What Does An HR Generalist Do, & How Can Small Businesses Profit

The HR generalist is a hybrid role that combines the skills of an internal consultant and a supervisor. An HR generalist also provides strategic advice on HR issues to the CEO, COO, and senior executives. The generalist has an in-depth knowledge of the business but also possesses critical skills required to work with different levels of staff. 

The role also requires someone who is driven by data and statistics and has a good understanding of people and human behavior. This person must be comfortable working in a fast-paced environment with frequent changes to strategy or direction. The job also involves managing people, including their development and performance, against targets set by the organization.

The Essential Qualities of an HR Generalist

An HR generalist can handle both project and operational requirements. Such a person will think strategically about the big picture and work with a team daily. The essential qualities necessary for this role include:

Strong Communication Skills 

Strong communication skills are a superpower for HR generalists, impacting almost every facet of their role. Let’s break it down:

  • Beyond Clarity: It’s about what you communicate and how you do it. Active listening, empathy, and nonverbal cues like tone and body language build trust and understanding.
  • Tailoring the Message: HR interacts with diverse audiences, from executive boards to entry-level employees. Adapting language, explaining complex information clearly, and addressing different communication styles ensure everyone receives the message effectively.
  • Written Prowess: From crafting persuasive job descriptions to writing sensitive disciplinary reports, HR’s written communication sets the tone. Strong grammar, conciseness, and accuracy are crucial for clarity and professionalism.
  • Conflict Resolution: When emotions run high, HR navigates delicate situations. Excellent communication skills allow them to mediate conflict fairly, listen to multiple perspectives, and find solutions for everyone.
  • Change Management: Implementing new policies or navigating organizational shifts requires clear communication that builds buy-in and minimizes resistance. HR can rally support by explaining the “why” behind changes and effectively managing expectations.
  • Building Relationships: Strong communication fosters trust and transparency. HR generalists who openly communicate with employees, managers, and stakeholders create a positive work environment and build lasting relationships.
  • Impact on Business Goals: Effective communication ensures HR initiatives align with overall business goals. By articulating the value of HR programs and demonstrating their impact on employee engagement, productivity, and retention, HR contributes directly to the company’s success.

Remember, strong communication isn’t just a skill; it’s a tool that empowers HR generalists to connect, influence, and drive positive change within the organization.

What Does An Hr Generalist Do Communicate Effectively

A Positive Attitude

Beyond “keeping calm,” a positive attitude for HR generalists goes deeper, becoming a beacon of resilience and optimism in often-pressured environments. Here’s how it manifests:

  • Approachability and Openness: A positive attitude creates a welcoming aura that encourages employees to seek help, voice concerns, and participate openly. It fosters a collaborative environment where problems are tackled together, not in isolation.
  • Resilience in the Face of Challenges: HR deals with complex situations and difficult conversations. A positive attitude fuels their emotional resilience, allowing them to bounce back from setbacks, navigate conflict constructively, and maintain optimism even when facing tough decisions.
  • Promoting Engagement and Motivation: A positive HR generalist inspires those around them. Their upbeat demeanor and enthusiasm encourage employee engagement, drive motivation, and boost morale. This positive energy ripples the organization, creating a happier and more productive work environment.
  • Focus on Solutions, not Problems: While acknowledging challenges, a positive attitude emphasizes finding solutions. With this mindset, HR actively seeks improvement opportunities, frames concerns as stepping stones for growth, and fosters a culture of constructive problem-solving.
  • Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: A positive attitude is rooted in empathy and emotional intelligence. This allows HR to understand and respond to the needs and emotions of others, offering support and encouragement while navigating sensitive situations with a sense of care and understanding.
  • Maintaining Perspective: Keeping a positive outlook doesn’t mean ignoring negativity. It’s about finding balance, acknowledging challenges calmly, and staying focused on the bigger picture. This grounded perspective helps HR stay objective, make sound decisions, and avoid emotional burnout.

Ultimately, a positive attitude isn’t just a trait for HR generalists; it’s a strategic asset. It fosters a thriving work environment, builds trust and engagement, and empowers HR to drive positive organizational change.

Remember, a genuinely positive attitude goes beyond superficial smiles. It’s about cultivating resilience, empathy, and a solutions-oriented mindset, allowing HR to navigate challenges gracefully and contribute to a happier, more productive workplace for everyone.

