Do you find purpose in helping others? Are you passionate about people and building relationships? If so, you may be interested in becoming a human resources generalist. Learn about the day-to-day responsibilities in the role, how an HR generalist adds value to an organization─and possibly discover an exciting career path to follow.
What is an HR Generalist?
In the HR world, there are several HR sectors that professionals work in. For example, at the managerial level, there are HR job titles like payroll manager, talent acquisition manager, benefits manager, and compensation manager. All these positions focus on very specific aspects of HR.
On the other hand, an HR generalist typically has a less-specialized focus of responsibilities ranging from employee relations to training and development to employee safety. Alchemy, a global talent solutions provider, states that “the HR generalist is responsible for the day-to-day management of HR operations, which means that they manage the administration of the policies, procedures, and programs of the organization.”
What are the key responsibilities of an HR generalist?
Audrelai Beard, SHRM-CP (one of CPE’s past SHRM Exam Prep Course participants) has worked as an HR generalist at TVA. When interviewed about how she would describe her role as an HR generalist, Audrelai said, “Let me start by saying that no one day is the same. I incorporated a routine into my day by always doing certain tasks on certain days, but there are so many different aspects of the job that every day is different.” No HR generalist job is the same, but some of the most common responsibilities of the role are:
- Ensuring personal and professional development of employees through employee orientation, development, and training
- Working with managers to help them administer performance reviews and implement other improvement systems
- Facilitating company-employee communication
- Managing employee relationships within the company
- Developing policies and procedures and ensuring employees abide by them
- Overseeing recruitment and staffing logistics
- Measuring employee satisfaction
- Administering compensation and benefits
- Educating employees on safety and wellness
- Building relationships with individual employees
Also, HR generalists will not reveal private information about other employees that puts them in an awkward position. HR generalists strive to handle information confidentially and must be able to have tough skin in certain circumstances.
How does someone become an HR generalist?
Typically, HR generalists have a bachelor’s degree, and sometimes a master’s degree is preferred. Common types of bachelor’s degrees for HR generalists include human resources, business, organizational development, or another related field. The level of education and experience required will vary by employer. Most HR generalists begin their careers in an entry-level HR position before moving to an individual contributor (IC) position such as HR generalist. Examples of entry-level roles include HR assistant, HR administrative assistant, HR trainee, or junior recruiter. HR internships are also a common way to gain HR experience.
Once someone becomes accustomed to the HR field, certification is a common way to learn more about the industry and build one’s resume. Audreial took the SHRM Certification Exam Prep Course to prepare for the SHRM exam and become SHRM-certified (which is an internationally-recognized certification). She says that, for her, some benefits of taking the course to prepare for the certification exam were:
- The instructor made the material easy to understand and answered any questions she had.
- She was able to implement what she was learning in her current job, which helped her more than she originally anticipated. It not only helped her on a personal level but with her organization’s process improvement as a whole.
- She was able to learn more in-depth about HR laws and grow her expertise.
HR professionals can become certified and increase their knowledge, advance their skills, and earn recognition from the global community.
What common skills do HR generalists possess?
A few of the most common are:
- Communication. HR generalists are the link between employees and the company, and they manage relationships among employees. Audreial says that good HR generalists continuously build relationships with employees so they know each other PRIOR to situations where conflict arises.
- Organization. HR generalists need administrative expertise, as they must manage a methodical filing system and be able to access files quickly.
- Presentation. HR generalists must be able to share information in a way that every employee, on every level of an organization, will be able to comprehend.
- Teamwork. HR generalists must be able to work well with HR colleagues, managers, and other internal leaders in an organization to accomplish common goals.
- Advising. HR generalists use their knowledge to advise employees and managers on many different types of issues, whether operational, tactical, or strategic. Or, they may advise others on how to manage relationships.
- Passion for people. While this is not a “skill,” the why behind what HR generalists do is important. HR is all about people, so a drive to help others is imperative for success in the role. It’s a “human” job.
