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Updated Apr 09, 2024

It’s Not All Paperwork: How Does HR Really Spend Their Time?

Human resources departments handle many functions, including recruitment, payroll and talent management. Learn how HR can benefit your company.

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Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
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The idea that human resources (HR) teams are just generic company administrators who are constantly buried in paperwork and spreadsheets is false in today’s workplace. In addition to the administrative tasks they perform, modern HR professionals are under great demand to foster and harness exceptional cultural awareness and business innovation. Whether they’re understanding how digital technology is changing the workplace or finding the right tools to measure employee success, HR teams are constantly adapting to the needs of an ambitious and increasingly mobile talent pool.

An internal HR department touches virtually every aspect of a business, and HR leaders are key decision-makers in the area of personnel management. We’ll break down exactly what HR teams do and why they are important.

Editor’s note: Looking for the right HR software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Totaljobs infographic

Image via Totaljobs Infographic

What does HR do for businesses?

It’s essential to invest money and enthusiasm into your organization’s human resources, because every person in your business stands to benefit from the connectivity and information that an effective HR team can provide. Here are some of the top responsibilities involved in human resources and the benefits HR professionals can provide for your company.

Recruitment and onboarding

HR professionals can recruit top talent who align with your organization’s mission and vision. Finding the right candidate for each position is crucial, as a bad hire can cost you roughly 30 percent or more of that employee’s first-year earnings. Successful recruitment involves careful planning, analysis and communication. HR professionals know which questions to ask in an interview to find the best candidates — those who match not only your organization’s needs but also your company culture.

Once an HR professional finds and recruits a qualified candidate, they are often responsible for onboarding and training them. According to the Work Institute, nearly 40 percent of new employees quit within the first year; of those who quit, 37 percent leave within the first 90 days. If this is occurring at your company, an HR professional can modify the onboarding and training process to better meet new hires’ needs and expectations, thus reducing your turnover rate. [Check out the top reasons employees quit — and how to prevent it.]

Talent management

HR professionals manage your human capital from start to finish. They are responsible for developing and executing processes that can help you retain personnel, like administering comprehensive employee benefits and offering competitive employee compensation. They also take care of administrative HR functions, such as tracking employee hours, managing time-off requests, processing and administering payroll, running and analyzing HR reports, and maintaining proper employee records.

A good HR department also focuses on talent management principles, like employee performance and development. If an employee is struggling to perform well, HR can give them the additional support or resources they need and create a performance improvement plan if necessary. If disciplinary action needs to be taken, HR usually handles this, too.

As a staffer grows within your organization, HR can help set them up with career guidance and professional development opportunities. Additional training and learning facilitated by HR play vital roles in increasing employee retention and reducing employee attrition.  

Company culture development

HR professionals foster and maintain your company culture. They hire employees who fit your culture and host regular team-building activities and events that promote that culture from within. They can also focus on diversity-and-inclusion efforts that help create a welcoming and safe environment for your staff. Organizations that don’t have an HR manager to foster a positive company culture run the risk of losing their company culture altogether, especially as they grow.

HR departments have also become an intrinsic part of assisting employees by responding to their concerns, appealing to their interests and attending to their needs. They support the improvement of the work environment and resolve individual issues as they arise. Without a dedicated point person like an HR professional to voice their concerns to, team members are at a higher risk of leaving the organization.

Employee-executive relations

HR professionals are the intermediaries who can effectively communicate between a company’s employees and its executives. They can speak with staff members to learn their concerns or ideas for change and then voice the needs of the wider organization directly to the executives who need to hear them.

Regularly bringing together team leaders from across the organization with HR leaders can yield feedback that sets an agenda for the business’s directors to address. Having an HR professional start these important conversations and demonstrate the value of effective employee-management communication is another way HR can benefit your organization.

FYIDid you know
Effective manager-employee relations are key to a productive, engaged and efficient workplace.

