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A Students guide to Human Resources

Every business needs effective HR (human resources) to retain a happy, motivated and productive workforce.

Human resources is essentially looking after the employees of an organisation. It would usually involve workforce planning (restructuring, recruitment, redundancies), training and development, employee relations, health and safety, talent management, discipline, employment law, negotiations over pay and conditions, and promoting the company’s vision and values.

Big companies may employ a team of HR professionals, each specialising in different areas, while smaller organisations may employ a small number of generalist HR officers or even combine the role with something else, such as admin or internal communications.

The most important qualities a HR professional needs are the ability to deal with people at all levels and to demonstrate that they understand the needs of the business.

Employers are looking for people who:

  • Have strong communication skills,
  • Can work as part of a team,
  • Enjoy meeting new people,
  • Have discretion, objectiveness and patience,
  • Can empathise with other people,
  • Understand the needs of the business,
  • Have good negotiation skills.

While completing a course in HR management at Middlesex University you can demonstrate these skills and boost your CV by volunteering as a student representative or peer councillor. Employers are looking for graduates who can work well with authority and negotiate well. It would also be beneficial to apply for some work experience in a HR department so you can demonstrate that you understand what the role entails.

When putting together your CV think about the transferrable skills that you have picked up from previous work experience, your studies and your extra-curricular activities, for example organising and being part of a team; representing and listening to others; meeting new people and demonstrating commercial awareness.

Your responsibilities as a HR professional will depend on the nature and size of your organisation but here are some key roles:

  • Generalist - in smaller companies you will be expected to carry out a wide range of HR functions for the organisation. You may be working in a small team or even on your own.
  • Recruitment and selection - you will create job descriptions and person specifications, place adverts, assess CVs and conduct interviews.
  • Learning, training and development - you will help staff to develop their skills by organising external and internal training opportunities. This also benefits the business as they can recruit internally for higher positions.
  • Employment law - particularly representing the companies at tribunals; managing disciplinary action and dismissals; and negotiating pay and conditions.
  • Employee relations - negotiating with unions; managing grievance and disciplinary procedures; managing redundancies; ensuring the company complies with equal opportunities legislation; and developing policies for harassment and bullying.
  • Health and safety - developing procedures, risk assessments, training staff and ensuring that the company meets its legal obligations to protect its workforce.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), a graduate level HR officer can expect to earn a starting salary of around £24,000 rising to around £29,000 for a HR officer. Senior training officers can earn up to £36,000 while HR managers are paid between £35,000 and £45,000. The head of a HR department or a HR director can command a salary of between £75,000 and £100,000. At the very top of the profession, group HR directors can earn more than £200,000 and those working for the very top companies more than £500,000.

Salaries paid by local government and small/medium-sized organisations tend to be lower than those paid by larger businesses. Post-graduate qualifications and professional membership would boost your earning potential and career prospects even further.


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