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What is Human Resources? Introduction to HR services

Human resources, or HR, is the department responsible for handling employee matters. HR manages virtually all aspects related to your business’s human capital, or personnel. The department’s duties are diverse, ranging from onboarding and paying employees to performance management and termination.

As you grow your business, you may find yourself wondering whether you actually need a human resources department or provider. HR services are essential to any business with employees. Between helping your company remain in compliance with labour laws and managing employee relations, HR is a key component to long-term success.

To help you implement an effective human resources solution at your business, we’ve put together a comprehensive overview. Read on for an in-depth explanation of HR and why it’s important to your business, or use the links below to go directly to a specific section.

Why is human resources important?

A primary function of human resources is to manage employee relations. But can’t you just handle that as the business owner? Not necessarily. The role of HR isn’t as simple as just handling the hiring, firing and paying of employees; there’s a lot of specialised knowledge needed.

For instance, HR must remain up to date on all the latest employment laws at both the state/territory and federal levels. Not only that, but they need to stay current on industry trends, learn dispute resolution skills and know how to respond to workplace issues.

Attempting to handle these tasks on your own without the necessary experience could open you up to a lot of liability. Plus, you may be limited on time, and as your company grows the functions of HR only become more demanding. That is, unless you have human resource services to assist you.

What are human resource services?

Human resources and human resources services are not the same. While HR typically refers to an internal department or personnel, HR services are a substitute for traditional HR roles.

Graphic with a table comparing human resources and human resource services, accompanied by text that reads "Human resources: internal, personnel, traditional; Human resource services: external, online solution, modern

HR services are an external solution that leverages the latest technology to help you manage HR responsibilities. Human resource services combine all the aspects of HR into one tool, making it easier for small businesses to handle these responsibilities. In a nutshell, HR services make it possible for you to handle HR tasks via an organised online platform with minimal time commitment.

What is human resources responsible for?

Image of two people shaking hands, accompanied by text that reads "HR is responsible for: recruiting, onboarding, payroll, company policies, employee records, benefits, compliance.

HR is responsible for a broad range of tasks. These responsibilities encompass various aspects of supporting employees and their success, performance and satisfaction at the company. Some of the primary responsibilities of HR include:

  • Recruiting and hiring employees
  • Employee onboarding
  • Processing payroll
  • Enforcing personnel policies
  • Creating and updating policies
  • Maintaining employee records
  • Developing and implementing employee benefits.

Let’s dive a little deeper into each of these responsibilities so you can get a better sense of the function HR serves.

Recruiting and hiring employees

HR is responsible for talent management, meaning that they help you find (and keep) high-quality candidates for your company. This includes:

  • Helping refine job descriptions and duties
  • Creating and managing job listings
  • Screening applicants
  • Setting up interviews
  • Facilitating job offers
  • Gaining approval for and running background checks
  • Providing hiring documentation.

While this might seem fairly straightforward, there’s a lot of time and effort that goes into managing the recruiting and hiring process.

Onboarding employees

HR typically handles employee onboarding which can include the following tasks:

  • Planning an onboarding schedule
  • Preparing onboarding materials
  • Collecting necessary documentation from new employees
  • Setting up an employee file
  • Welcoming new employees
  • Establishing training programs.

Enforcing personnel policies

An HR professional should have a solid understanding of appropriate policies and how to implement them without crossing boundaries. To enforce personnel policies, HR may need to:

  • Research the latest legislation pertaining to each specific policy
  • Set guidelines for enforcing policies
  • Handle dispute resolution
  • Determine how and when to implement disciplinary actions
  • Follow the correct steps for termination of an employee.

Processing payroll

HR is responsible for ensuring employees get paid on time and in full. Conducting payroll generally entails:

  • Processing payroll
  • Distributing paychecks or facilitating direct credit
  • Handling payroll disputes
  • Managing retroactive payments
  • Documenting pay raises
  • Updating employee pay so payroll is processed correctly.

Creating and updating policies

HR also typically handles establishing personnel policies. This is because putting policies in place and enforcing them can get complicated quickly due to strict, ever-changing laws that pertain to personnel. This can include setting:

  • Sexual harassment policies
  • Nondiscrimination policies
  • Meal and break policies
  • Paid time off (PTO) policies
  • Employee conduct policies
  • Dress code requirements
  • Pay policies
  • Attendance requirements.

It might seem easy enough to create policies for your business—after all, if you’ve built your business from the ground up, you already have. However, there are many factors, such as fairness, legal precedents and standardisation, to consider when developing new policies. That’s where HR-specific knowledge comes in handy.

Maintaining employee records

Companies should have comprehensive employee records for every individual who works or has worked (within the past three years) for the company. HR tasks related to employee records include:

  • Creating an employee file
  • Updating the file as needed with new documentation
  • Having employees sign necessary documents
  • Recording pay raises
  • Keeping track of any disciplinary actions
  • Adding employee performance documentation after each review.

