The roles and responsibilities of HR managers and directors

The roles and responsibilities of HR managers or directors

Although small business owners often tackle HR-related tasks themselves, as the business grows, hiring a full-time HR professional becomes a necessity, and is usually done around the time a business reaches 40 employees.

Bigger companies have an HR department where a few people work together, and in this case, an human resources manager or a director oversees their work and develops the company’s recruitment and organizational strategies. But what does a human resources director do? What does a human resources manager do?

In order to understand the human resources manager and director roles, we first need to put HR in context. In simple terms, the HR department manages the employee lifecycle. This features hiring new employees, onboarding and training them, managing the employee-employer relationship (including compensation, benefits, and promotions), and firing or laying off employees. 

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The distinction between HR managers or HR directors is not clear-cut, and you’ll notice that the two terms often overlap and are used interchangeably. There are some nuances, though: 

  • What does a human resources manager do? HR managers have a more hands-on role and are responsible for the day-to-day planning and execution of the high-level strategies of the HR department, plan and develop new recruitment strategies, oversee staff benefits, and more. 
  • What does a human resources director do?HR directors create the global recruitment strategy for the organization, make sure its policies and programs comply with labor laws and regulations, and build a company culture that’s in line with the organization’s values and objectives. 

In the current article, we’ll discuss both roles, and point out some key differences. 

What does a human resources director do vs. what human resources managers do?

Depending on the company’s size and type, HR managers and directors might have different roles or responsibilities, or they might be very similar. Bigger companies might employ an HR director who oversees the work of the whole HR department and the different people who work in it, such as HR managers, generalists, or recruiters.

What does a human resources manager do?

Alternatively, some companies might simply have an HR manager and a few other HR professionals who work with them. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects human resources managers’ employment to grow by 6% until 2029, which is higher than the average employment growth for all occupations (4%). Besides that, remote work arrangements pose new challenges to companies, both legal and organizational, and HR professionals help them adapt to this and solve them. 

What does a human resources director do?

Let’s now look into the specific responsibilities of HR managers and directors. 

Recruit and hire new employees

The recruitment process is the cornerstone of the duties of all HR professionals. It’s fairly complex and has multiple steps. To hire a new person, HR managers typically need to

  • Write and post a job ad
  • Review resumés 
  • Pre-screen candidates
  • Administer skills tests
  • Interview applicants
  • Discuss benefits and compensation
  • Make a hiring decision 
  • Make an employment offer

After that, they need to ensure a smooth onboarding process and coordinate additional training with the employee’s supervisor and the training manager. This takes us to the next point: 

Manage training and development initiatives 

HR managers need to be able to quickly recognize employees’ talent and potential so that they can provide adequate training to help workers develop their skills. This is beneficial for everyone: the company can define their exact needs and train employees in specific methods they’d like to use, and employees feel more engaged and more motivated to succeed, as they see that their talents are recognized and valued.

In fact, workers who have opportunities to use their skills and abilities see this as a key element in their engagement with the company, according to a research report by SHRM. HR managers and directors develop and oversee long-term training initiatives and programs, although they don’t usually administer training sessions—in many cases, the training and development manager is the person who will do that. 

Keep track of employee performance

HR managers work with managers from different levels to track and analyze employee performance and be able to provide feedback and guidance to the employee. Goals and objectives—both long- and short-term ones—need to be clear and transparent, just as the criteria for their successful completion; otherwise, HR managers might fall prey to unconscious bias. 

Ongoing performance management efforts are much more effective than yearly reviews, according to 89% of HR professionals. They need to create and implement an ongoing evaluation framework and be able to interpret performance trends correctly. 

Human resource managers also manage and oversee promotions and the distribution of bonuses, in coordination with team and department managers. 

Manage and improve communication

A key element of HR managers’ responsibility is to facilitate and moderate the employee-employer relationship. This is necessary in order to make sure that the company’s leadership is able to effectively communicate goals and requirements, and that employees have good conditions to perform well, be creative, and work towards achieving the company’s objectives.

HR managers also need to help guarantee that communication within (and between) different teams and departments is smooth and work to identify and resolve potential conflicts. Human resources directors oversee general trends, identify areas of improvement, and develop comprehensive long-term strategies for better communication.

Manage organizational and company culture

Managing organizational and company culture is the responsibility of both HR managers and HR directors, and it’s crucial for the successful functioning of each organization.

