Human Resources Glossary: The 6 Critical Functions

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From organizing employee orientations to setting pay structures, a human resources department touches every aspect of work life. There are six common disciplines within the field, but expect some overlap. If you work in a small company, you might find yourself doing a little bit of everything. At a larger company, you're more likely to work as a specialist. Discover which corner of this wide-ranging field suits you best by reading our human resources glossary.

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Human Resources Glossary: Who Does What?

  • Employment and Recruiting – HR professionals in this discipline work to find and place candidates into open positions at a company. Their first step: Coordinate with hiring managers to clarify each role and target the best candidates. Then, recruiters advertise job openings (using both traditional and digital channels), source candidates and perform initial screenings. HR recruiters measure their success by the number of jobs they fill and the time required to fill each position.
  • Training and Development – How do employees get up to speed, and then keep their skills sharp in a fast-changing business landscape? With a lot of help from the HR department. Training and development pros organize new employee orientations to help rookie hires transition smoothly into a company. They also create and deliver ongoing professional development and leadership training for employees throughout the organization.
  • Compensation and Benefits – These numbers-oriented professionals perform competitive pay analyses to help determine the pay rates across an organization. Comp and benefits specialists also negotiate group health insurance coverage rates and coordinate with retirement fund administrators. Also in their wheelhouse: any other benefits the company might offer, such as flexible spending accounts, child care and transportation subsidies.
  • Employee and Labor Relations – How can HR help strengthen the relationship between a company and its employees? Employee relations specialists tackle this challenge by measuring employee engagement and job satisfaction. They also help to negotiate and resolve workplace conflicts. In a unionized workplace, these duties may extend to negotiation of collective bargaining agreements and addressing formal grievances.
  • Safety – Is there a fire evacuation plan in place at your school or work? If so, thank your nearest HR safety and risk specialist. These professionals help provide a safe and secure work environment by delivering employee training, conducting safety inspections and drills, and maintaining records—often federally mandated—about injuries and fatalities. They might also coordinate with benefits specialists on worker's compensation claims.
  • Compliance – From the Civil Rights Act to the Fair Labor Standards Act and beyond, an HR department must be intimately familiar with all the laws that protect workers. Are new employees filling out their forms I-9 correctly? Are hiring managers asking questions during interviews that violate job candidates' rights? Violations of the law can cost a company dearly. A compliance specialist will work to make sure that her organization is playing by the book.

Any company's most valuable asset is its people. A top-notch HR department will help to create structure, accountability and consistency so that workers can perform at their best. Whether you're drawn to the analytical side of the HR discipline, or to the people-oriented roles, there's plenty of room in this important field. Take the next step and discover the HR training program that's right for you.

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