Again…What Does HR Do Every Day?

From the outside HR people look very very busy, but nobody really knows what they do. I see a lot of forum questions from people asking themselves what does this department really do and what are they paid for since the results of their work are not that visible. They don’t produce anything concrete, but they never have time when you want to go meet them. They always schedule you for another day or ask you to send them an email. So what do they do? Is it that difficult to hire someone?
Well, in a lot of companies HR is actually undersized. They say the optimum ratio is 1 HR person to 100 employees, but sometimes due to extensive local bureaucracy that is not enough. You can’t really see what HR people do because they have so many things to do that they have no time to presents reports of their work to the people. Here are just a few ideas of what HR does in each area. Most of the times there is one specialist covering more than one area which makes it really difficult, challenging and necessary for them to be always open to specialize in something new.
Recruitment people – discuss job openings with managers, post ads, read hundreds of CVs (don’t imagine it’s that easy – to hire one good professional sometimes you have to go through hundreds of worthless CVs that waste your time), schedule interviews, make phone interviews, test candidate skills (sometimes HR people need to speak 2-3 languages to be able to test them by themselves – help from outside is not always available and they have to manage), participate in face to face interviews (which drain all your energy by the end of the day), make presentations, promote the company, participate in job events, prepare tons of recruiting reports, answer hundreds of silly questions from candidates etc. etc.;
Payroll people – spend their time entering employee data into the payroll system: new joiners, contract changes, leavers, timesheets, vacation hours, sickness leaves, bonuses, night shifts, overtime, week-end shifts, salaries, additional employee benefits; when the payroll is done they prepare payments for salaries and additional documents for local authorities;
Training people – spend their time analyzing competencies that need to be developed in employees on each position, discuss training needs with managers, prepare internal trainings, prepare training plan for internal and external trainings, present the internal trainings to selected employees, contact external companies and sometimes negotiate training offers, organize external trainings – make sure external trainers have all the necessary logistics to do a good job, gather training feedback from participants, prepare training reports;
Administration people – prepare huge amount of employee related paperwork – contracts, contract changes, certificates, prepare access cards, order computers and users&emails sometimes, manage lockers and protection equipment sometimes, manage employee assets, manage additional employee benefits like transportation (are sometimes involved in finding and negotiating a contract with a transportation company), manage taxi or transportation vouchers, prepare reports of HR indicators (attrition, sickness leave, joiners, leavers, etc);
Communication people – manage the internal communications towards the employees, manage external communications for external partners and media, manage the internal suggestion system, manage internal display boards, prepare newsletters with important information for the employees, are sometimes involved in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) campaigns, manage sometimes employee satisfaction surveys and actions.
What else do HR people do: are involved in internal and external audits, are involved in the risk management system, prepare files for work permits for the Immigration authorities, prepare employee motivation programs within budget, prepare huge amount of work policies and work instructions necessary for the good flow of information or for company certifications, need to be always up to date with local and international labor regulations (otherwise high fines can be paid by the company), give advice to managers, are involved in the succession planning system…
So, do you still wonder what HR people do?


  1. HR are simply not qualified or capable of doing a fraction of the above mentioned tasks, most would be done by "real professionals" in each discipline, HR departments are staffed by imbeciles with limited knowledge of any subject. When they get taken to task by someone who knows what they're talking about, they close shop and start to bully the subject, most companies would be better outsourcing HR functions to companies that actually do it properly, and have staff who are up to date with employee legislation and practice,instead of having in house staff that a competent school kid could run rings round

  2. Peter,

    Sorry to hear about that. It seems that you have a very bad experience concerning any contact with HR. I have to admit that there are many idiots in HR - can't argue that - I used to know an HR manager coming from a company that employed 10,000 people and who had no idea whatsoever about HR - no clue about how to motivate people (her own team hated her), all the people in the plant avoided her because she was a spy of management and that's it - no clue about payroll, about legal requirements, about management -she was a silly spy with a big mouth and that's it. What I am talking about is a company where HR actually does something and I can confirm that in the company where I work HR really does all that and even more (I didn't go into fine details above, but in the company where I work HR manager employer branding programs, student internships, CSR and huge amount more). I manage the team and I know what they are capable of. Sorry again to hear about your bitter taste concerning HR and I really hope you get to know real HR people someday - I am sure that they exist because I know a few great ones. Kind Regards, Geo.

  3. Well your employers are lucky to have a good HR department with capable leadership, I would be willing to bet your company also takes It's responsibilities seriously and would be classed as a good employer, or I would imagine you would not be working there, yes I have had bad experiences with HR, and like many others consider them qualified in only two areas, sacking people and setting up out of office messages on their email system.
    Having said that your articles are informative and considered and represent an insight into the work and challenges that professional HR departments face, you have clearly worked hard on this site, and provided a good source of information that perhaps other HR professionals could learn from, please accept my apologies for having a little rant. Peter

    1. Peter,

      It's ok :)
      I told you I know a lot of people in HR that don't belong there. I've been working in 6 companies so far and I had my share, including the lady I was talking about before.

      In my opinion, HR's job is to be a mediator between employees and management, to care about people and to do as much as they can for them with the resources available. The job we have is pretty difficult because we have to be between the decision makers and the people. For example, people in my company keep asking us why they can't get higher salaries, we are there when Finance and managers from abroad decide our budgets, but we can't tell people all the details unfortunately, so most of the times they blame us...that's life :)

      People in the company I work for are help desk support analysts and the clients they face daily are difficult. This is why we support the idea that HR's job and managers' job is to make the people's life a little easier. However, I know that this doesn't happen in all companies. I am lucky to have a supportive top manager who listens to us. In a lot of companies HR people are spies or care only about paperwork and not the people or are hired to do the dirty jobs like dismissing unwanted employees or conducting disciplinary actions when managers don't want to. This is sad, but true, so I understand your point too.