Company culture is the set of attitudes, values, and goals that are shared among employees and managers. It gives employees a sense of belonging and fulfillment and helps everyone work toward goals together.

While HR directors are responsible for developing the high-level company culture strategy, HR managers need to bring it to life and make sure its principles are applied. 

Create a safe and inclusive work environment

HR managers and directors need to guarantee both the physical and psychological safety of employees. They need to be able to identify and address any potential issues related to employees’ safety before they turn into problems. 

In addition to that, they work to guarantee the fair treatment of all employees at all times and make sure that everyone has equal access to opportunities, information, and guidance. A truly inclusive work environment promotes workers’ satisfaction and happiness, boosts companies’ performance, and helps them retain top talent.

HR professionals play a key role in creating an inclusive workplace, and in eliminating disparate impact practices and disparate treatment. They need to establish transparent procedures for hiring, promoting, or laying off employees, and to educate both the company’s leadership and its employees on the importance of inclusion and diversity—which aren’t the same thing, although they’re often lumped together. 

HR managers who ask employees for feedback on whether everyone is treated fairly and on whether they feel heard and accepted might discover that this isn’t always the case—and they have the unique position of being able to remediate this.

Oversee and manage benefits and compensation

HR managers and directors are responsible for overseeing and managing employees’ benefits and compensation and creating a comprehensive benefits program for both voluntary and mandated benefits. Benefits can include health and dental insurance, a retirement plan, stock options, paid leave, parental leave, and others, and they are an important tool in attracting and retaining skilled workers.

Achieving the right balance between limiting operational costs and creating a stimulating work environment in order to be able to retain top talent and provide competitive compensation and benefits is complicated—and HR directors need to navigate it successfully in order to help their company thrive. 

Handle conflicts, disciplinary actions, and terminations

HR managers handle conflicts within the company in order to resolve and deescalate them and take action whenever necessary. For this, they need to know the legal aspects of handling workplace disputes and terminations and be able to apply best practices and resolve difficult situations without disrupting the day-to-day operations and functioning of the company. 

How is the role of the HR manager changing?

Remote hiring isn’t new, of course, but in 2020 it became a necessity for many companies across different industries, and the role of the HR department in navigating the complexity of remote work is crucial. In the past year, remote recruitment has changed the work of HR managers and directors in different ways. 

Navigating remote hiring and its challenges

HR managers now need to interview and select candidates remotely and ensure a smooth onboarding process. Employee engagement when working from home—and especially for employees who have never worked from the company’s offices and seen their teammates face-to-face—requires leadership and commitment, and doesn’t end with having a Slack channel for off-topic discussions.

Managing team dynamics from afar is complicated, and HR managers need to assist team and department managers with that, in order to guarantee that team members can work together well, and be efficient in achieving their common goals.

Providing the necessary IT infrastructure for remote work 

HR managers and directors also need to make sure, in coordination with the IT department, that the company is able to provide the necessary infrastructure to new and existing employees, both in terms of hardware and software. Of course, it’s not the HR manager’s responsibility to tackle tech issues—but they need to guarantee that employees have the right conditions to work well. 

Adapting to new trends and technologies

The pandemic also accelerated progress in terms of technology and applications used for recruitment: there are more and more software apps that facilitate remote hiring, from video conferencing programs to skills tests platforms. While many apps have an intuitive UI that’s easy to navigate, the real challenge comes when different tools need to be integrated and synced.

That’s why we offer integrations with Greenhouse and SmartRecruiters and other key HR technologies. AI-enabled technologies are a growing trend; while in 2019 only 10% of HR professionals regularly used AI tools to streamline hiring, according to John Bersin efficient, data-driven hiring is considered an urgent matter by 46% of companies.

Hiring talent from abroad 

Hiring talent globally is now technically possible but comes with its own set of legal challenges, which HR managers and directors need to navigate. Many companies settle for hiring employees in the country where they’re operating while outsourcing a part of their employees’ workload to independent third-party contractors. 

HR managers and directors are essential to organizational success

HR managers and directors have a key role in organizations: their responsibilities aren’t limited to creating and executing a recruitment strategy, but also include policy management, employee training and development, conflict resolution, company culture curation, and many more.

To create and define the overall talent management strategy and to guarantee equal treatment and opportunities for all workers, they need to work with the company’s leadership, and even take a leading role and educate whenever necessary.

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