Organizational Wellness

What Exactly Is the Role of Human Resources?

Dec 12, 2022
Last Updated Jun 1, 2023

You should ask HR about that. 

Have you asked HR yet? They should know about that. 

That’s a tricky question. I’d reach out to HR. 

These are pretty common sentiments in the workplace. But for HR professionals, you may feel overwhelmed by the breadth of knowledge you are supposed to have. 

So before you get caught up in trying to fix every problem, let’s get a baseline for the role of human resources. Besides benefits and insurance, what exactly do human resources (HR) professionals do? What are they responsible for? What jobs are in HR? We’ll walk you through the nitty gritty details of what exactly human resources is. 

What Is Human Resources (HR)?

So what is human resources, also known as HR? “Human resources” as a term first popped up in 1893, and in the 20th century, companies started creating departments. Human resources is a department at a company that is responsible for finding, recruiting, training, compensating, and supporting employees. 

No matter the size of the company, an HR department of some kind is a necessity. That’s because HR is all about the people of a company. The department is focused on managing the people at a company, helping them interact with each other, supporting them as they grow at the company, and providing important resources. 

A human resources department is necessary because the people at a company are the most valuable resourcea business can have. Your employees are the beating heart of your company, and the HR department takes care of them. By doing so, HR is helping take care of the company as a whole. An HR department might take care of the team by training them, onboarding them, providing compensation and benefits, implementing new technologies, and promoting inclusion and wellbeing.

The role of human resources


The Role of Human Resources

So HR is in charge of all things people-related at a company. But what does that look like? What are the specifics of the role of Human Resources? We’ll discuss the role of HR by breaking it into four general categories of responsibilities and diving into those. 


A company can’t run without employees to do the work. If you create some kind of product or service, you need employees — and that’s where HR comes in. HR is responsible for finding a company the right employees to do the jobs. Here’s the basics of how staffing in HR works: 

  1. Planning. The department creates a staffing plan to know how many employees will need to be hired to meet goals and to match company growth. 
  2. Recruiting. Once HR knows how many positions are available, they’re ready to start recruiting to fill those positions. That might include asking internally for applications (shortensthe hiring process and eases onboarding), posting a job application on hiring websites and the company site, or asking employees for referrals. 
  3. Hiring. HR will go through resumes and cover letters to make sure the best candidates are invited in for interviews. After a hiring manager selects the best candidate for the job, HR will extend an offer to the future employee. That part of the hiring process also includes working out compensation and benefits for the new employee (more on that later, don’t worry). 
  4. Onboarding. After hiring a new employee, HR is in charge of training the employee and getting them ready for the day-to-day of the job. Employees who have a great onboarding experience are 2.6 timesmore likely to be extremely satisfied with their job. So a powerful onboardingprocess really can impact the company. 

An HR department while staffing also has to be aware of and comply with legal requirements. An HR professional might work with these laws: 

  • Discrimination laws
  • Health-care requirements
  • Compensation requirements such as the minimum wage
  • Worker safety laws
  • Labor laws

Overall, HR makes sure that there are employees to fill positions and that everyone is protected. 

Compensation and Benefits

Compensation and benefits are an important part of a job. HR handles all of that for a company. They make sure that employees are getting fair pay (including taking care of the technology systems that make payments possible) and that they have benefits that support them and encourage them to work for the company. After all, salary and benefits are two of the most important factorsemployees look at when considering a role. 

HR is also in charge of any perks or wellness programsthat the company has. A company walking challenge? HR. That corporate ski pass? HR. The employee lunch after achieving a company-wide goal? You guessed it: HR. The fun things that come with the job are all up to HR to make sure they’re happening and running smoothly. 

Ultimately, HR is also responsible for communicating everything about compensation and benefits and perks. Employees won’t just magically know all about how their health insurance works or when the company 5K is or how to make the most of their 401k. HR communicates with and trains employees on all of that, so everyone can take advantage of all the wellness benefits the company offers. 

