The HR Generalist keeps the operational smoothness and efficiency of the staff intact. While specific HR functions such as recruitment or payroll may move into the arena of specialization, the HR Generalist has a larger scope of work in ensuring the overall effectiveness of the workforce.
As the need for specialization increases among companies, it is quite understandable that the HR Generalist is less sought-after than a specialist. This is particularly true of trends in which the use of technology is a relevant factor. Management of HR systems, HR skills and competencies, and HR soft skills are increasingly tracked and evaluated using data and analytical techniques. It is a requirement for HR Generalists to keep themselves updated with regard to their abilities and technical knowledge.
Specialists such as Data Scientists and Specialists of HR Analytics are apt to dethrone the HR generalists by bringing in more incisive, earth-shattering insights than someone who has an only passable knowledge of tech in addition to generalized knowledge about a wide range of HR functions and activities.
Since this is the case of today’s tech renaissance, it is crucial for HR Generalists to sharpen their baseline of knowledge and skill-set. Given their broad range of experience and ability to juggle roles, there are ways these cadres can bring value to the workforce. A more systematized approach to offering intuitive leadership and development opportunities is in order. They can ensure amenities and logs are all in place, and sparkle as the caretakers of the holistic picture of employee welfare.
However pervasive tech innovation is, the trend is not one of complete and utter displacement of the HR generalist’s roles and responsibilities. A shift in priorities is apparent but does not construe circumstances where an HR generalist is rendered completely sinecure. In fact, generalists grow at a pace of 5%, side by side with specialists who grow at 7% – these statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reflect a global trend.
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A high-ranking, guiding position is in line with the HR Generalist’s role now. Such an official is also held to performance metrics, mainly in advising and formulating policies and procedures for each HR task and activity in the organization. This is a positive and desirable change. On the flip-side, it has to be accepted that the number of HR generalist roles in a corporate body is set to decline in number. Only the senior-level official(s) would hold on to the HR generalist’s role.
The HR skills and competencies of a generalist come from the mileage gained on the job – several years spent in fulfilling, critiquing, and refining the entry to mid-level roles in the HR function ranging from budgeting, record-keeping, compliance, taxation, public relations, employee relations, social responsibility activities, payroll, benefits, Labor Laws, staffing and employee engagement, feedback and appraisals, retention and separation crystallize a lot of experience into an HR Generalist.
HR generalist roles and responsibilities would include carrying out advisory, corrective, and reparation tasks. The fact remains that HR key skills require a high level of personalization, empathy, and interpersonal skills. Not every specialist who is good at using data, statistical analysis, or technical acumen can raise the bar of humane interactions and intuitive, employee-led policymaking. An HR generalist shoots for HR skills and competencies that go far above and beyond viewing the workforce as one of the inputs of a business. They bring in the inimitable quality of humane orientation that makes a business a social enterprise.
As an organization grows larger and has a considerable workforce to manage, the HR Generalist responsibilities themselves take a turn towards specialization, albeit in a variety of ways. Some of them are as follows:
Trouble-shooting: The wide-ranging experience held by a senior HR general is hard to duplicate. They are unfazed during negotiations with internal customers, stakeholders, and staff or staff unions. They retain the focus on being human-centric and humane. This focus, in the long run, can help the organization be perceived as a greatly-sought-after place to work for.
Big picture: Even during negotiations, handling exit interviews and retention of top cadre, HR generalists not only know the policies and procedures in extreme thoroughness but also know when and how to bend the rules and make allowances. This wisdom and accuracy lend strength to line managers and entire projects and verticals.
Organizational goals: The deep experience and ability to lead organizational change through exemplary reinvention and re-learning on part of an HR generalist can help in navigating an organization matrix with layers of complexity. They keep their eyes on the end goals and decipher the environment and signals received from the industry and markets clearly. They communicate with the same lucidity to clarify objectives for every player in a dynamic environment.
Guiding juniors: New recruits, consultants, and the ancillary workforce of remote-workers benefit from the overarching authority and guidance of a veteran HR generalist.
The Irish Fortune Global 500 bigwig Accenture relies on a senior HR Generalist to ensure the well-being of its human resources. The decisions made by this official matter at the industry and country levels, with the official being adept at handling 1000+ employees in a supervisory capacity. American consumer products conglomerate Honeywell expects its HR Generalist to play the role of a life coach, change leader, thought leader, and one who works to further organizational goals.
Given the trend of flatter organizational structures, open-door management and changing administrative policies, the role of an HR generalist takes on higher complexity and gains mileage. They act as the anchor for future policymaking and people-led policy decisions.
- Arindam Goswami, Does the future belong to HR generalists?, HR Katha, December 3, 2019
- Devesh Rane, India’s Top 100 Emerging HR Leaders of 2019, sum HR, April 10, 2019
- India Today Web Desk, Human Resources Industry: Current prospects, recent changes and skill gap, India Today, September 1, 2016