What does HR really do? – HR Functions

HR Functions

If you are someone from the HR fraternity facing this question, in all likelihood you will answer it in the most expected way. That is to elucidate the various functions of the HR department. Let us briefly understand some of the most crucial functions of HR.

Talent Sourcing:

HR functions

It is hitherto known as “recruitment” and usually said to be the first step in the entire employee life cycle; it includes understanding the talent requirements of the business, sourcing potential talent from various sources and facilitating the selection process which finally culminate with a formal offer of employment getting released and employee coming on-board.

Compensation & Benefits:

This function determines the compensation ranges for different levels of employees; defines the policies of employee benefits such as car, accommodation, insurance, employee stock options and so on. It is also important to note that the C&B professionals, ­ as they are mostly popularly known as ­ also keep a track of the total employee costs and provide the periodic information to the top management.

Learning & Development:
learning and development

In some organisations, the L&D (learning & development) team takes over from the talent sourcing team at the time of employee joining. All new employees are put through an induction and company orientation program (in IT industry, it is mostly known as on boarding). L&D also focuses on enhancing the employee skills and thereby help them perform better on the jobs.

Employee Relations:

In traditional brick & mortar industries, it is more popularly known as Industrial Relations (IR), which forms an important part of HR’s role. It involves managing cordial relationships with the employee unions, compliance all labour laws, addressing any employee disciplinary issues and so on.

HR Policies & Processes:

This is one wing of HR that standardizes the various employee related policies and processes. It not only designs the policies but also facilitates execution uniformly across the organisation.

We do all the work of HR; what does HR do? Incidentally, all the key functions listed above are conceptualized and formulated by HR; but with a very active involvement from the non-business managers.

For example, the business manager is fully involved in deciding the organisation structure, assessing how many people are required and in the selection of the candidates. In some cases, even the salaries that are offered to the new employees will be decided after consulting the business manager. Similarly, non-HR managers from business are actively involved to other HR implementations also.

HR functionsNaturally, business managers have every reason to say, “We do all the people management work; what does HR do?” The question often haunts HR colleagues. I too faced the same question during the early part of my career until I had this wonderful session with my boss (SG Iyengar ­ a veteran in HR, inspirational leader and a wonderful human being). He gave us a mantra that defined the role of HR with stunning simplicity. While performing our HR manager’s role, his advice for us was to focus on service, expertise and control strictly in that order. A company works on its people and it’s the HR department which brings in people service.

Firstly, the business managers should experience a sense of relief that the HR team is addressing their people related needs. It is true that they too can perform the people management activities.

However, they have other business functions to manage. Therefore, any efficient service that addresses their HR needs and allows them to focus on their core will always be welcomed.


Secondly, the business managers tend to respect and seek HR support when they see the HR managers operating with cutting edge expertise. HR managers should bring in the best practices and deeper technological understanding of the emerging HR tools.


Based on the credibility built through excellent service and expertise, HR managers may gain control in the interest of the organisation (and certainly not to feel more powerful politically). It must be clearly noted that control is pegged at third position. Some HR managers commit a grave mistake of wielding control even before they offer service or demonstrate expertise. The business managers often question such HR managers more.

So, what does HR do? First, service and then expertise; power & control are simply by-products.

This article was published in: 
HR Mirror, Hans India
Follow Dr. Raj on Twitter @drraj29

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