An efficiently run human resources department can provide your organization with structure and the ability to meet business needs through managing your company's most valuable resources -- its employees. There are several HR disciplines, or areas, but HR practitioners in each discipline may perform more than one of the more than six essential functions. In small businesses without a dedicated HR department, it's possible to achieve the same level of efficiency and workforce management through outsourcing HR functions or joining a professional employer organization.
The success of recruiters and employment specialists generally is measured by the number of positions they fill and the time it takes to fill those positions. Recruiters who work in-house -- as opposed to companies that provide recruiting and staffing services -- play a key role in developing the employer's workforce. They advertise job postings, source candidates, screen applicants, conduct preliminary interviews and coordinate hiring efforts with managers responsible for making the final selection of candidates.
Workplace safety is an important factor. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers have an obligation to provide a safe working environment for employees. One of the main functions of HR is to support workplace safety training and maintain federally mandated logs for workplace injury and fatality reporting. In addition, HR safety and risk specialists often work closely with HR benefits specialists to manage the company's workers compensation issues.
In a unionized work environment, the employee and labor relations functions of HR may be combined and handled by one specialist or be entirely separate functions managed by two HR specialists with specific expertise in each area. Employee relations is the HR discipline concerned with strengthening the employer-employee relationship through measuring job satisfaction, employee engagement and resolving workplace conflict. Labor relations functions may include developing management response to union organizing campaigns, negotiating collective bargaining agreements and rendering interpretations of labor union contract issues.
Compensation and Benefits
Like employee and labor relations, the compensation and benefits functions of HR often can be handled by one HR specialist with dual expertise. On the compensation side, the HR functions include setting compensation structures and evaluating competitive pay practices. A comp and benefits specialist also may negotiate group health coverage rates with insurers and coordinate activities with the retirement savings fund administrator. Payroll can be a component of the compensation and benefits section of HR; however, in many cases, employers outsource such administrative functions as payroll.
Compliance with labor and employment laws is a critical HR function. Noncompliance can result in workplace complaints based on unfair employment practices, unsafe working conditions and general dissatisfaction with working conditions that can affect productivity and ultimately, profitability. HR staff must be aware of federal and state employment laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the National Labor Relations Act and many other rules and regulations.
Training and Development
Employers must provide employees with the tools necessary for their success which, in many cases, means giving new employees extensive orientation training to help them transition into a new organizational culture. Many HR departments also provide leadership training and professional development. Leadership training may be required of newly hired and promoted supervisors and managers on topics such as performance management and how to handle employee relations matters at the department level. Professional development opportunities are for employees looking for promotional opportunities or employees who want to achieve personal goals such as finishing a college degree. Programs such as tuition assistance and tuition reimbursement programs often are within the purview of the HR training and development area.