      Take care and thank you for your nice words about my blog,

  4. I am amazed at your insight. I have seen alot of businesses- multimillion $$$ corporation ranked in the top 500 of Forbes magazine as well as little bead shops in tourist towns that could use the help you offer. Keep blogging- you are gifted:)

  5. Thank you very much :)
    I will do my best.

  6. I dont thing this article is relevant in this point of time.
    the author has tried to show case MANY roles and reponsibilities of HR which is not true.
    1. recrutment is handled by RMG or resource management grp.
    2. Facility related tasks are handled by FMG.

    They can also come from any HR decipline but now a days we spit HR according to the functional areas.
    So this article describes the whole HR function but in reality it has been devided into multiple blocks, so the whole responsibility also got shared.

    Still there is a team called HR who are basically spy and watching others, but who will guard the guards?
    I agree with Peter, HR sud b outsourced.
    If 20% of a total function is working and 80% are just enjoying their power.. Its time to bid them good bye.

    1. Neil,

      Sorry to disagree, but this is the 6th company I have been working in and this is all HR really does and much more - there's a lot I didn't mention.

      You are right considering only the scale of the company. It is true that in a small company Accounting people sometimes do the employment contracts and management does the recruitment because there's no point in hiring someone for each when that someone may not be needed for a full time position in the company due to the reduced scale of operations; however, in a large multinational company HR really does all the above and much more - you may not believe it, but I have been doing all the above at some point in my career in HR.

      Of course, in a company with 2000 employees you need more than one HR person - this is why I split the tasks because most of the times this is how they are split. So, sorry about your bad experience with HR, but you need to keep an open mind about this matter. Try to speak with other people and imagine what would happen in a company with 2000 employees if HR would go away as you wish. Not all HR people are spies - sorry, but I don't appreciate being included in this category and you need to be more open and professional.


    2. II just stumbled upon your blog and in all honesty do not even know where to begin. Some of your respondents almost seem as if they are paid to write nasty, ill informed, uneducated, and childish school yard insults so I am choosing to ignore them. I am and HR Professional supporting about 1000 employees from mailroom clerks up to the senior executive level. Our company has approx 70K employees with 360 billion in assets. We have 30 business units that fall under the HR umbrella; recruiting, training, HR technology, onboarding, payroll, benefits, employee relations (legal) , communications, compensation (you get the idea)

      Do I ask employees to make appointments with me when they need something, yes I do. I also have senior executives make appointments with me as well. As a professional BUSINESS person, I must manage my time just like a budget. My day is like a snowflake, no two are a like, but here are my priorities. Consulting; I consult with management from everything from organizational design, proper compensation and incentive plans using market data and analysis to performance measurements (I'll let you in on a little secret, I get more employees raises than their managers); Strategizing, I also help managers determine high value employees and make them work harder to develop struggling talent rather than just fire them. I review thousands of job descriptions to ensure that employees are in the correct job code (and thus paid appropriately). Ongoing HR Activities such as ongoing employment law conversations with management with regard to ADAA, EEOC, FMLA and other related state leave laws, worker's compensation and workplace reasonable accommodation. This list goes on and on.

      What I find with employees is a little more challenging, your lower level employees think HR is like the school nurse or guidance counselor. In my opinion, most employees believe that HR is there to vent to, listen to petty problems or to “agree” with them during a dispute rather than address legitimate business weaknesses. No matter the concern an employee brings to me, I will address it by thoroughly investigating and coming to a conclusion. The goal is to resolve everything, but I have found that in may cases (refer to counseling comment) many employees do not actually want their concern addressed and feel that HR is just a dumping ground.

      I've already gone on too long but I have some advice for anyone who really doesn’t know what HR does (so before you rant on about things you don’t have personal knowledge of), you may want to explore these thoughts?
      Have I ever asked HR at my company what they do?
      When I have reached out to HR, did I actually have a legitimate BUSINESS issue or was I just mad at someone?
      When my manager said "HR made me do it, or HR didn’t approve that". Did you actually ask HR....in my experience 100% of the time the manager used HR as the "excuse" because the manager is a coward.
      Do I understand my pay and compensation? If not, you should. Talk to your manager but I bet your HR person would actually understand it better than them.
      HR didn't hire me for a job that I deserved. Really?? Does HR really make hiring decisions or does the actual manager? Secondly, were you really qualified or maybe someone was just better than you. Remember there are no entitlements.
      When I approach HR am I expected them to “solve” my “problem” or am I expecting some “guidance” to help me resolve my own issue? Hint, if you want HR to run your life, be expected to learn how to run a lot faster!

      Lastly, keep in mind that HR is only as good as the company they work for. HR does not MAKE the decisions. The owner or owners of the company make and expect their rules to be followed, so HR does as they are told to do. If you don’t like your HR department then that tells me you don’t like your company and you should just go find another job.......unless of course you prefer to be a victim.

    3. Thanks a lot for the great addition to my article. I really hope that people will understand now that we exist in the company for a purpose and that we really try to do something for the people. Sometimes we are so busy that we don't even find the time to become visible :).

      Sorry for the delay in my reply - baby Vlad was born in our family 3 weeks ago and since then we've been a bit upside down. It's only now that I found the time to come back to my blog posts.

      Thanks again for everything,

  7. Well said HR MacGyver

  8. Nice and informative! You forgot about "HR Generalist", the one that does the full spectrum of HR. I've been working in HR for 10 months and I can understand how fast paced the work is. A lot of employees don't see true value in the work that we do and sometimes take us for granted, like little babies.

  9. I agree - I have been HR generalist for years and it's worse because generalists do all the above in smaller companies and need to know everything from all HR fields.