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Human Resource Roles Explained

Just like any profession, HR has numerous roles which require differing skill-sets and mindsets. Essentially HR roles can be split into one of two groups, generalists and specialists, let’s take a look at each and the different kind of job titles associated with each of the two groups.

HR Generalists

HR Generalists form the largest group of HR Professionals and are the front line of your HR team. HR Generalists will typically be assigned to case management-specific divisions of the business, having close contact with managers and the executive within their specific division. For example, as an HR Generalist, you might be responsible for the manufacturing division, or the shared services division, etc. As the title suggests, HR Generalists have a wide range of knowledge and would be expected to participate in any HR related projects, concerns, or initiatives in their division. Examples of this might include performance reviews, health, and safety, change management/restructuring, recruitment, policy, and employment contract interpretation.

Titles within the generalist area include:

HR Consultant
Senior HR Consultant
Manager HR

HR Specialists

HR Specialists are the back-end of your HR team, they have deep knowledge of their specific area of expertise. Work is often passed through to the specialists from the generalists, in addition to the set roles that they have. For example, I was a Remuneration Specialist (if you’re interested in remuneration I cover this in more detail in this post about remuneration), and often my colleagues in the Generalist area would email me with roles that their division wanted sized, or if individuals had concerns about their remuneration I would be put in contact with them to discuss those concerns. In addition to these duties, I was responsible for the remuneration review and incentive payment calculation, which were annual projects that I worked on with the generalists. The titles within the specialist area can vary greatly from organization to organization, however, the following areas are common areas of HR specialization:

Recruitment
Learning & Development/Training
Remuneration
Change Management
Organizational Development
Workplace Health & Safety
Workforce Planning
Industrial Relations/Employment Relations
HR Data
Payroll

Often people will gain experience in a generalist role, and move into a specialized area that interests them. It should be noted that generalists and specialists are both highly valued members of the HR team, for example, Employment Relations Specialists isn’t ‘better’ than an equally experienced Generalist. However, often specialists because of supply and demand can gain an increased salary for the same number of years of experience as a generalist. For example, the kind of salary I enjoyed as a Remuneration specialist, would have required perhaps twice the experience (measured in years) as a generalist to gain. There is a cost to being a specialist, the vast majority of HR Managers (those who lead the HR function overall for the organization) are typically recruited from the generalist ranks – the exception to this is Employment Relations specialists who are often promoted to lead the HR function overall. Again this is just my experience.

By Brendan Lys

Operating at the intersection of Human Resources and Data Science, I leverage extensive specialist experience within Human Resources, with the methodologies and approaches of Data Science. This focus on the discovery of actionable insights from data, has been applied to areas such as: remuneration & benefits, workforce planning, recruitment, health & safety, diversity, and training. But what does the application of data science to HR challenges and opportunities actually look like. Within an HR framework the data we work with typically comes directly from our HRMIS, an advantage of using data science methodologies is that we can bring in additional data either held within the organization or from external sources - data which is out of reach from a pure HR analytics approach. Consider for example position descriptions, these contain a wealth of data that we typically ignore as its not in a analysis ready format. A side project I'm working on currently (April 2019) is using text mining on job descriptions to provide insights into which job family the position may fit into. The insights of my work have been enjoyed by organizations across a diversity of sectors including: Government (Australia and New Zealand), ASX and NZX listed companies, utilities, not for profit and higher education.

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