Policy Creation

What makes the company go round? Policy. From dress codes to safety policies to the vacation policy, policies help you know how to behave at work (or online while working) and how to coordinate time off. HR departments team up with leadership at the company to make sure policies match the goals of the company and then communicate those policies to employees. Here are some policies that an HR department could be responsible for: 

  • Dress code
  • Vacation policy
  • Discipline process
  • Code of ethics 
  • Employee handbook
  • Safety policies
  • Company culture policies 

Employee Relations

HR departments were originally createdto help with employee and employer interactions. Today, they are still absolutely necessary to help with employee relations. The most well-known aspect of employee relations is managing employee conflict resolution if something arises. But employee relations also includes making sure employees are properly taken care of when it comes to their wellbeing. 

HR departments can help employees feel cared for and like they belong. Employees that don’t feel like their company cares about their wellbeing will often consider leaving — 77%of them, in fact. Eighty-five percentof employees want to stay in roles when their employer cares about their wellbeing, so a focus on wellbeing and health boosts employee retention. Focusing on employee wellbeing and trusting them to do their jobs also boostsemployee engagement. So employee healthand wellness is an important part of employee relations — and ultimately a pivotal role of HR. 

The role of human resources

Typical Job Titles in HR

Now that we know all about what an HR department does, who is a part of the HR department? Who are the people behind Human Resources? HR departments can come in a lot of different shapes and sizes. Small companies might just have one HR manager while larger companies could have a 20-person staff. Some companies even use external HRwhere they outsource their HR needs to an expert HR firm. 

While HR departments can take many forms, there are a few general roles that a lot of HR departments have. We’ll walk you through the typical job titles in HR and what roles could be a part of an HR department (depending on the needs and goals of the department and the size of the company, of course). 

Traditional HR Roles

There are some positions that are just quintessentially HR. These positions are focused on the people at the company. Here are a few traditional HR roles to know about: 

  • HR VP. Typically, this is the senior-most positionin an HR department. This person reports to the management team, sometimes even the CEO, about HR business. They also oversee HR strategies and policies. 
  • HR director. An HR director is all about the employee side of HR. They often oversee employee relations, staffing, payroll, and benefits. They make sure employees are paid and supported with benefits. 
  • HR manager. The HR manager is a generalist position that focuses on training and onboarding new employees. They oversee all the details of hiring new employees. They might also be the one who runs an onboarding program and directly supervises training and professional development. In smaller companies, an HR manager might have more responsibilities. 
  • HR coordinator. A coordinator is someone who oversees all things policy-related. They might create the employee handbook and design safety policies that comply with all regulations. 


Recruiting is sometimes integrated into other positions when you’re at a smaller company, but when possible, it’s often segmented out and has its own positions. These are the two most common HR recruiting positions and job titles: 

  • Senior recruiter. A recruiter’s job is pretty self explanatory. They are in charge of recruiting people to fill positions. Sometimes recruiting services are also outsourced. A senior recruiter would be the lead recruiter if there’s a team of recruiters at a larger company, or they might be the sole recruiter at a mid-size company. 
  • Recruiting manager.A recruiting manager is someone who oversees all the recruiters and manages hiring and recruiting strategies. In some organizations, they might oversee the hiring process (instead of having recruiters). 


When HR departments can make it happen, they might have specialist positions where the individuals are highly qualified and trained in a specific area. These specialists do extensive research into building great programs and helping employees take advantage of them. Here are a few specialist HR positions: 

  • Benefits specialist. A benefits specialist is the guru of all things benefits. They research developments in benefits, create benefits packages, communicate about benefits, and more. Benefits really matter to a company: 80%of employees would choose a job with good benefits over an identical job that offered 30% more salary but without good benefits. So having a benefits specialist can be powerful when it’s possible. 
  • Training specialist. A training specialist focuses only on employee training and development. Development really matters for a company and for employee retention. Having a specialist all about training can really help with that. 
  • Employee engagement specialist. Unfortunately, only 34%of US employees are engaged with work. An engagement specialist is the person who’s working to combat that and get as many employees engaged as possible. After all, engaged teams are 23%more profitable. 

The Bottom Line

Overall, HR is a powerful department that oversees all things people-related. HR takes care of your people and helps them feel supported and cared for. HR makes sure everyone is paid fairly and has benefits that make your company a dream to work for. So when employees have questions about their benefits or the work-perks, they know right where to go: HR! 

To really make the most of an HR department, you need access to support for creating wellness programs and benefits packages. Talk to a wellbeing specialistto get started improving your wellness focus at your company. 




Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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