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9 different HR roles and job titles

HR departments are getting increasingly strategic to better support organizations' visions and goals. Here are the HR roles that can help carry out those strategies.

With the increasingly complicated business landscape and the explosion of people management technology, today's HR roles have become far more varied than those of yesteryear.

In today's organizations, there can be many different HR roles that help build and execute HR strategy, administer people data, support HR processes across the business and implement or support HR software systems, such as HR information systems (HRISes) and human capital management systems.

The modern, cloud-based HR systems of today offer a greater variety of processes across the employee lifecycle, including greater support of talent management and mobile HR technology. Newer features and functionality make automation, compliance, analytics and predictive capabilities possible to a greater extent than ever before.

Cloud HR technology systems have empowered HR, HRIS teams and IT professionals with the ability to configure, maintain, update and add new features without the need for outside consultants or expensive resources. The ease with which integrations can be built provides automation that can be delivered and maintained in-house.

As a result, traditional HR and IT roles are changing and evolving to support these new processes and systems. New hybrid roles are developing to support the less technical nature of systems and interweave with everyday HR. And yet, the nature of each organization means that these roles will vary from organization to organization in exactly what roles exist and how these roles are defined.

Newer HR roles involve managing people analytics, social collaboration and employee engagement efforts, and all roles are tied closely to technologies that support these functions.

What is human resources?

The HR department plays a number of roles in managing an organization's biggest asset: its workforce. The HR department is typically responsible for implementing employee lifecycle strategies as well as supporting the organization's growth and employee experience.

HR typically manages hiring, compliance, reporting and data management. The department also owns a number of administrative tasks, including employee orientation and benefits plans. HR plays a key role in managing employee satisfaction, employee safety and welfare, and the creation of training programs and career paths.

At some companies, HR is also responsible for payroll, but finance usually oversees it.

What are the seven functions of HR?

So, what exactly does HR do? The HR department is responsible for the following areas:

1. Recruiting and onboarding

Hiring the right candidates and giving them a high-quality onboarding experience is critical to building and retaining a highly productive workforce. HR oversees the recruiting team and ensures recruiting, offers and onboarding are conducted effectively.

2. Performance management

HR manages the performance management process that occurs annually, or more often in some organizations. Although managers and employees carry out the process, HR oversees it from launch to completion.

3. Rewards and recognition

Rewards and recognition for employees, such as bonuses, gifts or public recognition, can incentivize the workforce. HR manages these programs by validating reward issuing for the correct employees and ensuring rewards remain within defined budgets.

4. Development

Development encompasses training, career planning and mentoring. HR's role is to facilitate employee development activities, which may include procuring relevant training courses, rolling out job roles and libraries for career role matching, and matching employees with mentors and mentees.

5. Compliance

Compliance has many aspects and includes ensuring the company is legally compliant with all applicable laws and regulations as well as ensuring workforce compliance with company rules and regulations.

Compliance also includes taking care of grievances and discipline. Depending on the company, HR may also handle industrial relations and unions and confirm adherence to collective bargaining agreements and other union agreements.

6. Communication and feedback

Employee communication keeps the workforce engaged and informed. HR is responsible for both sending out company-wide communications and collecting workforce feedback.

7. Wellbeing

HR implements health and safety policies and investigates any rules and regulations breaches.

The right HR staff must be in place to properly oversee these areas. Let's take a look at some of these HR roles and how they might impact an organization like yours.

HR roles and responsibilities

The HR department requires several different roles to successfully deliver on the HR strategy and meet an organization's needs. As with any team, a leader and several levels of management oversee and direct the HR department's various functions and sub-functions.

In addition, the HR team typically includes various specialists who cover areas including compensation and benefits as well as training and development.


The chief human resources officer (CHRO) is the HR leader of an organization. The CHRO is responsible for development and execution of HR strategy and for aligning it with the overall goals and objectives of the organization. The CHRO creates the HR strategy and vision, communicates with the CEO and board of directors, and leads the HR department, including managing HR directors. They are responsible for ensuring that the HR strategy produces organizational growth. In more mature organizations, this means rolling out a core HR software system that can cover the basics, such as master data management, employee payment and self-service, while providing support for additional areas, such as career development activities, training, compliance, recruitment, onboarding and succession planning.

More than ever, technology plays a crucial role in the CHRO's strategy. Having an understanding of how technology can bridge the gap between strategy and execution is critical to the success of the organization's overall objectives.

