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Selecting the right discipline in HR can be tough, HR and recruitment roles can vary enormously and may vary depending on the size of the company. Smaller and more junior roles are often ‘generalist’ roles with opportunities to specialise as you progress in your career or if you work for larger organisations. Some specialist work may also be outsourced.

Whatever role you end up doing, it is important to understand that HR must change and adapt with business trends and personal needs of employees. To do this take a look at the CIPD HR Profession map, which sets out their global standards for the HR profession, explains how it is vital that you build a deep understanding of the business, the context it operates in and the people who work in it. This will help you to understand how to use this understanding depending on the type of HR role you are in.


As a Generalist, you will be working on a range of different HR projects. This could include projects associated with some of the ‘specialist’ areas. Therefore, this work could include attracting new staff, developing training programmes, motivating staff or helping to deliver business strategies.

To succeed in this role you will have be comfortable with working with colleagues and employees of different seniority levels. If you can show initiative and provide new ideas which could improve the business performance then you will do well.

Recruitment, resourcing and talent planning

Recruitment consultants are employed either in-house or through an agency to attract business from new or existing clients, recruit and place new staff.

This could involve building up relationships and researching a company. By learning what they do, how they operate and what work culture they encourage you are better informed to place the right person in a company – also bearing in mind skills, attitude and personality.

It may also be your responsibility to draft copy for advertising, farm this out to a number of different media streams, screen candidates, interview them and negotiate pay and contracts with the potential new employee.

Short and long-term business requirements will need to be considered when recruiting new staff. This may include identifying key people across the organisation and creating sideways opportunities for these people, in order to fulfil staffing needs.

Learning and talent development

By investing in staff training, companies will often be able to enhance the overall performance of the business. If you do your job well you can help employees identify their potential and how this could fit in with the business needs. These training courses will of course depend on the type of business you are working for.

Strong analytical skills are extremely useful for working in these roles in order to answer questions like: What are the skills required for the future? What are the skills we have today? How can we fill this gap?

Organisation development

Now more than ever organisations have to be adaptable to change and have intelligent strategies in place. Being able to deliver programmes and projects which help contribute to these strategies is paramount. You could therefore play a key part in the future of an organisation.

Projects could include:

  • Developing the culture of organisation or projects which directly effect it
  • Re-organisation of the company
  • More effective processes.

Working in organisation development you will need understand the bigger picture and implement changes which may affect it. You may also need good leadership and negotiating skills to get other managers on board with your ideas.

Employee relations

In this role it is your duty to maintain and develop effective relationships in the work place. This could include motivating managers or engaging staff helping to promote a healthy and driven workforce. It is therefore incredibly important to understand the values of the business but also techniques for supporting and developing staff.

You will sometimes need to deal with conflicts such as disputes with trade unions or dismissals. To deal with these situations fairly you will need to treat everyone equally and empathise with the other party.

Employee engagement

Not dissimilar to the specialist area of employee relations, those working in employee engagement can also deal with employer branding and internal communications. By helping to build a relationship between the business and its employees, you can encourage loyalty and pride. Natural ambassadors for the company may start to appear and help build the company’s reputation.

In order to achieve this you may have to perform a number of different analytical techniques, and be able to use this data to present insights to management and ways to improve relations.

Performance and reward

By judging salary and benefits packages correctly against external and internal trends you can create and maintain a workforce that is happy and productive. Through this system, companies can demonstrate that they value employees’ skills and knowledge, and understand their personal requirements i.e. childcare or gym membership.

You may also help to set up other incentive schemes which help motivate others without changing salary packages.

If you have good numerate and negotiating skills as well as having an interest in the legal and regulatory side of employment, this could be a good specialism for you.


Diversity and inclusion is a big topic, especially for large companies that employ and operate across borders. Some companies will provide cultural induction courses for those working abroad or seminars discussing cultural differences and how these may affect working relationships.

This area of expertise is as much about understanding differences and using these effectively for the good of the employee and employer as opposed to thinking of everyone as the same.

International HR

Managing resources internationally can be tricky, you not only need to understand local employment regulation but differences in culture. Real life experience is essential to understand these things fully. This area is becoming increasingly important as society becomes more and more global.


Corporate Social Responsibility is about an organisation being accountable for its impact on the environment or society. How are business policies affecting local labour standards? Are chemicals from the manufacturing process harming the environment?

Part of this is process is understanding the relationship between employer, employee and customer. It is easy to see why this may fall into an HR professionals remit.


This field has developed due to the demand for external advice. As an outside consultant you could be involved in helping with projects which fall into the other specialisms mentioned.

Source: CIPD ‘The truth about HR’  and REC ‘Do you have what it takes for a career in recruitment’.

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