What does it take to be a human resources manager?


Roles, Responsibilities, Qualities and Qualifications

Thomas J. Watson the founder of IBM once said, “You can get capital and erect buildings, but it takes people to build a business”.

The role of the human resource manager is a testament to this statement. In the end, human resource management is about managing people in a way that helps drive business success. An organisation cannot succeed without its people. It is the HR manager’s role to attract, retain, and nurture their people in a way that aligns with the business’s goals. 

The role of an HR manager is essential across all industries and is only getting more necessary as time goes on. I talked with four experienced HR personnel from within our team to help me deep dive into what it means to be an HR manager today and how you can go about becoming one. 

Roles and responsibilities

“In HR you are dealing with the business’s most important assets and that’s humans… it’s about finding talent, retaining talent and getting the most out of your talent,” says Frankie De Luca, who previously worked as Talent Acquisition Lead before joining the MyRecruitment+ team. 

HR encompasses everything to do with the management of people within an organisation from their mental health and wellbeing to their total remuneration package the HR manager oversees it all.

To try to make the role easier to understand we’ve broken down the work of an HR Manager into 8 distinct categories. Each of these categories could have other HR executives working exclusively on that category, but they are ultimately the responsibility of the HR Manager to oversee. 

Strategy and Planning

It is the HR Managers responsibility to manage and identify the company’s current and future needs to achieve its goals. This is a foundational task that is relevant to all HR activities. It allows HR Managers to strategically choose, train and evaluate people to best help meet organisational goals.  

Compliance

There are many federal, state and local laws that regulate the management of people in businesses. These laws surround working hours, termination, anti-discrimination, leave, compensation, benefits and building codes. It is the responsibility of HR Managers to ensure that the company is working within the confines of these laws. 

Talent Management

Attracting new employees is a large part of an HR Managers job, but it’s about more than attracting just anyone. It’s about attracting people that can help the company meet its goals. The focus of HR Managers is not just on new employees, it’s also on motivating and retaining current employees to remain productive and engaged.

Ryan Harkin an experienced Recruitment Manager says employee retention is something more important than ever “…with Covid-19 and international arrivals being closed down for a period of time, retention is quite important. The HR department does important work in turns of retaining employees, which was important pre-covid, but is certainly even more important now”.

Training and development

It is also the role of HR Managers to collaborate with respective managers within the company to integrate programs designed for the betterment of people and performance within the organisation. These programs encourage employees to develop professionally, teaching existing employees skills that will help the organisation meet its goals. 

Performance management

Refers to the setting and monitoring of clear, measurable objectives that ensure employees’ work aligns with the organisation’s mission. It is the HR manager’s job, alongside managers within the company, to ensure a system is in place that sets clear staff objectives with opportunities for feedback from above along the way. 

Total Rewards

There are financial and non-financial benefits companies use to entice employees. It is the role of HR managers to research a competitive wage for different positions. Then determine if the company can afford to offer that amount and what potential benefits the company could offer to compensate if they cannot afford that wage.

Some employee benefits include: health insurance, annual leave, sick leave, family leave, and carers leave. These are non-financial incentives to motivate employees to join or stay with the company. It is the HR manager’s responsibility to determine the cost-benefit of these different incentives. 

Safety and Health

HR managers and risk management are responsible for the welfare, health and safety of people at work. It is a vital role that protects the company’s most valuable asset, its people. This requires HR managers to create, teach and implement procedures that help employees identify and reduce hazards, accidents, and exposure to dangerous situations and substances. 

Employee and Labour Relations

Since HR managers are responsible for managing humans within an organisation, it makes sense that they would play a role in maintaining the relationship between employees and the company. 

Codes of conduct are a tool used by HR managers to explain to employees the boundaries of acceptable workplace behaviour and outline the consequences of breaking these rules. HR Managers are responsible for ensuring disciplinary action is carried out on employees that have been found to have broken the code of conduct.

Qualities of a good HR Manager

A good HR manager isn’t defined by their qualifications but rather by their qualities as a person. These are our top 9 qualities that make up a good HR manager. 

Balanced

All four of the HR associates I spoke with agreed that being balanced was one of the most, if not the most, important qualities for an HR manager to possess.