Risk and legal compliance

HR professionals can help you avoid risk and maintain legal compliance, which is arguably one of their most important functions. Running a business with employees comes with a litany of HR compliance challenges, especially for companies that operate in multiple states or countries. Varying laws and regulations can be difficult for employers to keep up with unless they have an experienced HR professional to help. An HR department can help prevent potential noncompliance penalties and fees.

HR staff use reporting and analysis to determine company risks and suggest courses of action to mitigate or avoid those risks. They maintain all legally required employee records, conduct necessary training and so much more. If an employee needs to be terminated, the HR department is responsible for that as well.

Employee engagement infographic

Image via Dale Carnegie

What is an HR department?

A human resources department is the team in your organization that’s responsible for managing everything related to the employee life cycle, from recruitment to termination. Smaller businesses may get by with just one HR team member to manage the company’s human resources, but the need for more help quickly increases as an organization grows. Midsize and large businesses often need an entire HR department comprising multiple HR professionals.

The organizational structure of your HR team will depend on your specific business needs. For example, one company may want an HR manager to take care of general personnel tasks, along with a recruiter to focus on hiring talent. Another enterprise, by contrast, may need multiple HR managers, HR administrative assistants, training managers and recruiters. [Read related article: Signs It’s Time to Hire Your First HR Person]

Did You Know?Did you know
Most HR teams rely on HR software, but if human resources responsibilities become too much for your in-house staff to handle, you can outsource your HR functions to a top-rated professional employer organization (PEO) or a high-quality HR outsourcing (HRO) service.

What is the best HR software?

Whether you have one HR person or an entire HR department, you will likely need some form of technology to streamline your processes. That’s where HR software comes in. HR software has become so popular and valuable that the global demand for it is expected to reach $62.5 billion by 2032, according to Acumen Research and Consulting.

If you’re looking for effective software to help manage your organization’s human resources needs, check out some of the best HR software options below.

  • BambooHR: Businesses that are especially interested in managing employee performance should consider BambooHR. This intuitive HR software comes in two plans and has a variety of performance management features and add-on capabilities. Check out our BambooHR review to learn more.
  • GoCo: Employers looking to streamline their HR processes with custom workflows should consider GoCo. This platform automates a variety of human resources functions. Read our review of GoCo for the details.
  • Gusto: If running payroll and managing payroll taxes are top priorities for you, Gusto is a great choice. This cloud-hosted HR platform offers a variety of plans that bundle HR functions and payroll responsibilities. Our review of Gusto breaks down all of the packages.
  • Paychex Flex: Paychex offers both PEO and HRO options for employers and is great for those who want a flexible option for remote teams. The dashboard and mobile app are easy to use. Find out more in our comprehensive Paychex Flex review.
  • Rippling: Rippling is among the best HR software options because it’s highly customizable and can be set up to meet your team’s specific needs. This flexible solution offers both HR platform and PEO options, and it integrates with more than 500 applications. See our Rippling review to find out the basic costs and other key points.

To find the right HR software for your organization, determine your budget, the features you need, the number of employees and the integrations you want. Then, compare your criteria with the options on the market. Once you’ve purchased and implemented the software, your HR professionals will be equipped with the tools they need to do their jobs.

Ian Burke contributed to this article.

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Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
Skye Schooley is a dedicated business professional who is especially passionate about human resources and digital marketing. For more than a decade, she has helped clients navigate the employee recruitment and customer acquisition processes, ensuring small business owners have the knowledge they need to succeed and grow their companies. In recent years, Schooley has enjoyed evaluating and comparing HR software and other human resources solutions to help businesses find the tools and services that best suit their needs. With a degree in business communications, she excels at simplifying complicated subjects and interviewing business vendors and entrepreneurs to gain new insights. Her guidance spans various formats, including newsletters, long-form videos and YouTube Shorts, reflecting her commitment to providing valuable expertise in accessible ways.
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