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The Best Routes into a Career in HR

  • Publish Date: Posted almost 6 years ago
  • Author:by Catherine Hingston

HR (Human Resources) plays a vital role in both business performance and employee development, and here we outline advice from the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) about the best routes into a career in this discipline.

HR opens doors to jobs in every industry and sector, whether it is public or private sector, professional services, retail, manufacturing or charitable organisations; virtually every industry and company will need to hire the expertise of an HR professional.

A career in HR offers long-term options and a huge variety of roles. You could be involved in recruiting or training staff one day, or helping your company decide how staff should be rewarded the next. With such a broad range of activities, what sort of role should you go into?

In some organisations you can cover the full range of HR work, gaining a broad range of skills and experiences - this is called a generalist role. In other organisations you may be able to specialise in a particular area.

Here’s an introduction to some of the different specialist areas to consider within HR.

HR Generalist

In the words of William Cowper, ‘variety is the spice of life’ – and as a HR Generalist, variety is exactly what you can look forward to.

One day you could be working with management on attracting and developing talent, the next engaging with an employee focus group to discuss workplace bugbears and identify motivational triggers.

As a HR Generalist, you will be a source of insight for the business, called upon for advice and guidance. You will need to be comfortable working closely with senior management to support them in leading their teams, as well as challenging them where you see fit.

Recruitment and Talent Acquisition

As a recruitment and talent acquisition professional, your role is to help fulfil the short and long-term requirements of your organisation’s staffing strategy in a candidate led market.

You may have to plan for changing demographics, the supply and demand for labour, staff turnover and skill shortages. You might be actively recruiting to fill immediate vacancies or creating a talent pipeline of key people who could create competitive advantage for the organisation as part of a long term strategic plan.

Learning & Development (L&D)

L&D professionals are concerned with getting the best out of their workforce and developing skills and capabilities that drive business performance, aligned with the strategic goals of the organisation.

The nature of L&D roles depend on the type and size of the organisation and can prove a rewarding career with opportunities to be involved in varied and wide-ranging learning and development activities.

To be successful, you will need to be able to think on your feet and have the creative and analytical mind-set to implement engaging initiatives.

Reward & Recognition

Any organisation that wants to create and effectively sustain a high-performance culture has to ensure that its people are rewarded and recognised for their skills, behaviours, values, attitudes and contribution to the business.

Reward and recognition professionals help to set salary levels and allowances and create incentive and recognition schemes, working closely with senior management to evaluate the benefits.

The reward function plays a critical role which requires good stakeholder management and numeracy skills, as well as awareness of the legal and regulatory landscape.

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a discipline more commonly found in larger organisations and has some cross over with areas such as employer branding and internal communication.

A successful employee engagement professional is able to facilitate a strong sense of connection between employees and the organisation they work for. You will bridge the gap between employees and senior management, identifying the key drivers of employee engagement.

How do you get them to feel a sense of loyalty and pride in their work, to go the extra mile and become ambassadors for the business?

You may be asked to develop surveys and run workshops and focus groups to gauge the mood of employees, sharing insights with senior management and stakeholders.

Organisation Development (OD)

Organisations today are constantly evolving - it’s important for them to remain agile and flexible so that they’re able to cope and adapt quickly in accordance with external influences.

As an organisation development (OD) specialist, you will play a key role in managing the process of change, working in a planned and systematic way to future-proof the organisation against the risks and challenges that lie ahead.

Workforce reorganisation and the creation of new roles could be challenges you face, and you must take into account how communicating with and involving employees in the change process can achieve sustained business performance.

Further reading:

Take a closer look at what a career in HR entails and what path is right for you by visiting CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development.