substantial, costly, and demoralizing blow to an organization. 

Next Generation HR Responsibilities:

As our way of working rapidly evolves, so does the role of today’s human resources department. From the accelerated globalization of labor to generational shifts in workplace expectations, organizations are faced daily with new challenges that require them to constantly reformulate the way they seek, hire, and manage their top talent. To overcome these challenges, they require HR departments that help leadership anticipate and navigate these shifts.

This strategic way of thinking about HR is becoming more and more common, and its related roles and responsibilities have often been labeled “next generation” HR. As these departments transform and expand, careers in HR are moving away from ambiguous titles such as HR generalist and Human Resources Manager to HR specialists such as HR Admin, PeopleOps, Chief People Officer, and HR Data Analyst. 


HR analyst reviewing human resource data charts


Here are a few of the new HR functions these positions help spearhead in modern organizations:

  • Understanding People Data: As previously mentioned, organizations today collect massive amounts of data about their talent pools, applicants, and eventual employees. A skilled HR data analyst can conduct deep dives of this information and reveal valuable insights regarding what types of educational or skill background is best suited for certain roles, what factors play into employee satisfaction and retention, and more. 
  • Building diversity: High on the list of priorities for human resources management today is building an inclusive culture. Not only does leveraging the unique skill sets of employees from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences make an organization stronger, it’s a serious sticking point for potential new hires. According to Glassdoor, more than two-thirds of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when considering employment opportunities. 
  • Improving performance management: One of the most important factors for employee relations at an organization is whether employees feel recognized for their work. While hiring managers are usually responsible for the administration of performance appraisals, a Chief People Officer is perfectly positioned to take an eagle eye view of performance management as a whole, looking for ways to enhance the existing strategy so that all employees understand how they can contribute to an organization and how those contributions will be rewarded. 
  • Boosting employees engagement: Speaking to the growing realization that an organization’s people are their competitive advantage, PeopleOperations is a relatively new HR leadership role created to focus exclusively on the engagement and development of employees as individuals, via education, training and development programs, and more. By making employees present, engaged, and proud of what they do, a dedicated PeopleOps person/team fosters higher productivity and employee retention. 
  • Enhancing leadership: As an organization grows, leaders will often need additional guidance from HR,  from succession planning to the further enrichment of their own management skills. Human resource managers should be in the loop across the organization, helping spot potential short-staffing ahead of time and actively seeking workshops and training to offer managers. 

Support Your HR Team:

Whatever responsibilities your organization includes under the umbrella of HR, there are a variety of software solutions that can help them perform them more effectively. From administrative tasks like background checks,payroll, and benefits, to more strategic roles such as talent management and performance appraisal, there are a multitude of platforms to support your HR department. Discover just a few of our top rated software offerings.

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