What are some challenges of the HR generalist role? How can they be overcome?
HR generalists must be sure that their organization complies with local, state, and federal labor laws in all aspects, from workplace safety to labor relations to workers’ compensation. HR generalists must learn basic HR and employment laws (which are taught in various HR courses) and stay up to date on changing laws by reviewing the US DOL Employment Law Guide periodically. The number of laws can seem overwhelming but are easily manageable with good study habits.
Another challenge can be navigating employees through times of change in a company. Employees may have a difficult time coping with change, so HR generalists facilitate communication between the company and its employees, acting as a guide in the process. Making sure that employees understand the benefits of, and the specifics behind, changes (for example, how the changes will take place) can bring understanding and peace in times of uncertainty.
Lastly, improving employee morale can be difficult, especially if an employee has a negative attitude. HR generalists have the privilege of being an encouraging and positive voice to employees.
What are common misconceptions of the HR generalist role?
Audreial says that one of the biggest misconceptions of the role is being viewed as a “bad guy.” For example, someone may see her coming and say things like, “HR is coming to fire an employee!” However, in Audreial’s opinion, HR does not fire employees; an employee fires and terminates themselves. HR is just there because of protocol. The manager is the one who provides information and completes the termination, and the HR generalist makes sure management follows proper protocol and doesn’t mistreat the employee in the process.
Another misconception is that an HR generalist is your negotiator. For instance, employees may think that an HR generalist’s job is for them to bargain with management to help an employee get a raise they want. An HR generalist will review pay equity and make sure policy is adhered to, and they aim to provide fair opportunities for all involved. However, they are not a genie in a bottle that can make all employees’ wishes come true.
How do HR generalists add value to an organization?
On a practical level, they keep the organization, well, organized. Their administrative work helps organizations run smoothly. Anjali Stenquist, a content writer for Collegis Education, writes that HR generalists are valuable because “they are competent in all of a human resource department’s functions. Because of this breadth of knowledge, they can be a valuable asset to an organization─particularly small organizations that need resourceful employees.” A wide range of knowledge and skills enhances an organization’s ability to succeed!
Audreial says, “Being in HR is like being a social worker for an organization. Everyone comes, sits on the couch, and tells you their problems. HR generalists serve as a listening ear for employees.” The support that HR generalists provide is necessary for employees to have a safe space in which they can navigate through conflict and difficult circumstances. Consequently, having a deeper relationship built previously often leads to employees wanting an HR generalist to celebrate with them in successes, too! And isn’t supporting others what it’s all about?
BONUS CONTENT: Fast HR Generalist Facts
- Salary*: This can vary depending on location, experience, and employer. The average salary is $57,336 as of August 27, 2020. The salary range typically falls between $50,714 and $64,451.
- Job Outlook**: Employment in the field will grow at a rate of 7% through 2026, approximately the same as the overall employment growth for all occupations in the country.
- Work Environment: HR generalists typically work in an office setting.
- Work Schedule: HR generalists usually work full time during regular business hours (9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday-Friday).
Big thanks to Audreial Beard for her input on this article! Audreial is no stranger to the HR field. She first began working as an HR Administrator at TVA in August 2011. While at TVA, she worked her way up the HR ladder to become an HR Assistant and then an HR Generalist. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management from Western Governors University and is a SHRM Certified Professional. Audreial says that being able to help others, along with employee advocacy, is what brings her the most pleasure as an HR professional. Thanks again for your input, Audreial!
- Human Resources Generalist Jobs
- What Does a Human Resource Generalist Do?
- What Does an HR Generalist Do? Defining the Day-to-Day Duties
- 10 of Today’s Common Human Resource Challenges
- Three Misconceptions About Your Company’s HR Professionals
- The 12 HR Skills Every HR Generalist Needs
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hi! My name is Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M). I am the Marketing Assistant for UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, I spend time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with our customer base. During my free time, you can find me getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, I aspire to live by the Mr. Feeny quote, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” I strive to use my passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around me.
Connect with me on LinkedIn.