Human resources isn’t a revenue-producing department, but it’s an essential component of any viable business. For example, HR helps the company sustain its operations. Generally, HR departments are composed of several functional areas, each with staff who are specialists in their fields. These functional areas are: employee/labor relations; compensation and benefits; employee training and development; recruiting or talent acquisition; and health and safety.
Line managers in the HR department supervise these specialists, and report to an HR manager or director. The responsibilities of an HR line manager vary according to the functional area and job duties.
Employee Relations and Labor Relations
Depending on staff qualifications and HR department size, the employee relations and labor relations functions might be combined, because the skill sets required to work in these areas are similar. For example, employee relations specialists handle workplace complaints, ranging from an employee who believes she has been the subject of disparate treatment to a supervisor who is having challenges resolving conflict among her team members. Labor relations specialists, on the other hand, traditionally work for companies with a union workforce. They are responsible for administering the labor union contract (called the collective bargaining agreement), interpreting clauses in the agreement, participating in contract negotiations and managing the union grievance process.
The line manager for employee relations and labor relations usually reports complaints and grievances on the aggregate level to the HR department manager, and participates in strategic planning to improve employee and labor relations. In addition, the line manager may be the point person who interacts with legal counsel when the company receives complaints from government enforcement agencies, such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the U.S. National Labor Relations Board.
Compensation and Benefits
Compensation and benefits specialists establish wage and salary rates and ensure the wages and salaries are equitable; they also administer company benefits such as health insurance coverage, retirement plan options and employee short- and long-term disability. They are typically involved in managing the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) process, and providing guidance to department managers about employee rights under FMLA. The compensation and benefits line manager has a dual responsibility to oversee pay and benefits issues, including resolving vacation and sick leave issues.
Line managers in this functional area report to the HR manager or director, and depending on their qualifications, may be responsible for determining the strategic direction of the company’s current and future compensation structure based on their knowledge of labor market trends and the organization’s plan for growth.
Employee Training and Development
Specialists in this area often are responsible for developing curriculum, delivering new-hire orientation and providing developmental training, such as training for newly promoted supervisors. In addition, they might be responsible for researching off-site training options and processing requests for employee attendance at workshops and trade conferences. The training and development line manager is responsible for high-level duties in addition to supervising the specialists. He may be involved in conducting needs assessments and skills gap analyses to determine whether workforce planning efforts are effective, whether job classifications are accurate and if employees are in the right jobs to match their skills.
In addition, training and development line managers may be responsible for determining the strategic direction for overall workforce development that should align with the company’s goals.
Recruiting and Talent Acquisition
Line managers for this functional area are likely to be more involved in the strategic brand of recruitment and employment, which is talent acquisition. Talent acquisition focuses on long-term workforce planning – determining how to align the workforce with the organization’s needs, whether those are simply sustaining operations or planning for business growth. These line managers are forward-thinking supervisors who also look at labor market trends and availability of workers.
Their direct reports are recruiting specialists who post online ads, screen applicants, conduct preliminary interviews, distinguish between applicants and qualified candidates, and interact with department hiring managers concerning their staffing needs.
Employee Health and Safety
In some organizations, employee health and safety is a separate department; however, because it falls under the purview of employee welfare, it makes sense for it to be part of HR. Employee safety specialists perform workplace inspections to ensure employees aren’t exposed to hazardous materials and that employees are safely using equipment and machinery. They may also interact with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to correct workplace issues concerning safe use of materials and equipment.
The line manager for health and safety oversees inspections and reports to the HR manager or director. In addition, the line manager may approach employee health and safety from a strategic vantage point by incorporating employee wellness as a part of the overall mission to ensure a safe work environment.