Is HR management a good career?

A work meeting in progress

With plenty of less-than-flattering portrayals of HR Managers in the media, you might be asking yourself, “Is HR management a good career?” And then, after a quick Google search, you might see questions like, ‘Is being an HR manager stressful?’

The truth is that getting into human resources management (HRM) can be an excellent career move. So, what’s with search questions like these? 

We’re here to bust some myths about an HR manager's role. Read on to find out:

  • where some of the myths around HR stem from
  • how the perceptions of HR are changing for the better
  • what HR professionals really do and why you might want to do it too
  • some common HR leadership career paths

Two people giving a handshake after a discussion about what does a human resource specialist do

Understanding the real HR

Some HR misconceptions could stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of what working in HR actually involves. Ashley White, Executive Director of HR at the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC), believes this is the case. 

“In my opinion, the root of it [HR misconceptions] is a misunderstanding of what HR really does,” she said in an interview with APQC writer Mercy White. “I think a lot of our co-workers sit back and think that HR is there to process payroll and plan the holiday party. And the role itself is so much deeper than that.”

Another potential reason why some people may have inaccurate perceptions about HR is the confidentiality and privacy protection involved in the work itself. Again, Ms White explains:

“Our role is just one that, unfortunately, is cloaked in a lot of confidentiality. We can't be as open about it. We can’t pull back the curtain and let you see all that transpires at our desk. We do that to protect you, not to keep you in the dark… What we are trying to do [as HR professionals] is create the best employee experience we can create for every single employee, every single time… We want that experience to be fantastic. And that’s what I spend my days doing…” 

Finally, another potential cause of HR misconceptions is that people may have worked in an organisation with poor HR practices that are still stuck in the ‘bad old days’. 

For example, as recently as 10 years ago, HR primarily used to be an administrative role, heavy on paperwork. Some organisations back then hired and promoted people without appropriate qualifications into HR roles. According to data from a highly regarded HRM text, “fewer than one-third of individuals currently in HRM roles have ever had academic training in HRM”.

While some admin work is still part of the job, contemporary HR management is all about driving business value and being strategic business partners for the organisation. And this is part of what makes pursuing a career in contemporary HR management such a good career move.

Moreover, old-fashioned perceptions about HR management seem to be shifting. The results of a recent study revealed that “the vast majority of respondents not only felt positive about HR but also like and trust their HR representative”. 

Another APQC survey of more than 300 employees across a range of different industries and organisation sizes in the US found that:

  • the majority of respondents are satisfied with HR at their current workplaces
  • “more than half said that during the pandemic, HR has helped them navigate work”
  • 40 per cent said that HR has helped them navigate personal issues during the  challenging time of the pandemic

What does a human resource manager do?

Some typical roles and responsibilities of an HR manager may include:

  • arranging and performing recruitment interviews
  • onboarding new employees
  • maintaining employee records
  • determining compensation
  • administering benefits
  • training and development
  • employee relations
  • governmental compliance
  • creating new policies
  • navigating flexible working arrangements

But that’s not all. According to global research and advisory firm Gartner, “many HR functions are restructuring to be more efficient, flexible and strategically aligned to the business.” Essentially, this means that while the HR manager position still includes some administrative aspects above, it is evolving into a more strategic business partner role. 

Some of the more strategic aspects of an HR manager role can include: 

  • working with leadership teams to develop and implement effective people management strategies
  • being an organisational change agent to help manage change from the inside and out
  • creating great workplaces by developing talent management strategies and fostering a culture that aligns with the organisation’s values
  • forecasting future skill and capability needs while paying close attention to potential workforce impacts of changing technologies
  • analysing and interpreting people data to make objective decisions using a data-driven approach

A woman leading a discussion with four other people, talking about why do people work in HR

Why do people work in HR?

According to Dr Meagan Tyler, a senior lecturer at RMIT, a career in HR can be personally rewarding because it can give you the opportunity to:

  • help an organisation to achieve values, common vision and social responsibility
  • ensure diversity and equality
  • increase innovation and creativity 
  • improve efficiency 
  • reduce organisational costs

Ultimately, practising effective HR leadership can benefit you as well as the organisation you work for. Being a capable HR adviser can lead to greater career opportunities and accelerate your leadership trajectory in roles such as:

HR business partner

In this leadership role, you will align the organisation’s HR practices with its goals and needs to drive value. According to global recruitment agency Michael Page, your responsibilities may include developing “strategic talent acquisitions plans, employee development strategies and HR policies to fuel an organisation’s business strategy”.

HR manager 

While there is some overlap with the HR business partner role, the HR manager focuses more on running the daily operations of the HR department. Meanwhile, an HR business partner can be likened to an internal HR consultant to every department in the organisation. 

HR director 

As the most senior HR position in your organisation, you will take care of the bigger HR picture for your company, report on HR performance to the C-suite and ensure that your department meets all compliance standards

Gain strategic leadership expertise with RMIT Online

Human resource management leaders are facing a variety of challenges today. To step up as a leader, you’ll need to demonstrate how to overcome these HR challenges with strategic and foundational HR leadership expertise. RMIT Online’s Master of Human Resource Management can help you gain these skills to widen your job opportunities and accelerate your career trajectory. 

Specifically, you will learn how to:

  • think critically about the foundations, principles and key issues in HR
  • deepen your legal, ethical, social and management skills to support people and culture in real-life workplaces
  • understand challenges and provide solutions in a range of cultural, institutional and employment contexts
  • research, design and guide the critical cultural shifts needed to support business success and put people first

To progress in your career, it’s also important to upskill and stay up-to-date with the latest HR practices. It’s why studying HR at a master's degree level can be rewarding to both your current role and future leadership. 

In fact, this was the real-life experience of Paul Flavel, former HR Business Partner at Target Australia and a graduate of our Master of Human Resource Management program.

“Having the added benefit of studying HR while I’m in an HR role has allowed me to utilise straight away the learnings that I have gained through my qualification,” he says. “That has allowed me to take part in projects that I would otherwise have shied away from.”

Empower people. Power business success.

Step up to the leadership challenge by studying for our Master of Human Resource Management program. You’ll develop the future-focused knowledge and skills to stand out as an exceptional HR leader. 

To learn more, get in touch with one of our Student Enrolment Advisors or call 1300 701 171.