What is Human Resource Management? Definition + Career Guide

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn about human resource management roles, responsibilities, salary, and how to get started in this field.

[Featured image] A recruiter holds a printed CV and interviews a candidate virtually via laptop for a role in human resource management.

Human resource management, or HRM, involves coordinating, managing, and allocating human capital, or employees, in ways that move an organization’s goals forward. HRM focuses on investing in employees, ensuring their safety, and managing all aspects of staffing from hiring to compensation and development. 

HRM careers may specialize in compensation, training, or managing employees. Most HRM professionals hold a bachelor’s degree and some go on to pursue a master's degree. HRM professionals at all levels can also earn professional certifications to help build knowledge and increase earning potential. HRM’s goal is to build a company culture and carry out its mission and overall goals through the management of employees. 

Definition of Human Resource Management (HRM) 

Human resource management is organizing, coordinating, and managing employees within an organization to carry out an organization’s mission, vision, and goals. This includes recruiting, hiring, training, compensating, retaining, and motivating employees. 

HRM staff also develops and enforces policies and procedures that help ensure employee safety. The HRM team manages adherence to federal and state laws that may work to protect employees’ private information and ensure their physical safety and mental and emotional well-being. Organizations of varying sizes and industries rely on HRM to keep business running smoothly and efficiently. 

Purpose of human resource management (HRM)

Companies use HRM to invest in employees to boost job satisfaction and improve employee performance. The methodology behind HRM recognizes the value employees bring to an organization, also known as human capital. Investing in employees and strategically supporting their needs can improve job satisfaction and, therefore, greater success in their role within an organization. 

Employees who are well trained, competent, valued, and supported by their employers will likely have the skills and motivation necessary to carry out the organization’s goals. This might look like tuition reimbursement programs, on-the-job training, or mentorships within an organization that can help employees develop their talents and boost productivity. HRM aims to create a highly skilled workforce and boost confidence and competence so that employees are motivated to contribute. 

HRM has a strong focus on company culture and job satisfaction. Much of what motivates employees comes from the culture in which they work. Building and maintaining company culture can be challenging to measure and quantify, but it’s an important function of HRM to retain and recruit employees. 

HRM also protects employees. Human resource (HR) professionals manage legal documents, policies, and regulations, identify what applies to their organization, and find effective ways to educate employees and enforce company policy. 

HRM aims to be an ally or partner to employees. HRM emphasizes employee development while protecting employees from discrimination, workplace hazards, and unfair compensation. 

Basic elements of Human Resource Management (HRM)

HRM includes recruiting new hires, evaluating employee performance, ensuring fair compensation and benefits, training employees and supporting education and development, and protecting the health and safety of all employees. These are critical cornerstones of the work of HRM professionals. From crafting a job posting to providing continuing education options, HRM functions at all stages of an employee's journey with an organization. To be an effective HRM professional, you will need a mix of personal and technical skills like recruitment strategies, creating compensation plans, and communication and team building. 

Recruitment 

An effective recruitment process is at the foundation of HRM. If you can recruit good talent, you can build on their skills and invest in employees for years to come as they add value to the organization. Equally important is company culture. You want employees that add to the culture of the organization. Some common recruiting tools HRM may use include job aggregators like Indeed or SimplyHired, video interviewing, or even social media sites like LinkedIn. 

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Evaluation and performance management  

HRM uses data to track employee performance to ensure a highly trained and capable workforce. The data compiled can also be used to change staff training methods, implement a merit-based system for raises, and more. HRM professionals use formal measures like performance reviews and informal methods like interviews or surveys. 

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Compensation 

Compensation can mean salary, commission, benefits, time off, and other non-monetary benefits. HRM looks to the industry standard to set salary rates, commission rates, and benefits. This ensures fairness and allows for a consistent company standard. Some organizations may use performance reviews to adjust an employee’s salary, among other measures. 

Employee development and learning 

Engaged employees are effective employees. HRM understands the importance of a workforce that is challenged but also supported. Most employees want opportunities for advancement and to feel competent and valued in what they bring to an organization. Part of HRM is providing these learning opportunities to employees. This might include tuition reimbursement programs, on-the-job training options, conferences, conventions, or certification programs. Aside from individual learning, HRM can also use employee development and learning to help employees adapt to organizational changes, such as system upgrades, technology shifts, and new policies. 

Employee health and safety

The safety and well-being of an organization’s employees are critically important aspects of HRM. Employee health and safety covers a lot, such as safety against harassment, discrimination, or bullying in the workplace. It can mean physical safety that would involve building fire code compliance. It can also mean adherence to labor laws that protect an employee's rights in the workplace. Safety in the workplace means cybersecurity or safeguarding an employee’s personal information. A lot goes into protecting all aspects of employees’ health and safety, and it is the job of HRM professionals to ensure that protection. A few ways HRM professionals may go about this is by installing security cameras, enforcing internet usage rules, implementing a zero-tolerance policy, or creating restricted access areas.

Careers in human resource management (HRM)

You can find many different careers in HRM, with varying points of entry into this field. Most positions in HRM require at least a bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field. You can also earn certifications to help you find the best position within the vast field of HRM. HRM professionals have important jobs that can be both rewarding and fulfilling. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the human resources management field is expected to grow 7 percent from 2020-2030, or about 12,600 new jobs, on par with the national average [1]. The BLS cites an average annual US salary of $126,230 as of 2021. Read on to explore specific roles, salaries, and job descriptions.   

