Human Relations in America: A Not-So-Easy Profession

While you are searching for that CTO, Engineer, Developer and other key personnel, there is a position that sometimes seems to get lost in the shuffle. That is a Human Relations (HR) person. These individuals are vital to a business. Be sure that when you begin interviewing potential HR candidates, you make sure they are knowledgeable in both state and federal regulations regarding hiring and firing of employees. He/she must also know about all of the proper Employment Development regulations and laws. Hiring an HR person is by no means an easy task, but luckily there are companies that can help startups with their HR needs. And for the sake of self-knowledge, the North American Human Relations Management Association (NAHRMA) and the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) are good resources for the latest updates on rules and regulations within the field.
Let us go into some depth on a few of the tasks normally given to the HR professional:

1. Hiring and Firing – Probably the best known task that falls on the HR department is the process of hiring/firing employees. The HR department must be well aware of the rules and regulations governing these procedures. For example, when interviewing a potential hire in America, one cannot ask a candidate about their religion, if they are a U.S. citizen, age, their marital status, or if he/she has or plans to have kids, just to name a few. They are also normally in charge of checking a candidate’s references and then submitting their reports to the hiring manager.

2. Prior to the firing of an employee, HR must collect all data that has led to this decision. Some of this data should come from a meeting between the employee and their boss (at least 30 days in advance) discussing the areas in which they need to improve. If there has been no sign of improvement after this 30-day grace period, then termination may be imminent.

3. Workplace Quality – HR professionals assist with maintaining a positive work environment for their employees. They must consistently have an “open-door policy” that enables employees to come to them with questions, concerns or complaints.

4. Dealing with complaints – No work environment is perfect, and with a variety of personalities working together, there are bound to be some issues. This is where HR comes in to deal with such conflicts, be they between co-workers, or an employee and his/her manager. The HR personnel must help to settle differences and reestablish a working relationship. Sometimes the clashes can be of a more serious nature, such as sexual harassment. Issues such as these must be taken very seriously and handled with great care and sensitivity by HR.

5. Compensation & Raises – Probably the area that most employees pay attention to is how much and when they get paid. HR and management work together on this, but HR has to be sure that the paychecks are issued correctly, taxes are deducted, money for benefits are accounted for (if employees must contribute to them), and more. Another important task that falls to the HR department is when an employee requests a raise. Once again the HR department will work closely with the manager of this individual in order to decide whether or not a raise is deserved. Together they review the employees’ performance thus far, current pay, and if they decide a raise may be given, they will then discuss how much.

6. Employee Assistance Programs – Some companies have these programs in place to help employees when they are dealing with more personal problems, such as drugs or alcohol. HR personnel are normally put in charge of such programs along with checking in on the employee to see how he/she is doing and whether or not they can continue with their work at the company.

7. Special Occasions – Probably one of the more fun (yet stressful) jobs of the HR department is that of planning and helping implement employee bonding events, seminars, team building, birthday parties, appreciation events and other fun get-togethers. Depending on the size of the company and the budget, these events can range from small, easy to execute affairs, to huge, strategically planned occasions.

As you can see, the job of a Human Relations professional is not an easy one. They must wear many hats and consistently strive to be a model employee. They are an example to their fellow co-workers, for if they do not act appropriately, how can they be a fair judge of others and their actions within the workplace? This is of course a huge responsibility and one that must not be taken lightly. They must also be sensitive and understanding to the different ethnicities, personality types, religions, gender, customs and other characteristics of their fellow co-workers. Some HR professionals have found it helpful to continue their education in Organizational Psychology/Counseling in order to better understand people and help resolve the conflicts that may arise between these different types of people in the workplace.