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Human resources is a somewhat vague term that doesn't capture well the scope of the duties in the department. While human resources staff handles many of the matters pertaining to the employees of a company, such as recruiting and benefits management, they also work with management to help develop long-term strategies for the growth and development of a company. HR departments often act as a middleman between employees and management and should be where employees go for basic company information.
The first point of contact a prospective employee has with a company is generally through the HR department. Specific duties vary depending on the size of the company and department, but HR typically places advertisements for new employees and may attend job fairs and handle other recruiting duties. Staff will screen resumes, check references and perform any necessary background checks, and often conduct first interviews with applicants, coordinating follow-up interviews with other company departments and managers. HR performs orientations of new hires, informing them of policies, procedures, benefits and other relevant information.
Some companies offer new employees letters of employment or employee contracts, which are drafted by HR staff. In some companies, particularly small businesses, HR will take on some payroll duties, such as tracking vacation time and pay, maintaining a holiday schedule, creating policies on flexible work hours and updating records when employees are promoted or transfer departments. Employee benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, transportation subsidies and other perks, are considered part of the overall compensation package and are administered by the HR department. In the big picture, HR monitors salary and wages within the company's industry to ensure compensation remains competitive. The department also helps management map out pay structures within the company.
Employee Relations and Performance
In addition to the initial training in company policies, the HR department often helps coordinate training and mentoring programs to further develop employee skills. Training programs may be developed in-house, depending on the resources within the company, or might be outsourced. HR staff may play a role in employee performance reviews, handle employee complaints, help resolve disputes and monitor employee remediation programs. For companies with union employees, HR often oversees union contracts and assists management with union negotiations. Many companies offer employee assistance programs that provide counseling and help for a variety of personal issues. While the programs are generally outsourced in small businesses, the HR department monitors compliance, contract and privacy issues with the organization handling the program.
A number of compliance issues are important for a company to monitor, regardless of size. The HR department keeps track of federal and state laws regulating benefits and compensation, such as the Family Medical Leave Act and laws regarding overtime. The department also is tasked with ensuring a company complies with the federal regulations of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including auditing and reporting duties. It also typically handles disputes between employees, or any claims of sexual harassment or workers' compensation injuries.
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