Skip to content

What Is Human Resource Management?

Human resource manager interviewing candidates with advanced HR degree

Every day, businesses rely on human resource (HR) professionals to drive their success and provide a great employee experience. If you’re interested in this career field, learn what human resource and strategic human resource management means, what human resource managers do, and how you can enter this field.

What is human resource management?

Human resource management (HRM) involves managing and supporting an organization’s personnel. HRM comes into play at every stage of the employee lifecycle and in every aspect of the employee experience, including:

  • Recruitment
  • Interviewing
  • Onboarding
  • Professional development 
  • Employee performance and evaluation
  • Workplace well-being
  • Change management
  • Team building
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Workplace relations and policies
  • Termination
  • Labor law compliance

Human resource management is vital to nearly every organization because a company’s success depends on its employees. When employees are valued and supported, the organization can thrive. 

What is strategic human resource management?

Companies are increasingly considering how HR can help them not only handle routine functions, but also strategize for future growth and success. This is where “strategic human resource management” comes in. 

The difference between this and standard HRM is its emphasis on aligning HRM functions to the broader goals of the organization. For example, this might involve identifying gaps in the workforce or training and actively addressing those gaps so they don’t compromise the organization’s effectiveness. It also involves keeping a finger on the pulse of labor market trends and anticipating future needs.

Because of its holistic focus, strategic HR management is typically more thoroughly integrated with other departments in a company rather than compartmentalized. Strategic HR managers may even serve on the organization's strategy team, working closely with department heads and executives to propel the organization forward. 

What is a human resource manager?

A human resource manager is a professional who oversees and coordinates an organization’s employees. Although titles differ from company to company, HR managers are usually considered senior-level employees. HR managers can work in nearly any industry and companies of varying sizes, from small businesses to international enterprises.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HR managers are in demand, with the profession growing by an estimated 7 percent from 2021-2031. This is also a lucrative field. HR managers earn a median annual salary of $126,230!

Although some human resource managers carry out various tasks to support employees and the organization’s success, others (especially those in larger companies) may specialize in a particular area. For example, they may focus solely on recruitment or legal compliance.

What skills do you need to excel as an HR manager?

You might be a great fit for HR management if you possess—or are motivated to develop—certain skills. These skills fall into two categories: soft skills and hard, or more technical, skills. Hard skills are specific abilities you’ll learn through an HR management degree program and on-the-job experience. This includes, for example, knowledge of labor laws and HR best practices.

Even without taking any classes or getting your degree in HR management, you may already have some of the skills it takes to succeed in this role. Soft skills are abilities that transcend career roles. These include:

  • Emotional intelligence: Part of supporting an organization’s employees is understanding their perspectives and how their emotions impact performance. HR managers need emotional intelligence to relate with employees and promote a positive workplace culture that prioritizes their well-being. 
  • Organization: Administrative skills are essential in HR. From facilitating hiring and onboarding paperwork to managing payroll and employee records, people operations professionals must know how to be organized and thorough. Nothing should fall through the cracks. 
  • Communication: Communication is vital in many occupations, and HR is no different. In some respects, HR professionals act as a liaison between leadership and employees, so they must be able to accurately and courteously communicate company policies, new initiatives, and more.
    • Problem-solving: In some cases, HR involves identifying problems related to employee engagement, capacity, or training, and then solving those problems. It can also involve conflict resolution, making the ability to negotiate and find solutions critical.
  • Agility: Business needs can change rapidly, meaning HR professionals must remain flexible. What worked last year may not be ideal this year or the next. Rather than settling for the status quo, the best HR managers look for ways to improve the employee experience and help the organization flourish.
  • Digital literacy: Modern companies and HR departments rely on software solutions like a human resource information system (HRIS), human capital management (HCM) platform, or a human resource management system (HRMS) to stay organized and facilitate HR tasks. Digital literacy can help you learn how to make full use of your HR department’s suite of technology tools.

What degree is needed to become a human resource manager?

Typically, you need at least a bachelor’s degree to become an HR manager. Many people ops professionals start in an entry-level position—like an HR assistant or HR specialist—before working their way up to the title of HR manager. The right degree can help you confidently enter the field and quickly rise the ranks to the position of HR manager. You can even obtain your degree online to enjoy the benefits of remote learning and continue gaining professional experience while you learn. 

What degree should you pursue? An excellent place to start is a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Human Resource Management. This degree program consists of a core business curriculum and a specialized focus on human resources. You’ll get a general education in human resource management that will prepare you to take on various HR roles. 

You can further bolster your qualifications by getting a master’s degree. There are two great options to consider here: A Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Human Resource Management and a Master of Science in Management (MSM) with a concentration in Human Resource Management. Both options can help you build on an undergraduate education, learning more about general principles of human resources and leadership and the specialized skills needed to succeed in an HRM role. 

You can also augment your degree by adding industry certifications to your resume. Two highly respected credentials include the Professional in Human Resources®  (PHR®) certification and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) certification.

Make your impact as a human resource manager.

If you’re passionate about working with people and being an integral part of a business’s success, it may be time to consider becoming an HR manager. No matter your background or experience level, the right education can equip you to confidently enter this field.