Roles of HR Professionals

Providing service to operating managers is but one of the primary roles of the HR professional. The other two roles are as an advocate and a business partner.

HR professionals bring their specialized knowledge, such as how to design effective training programs, how to redesign work roles and organization to fit changes in technology, how to decide where quality improvement programs may be beneficial, or how to ensure hiring and promotions decisions are free of discrimination. The HR professionals employ this specialized knowledge in the service of operating managers and employees. The service role is the most visible HR role in most organizations, public as well as private organizations. Managers and employees see whether HR professional role is competent depending on how well the service role is performed.

The second role of HR professionals is of an advocate. Decisions about who to hire, promote, and train, how much to pay, how to tie pay to performance, and how to assist dissatisfied employees must be made with the objective of fairness in mind. Advocating fair treatment and justice for employees is of advocate role. If managers are accountable for managing their people properly, and if managers are given the tools and training to manage their human resources effectively, the HR professionals should have to spend little time as employee advocate.

The third role of the HR professional is that of a business partner, part of the management team. This role develops and implements HR programs that are linked with the organization’s business directions. The business partner may help the organization develop and evaluate alternative business strategies compatible with the organization’s workforce. The business partner may identify how the workforce must change, ask the questions that help identify needs and/or achieve desired outcomes, may identify and formulate issues of individual and organizational effectiveness. The business partner may involve in organizational change and performance improvement programs.

HR professionals have the strategic roles in the organization as strategic partners. In addition, HRM activities today include the traditional personnel administration activities plus the responsibilities of organizing employees into work teams, helping them to assume responsibility for managing their own work and learning from them how best to produce the quality products and services that ensure customer satisfaction. Human Resources are vital to any organization; however, they are often treated only as an expense as data on the payoffs of HR programs are not usually available.

In the absence of data, HR professional should ask the followings questions: 1) are we doing things right?, 2) are we doing the right things, and 3) how can we do things better?

In order to answer the above questions, HR professionals should be aware of the role that is expected of them, the value added, and the required competencies.
1) HR professionals with the role of a service focus on satisfying managers and employee concerns, providing managers with programs and techniques to help them better manage people. Expertise in HR techniques and program design and implementation are required of this role;
2) HR professionals with the role of an advocate focus on fair treatment and justice for employees and alert organization leadership to employee concerns to avoid costly legal claims and enhance organization’s reputation. The competencies required for this role are close relations and trust of employees, the ability to scan and analyze employee concerns, external legal and social developments, and organization’s reputation;
3) HR professionals with the role of business partners examine issues from business perspective and ensure that HR decisions fit with business needs. The HR strategic partners must have knowledge of the business and financial and must have the ability to work with managers and leaders to produce organizational change and achieve desired outcomes.

Given the three roles of HR professionals and the required competencies, performance expectations and added values, what are your assessments of your Human Resources’ organization? What role do HR professionals play in your organization? I would like to hear from you. Email me your comments and feedback, [email protected]

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Profile Photo David B. Grinberg

Nice analysis, Phuong!

The role of leveraging human capital and diversity within the government workforce is critically important for HR folks. This also includes generational diversity. They should be factoring in diversity and inclusion at every stage of the process from:

  • Recruitment,
  • Hiring,
  • Retention,
  • Training, and
  • Career advancement Only then will Uncle Sam succeed in attracting the best and brightest Americans to dedicate themselves to public service -- which is now more urgent than ever to address the so-called "brain drain" and forthcoming "retirement tsunami" of Baby Boomers.
Profile Photo Dr. Phuong Le Callaway, PhD

David, thanks for your comments. You are right 100% on diversity and inclusion. The Federal government needs to be serious on selecting the right managers and leaders for the diversity and inclusion workforce mindset to become a reality! What can EEOC do to enforce or to reward good personnel management practices at all levels of government? Either using the rewards or enforcement strategy will help shape the future direction of the workforce. The question is, "who is who will take care the common good?"