Developing and implementing employee benefits

Benefits are a major factor in job offer acceptance or rejection. Since HR is responsible for recruiting, it only makes sense they’d be involved in establishing the benefits package—with your input and final approval, of course. Responsibilities related to employee benefits administration may include:

  • Ensuring employees are given the required amount of leave required by law (this generally pertains to sick time and bereavement)
  • Determining PTO offerings
  • Organising superannuation funds
  • Facilitating benefit enrollment and renewal
  • Keeping employees updated about changes in benefits
  • Making recommendations on changes to benefits that can improve recruitment or employee retention.

HR laws and regulations

HR laws and regulations are in place to protect employees and ensure employers uphold these obligations when hiring or during employment. One of the most important aspects of HR is having a good working knowledge of these laws. Otherwise, your company could face serious consequences, including fines and employee lawsuits.

Workplace discrimination laws

Workplace discrimination laws ensure that all individuals are given equal opportunities. For example, companies are not allowed to discriminate based on:

  • Race, colour, religion, sex or national origin when making staffing decisions
  • Gender when it comes to equal pay for equal work
  • Disabilities if the individual is qualified to do the job.

It’s essential that you have a thorough understanding of what practices are considered discriminatory.

Employee benefits

Most employee benefits are not required and may depend on the worker’s classification, hours and other factors. However, certain benefits are required by law, such as:

Look into employee benefits laws to determine which benefits you’re required to provide.

Immigration laws

Immigration laws prevent employers from discriminating based on nationality or citizenship status when hiring. They also require employers to ensure that anyone they’re employing is able to legally work in Australia.

Workplace safety laws

Australian WHS laws require employers to provide safe working conditions. This includes training, providing the right protective gear, notifying workers about potential hazards on the job and keeping records of workplace injuries. Failing to meet these standards could result in severe workplace injuries that you can be held liable for.

Employee pay, leave and entitlements

Employee pay , leave and entitlements laws dictate the required rate of pay. This can include minimum wage regulations, when overtime is due, when breaks are required and which employees are entitled to fringe benefits. Violating these laws even just once could result in penalties.

Common human resource management mistakes

As we’ve mentioned, HR functions are entangled with all kinds of best practices, legal requirements and complex tasks. So, inevitably, mistakes are going to happen—especially if you’re trying to tackle these duties on your own. Mistakes happen, but when it comes to your employees’ rights, pay and employment status, there isn’t a lot of room for error.

Some of the most common human resources management (HRM) mistakes include:

  • Missing important deadlines
  • Not keeping accurate employee records and information
  • Neglecting employee onboarding
  • Making payroll mistakes
  • Misclassifying employees
  • Using poor recruiting practices.

To provide context for how these mistakes can impact your business, let’s explore them a little further.

Missing important deadlines

A major aspect of HR is complying with the requirements of different regulating bodies. This also means adhering to many different deadlines all year, which can be hard to keep track of—especially for a busy small business owner. Missing these deadlines can result in penalties, disgruntled employees or even legal action against your company.

Not keeping accurate employee records and information

Many businesses keep poor employee records or dispose of them prematurely. This is a problem for several reasons. First and foremost, keeping employee records gives you a history to refer to when making decisions about the employee. From details like their start date and pay to performance information, keeping organised information about each worker is invaluable.

Not only are employee records important for your own purposes, but you’re actually required to hold on to them. In general, employers are expected to keep basic employee records for seven years.

Neglecting employee onboarding

Onboarding is an important step in the hiring process. It can be tempting to do a quick introduction, have them fill out a few pieces of paperwork and turn them loose on the first day. However, that’s not a very effective way to get them acquainted with your company.

An employee’s first day and how they’re integrated into the team can actually have a major impact on their experience—and your bottom line. The cost of replacing an employee can be very high. So it’s in your best interest to make your onboarding process a priority.

Making payroll mistakes

Even if you only have a few employees, payroll involves a lot of moving parts. From keeping track of hours worked and pay rates for each employee to completing payroll, it’s not as easy as it may sound.

Cloud payroll services can make a world of difference for a small business owner who’s in over their head with no HR help. With this online solution, you can automate most aspects of processing payroll and breathe easy knowing your employees are getting paid correctly and on time.

Using poor recruiting practices

Recruiting the right candidates is no small feat; however, it’s one of the biggest HR challenges small businesses face. From placing job ads that lack key details to failing to screen prospective hires, there are a lot of little mistakes to be made. These small missteps can add up to hiring people who are a poor fit or, worse, are a threat to your company.


HR plays a vital role in your business. That’s why it’s essential to find the right HR solution to help you manage these responsibilities, remain in compliance and keep your employees happy.

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