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Nine different HR roles and responsibilities demystified

HR departments are getting increasingly strategic to better support organizations' visions and goals. Here are the people who are helping them do just that.

With the increasingly complicated business landscape and the explosion of people management technology, today's...

HR roles have become far more varied than those of yesteryear.

In today's organizations, there can be many different HR roles that help build and execute HR strategy, administer people data, support HR processes across the business and implement or support HR software systems, such as HR information systems (HRISes) and human capital management systems.

The modern, cloud-based HR systems of today offer a greater variety of processes across the employee lifecycle, including greater support of talent management and mobile HR technology. Newer features and functionality make automation, compliance, analytics and predictive capabilities possible to a greater extent than ever before.

Cloud HR technology systems have empowered HR, HRIS teams and IT professionals to better with the ability to configure, maintain, update and add new features without the need for outside consultants or expensive resources. The ease with which integrations can be built provides automation that can be delivered and maintained in-house.

Newer HR roles involve managing people analytics, social collaboration and employee engagement efforts, and all roles are tied closely to technologies that support these functions.

As a result, traditional HR and IT roles are changing and evolving to support these new processes and systems. New hybrid roles are developing to support the less technical nature of systems and interweave with everyday HR. And yet, the nature of each organization means that these roles will vary from organization to organization in exactly what roles exist and how these roles are defined.

Newer HR roles involve managing people analytics, social collaboration and employee engagement efforts, and all roles are tied closely to technologies that support these functions.

Let's take a look at some of these HR roles and how they might impact an organization like yours.

1. CHRO

The chief human resources officer (CHRO) is the HR leader of an organization. This person is responsible for development and execution of HR strategy and for aligning it with the overall goals and objectives of the organization. In more mature organizations, this means rolling out a core HR software system that can cover the basics, such as master data management, employee payment and self-service, while providing support for additional areas, such as career development activities, training, compliance, recruitment, onboarding and succession planning.

More than ever, technology plays a crucial role in the CHRO's strategy. Having an understanding of how technology can bridge the gap between strategy and execution is critical to the success of the organization's overall objectives.

2. HR director

HR directors tend to be responsible for executing on the vision and strategy of the CHRO, as well as having overall responsibility for running HR on a day-to-day basis in their business segment. HR directors can be located centrally and regionally and be responsible for different functions, such as recruiting or compensation and benefits). They understand the strategy and how to execute on it. They will hire staff for the HR team and direct their staff to build out processes and functions to support the execution of the strategy.

3. HR manager

HR managers typically run the day-to-day operations of HR, as well as support the work of an HR director. They provide guidance and oversight to their team and enable the execution of the HR vision and strategy. They manage the team of HR professionals who perform the day-to-day operations of the HR department.

4. HR professionals

HR professionals -- sometimes called HR operations -- tend to perform the day-to-day operations of HR. This HR role focuses on tasks such as managing goal-setting, performance appraisal cycle launches, compensation cycle launches and HR report production. They will typically interact with HRIS roles more than other HR roles.

HR professionals can be generalists -- i.e., they are responsible for all areas of HR -- or can take on specific areas, such as compensation and benefits (also known as total rewards), training and career development, social collaboration, recruiting and onboarding, and employee engagement. This segregation is fairly common in larger organizations, and the titles or responsibilities of these HR roles can differ from company to company.

5. HR business partner

The HR business partner is the link between the centralized HR department and the decentralized operational management of the business. Typically, an HR business partner is assigned to a location, region, business unit or other segregation of the business to support local HR operations and local management by delivering HR services to the population of that business segment.

They will also be the ambassadors for the HR department and help roll out initiatives on a local level. They also provide help to local management and will help identify change champions and other supporters for enterprise-wide HR initiatives.

6. People data analyst/data scientist

A relatively new role with many titles, the people data analyst (also known as data scientist, although this title is fast disappearing in HR) is responsible for managing people analytics in HR. Those in these HR roles are responsible for helping define the analytics strategy, building metrics and interpreting data to provide meaningful insights to senior HR leadership. This role is critical in helping HR make decisions based on the right data points, which can help HR develop new processes and practices.

7. HRIS director

The HRIS director typically owns the HR software system and drives the strategy for how it is used. Those in these HR roles usually work in tandem with the CHRO or HR directors. This role is really focused on getting the best use out of the HRIS and continuously optimizing its features and functionality to support the processes of HR and the business. The HRIS director typically runs the HRIS team, which may be a subfunction of IT, HR or both.

8. HRIS administrator

The HRIS team might contain one or more HRIS administrators. This HR role manages the day-to-day operation of the HRIS and focuses on administrative activities, such as tracking stalled workflows, ensuring data consistency and making updates as needed. HRIS administrators often work with HR professionals, although, in some organizations, HR professionals will also be HRIS administrators as part of their role.

9. Business analysts

The role of business analysts usually focuses on analyzing the operations of the business and providing guidance to HR and the HRIS team. Their work will often influence the decisions made by either or both teams as to how to change or manage existing processes, both inside and outside of the HRIS.

This was last published in June 2018

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What are some additional HR roles that you feel are important as the human resources function becomes more strategic?
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Luke, this is a great insight into different HR Roles. I believe HR Transformation Leader is another role that could help embrace uncertainty, a valuable new opportunity, created by digital disruption and rapidly changing business models. 
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Thanks for your comments Shyam. This role is definitely needed when a HR organizations looks to transform. Usually this role is more of a "short term" role that only exists prior to and during the transformation. Once transformation is complete typically the role is no longer needed. However, some organizations do like to continuously perform transformational activities.
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