September 19, 2012

New attorneys asked to counsel the HR function at their clients often have initial difficulties because all they know is how to organize issues and problems by reference to various federal and state laws and regulations.  In order to be effective as an “HR counselor” you need to understand how HR departments break out their activities:

Employment and placement activities: Obviously one of the key activities of the HR function is recruitment, hiring and termination of employees.  Recruiters are responsible for screening and interviewing applicants, including testing, and will typically handle reference checks and transmitting offers of employment and notices of the company’s decision not to extend an offer.  Given their role in the hiring process, recruiters must be fully versed in relevant laws and regulations to ensure that the company does not run afoul of the rules relating to non-discrimination and that information regarding applicants is properly collected, used and stored.

Job analysis activities: Job analysis activities include the study of the duties and responsibilities associated with various positions within the organizational structure of the company and the creation of job descriptions and position classifications.

Compensation and benefits activities: Compensation and benefits activities include establishing and maintaining the company’s pay structure and administering the employee benefits programs offered by the company, including vacation and health insurance benefits and retirement plans.  Compensation managers may also be involved in the design and implementation of tools that the company can use to measure the performance of workers as part of any pay-for-performance compensation program that the company decides to implement.

Training and development activities: Training and development activities include creation, procurement and conduction of training and development programs for employees in order to add value to the company by developing skills within the workforce, enhancing productivity and the quality of work and improving employee morale and loyalty.  Managers in the training area are responsible for developing training programs, contracting with outside providers for training activities and setting and monitoring budgets.

Employee relations activities: Employee relations, sometimes referred to as industrial relations, is concerned with establishing and maintaining formal relations with unions and their representatives when that issue is relevant to a particular company.

Depending on the circumstances managers and specialists within the HR function will be engaged in a variety of other activities that require particular skills, training and experience.  One role that has become particularly important is involvement in dispute resolution in an effort to resolve issues that arise with employees that may lead to litigation, governmental investigations or work stoppages.  Another activity in the HR area is the design and administration of HR information systems, an activity that requires participation of technical specialists who develop computer programs that can be used to process HR information, maintain appropriate records and create reports on HR-related issues.  Finally, companies that expand their activities internationally will need to bring in new managers and specialists with expertise in handling overseas operations and supervising local HR personnel in foreign countries.