2. HR director

HR directors tend to be responsible for executing on the vision and strategy of the CHRO, as well as having overall responsibility for running HR on a day-to-day basis. HR directors are responsible for planning and directing HR initiatives, leading the day-to-day HR operations, creating HR budgets and providing guidance on HR laws, practices and policies. HR directors also help resolve HR-related issues, update HR policies and procedures as necessary, and communicate HR goals and objectives to the department's managers.

Organizations with multiple business units may have multiple HR directors. HR directors can be located centrally and regionally and be responsible for different functions, such as recruiting or compensation and benefits. They understand the strategy and how to execute on it. They will hire staff for the HR team and direct their staff to build out processes and functions to support the execution of the strategy. HR directors are typically responsible for setting budgets and handling issues that require executive involvement.

3. HR manager

Human resources managers typically run the day-to-day operations of HR, as well as support the work of an HR director. HR managers are responsible for managing the department and the team of HR professionals as well as providing guidance on HR matters, ensuring HR activities and operations are executed according to the department standards and planning activities to carry out HR's objectives and strategy.

HR managers who focus on a specialist area such as training and development or recruiting also perform those specific duties. They provide guidance and oversight to their team and enable the execution of HR's vision and strategy.

4. HR specialist

Human resources specialists -- sometimes called HR professionals or HR operations -- perform the day-to-day operations of HR. This HR role is responsible for performing tasks specific to their area of specialty, such as managing the performance management process, launching compensation cycles, labor relations or HR report production. HR professionals are also responsible for responding to and managing grievances and disciplinary procedures, answering managers' and employees' questions, updating HRIS data and providing guidance on policies, procedures and processes. They will typically interact with HRIS roles more than other HR roles.

HR specialists can also be generalists -- i.e., they are responsible for all areas of HR -- or can take on specific areas, such as compensation and benefits (also known as total rewards), training and development, social collaboration, recruiting and onboarding, and employee engagement. This segregation is fairly common in larger organizations, and the titles or responsibilities of these HR roles can differ from company to company.

5. HR business partner

The HR business partner is the link between the centralized HR department and other company departments. The HR business partner communicates HR strategy; advises HR professionals, managers and employees; and collects feedback from their area's stakeholders. HR business partners also act as a change agent, help onboard leaders and secure buy-in for the HR strategy.

They act as ambassadors for the HR department and help roll out initiatives on a local level in addition to assisting local management and helping identify change champions and other supporters for enterprise-wide HR initiatives.

Typically, an HR business partner is assigned to a location, region, business unit or other section of the business.

6. People data analyst/data scientist

A relatively new role with many titles, the people data analyst (also known as data scientist, although this title is fast disappearing in HR) is responsible for managing people analytics in HR. They help define the analytics strategy, build metrics and interpret data to provide meaningful insights to senior HR leadership. This role is critical in helping HR make decisions based on the right data points, which can help HR develop new processes and practices.

7. HRIS director

The HRIS director typically owns the HR software system and drives the strategy for how it is used. The HRIS director is responsible for setting the HRIS strategy and roadmap as well as executing new HRIS projects and implementations. The HRIS director also manages the HRIS administrators who oversee the system and is responsible for employee data privacy and protection. The HRIS team is sometimes part of IT, not HR.

The HRIS director usually works in tandem with the CHRO or HR directors. This role is really focused on getting the best use out of the HRIS and continuously optimizing its features and functionality to support the processes of HR and the business. The HRIS director typically runs the HRIS team, which may be a subfunction of IT, HR or both.

8. HRIS administrator

The HRIS team might contain one or more HRIS administrators. This HR role is responsible for managing the day-to-day HRIS operations and focuses on administrative activities like tracking stalled workflows, ensuring data consistency and making updates. HRIS administrators often work with HR professionals, although, in some organizations, HR professionals will also be HRIS administrators as part of their role.

9. Business analyst

The role of business analyst usually focuses on analyzing the operations of the business and providing guidance to HR and the HRIS team. Business analysts are responsible for working with stakeholders to identify new requirements, analyzing and assessing new business requirements, and providing insights to HR and stakeholders. Their work will often influence the decisions made by either or both teams as to how to change or manage existing processes, both inside and outside of the HRIS.

An HR department manages and maintains an organization's workforce and ensures the company complies with various employment laws and regulations. In order to succeed, the department must include a wide range of skill sets, which these roles encompass.

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