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Human resources managers

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Human resources, training and labor relations managers and specialists workers have long been associated with performing the administrative functions of an organization, such as handling employee benefits questions and recruiting, interviewing and hiring new personnel. Today's human resources workers juggle these tasks and increasingly consult top executives on strategic planning. They have moved from behind-the-scenes staff work to leading the company in suggesting and changing policies.

In a small organization, a human resources generalist may handle any or all aspects of human resources work, requiring a broad range of knowledge.

The director of human resources may oversee several departments, each headed by an experienced manager, who most likely specializes in one personnel activity such as employment, compensation, benefits, training and development or employee relations.

Employment and placement managers oversee the hiring and separation of employees and supervise various workers, including equal employment opportunity specialists and recruitment specialists. Employment, recruitment and placement specialists recruit and place workers.

EEO officers, representative or affirmative action coordinators work in large organizations to investigate and resolve equal employment opportunity grievances, examine corporate practices for possible violations and compile and submit EEO statistical reports.

Employer relations representatives, who usually work in government agencies, maintain working relationships with local employers and promote the use of public employment programs and services.

Compensation managers and specialists establish and maintain a firm's pay system. They often oversee their firm's performance evaluation system and may design reward systems.

Employee benefits managers and specialists handle the company's employee benefits program, notably its health insurance and pension plans.

Employee assistance plan managers, also called employee welfare managers, are responsible for a wide array of programs covering occupational safety and health standards and practices; health promotion and physical fitness, medical examinations and minor health treatment; transportation programs; employee suggestion systems; child care and elder care; and counseling services.

Training and development managers and specialists conduct and supervise employee training and development programs. Training specialists plan, organize and direct a wide range of training activities designed to develop skills, enhance productivity and quality of work and build loyalty.

The director of industrial relations forms labor policy, oversees industrial labor relations, negotiates collective bargaining agreements and coordinates grievance procedures. Labor relations managers and their staff implement industrial labor relations programs.

Conciliators, or mediators, advise and counsel labor and management to prevent and, when necessary, resolve disputes over labor agreements or other labor relation's issues. Arbitrators, sometimes called umpires or referees, decide disputes that bind both labor and management to specific terms and conditions of labor contracts.

Other emerging specialists include international human resources managers, who handle human resources issues related to a company's foreign operations, and human resources information system specialists, who develop and apply computer programs to process personnel information, match job seekers with job openings and handle other personnel matters.

Many human resources, training and labor relations managers and specialists work a standard 35- to 40-hour week. Longer hours might be necessary for some workers when contract agreements are being prepared and negotiated.

Training and qualifications

Employers usually seek college graduates to fill entry-level jobs. Many prefer applicants who have majored in human resources, personnel administration or industrial and labor relations. Others look for college graduates with a technical or business background or a well-rounded liberal arts education.

Most prospective human resources specialists should take courses in compensation, recruitment, training and development and performance appraisal, as well as courses in principles of management, organizational structure and industrial psychology.

Human resources, training and labor relations managers and specialists must speak and write effectively. They must be able to cope with conflicting points of view, function under pressure and demonstrate discretion, integrity, fair-mindedness and a persuasive, congenial personality.

Job outlook

Overall employment of human resources, training and labor relations managers and specialists is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2010. Legislation and court rulings setting standards in various areas — occupational safety and health, equal employment opportunity, wages, health, pension and family leave — will increase demand. Employment of labor relations staff should grow as firms attempt to resolve potentially costly labor-management disputes out of court. Employers also are expected to devote greater resources to job-specific training programs.

Demand should continue to be strong among firms involved in management, consulting and personnel supply, as businesses increasingly contract out personnel functions.


Human resources training and labor relations managers and specialists held about 709,000 jobs in 2000.

Annual salary rates for human resources workers vary according to occupation, level of experience, training, location and size of the firm and whether they are union members.

Median annual earnings of human resources managers were $59,000 in 2000. Median annual earnings of training and development specialists were $40,830 in 2000. Median annual earnings of employment, recruitment and placement specialists were $36,480 in 2000. Median annual earnings of compensation, benefits and job analysis specialists were $41,660 in 2000.

Related links

For information about careers in employee training and development:

American Society for Training and Development, 1640 King St., Box 1443, Alexandria, VA 22313.

For information about careers and certification in employee compensation and benefits:

World at Work, 14040 Northsight Blvd., Scottsdale, AZ 85260.

International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, 18700 W. Bluemound Rd., P.O. Box 69, Brookfield, WI 53008-0069.

For information about academic programs in industrial relations:

Industrial Relations Research Association, University of Wisconsin, 7226 Social Science Bldg., 1180 Observatory Dr., Madison, WI 53706.

For information about personnel careers in the health-care industry:

American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration, One North Franklin, 31st Floor, Chicago, IL 60606.

Adapted from the Labor Department's Occupational Outlook Handbook.