What does HR actually do?

June 21, 2018

Ah the dreaded question: What does HR actually do? Well here’s Becky to explain!

By Becky Mee

When people find out I work in HR, their automatic assumptions generally tend to fall into the following categories….

Some assume I love people, want to help them, am the office mother and constantly have a packet of tissues in my pocket ready to stem the flood of tears that I will be helping resolve. Oh, and possibly a balloon animal modelling kit in my bag ready to entertain various small children who may have been brought into my office as part of someone’s ‘keeping in touch day’. Fluffy.

Others assume I am the Grim Reaper incarnate, cold and dispassionate, here to be management’s hatchet woman, delivering difficult messages on behalf of others and leaving a trail of P45s in my wake. We have no voice of our own and are there to keep the machine working, not there for the little man. Evil.

Others assume the minute I’m involved they lose all control and have to hand management of their team over to me. I am a metaphorical pair of handcuffs that prevent them from doing what they want with their team, hiding behind ‘process’, ‘admin’ and ‘the law’. Disempowering.

The reality, like any good superhero, is in the middle plus some. We’re misunderstood.

HR done well, does all kinds of stuff. But what exactly is that stuff? Let me explain…

  • We identify the business’ strengths and weaknesses and help you proactively plan for the future. We’re consultants who empower the business to get stuff done.
  • We make sure someone is putting the people side of the business on the radar so the business can achieve its overall goals.
  • We help make the company’s vision a reality, working with managers to ensure the culture is healthy and what it should be to attract and retain talent and achieve business aims.
  • We work with all the managers in the business to ensure they have the skills they need to be able to get the best out of their teams. 
  • We protect the business by seeing the whole picture and help make informed business choices based on the risk (ooh the science bit!).
  • We devise and implement the plan for making all employees as effective as possible for now and the future business aims (the training, development, succession planning and recruitment parts).
  • We smooth relationships, tackle the elephants in the room that no one wants to tackle and help prioritise what order to tackle the elephants in.
  • We see the wider picture and take the holistic view with employees; they are not just cogs in a machine.
  • We make sure that the people processes are as smooth as they can be, making them more efficient where possible.
  • Like all managers, we have some admin to do to keep us on the straight and narrow and legally compliant. We ensure everyone can legally work in the business and have the right paperwork, documents and training to do so. We pay people, we have budgets, we assess the impact our actions are having on the business’ performance and success.
  • OK, we do some fluffy, I admit it. We help managers make the most of their teams, support with recognition and reward, help channel emotions for good, develop people and have lots of tissues on hand for those conversations no one wants to have.


So, if you were wondering what HR actually do, I hope you’ve now got a better idea!

P.S. – the balloon modelling kits also come in very handy with MDs, not just children…

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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