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Human Resource Management: HR Jobs and Careers – 1

Written by Sameer Kamat

Human Resources Management is a key function that is generally managed directly by the CEO. That’s the level of importance it gets in any organisation. But it is also one of the few disciplines that gets misunderstood by employees and sometimes even by the senior management.

Our friend Hari Raghavachari (he wrote the IMD Switzerland MBA blog posts) returns with a 2-part series to throw light on the field of Human Resources (HR).

Part 1: Human Resource Careers: Scope, roles, responsibility of HR Jobs
Part 2: HR Jobs: How to get them? Qualifications & personal qualities


HR Jobs - Careers in Human resources management

Careers in Human Resource Management (HR Jobs)

Part 1: Human Resource Careers: Scope, roles, responsibility of HR Jobs

No matter where I’ve gone, whatever company / organization that I’ve worked on, the HR people often hold the most (professionally) unpopular function.

They could do the most wonderful things for a company and its people, and yet get brickbats from one or another small yet disgruntled group of people. When they do things that are not perceived as great, they’re low-lives in their colleagues eyes anyway! As a 22 year old, I sniggered at the HR lady’s officious manner when she lectured about how my colleagues would be disturbed if I talked 20 decibels too loud.

Loved by those who do it, hated by those who don’t; HR remains a rewarding yet occasionally thankless career. In this blog post for MCB, I would like to deconstruct HR careers for those who are interested, not only to remove certain misconceptions about the function, but also to help you question whether this is the right profession for you. Please note this is the view of a non-HR guy who has worked in large MNCs all his life, and has closely worked with HR colleagues and leaders on various initiatives and projects.

Most companies larger than your average start-up will have at least one HR person. In fortune-1000 companies averaging >10,000 employees, you can expect the HR function alone to number anywhere from 300 to 8,000 depending on industry and business model. At the corporate level it’s headed by a Chief HR officer, who reports to the CEO and has a seat on the Managing board of the company…. So how does one get there? Or close? What other career options do HR professionals have and how do they get there?


First the boring stuff….

The HR function in a medium to large corporate can be broken down into five major areas:

Administration – payroll, facilities, catering, cleaning, offices, real estate, employee ergonomics and aesthetics, employee events, even your receptionist and office assistants are HR staff.

An area few seem to care about (until something goes wrong). The tactical and administrative nature of this area makes less relevant to have a specialist HR education or experience at junior to middle levels. However, it’s an area many aspiring HR leaders have to pass through as managers and directors at some point in time, to work on the little big things that keep employees happy, as well as to (occasionally) break a few bloated egos. These people are the unsung heroes of any organization. In a predominantly white-collar office environment, expect them people to have a say in matters related to employee ergonomics and services.


Highly tactical and execution driven, but influential in office based white-collar environments


Employee relations – Internal relationships and responsiveness, Industrial and socio-economic relations, particularly in unionized manufacturing heavy industries (automotive, core & heavy engineering etc..).

Where the people are amongst the highest cost elements of a P&L (IT / Consulting / Professional Services) and / or where labor and unions have to be dealt with, this is a super-critical area of HR. So important that it will almost always have a Director or VP level HR person leading it. Expect the Heads / Directors of these areas in companies like Reliance, TCS and the Tata companies, Infosys, L&T etc to be truly senior & competent people with 15-20 years HR experience.


Extremely strategic in people oriented industries (IT / Consulting / professional services)
Extremely strategic in manufacturing / engineering (blue-collar heavy work-force)



Business Partnering – normally senior HR people attached to a major function, business group or any major initiative that requires a major organizational shift (e.g acquisition, restructuring).

As functions within organizations (like Supply Chain, Finance, R&D etc) become employee oceans of their own, companies have started placing senior HR experts in functions to help business leaders stay connected with the rest of the organization and its strategy.

Typically, a role like this is called a “Business Partner”, is part of the functional head’s leadership team, and is a key voice in all organizational aspects of that function, including strategic competency assessments, recruiting, head count management, organizational strategy and succession planning. An HR Business Partner may not necessarily have people reporting to him/her, but will normally be a Senior Manager or First Level Director in a large organization. He/she will typically report to the functional head, and be a part of that functional head’s leadership team. An R&D and technology driven company like Novartis will almost certainly have a senior HR business partner in the R&D head’s leadership team.

A typical assignment for an HR business partner could be the regional integration of staff & management through a merger.


Highly strategic in a multi-functional corporate (e.g Unilever, GE, J&J, Pfizer, Novartis, Nokia)


Talent & compensation – recruitment, retention, compensation (strategy & delivery); what many normally associate HR with.

The profile of this functional area is highly dependent on the level of competition a company faces to attract, recruit, develop and retain its talent pool. You can reasonably conclude it’s the most stressful, yet prestigious sub-functional areas of HR in attrition heavy companies like Infosys, TCS or Wipro.

This is a typically a large group of people who will focus on both internal and external aspects of HR. While their daily task is around conducting organizational recruiting, talent retention and compensation; these people also execute the people strategies that come out of critical functions in the organization.

One typical role of regional / global HR Manager / Director in this area is running end-2-end a rotation leadership program, including recruiting strategies on campus / external / open hiring, relationship with schools / institutions / head-hunters, program management, associated job rotation, and post-program placement of the recruit into one of the company’s businesses. The person is normally most well-connected to functional HR business partners, and those involved with learning & development.

HR Managers / Directors in the compensation management & strategy space, connected with all other HR and functional leaders – are the keepers of a company’s most sensitive & confidential information, employee salaries, bonuses and benefits. As such, this is a very senior level position within the HR space. Those chosen for this assignment tend to be vetted & trained in the highest standards of confidentiality and compliance.


Extremely strategic in people oriented industries (IT / Consulting / professional services)


IT Platforms, Learning & development (L&D) – processes, systems and delivery tools for employee management, enabling all of the other sub-functional pillars of HR

Enabling & execution driven function, critical in larger companies depending on ERP sub-platforms to manage HR data, information and the company’s learning & development requirements.


Next post: How to get an HR job? What are the pre-requisites, qualifications and personality traits to be successful in a career in Human Resource Management?


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Sameer Kamat

About Sameer Kamat

Founder of MBA Crystal Ball | Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter @mba_cb | Facebook


1 Comment

  1. Bharat K   |  Thursday, 06 March 2014 at 8:11 am

    Thank you for the informative and detailed updates. I would like to know how tough it is for IT engineer to enter HR field.

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