What is a human resource (HR) professional? (with roles)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 8 September 2022

Published 7 December 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The comfort and well-being of people working in a company are essential for high productivity, which is why every business organisation needs a Human Resource (HR) department. HR professionals address the needs of a company's workforce. If you're considering a career in HR, it may be beneficial to learn more about the department's responsibilities to assess whether they align with your interests and professional goals. In this article, we answer 'what is an HR professional?' and discuss what they do, their roles, core duties and salaries.

Related: Essential HR skills

What is an HR professional?

You may have wondered in the past: 'what is an HR professional?' The human resources team is a group of people who work together to oversee activities that support an organisation's employees. HR professionals in this team communicate and interact with staff of all levels, ensuring their welfare and satisfaction as employees. For example, they may serve as an intermediary between two staff members to mediate a conflict. Their duties include monitoring hiring practices, providing benefit packages, organising training, and ensuring that employees obey internal and external work policies.

Education and degrees

  • A foundation year in Human Resource Management can help you get entry-level roles.

  • A bachelor's degree in Human Resource Management or other undergraduate courses like accounting, finance, marketing and information technology can equip you with the skills you need for mid-level, even higher-level roles.

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA) programmes can help you move into more advanced positions.

Related: Types of degrees and how they can influence your career

Duties and responsibilities of HR professionals

Knowing the responsibilities of HR professionals can help you decide if it's the best fit for you. Below are some duties and responsibilities of HR personnel:

Processing employee payroll

The HR department ensures that they pay employees for the hours they have worked. They can also calculate other related expenditures such as raises, expenses and taxes. They often make their task easier and more efficient by using HR software and may use payroll software to enable employees to review and access payroll information.

Oversee hiring processes

The human resources department works with the organisation's management to highlight the needs of the workforce. They jointly agree on which recruiting strategy to employ and the candidates they want to hire. For instance, they might look for specific qualities or experiences in candidates that help the organisation achieve its set goals.

Establish a productive and secure working environment

They comply with labour laws and regulations to ensure that they align the company's operation with workplace safety laws. They also ensure that employees follow workplace policies by implementing safety training and programmes and reporting and managing workplace injuries. The HR department also monitors and manages the relationships between staff in the workplace, including conflict resolution.

Developing organisational policies

The HR department helps establish and implement policies to ensure compliance with applicable labour laws, such as the Health and Safety at Work Act. These internal policies can highlight ethical practices, appropriate workplace behaviour, dress codes, attendance and time-tracking responsibilities. They can also publish company policies on internal websites or in employees' handbooks, allowing for easier access by employees.

Perform disciplinary actions

Besides developing workplace policies, the HR department enforces them by taking disciplinary actions when employees don't comply with the existing rules and regulations. They implement policies fairly across the organisation. The actions taken in different instances may vary, although the consequences for violations of specific policies are usually enforced in line with the employee handbook and other workplace materials.

Supporting employees' professional development

The HR department may work towards helping employees to achieve their professional goals. For instance, they can help further their education by assisting them with their tuition or reimbursement or connecting them with classes or training that could help them grow. Supporting employees' development can make them feel fulfilled at work because it shows that the company values their talent and wants to see them grow in their careers. The HR department may help arrange training programmes for its employees to develop necessary skills.

HR professionals' job titles and salaries

Salaries of HR professionals vary by role and years of experience. Below are some HR job titles, their primary duties and their average salaries:

1. HR administrator

National average salary: £22,440 per year

Primary duties: HR administrators organise and maintain personnel records of the company's staff. They prepare HR documents and help keep the internal HR database up-to-date. They may also create reports and presentations and assist the payroll department in providing relevant employee information.

Related: HR administrator: job description, duties, salary and tips

2. Recruiter

National average salary: £27,184 per year

Primary duties: HR recruiters create and implement recruiting schedules. They develop and track goals for recruiting and hiring processes. They also screen candidates to assess if they're a good fit for the job.

Related: What does a recruiter do? (With skills and duties)

3. HR advisor

National average salary: £30,876 per year

Primary duties: An HR advisor counsels the HR department (or the organisation at large) on their general plans and actions, and may act as consultants to improve HR processes. HR advisors can also help in mediating and resolving conflict within the company and encourage staff development.

Related: A guide to the role of HR advisor (with skills and FAQs)

4. HR business partner

National average salary: £45,292 per year

Primary duties: HR business partners generally help with developing and directing an organisation's HR schedules. They also ensure the alignment of HR operations with organisational objectives. They typically work with the organisation's senior leaders and regularly collaborate with the board of directors rather than the internal human resources department.

Related: How to become an HR business partner in five simple steps

5. HR manager

National average salary: £41,626 per year

Primary duties: HR managers examine training needs. For example, they may develop and implement training plans. They manage the HR team, ensuring that their operations comply with the regulations for employment. They also oversee disciplinary processes and formal grievances. An HR manager coordinates payroll processing, oversees the benefits administration and works to improve employees' wellbeing.

Related: What does an HR manager do? (Plus how to become one)

6. HR assistant

National average salary: £22,418 per year

Primary duties: HR assistants contribute to almost all operations in the HR department. Their jobs are typically administrative. They may assist HR managers in accomplishing HR-related tasks, ranging from documenting compensation and benefits information, grievances, absences, termination and performance reports.

Related: What is a HR assistant and what do they do? (With skills)

7. HR specialist

National average salary: £30,548 per year

Primary duties: HR specialists help assess candidates, determining which are the best fit for the organisation by reviewing CVs, conducting interviews and performing background checks. They may also help in orienting new employees. In some organisations, employers may also involve them in benefit distribution and employee retention.

Related: How to become a human resource specialist (with duties)

HR professional skills

Below are some of the most sought-after skills you can develop if you aim at a career in HR:

Mediation skills

Since one of your roles as an HR professional involves resolving conflicts, the ability to stand in as a mediator is a crucial skill. A good mediator is usually an excellent negotiator and can also empathise with all parties involved in a conflict. Empathy is the quality of identifying with or understanding another person's thoughts, feelings, or emotional state. Mediating skills could help you achieve a win-win outcome for conflicting parties.

Leadership skills

Being able to lead a team to achieve a common goal is an important skill for HR professionals. Good management minimises conflicts, increases employees' trust in the organisation and improves the workplace atmosphere, which can also lead to productivity gains. It also helps with onboarding new members of staff.

Related: How to improve soft skills in the workplace

Effective communication skills

The HR department serves as an intermediary between the employees and the company executives so good communication is essential. It could involve listening to messages or instructions from directors and conveying them appropriately to employees, or vice versa. Delivering a message can be through verbal or written means. Speaking or writing skills could help you in analysing and delivering the right message.

Related: Interpersonal communication: definition and examples

Talent management

An organisation's talent is one of its most valuable assets and it's managed and developed by the HR department. HR professionals have a primary duty to identify, acknowledge, manage, develop and foster talent in a company. Talent identification ability is most needed during the recruiting process. It might help them in choosing the right candidate that could move their company forward.

Willingness to learn and adapt

The ability to learn and adapt to new circumstances in a rapidly changing world is also essential. HR professionals are open to gaining new knowledge and skills at any point in their careers, while HR departments often look for new technologies and software that could improve their productivity. Examples of technologies that HR professionals may be proficient in include:

  • CRM: This platform helps in relationship management between staff in an organisation.

  • ATS: This helps to manage the recruitment process.

  • NPS and work climate tools: They help to gain feedback from employees and craft plans to improve satisfaction levels.

  • Asana and Trello: These tools help in time management.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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