Grace Smith
January 1, 2024

Have a flair for people management? Sounds awesome!

The HR industry is said to grow 12.8% annually anyway, so you are on the right track. All you need is a thorough understanding of the career paths available and a way to get there. But there is just so much information out there that filtering through it and finding a reliable source can be tedious.

How about a crisp resource on the possible career paths you get opened to in HR and an in-depth analysis of the same?

HR Generalist vs. HR Specialist

The fundamental aspect you need to understand right off the bat is that the road of your HR career forks into two: one is an HR generalist, and the other is an HR specialist. Which one is better? Well, it depends on what you look for in your career as an HR manager and the interests you carry. We have explained the basic idea behind each of them and their roles in a business environment so you can make an informed decision.

HR Generalist

HR generalists handle recruiting, employee relations, training, benefits administration, and compliance. A generalist can recruit for many roles in different areas to ensure a varied skill set. Let's put it under the microscope.

1. Flexibility and adaptability

  • An HR generalist must swiftly adapt to organizational changes, working in multiple areas as needed.
  • BLS reports that HR generalists work in practically every industry, demonstrating their versatility.
  • They make use of a holistic approach to problem-solving
  • Generalists must handle everything from individual disagreements to company-wide policy changes in HR.

2. Building relationships

  • They cultivate relationships with all employees to create a good workplace.
  • A generalist can plan team-building activities to boost employee collaboration and belonging.

3. Managing compliance

  • They help ensure the corporation follows labor laws, regulations, and policies.
  • For instance, they can regularly teach personnel about workplace harassment regulations to promote safety.

4. Developing employees

  • Generalists generally lead employee skill development.
  • Mentorship programs can help new hires adjust to the business culture.

HR specialist

HR specialists are experts in their fields and focus on pay and perks, working with employees, and training and growth. To keep the business competitive, an HR expert plans and oversees the perks packages for employees.

1. In-depth knowledge

  • In their area, they know everything there is to know about trends and the best ways to do things.
  • HR specialists can focus on conflict settlement to reduce fights at work and make employees happier.

2. Analytical skills

  • Experts look at facts and trends in their area to give well-informed advice.
  • To keep the company's pay competitive, an HR specialist might look at wage polls for the business.

3. Compliance with regulations

  • HR specialists study the rules in their field to make sure the company follows the many regulations that apply.
  • When a company goes global, an HR specialist can ensure it follows the complicated rules for hiring people in other countries.

4. Develops policies

  • They help make and change the HR rules for their industry.
  • A diversity and inclusion specialist can create rules to encourage a broad staff to help a company do better.

5. Training and Development

  • Specialists create personalized training plans for employees that help them improve their skills.
  • A training specialist can design leadership programs to boost company growth.

Common HR Generalist Roles 

If you do not want to commit to any specific niche or area of expertise in HR, being an HR generalist is the best bet for you. If you have decided to go with it, this section explains more about the roles and responsibilities of an HR generalist.

1. HR Manager

HR managers connect top management to employees, making them highly crucial. They administer HR services, ensure compliance, and boost employee engagement, earning $90,000 annually in the US, per the BLS.

HR managers can improve open enrollment communication to increase employee benefit awareness, enrollment, and satisfaction. They design performance management systems, which Gallup found boosted staff productivity by 14%. HR managers drive diversity and inclusion programs to improve employee morale, retention, and culture.

2. CHROs and CPOs

Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) and Chief People Officers (CPOs) align HR with business goals to guide HR strategy. Corporate policies and initiatives are created and implemented by experienced HR managers. A good CHRO can reduce employee resistance and maintain efficiency throughout company transformation.

PwC found that change management-savvy firms outperform their counterparts 3.5 times.

Both CHROs and CPOs innovate. They can expand by fostering risk-taking and innovation. Leadership teams with more diversity generate 19% more innovation revenue, according to Boston Consulting Group.

3. HR Assistant

HR assistants are the department's backbone, doing several jobs simultaneously. These occupations give a unique chance to learn about HR activities and are typical entrance points. HR assistant recruiting efficiency can affect talent acquisition expenditures.

The average US recruiting cost is $4,129 as per SHRM.

By simplifying administrative chores, HR assistants save money. Benefits administration informs workers about their packages, enhancing retention. Glassdoor found that 57% of job candidates examine perks and incentives before trying new opportunities, underscoring HR assistants' importance to employee happiness.

4. HR Data Analyst

HR data analysts are considered labor market experts, and their forecasts aid business planning. Employee engagement survey data helps HR data analysts find improvements.

Gallup reports 147% higher per-share earnings for engaged companies. HR data analysts benefit from diversity programs. McKinsey found that gender-diverse firms earn 21% more.

By understanding these statistical relationships, HR data analysts help firms design data-driven initiatives for a more engaged, diverse, and productive workforce.

5. HR Employee Engagement Coordinator

HR engagement coordinators boost workplace happiness as well as collaboration. They organize surveys, feedback, praise, and wellness programs. Group activities boost morale and productivity. Good recognition software can enhance output. Globoforce found that 78% of workers are motivated by recognition.

Common HR Specialist Roles

If you prefer mastering one specific aspect of HR rather than being a generalist, the role of an HR specialist might be the ideal fit. HR specialists choose a niche within the HR domain that aligns with their interests and expertise.

1. Compensation and Benefits Specialist

Compensation and Benefits Specialists play a crucial role in efficiently recruiting staff. They excel in determining competitive pay scales through extensive market research. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for all jobs in 2021 was $41,950, making their expertise highly valuable in corporate compensation.

2. Employee Relations Expert

Workplace harmony relies on HR experts, particularly Employee Relations Experts. Their skills facilitate unbiased conflict resolution, with SHRM noting a 50% productivity increase in workplaces with excellent relationships. By enforcing firm regulations, these experts promote workplace fairness and well-being, contributing to improved retention, as engaged workers are 59% less likely to switch employment the following year (Gallup).

3. Training and Development Specialist

Training and development specialists focus on nurturing driven employees by identifying skill gaps and customizing instruction. According to LinkedIn Learning, 94% of employees would stay longer if their employers invested in their growth.

These specialists design engaging courses, including gamified and microlearning options, aligning them with organizational goals to enhance employee happiness and professional development.

4. Diversity and Inclusion Specialist

Diversity and Inclusion Specialists contribute to creating inclusive environments that boost business performance. McKinsey notes that top-quartile racial and ethnic diversity companies exceed national sector medians by 35%. These specialists educate employees on cultural competence, fostering innovation and engagement. Deloitte found that 85% of diverse and inclusive workers trust in their innovation, highlighting the positive impact of promoting diversity on organizational success.

Generalist or specialist?

Even though there are many roles and job types to pick from when it comes to human resources, the first step towards the same is choosing whether you are a generalist or a specialist. Once you get that sorted, everything else will automatically unfurl over time. So, make a pick and kickstart your career with the correct set of information on the topic.