What is Human Resources (HR)? Duties and Responsibilities


Most of us have encountered an HR professional during a job interview or while working for a company. While we all know they are a critical corporate component, few people outside the profession know much about them. What exactly does Human Resources do besides hiring people and sending reminders about the next office party?

We’re glad you asked the question. Even if you didn’t, we’re pleased to let you in on the somewhat veiled world of the HR team.

Because, as it happens, these folks do quite a bit for companies and employees alike. Let’s dig into the real answers to the question, ‘What is Human Resources?’

What Is Human Resources?

The concept of human resources has existed for some time and began during the Industrial Revolution. Two British chaps, Robert Owen and Charles Babbage, hit upon the simple idea that people are essential to whether an organisation succeeds or fails. Owen and Babbage concluded that looking after workers’ well-being leads to a more productive and profitable business enterprise. That seems obvious, but the idea that workers deserved fair treatment during the Industrial Revolution was a bit revolutionary. Just ask Charles Dickens.

Fast-forward a few hundred years and human resource management has become vital for businesses of all sizes in every imaginable sector. Defining human resources, however, is a bit tricky. Traditionally, the HR department was mainly concerned with recruiting people. Now, the role has expanded drastically.

Human resources can be described as the strategic management of employees to enhance their performance and give the organisation a competitive edge. The role covers every facet of the employee experience for their duration with the organisation. From onboarding to providing ongoing support until a person leaves the company, HR is involved with every stage of the employee lifecycle.

HR & Compliance Courses

Our HR compliance courses help businesses ensure legal compliance and the well-being of employees. The courses cover various topics integral to modern workplaces, such as bribery, sexual harassment, diversity and inclusion, modern slavery, etc.

What Are the Key HR Responsibilities?

OK, we’ve established that the role covers everything from when employees apply for a position to when they leave the company. That’s still a bit vague, though. Let’s examine the individual HR responsibilities.


Chief among HR’s responsibilities is recruitment. Recruitment goes way beyond simply screening candidates. It starts with defining what type of person can fill a particular role and then sourcing a pool of potential employees. They then help vet the applicants, select the best candidates and take them through onboarding.

Administrative Duties

An HR team will typically manage payroll, change official policies and procedures, maintain employee records, generate reports, maintain databases, handle queries, organise and coordinate schedules, and ensure the company offers suitable benefits and compensation.

Regulatory Compliance

To be an HR whizz, you’ll need to be entirely up to date with labour law, health and safety legislation, and regulations. This is a vast area where mistakes can incur massive costs for a company or, at worst, cause someone to suffer severe harm or lose their life. The massive reasonability for ensuring a company meets its legal obligations often rests with this department.

Staff Training and Development

HR is also responsible for ensuring new hires know how to do their jobs correctly and that existing employees keep their skills sharp. These professionals must liaise with department experts to devise training materials and identify development opportunities and growth paths.

In addition to skills-based training, they must ensure employees receive all the health and safety training they need. This includes a wide range of diverse topics, like ensuring employees have the proper workstation setups or mental health awareness in the workplace.

Performance Management

How well your employees are performing determines how profitable your business is. The performance management aspect of the HR role focuses on identifying employee skills gaps and providing support to fill those gaps. HR must know which employees are struggling and which are destined for bigger things.

What Is Human Resources

Company Culture and Employee Engagement

Creating a solid company culture gives employees a sense of worth and belonging. This helps to drive employee engagement levels, increasing job satisfaction and boosting staff retention. Ensuring reasonable pay rates, setting out company values and keeping employees informed, motivated and engaged all fall within the realm of HR.

What Skills Do You Need to Work in Human Resources?

If all of these duties sound appealing, you might be suited to a career in Human Resources. Figures show that demand for HR professionals is rising in the UK. As a profession, it has grown 42% in the last decade. However, the career path to becoming an HR star isn’t always straightforward. Some people simply fill the role, while others dedicate their entire careers to the profession.

Firstly, you’ll need a good educational background to begin a career in this profession. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is essential, ideally in business or management. A social science degree can also be a good foundation for an HR career. You’ll also need to have some real-world industry experience under your belt  ̶  many HR specialists have performed various roles within the industry they work in. This gives them a broad understanding of employees’ needs.

In addition to a robust educational background and sound industry experience, HR professionals must have various soft skills. If you’re thinking about a career in this field, you’ll need:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills
  • Listening skills
  • Discretion
  • Good judgement
  • Patience
  • Conflict resolution skills
  • An analytical mindset
  • Time management skills
  • Emotional intelligence
  • A high level of organisational ability
  • An inclusive mindset

Where to Find Online Training for HR Professionals

HR experts must constantly stay updated with industry developments and changes to relevant laws and regulations.

Our HR Compliance Courses provide a comprehensive overview of essential topics for Human Resources professionals.

These courses will ensure you stay current with all employment laws, regulations and industry standards.

Whether you’re new to HR or an established expert, our Human Resources Compliance training provides invaluable knowledge.

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