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The human resources (HR) department and its core HR functions play a crucial role in any organization. The key human resources functions revolve around the effective management of an organization’s most valuable asset, its human capital. As we enter 2024, both HR professionals and business leaders need to have a solid understanding of the core HR department functions that drive organizational success.


In this blog post, we will overview the 12 most critical human resource functions to be aware of this year and beyond. Getting these human resource activities and HR functions right enables companies to attract, develop and retain top talent, drive productivity, and create a healthy culture focused on the employee experience.


Key Functions of Human Resources

Recruitment and Hiring

One of the most fundamental HR functions is recruiting and hiring talent. The HR department is responsible for identifying, sourcing, screening and onboarding qualified candidates to fill open roles. Some key human resource activities within talent acquisition include workforce planning, job advertising, screening resumes, performing interviews, checking candidate references, extending job offers and coordinating new hire logistics.


Compensation and Benefits Management

A critical HR function focuses on developing, executing and maintaining competitive compensation and benefits programs. This includes conducting regular market research, designing pay structures, setting pay rates for positions, managing payroll, choosing employee benefit plans, communicating benefits to employees and administering claims. The goal is to incentivize employees and provide adequate compensation.


Training and Development

Human resources plays a pivotal role in fostering employee growth and development. HR departments oversee the identification of skills gaps, design and delivery of training programs as well as track employee performance. Some examples of human resource activities and programs include new hire onboarding, workplace compliance, leadership development, professional skills courses as well as health and safety certifications.


Performance Management

The performance management process is frequently facilitated by HR functions. Key responsibilities include designing performance review procedures, creating measurement standards such as KPIs, providing performance feedback tools, meeting with managers and employees to discuss performance and executing talent development plans. The goal of performance management is to boost employee productivity and development.


HR Administration

HR teams are responsible for a wide variety of administrative functions within an organization from an employee paperwork and records perspective. Core HR department functions include: maintaining digital and/or physical employee personnel files, documenting information like performance data and training certificates, updating organizational charts and staff directories, administering employee leave and vacation policies, facilitating background record checks and work eligibility forms like the I-9, ensuring workplace legal and labour law compliance and more. These types of human resource activities keep the workforce organized and up-to-date.


Employee Relations

Human resources departments play an integral role in managing relationships between employees at all levels of the organization. HR responsibilities related to employee relations involve coaching managers, implementing open communication practices, resolving workplace interpersonal conflict, administering discipline and terminations, managing grievance procedures, gathering employee feedback as well and shaping company culture and morale via employee engagement initiatives and teams. Keeping employee relations positive and constructive is key.


Talent Management and Retention

With the costs of hiring and training new employees being high, one function of human resources focuses on talent management and retention tactics. HR carries out initiatives like succession planning, leadership development programs, creating talent pipelines, employee recognition programs, analyzing retention metrics and gathering exit interview insights. The goal is to understand why employees choose to stay or leave while proactively cultivating and keeping top talent.


Regulatory Compliance

Staying legally compliant with employment, workplace safety and labor regulatory standards is a crucial human resources department function. This includes administering harassment and discrimination policies, recording and reporting on workplace accidents and illnesses, implementing compliant payroll processes, posting mandatory labour law notices, providing regulated company training, completing government agency reporting requirements, conducting internal audits and keeping updated records. Legal compliance helps minimize company risk.


Risk Management

From both a proactive and reactive standpoint, human resources play a key role in managing organizational risk through priorities like employee screening, database security, unemployment claim management, workplace safety policies, regulatory protections and compliance, securing insurance policies like employment practice liability insurance, documenting information, maintaining workplace emergency procedures and contingency plans. Keeping risk low ensures business continuity.


Workplace Health and Safety

Creating a hazard-free workplace and keeping employees physically and mentally healthy and engaged is an important human resource function today. Some examples include: providing insurance options like health insurance or income protection policies, organizing wellness initiatives, supplying mental health support resources, administering first aid, implementing emergency response protocols, identifying workplace hazards, recording accidents and injuries, providing ergonomic equipment and offering counsel to employees with personal or professional issues impacting their performance. A sound health and safety culture keeps employees thriving and protected.


Employee Engagement and Satisfaction

Measuring and optimizing employee engagement, experience and satisfaction are pivotal HR functions. This means routinely surveying employees, organizing team building activities and events, administering recognition programs, soliciting employee feedback, building employer brand and culture, and providing professional development opportunities as well as career pathing. The more engaged and satisfied employees are at work, the more committed and productive they tend to be.


HR Information Systems and Analytics

Lastly, one of the more technical functions of human resources involves leveraging HR information systems and HR analytics to gather employee data and glean organizational insights to drive operational and talent management strategy. Core HR metrics tracked relate to areas like employee headcount, demographics and turnover rates, time-to-hire benchmarks, compensation trends, training program return on investment figures, culture survey scores, absenteeism rates, productivity numbers etc. The power of analytics guides fact-based HR and talent decision-making.


The Bottom Line

In today’s continually evolving work landscape, organizations must stay highly strategic when it comes to managing human capital and aligning HR functions to drive peak workforce productivity, health, capability building as well as mobility and flexibility. Use this overview of core HR functional areas as a guide when evaluating if your HR department needs to assess, streamline or expand key operations to meet rising stakeholder expectations in 2024 and prepare for the future of work.


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1. What are the main functions of an HR department?


Some of the most common functions of an HR department include recruitment and hiring, compensation and benefits management, employee relations, performance management, legal and regulatory compliance, risk management, analytics, workplace safety as well as employee training, development and retention initiatives.


2. What are the strategic functions of HR?


A few pivotal strategic functions of HR involve using analytics and metrics to guide workforce and talent strategy, leadership development and succession planning, fostering organizational culture and employer branding as well as building flexible programs and policies to source specialized talent.


3. What activities are part of an HR department?


Standard activities HR departments oversee include job advertisement creation and management, applicant screening and interviews, new hire onboarding, payroll and benefits administration, record keeping, performance evaluation processes, employee coaching sessions, compliance policy management, company culture-building events and recognition programs as well as talent acquisition and retention analytics.


4. What are the primary responsibilities of HR?


The primary responsibilities of most HR departments revolve around managing employee experiences, supporting talent acquisition duties like recruitment and selection, maintaining legally compliant and ethically sound people practices, administering employee documentation, managing compensation and benefits rewards programs, providing employee training and career development opportunities, tracking key talent metrics as well as applying human capital best practices.


5. What are the technical functions of HRM?


Some key technical functions human resource management requires today include managing applicant tracking and HR information systems, digitalizing document storage and HR processes, utilizing data analytics, structuring compensation analysis and building financial models to optimize labour spend as well as leveraging AI and automated solutions to remove administrative constraints.