*All salaries sourced from Glassdoor, September 2022, and include base pay and additional compensation.

Payroll specialist

Median annual US salary: $74,830 

Payroll specialists gather employee information, ensure its accuracy, and administer compensation based on hours worked. This role usually works with a team of other payroll specialists and other departments to approve expenses, manage budgets, and process payroll. A degree in accounting or experience in payroll or accounting is common. 

Training and development manager 

Median annual US salary: $84,916 

A training and development manager, who may also be called a training coordinator, oversees employment training and implements training initiatives to build employee competence. Other responsibilities of this role may include communicating an organization's mission statement or company values and creating training programs. Training coordinators typically hold a bachelor’s degree and relevant certifications, and have experience in HR.

Read more: Why Should You Become an HR Coordinator? HR Career Paths

Human resources manager 

Median annual US salary: $88,535 

An HR manager oversees an entire HR department or portion of an HR department, depending on the company’s size. This role manages the hiring of staff, implementing policies, overseeing payroll and benefits, and advising managers or other supervisors from other departments. Qualifications typically include a bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field, experience in HR, and possibly certifications. 

Benefits manager 

Median annual US salary: $101,716

Benefits managers oversee the payroll department, ensuring all functions related to compensation and benefits are carried out and accurate. This job ensures employees are paid based on an organization’s pay structure, and benefits are granted per employee contracts. As a benefits and compensation manager, you also meet with other departments to discuss financial matters. Qualifications typically include a bachelor’s degree in accounting or related field, experience in payroll or management, and possibly certifications depending on your employer. 

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How to get started in human resources management

There are different options for launching a career in human resources management. They often include a combination of education, experience, certification, and networking. Read on to discover ways you can begin preparing for a career in HRM. 

Consider degree opportunities.  

 Sixty-seven percent of HRM professionals hold a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business, psychology, or a related field, and 14 percent have a master’s [2]. Common HR degree coursework includes workplace diversity, business ethics, labor relations, strategic HR, and workforce planning. Some programs may also require internship experience. 

Read more: What Can I Expect from a Human Resources Degree?

Gain HR experience.

You can stand out as an HRM job candidate with some experience in the HR field. There are opportunities to gain experience at all levels, whether you’re a new graduate or a seasoned professional.  One way to get experience is through internships and entry-level positions such as human resources assistant or associate. In these entry-level roles, you’ll assist in the major duties of HR and build experience to move forward. Joining professional organizations and attending networking opportunities like conferences and conventions is another way to gain experience, knowledge, and connections in HRM. 

Read more: How to Use LinkedIn: A Guide to Online Networking

Earn professional certifications. 

Consider professional certification to improve your chances of getting hired into an upper-level or senior-level position in HRM. Your human resource management salary may also be positively affected if you gain certifications. There are many professional certification options offered by national HR and business organizations. Choose the one that fits your long-term career goals and eligibility. Select from certifications specifically designed for individuals new to HR up to senior-level employees. 

 

  • HR Certification Institute offers eight different certifications. The Associate Professional in Human Resources does not require any educational prerequisites, and you do not need any prior experience in HR to be eligible. This certification is ideal for entry-level candidates who want to advance in HRM. Its professional and senior certifications have both educational and experience requirements and would be suitable for someone who has already worked in HR. International and global options are available for anyone who works with companies outside of the US. 

  • Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers two different certifications for HRM professionals. These are the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and the SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). You don’t need previous experience in HR, and there are no educational requirements for the SHRM-CP. The SHRM-SCP does have requirements for both experience and education. 

  • WorldatWork provides certifications specifically designed for individuals who work in payroll or benefits. Any HR professional could benefit from these certifications, as most HRM professionals handle finances, payroll, and budgets. You can earn a Certified Compensation Professional (CCP) certification, Certified Executive Compensation Professional (CECP) certification, Certified Benefits Professional (CBP) certification, and more.

Apply for HRM positions. 

Once you’ve honed the skills you’ll need to work in HRM and acquired any certifications or training, it’s time to polish your resume and apply for positions in HRM. Work on your resume as you go, gathering personal and professional references. Join professional organizations, take online courses, and attend conferences—all of which would be included on your resume and illustrate your dedication and drive. Learn 10 tips for a successful resume in the article below.

Read more: 10 Ways to Enhance Your Resume 

When you prepare your resume, include credentials, all related previous professional experience, internships, your education, professional organizations of which you’re a member,  achievements, qualifications, and skills relevant to HRM. One important tip, especially for HR resumes: Optimize your resume with targeted keywords that could be picked up by applicant tracking systems (ATS), which you will also likely use in your career as an HRM professional. 

Get started in human resource management with Coursera

Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been in HR for years, you can always build more skills in HRM. Consider enrolling in online courses to build knowledge, resources, and confidence to pursue success in this field. Human Resource Management: HR for People Managers Specialization and Leading: Human Resource Management and Leadership Specialization on Coursera are fully online courses designed to help you improve your management skills. 

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4.9

(1,814 ratings)

30,405 already enrolled

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Average time: 6 month(s)

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Skills you'll build:

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Article sources

1

US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Human Resources Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm.” Accessed September 9, 2022. 

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