Student Advice - Careers in Human Resources - Personnel Manager
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Human Resources Manager

Careers in Human Resources

Human Resources Manager

Tell me about it
Human Resources (HR) or personnel managers contribute to the success of organisations by selecting and recruiting the best staff and then managing and developing them effectively.

Recruiting the right staff requires a good understanding of the organisation’s needs in terms of workforce skills and experience, which means that HR managers may be involved in communicating with individual departments of the organisation about overall recruitment policy and liaising with external recruiting agencies.  They would work with line managers to analyse and evaluate staff training needs and would manage the training programme, perhaps delivering some training themselves or buying in training from outside providers. Additionally, they may be involved with policies for equal opportunities, health and safety, pay and conditions of employment. They may also design procedures to keep employee records, maintain discipline, measure performance and handle complaints.

You could choose to be a generalist across all of these areas or to specialise in a topic such as employee relations, health and safety or recruitment and selection.

Entry level
There are no minimum academic entry requirements but there are very few opportunities for school leavers. The majority of HR managers have a degree, foundation degree or higher national diploma (HND), which would normally require two or three A levels/AH grades or three or four H grades, together with five GCSEs/S grades A*-C/1-3 for degree course entry, slightly less for the HND.  Any subjects are acceptable, but business studies, English, law and psychology can prove particularly useful. Relevant experience is always regarded as desirable.

Making the grade
Many employers expect you to develop your skills on the job, working towards the professional qualifications awarded by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). These may be achieved by exemption, if you have a relevant degree, foundation degree, HND or postgraduate qualification, or by full- or part-time study. Many large organisations also offer their own in-house training schemes.

If you are new to HR, or if you are a personnel administrator looking to progress, you can take the foundation-level Certificate and Diploma in Human Resource Practice. These have replaced the previous Level 3 Certificate in Personnel Practice. With more experience, you could take the new CIPD Intermediate and Advanced Awards, Certificates and Diplomas in Human Resource Management and Human Resource Development. CIPD Advanced level qualifications are at level 7 (level 11 and 9 for Scotland and Ireland respectively), equivalent to a postgraduate level qualification.

Personal qualities
HR managers need good ‘people’ skills and require the confidence and communication skills to deal in a calm and tactful manner with a variety of situations, balancing the needs of the individual employee against the business interests of the organisation. You may be required to operate in stressful situations when handling issues such as discipline, redundancy or the personal problems of individual employees, so you would need a measure of resilience and an understanding of the importance of confidentiality. Accuracy, attention to detail, co-operation and teamwork are as important as a fair and objective attitude.

Good spoken and written communication skills are essential to avoid errors and misunderstandings when dealing with employees’ personal details.

Looking ahead
Chances of promotion in HR generally depend far more on your personal achievement and potential than on paper qualifications. You may find more opportunities for promotion in larger organisations, or you may need to switch employers in order to develop your career. For some very senior posts, moreover, experience outside the HR department is either essential or an advantage.

As an experienced HR professional, you could set up your own specialist consultancy, offering services such as recruitment, training or outplacement counselling.

Alternative suggestions
If you like the idea of becoming a people specialist, you might also consider training as an occupational psychologist, a personal or careers adviser or a management consultant.

Take-home pay
As a new graduate starting on a traineeship in HR, you could expect your salary to be similar to other trainee positions, with large manufacturing firms and public corporations tending to pay more than local authorities and smaller retail organisations. You should be able to command a higher starting salary if you have relevant postgraduate qualifications or experience.

The CIPD conducts regular salary surveys among its members. Average HR salaries currently start at £24,375 for a graduate level HR officer, rising to £100,000 for a HR Director and £200,000 or more for a group HR director. Some FTSE20 Group HR directors can earn £500,000 plus.

You would normally work a standard 35 to 40 hour week, but may be required to work extra hours at busy times, such as during a major recruitment campaign or during an industrial dispute.

Most of your working day would be spent in an office, although there may be some travel.

Sources of information
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development:




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