Should I Be A HR Generalist or Specialist?

Monica Lochrie

Working within HR can be an extremely demanding and rewarding role. A good HR professional should be able to maximise employee contribution to the delivery of an organisation’s goals by providing both the tools and the support to implement strategy successfully.

It’s a case of balancing the needs of the company with the needs of individuals. When a business has a good HR team, it gives them a competitive advantage. HR offer so much more than tea and sympathy.

If you are a HR professional, there may come a point in your career where you will want to decide whether or not to maintain an overall generalist role or become a specialist. It entirely depends on the individual and the type of contribution you would like to make to a business.

Generalists and specialists will have many overlapping responsibilities but will differ greatly in other areas. As an HR employee, you will have to decide which career path best suits both your skills set and your personality. You can either make the decision straight from university or a few years in to a generalist HR role where you may realise that you prove more adept in one particular aspect of the job.

You won’t have to take on additional training to become a specialist – say in Compensation & Rewards – it will simply be an area of HR where you demonstrate a natural flair and understanding.

To be more specific, and perhaps to help you make the decision, here is an overview of how the positions differ.

HR Generalists

Generalists have a wide-range of experience across several sectors and are able to provide solid, reliable advice when called upon by managers or employees. However, they will more typically work with employees in issues such as:

  • Workplace safety and security
  • Staffing and recruitment
  • Employee relations
  • Personnel policies and procedures
  • Compensation and benefits

If you prefer a role where ‘no two days are the same’, the diverse range of tasks that are required of an HR generalist may suit you. Daily need will dictate where your focus lies.

HR Specialists

Unlike a multi-discipline generalist, specialists will prove themselves to be experts in one particular field of HR. Some of the areas you can specialise in include:

  • Employee relations
  • Organisational redevelopment
  • Compensation and rewards
  • Risk management
  • HR information systems
  • HR development

Specialists are required – more so than generalists – to work towards specific goals and deadlines, with more routine responsibilities and time frames. A keen eye for detail and a strong head for numbers can often be beneficial when choosing to pursue a specialist role.

Whichever route you choose to take, I would love to help you in the next phase of your career. If you would like to speak to me about current opportunities within the HR market, click here to drop me an email and get in touch.

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