HR is an acronym for human resources, that element within a company which deals with the human aspects/needs of workers. Many companies have an HR department, which may provide a broad range of services to its employees. Some who work in HR are considered part of the department, but many people outside of such a department may have something to do with not just the financial aspects of work, but also “the human element” of employing workers.
For instance, even though technically not part of an HR department, a supervisor or manager may be responsible for hiring or firing workers, writing employee reviews, giving day to day feedback on work, and encouraging and supporting workers. This is all potentially human resource work. Yet in large companies, a large human resources department may not have much day-to-day contact with the same employees. So managers or supervisors do part of the work involved in human resources, and members of the HR administration may oversee their work. In small companies with only a couple of employees, no formal human resources department exists, and managers or owners handle all the duties of such a department.
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Some standard responsibilities of a human resources department include the following:
- Securing, offering and explaining benefits, like health insurance or 401ks.
- Managing on-the-job health and safety issues.
- Offering information or advice on special work programs, like reimbursement for continuing education or smoking cessation programs.
- Advertising available jobs, screening applicants, setting up interviews and potentially hiring applicants.
- Handling all paperwork related to the hiring or firing of employees.
- Distributing paychecks and bonuses (though paycheck disbursement may be outsourced to another company).
- Helping workers apply for family leave, maternity leaves, sabbaticals or disability payments.
- Possibly participating in motivational company wide events.
- Approving performance reviews and assessing raises or promotions.
- Handling complaints about employer abuses, sexual harassment, discrimination or hostile work environment charges.
It is often a critique that large companies, and sometimes even small ones lack a sense of humanity in regards to caring for their workers. Though HR departments do get pressured by those in finance departments to keep their costs low, most of its workers are keenly interested in helping to see to employee needs and encouraging workers to do their best. If you work in a relatively large and “impersonal” company, it can be a great thing to get to know the folks in your human resources department.
In a way, HR department employees may already know you better than you think. If you’ve worked for a company for a long time, Chances are human resource employees already knows when you had your children, if you had to take leave because your mom was sick, how well you’ve performed in the company, and when you’ve participated on teams. Workers often make the mistake of thinking that the HR department is in itself impersonal, but most of its employees would beg to differ.
They really are working not only for the employer but the employees. Knowing these folks by name personalizes your relationship with people who already know a considerable amount about you. When you’re starting work at a new company, seeking the counsel and advice of human resource departments is also an excellent plan, as again, these people may know you more intimately than anyone else you work with.