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Human resources is the name given to what used to be Personnel. It lies at the heart of an organisation, with human resources workers responsible for everything from recruitment, identifying future recruitment needs and staff development to the overall welfare of company personnel and practices relating to employee pay. They are also responsible for ensuring good relationships between management staff and their employees. As such, many companies’ human resources director is represented at board level because they are key to the organisation’s overall strategy.
Over the years, the role of human resources has changed markedly. In a chapter in the recently published book The Evolution of the Modern Workplace, David Guest and Alex Bryson describe how a growing number of workplaces have a personnel specialist in place and that an increasing proportion of these human resources workers have specialist qualifications. “Personnel management,” they write, “is becoming more embedded and more specialised.” They say that the evidence shows that, while most human resources workers are unlikely to bring innovation to an organisation and more likely to be associated with traditional work practices, some are now breaking free from this role and exercising greater autonomy, particularly in the bigger organisations.
The qualifications needed to be a human resources manager differ according to the nature and size of the company. Most employers want to see a good standard of education (GCSES and A Levels) and a willingness to work towards a relevant qualification, such as the Certificate in HR Administration or the Certificate in Personnel Practice from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Other relevant qualifications include a BTEC HNC/HND in human resource management, business management, or even psychology. Some graduates with a more general degree subject take a postgraduate qualification in human resources management which, whilst not essential, can help secure a human resources role in the larger organisation.
Work experience can, however, be just as important as qualifications when you are starting on a human resources career. Experience of office/administrative work through, for instance, temping, can be important as can evidence of leadership and being a good team player.
This can range from dealing with the whole recruitment process, from drafting contracts to arranging inductions to aiding managers with any problems they have with staff and dealing with disciplinaries and grievances. You may also be involved in redundancy, relocation or merger processes.
Human resources workers typically do a 37.5 hour week, Monday to Friday, although some roles may involve weekend or evening work. Part-time hours, job shares, and temporary contracts are often available, particularly in larger companies. Human resources roles are largely office-based, although at times the job may require travel, particularly if the company has bases in several places.