The choice of the career path to take in HR could be an intentional decision, or just a flow with the available job, and as decided by the company.
It’s good to mention the various fields under Human Resources Management:
Compensation and Benefits (C&B): This entails any function that has to do with employees’ pay and benefits. This could be in the form of salary, perquisites, insurance and remittances. Any spending a company does on the staff is initiated in HR, and on the C&B desk. C&B administers surveys within its purview.
HR Operations: This is the desk that handles the day-to-day transactions in the HR office. This desk attends to employees request on letters, complaints, medicals (for organization under HMO coverage), records, onboarding, and so on. Another name for this function is the HR Administration. There is no efficient HR department without this function.
Performance & Talent Management: This function ensures the company gets value for the hire, and also helps talents to get fulfillment on their job, by ensuring their career plans still fit within the organization. To attain this, there might be a need for job rotation, training, and frequent employee engagement survey. There is no terrible employee, if recruitment was done right. If HR & the Hiring Manager did a good job during the recruitment process, then, there should not be an under-performing employee in an organization. If an employee’s appraisal drops, the performance/talent manager is expected to check out the following: employee motivation and employee engagement.
The talent manager also ensures that at every point in the organization’s direction, there is a talent to execute organizational strategy. Hence, the need for forecasting and analyzing talents demand, supply and turnover.
Learning and Development: All forms of training identified for talents are directed to this desk. The L&D function sources for good training providers, and ensures the employees are trained to meet expectations on their jobs. On some jobs, some trainings are statutory; the L&D desk is to ensure all trainings are held, and attended by concerned staff. The L&D function also manages the training budget to achieve fairness. All talents deserve to be trained. Training or any learning activity in an organization could be a form of reward.
HR Business Partner: The partnering desk is the front office of the HR department. This desk works closely with line managers on their employees’ needs and concerns. The HR professionals on the partnering desk understand all job roles and requirements, including all business functions and organizational strategies. This is a very strategic function in the HR office.
Recruitment or Resourcing: This is a function that ensures the best hands are hired in an organization. The desk is expected to source for talents, and get them into the organization. Mostly, specialist are required on this desk. This is a reason most organizations outsource their recruitment function.
HR Manager/HR Director: These are leadership titles. The function at this level is to ensure the HR office is working fine. All the functions mentioned above are somewhat interconnected. It is the responsibility of the HR Director or Manager to ensure that the functions are carried out seamlessly, without a clash of activities. Examples are:
L&D works closely with C&B, when training is seen as a reward. L&D works closely with the talent manager, when training is required to set an employee on the desired career path. L&D works with the performance management team, when training is needed to support employee’s performance.
Following the aforementioned, do you choose to be a generalist or a specialist? A generalist is an HR officer that can perform all the functions mentioned above; while a specialist is an officer that has built competence in a chosen area, for example, specialist in Recruitment or C&B specialist.
A generalist usually works in an organization where most of the HR functions have been outsourced. In this case, all the generalist does, is to ensure the outsourced function is carried out as expected. Otherwise, you will find a generalist in small businesses, that cannot afford to employ a specialist for each function, or considering the staff strength, which might be too small to engage the services of specialists.
HR function specialists are usually found in HR consulting companies, or in large companies that do not outsource any of their functions (maybe engage in partial outsourcing).
The decision on which is better, a generalist or specialist, is up to you. What are your desires and career goals? The demand is high for both generalist and specialist roles. Who can be an HR Director/Manager? Both a generalist or a specialist can grow to become an HR Director/Manager, because more of managerial skills are required at the top.
A generalist or a specialist? The decision is yours! Better still, follow the tide, if you are confused.