“Being able to balance between compassion and serving the best interest of the organisation is important. Being able to look at the bigger picture, not just look in the moment but maybe 12 months ahead. It’s about looking after the employees in the company, but also the best interest of the company as a whole,” Harken says. It is not an easy skill, but that’s what makes it so important – not everyone can do it. 

Adaptable

With all the changes workplaces have endured over the last few years – it can come as no surprise that HR also saw many changes. HR managers must be ready and willing to adapt with changing workplaces. Failure to do so will cause the company to fall behind the times and out of favour with candidates and employees alike. 

Ethical

HR Managers often serve as their company’s conscience. It takes a person with a strong sense of ethical responsibility, integrity, and discretion to do this job effectively. At no time should an employee ever doubt the integrity or ethics of an HR manager.

Patience

When dealing with employees, it is important that an HR manager is patient and takes the time to listen to the concerns of the people coming to them. The employees coming to them will likely be upset, angry or worried, and the HR manager must take the time to listen to their concerns while remaining in control of the situation.

Inquisitive

As an HR manager, you often are tasked with getting to the bottom of things. Not everyone is entirely honest with you all the time, especially regarding things they know they shouldn’t be doing. Craig Baker, who previously worked as an HR Manager for a number of years, told me, “You need to be inquisitive (to be an HR manager) because what you’re told is not always what the truth is, so you need to get a balanced view of things”. A good HR manager will be inquisitive and search for answers when things don’t add up. 

Sympathetic

People won’t want to come to an HR manager who doesn’t appear to care about their problems or concerns. HR managers must appear approachable and sympathetic regardless of the problem before them.

Leader

A defining quality of a successful HR manager is their leadership ability. HR managers do more than lead the HR department – they are an integral part of the leadership team within their organisation. They must be at the heart of what their company does to assist in achieving company objectives – this is no easy task and takes a person with strong leadership skills. 

Strong Communicator

Another defining quality of a successful HR manager is their communication skills. They must communicate clearly, concisely and effectively in both their written and verbal communication to all levels within the organisation. Conflict negotiation is a part of their role, and so they must have strong communication skills to negotiate at any level within the organisation. 

Resilient

HR managers are unique in that they may have to question and confront those above them. “You’ve got to be resilient in that sometimes you’ve got to have some difficult conversations with people that are a lot higher than what you are in the tree,” says Baker, it is not always easy, but it is a part of the job that takes a lot of resilience.

Qualifications

There are several paths you can take to become a Human Resources Manager. In Australia, it’s recommended that you have a relevant bachelor or diploma-level qualification such as a Bachelor of Business majoring in Human Resource Management or a Diploma in Human Resources Management. 

Should you wish to further your studies, you could undertake a Master’s degree or a Graduate Certificate in the human resources field. Though this is not a must, some companies require candidates to possess these higher qualifications, though most do not.

However, employers will want you to have experience in entry-level and mid-level HR positions before you move up to the role of HR manager. You cannot expect to jump straight to a management position with no industry experience. 

Troy Singleton is an experienced HR manager whose current role as a Regional Manager of People and Culture sees him oversee a team of 6 HR associates. He spoke with me about how he got into HR management and what he recommends for those looking to do the same.

“I worked my way up initially for the first 3-4 years, but then I undertook a Diploma in HR at University. I would actually recommend (undertaking a diploma) to anyone that is trying to get into the career of HR Management. There is only so much that you can learn on an operational front, especially when it comes to workforce planning, conflict management and performance management. There are legal aspects to HR Management which the Diploma really helps with.”

Average Salary 

In Australia, the average salary for an HR manager is $91 480 (AUD), excluding bonuses, according to Payscale

Entry-level HR Managers earn around $67 000 in total compensation on average. With great potential for growth as there is a clear and steady correlation between experience and total compensation in this type of role according to a study done by Payscale.

Final Thoughts

The HR manager plays a pivotal role in any organisation and requires a strong leader. The role is multifaceted and requires a strategic thinker who isn’t afraid to challenge themselves. The job is far more than conflicted resolution and firing employees. As Troy Singleton said in our interview, “HR is not all doom and gloom. I think everyone thinks HR comes in when everything goes wrong, that seems to be the assumption within businesses at least but there are also other areas of HR like organisational design which are fantastic”. HR managers play a pivotal role in a company’s overall success, and it cannot be downplayed just how important what they do is for a company.