Woman With Postive Attitude

An Entrepreneurial Mindset

Going beyond routine tasks, an entrepreneurial mindset unlocks innovative approaches to HR, turning generalists into internal catalysts for growth and change. Here’s how it translates:

  • Taking Calculated Risks: HR decisions can impact the entire organization. However, an entrepreneurial spirit encourages calculated risks – trying new initiatives, piloting programs, and experimenting with fresh approaches to recruitment, talent development, or employee engagement. This willingness to step outside the box can lead to game-changing results.
  • Adapting to Change: Agility is critical in today’s business landscape. HR generalists with an entrepreneurial mindset embrace change as an opportunity, adjusting strategies quickly to respond to market shifts, employee needs, or emerging technologies. They see challenges as catalysts for innovation, not roadblocks. 
  • Learning from Mistakes: Failure is inevitable, but an entrepreneurial spirit transforms mistakes into valuable learning experiences. HR generalists with this mindset analyze setbacks objectively, identify areas for improvement, and use that knowledge to refine their strategies and move forward with renewed motivation.
  • Resourcefulness and Creativity: Budgets and limitations are realities, but resourcefulness is a superpower for entrepreneurial HR. They use limited resources creatively, seeking alternative solutions, partnering with other departments, and leveraging technology to achieve their goals.
  • Championing Innovation: True entrepreneurs push boundaries. HR generalists with this mindset actively seek innovative solutions to long-standing problems, propose new HR policies that enhance employee experience, and advocate for creative approaches to attracting and retaining top talent.
  • Focus on ROI and Efficiency: While an entrepreneurial spirit emphasizes exploration, it’s grounded in practicality. HR generalists with this mindset measure the impact of their initiatives, track ROI, and optimize processes to ensure their innovative efforts deliver tangible results for the business.

Ultimately, an entrepreneurial mindset allows HR generalists to move beyond the traditional box, becoming proactive agents of change within their organizations. They navigate challenges with ingenuity, seize opportunities enthusiastically, and contribute to a culture of continuous improvement, driving the company toward success.

Remember, fostering an entrepreneurial mindset doesn’t require radical changes—it’s about embracing challenges, seeking creative solutions, and learning from every experience along the way. This shift in perspective can empower HR generalists to significantly impact their organizations and elevate their roles beyond routine tasks.

Woman With An Entrepreneurial Mindset

Where Does an HR Generalist Fit In? 

Is an HR manager at a higher level than an HR generalist? The answer is simple: For huge organizations, an HR generalist is usually found at the lowest level of the organizational hierarchy. HR managers are just above them in terms of position or job level.

What Is the Role of an HR Generalist? 

The human resource generalist manages the human resource (HR) department’s everyday tasks, hiring and managing staff, controlling pay, benefits, and vacation days, and imposing business policies and practices.  

Virtual Human Resources Assistants and How They Can Add Value 

With a virtual human resources assistant, you can:

  • Manage your workforce, including hiring, firing, and onboarding new employees;
  • Track employee performance, including salary increases and bonuses;
  • Manage your HR policies, including hiring rules, vacation time, and sick leave rules;
  • Also, manage your benefits programs, including health insurance plans, 401(k) plans, and life insurance plans;
  • Manage payroll, including payroll taxes and deductions; and
  • Plus, manage pension plans and retiree healthcare benefits.

A virtual human resources assistant can help companies manage their HR process more effectively.

The Value of Having an HR Assistant on Your Team

The goal of a virtual human resources assistant is to help you with your business processes by providing you with the answers to your questions and giving you the support that you need. Virtual human resources assistants are not just a one-stop shop for all HR-related tasks. Such skilled people also can provide other services such as coaching, training, and mentoring.

A virtual human resources assistant becomes an integral part of the HR department. Virtual HR assistants can be used for various tasks, from simple email correspondence to complex data entry.

The Bottom Line: What Does An HR Generalist Do

Virtual human resources assistants are new employees who have become part of the modern workforce. They provide virtual assistance to the human resources department by performing administrative work, including data entry, answering phones, and other tasks. These assistants can conduct online interviews, collect data, and provide reports. They can also be used to provide support for different functions within an organization. Moreover, as a generalist, these HR professionals are budget-friendly, which can help you spread your financial resources much better.

Faqs
What are the different levels of HR generalists?

HR generalists typically progress through titles like HR assistant, specialist, generalist, manager, director, or head of people. Each level builds on experience and knowledge.

What are the job duties of an HR generalist in a small business?

Handle full-cycle recruitment, on-boarding, payroll, performance management, employee relations, and basic compliance. Wear many hats!

What skills are required to be a successful HR generalist?

Strong communication, problem-solving, organization, legal and HR knowledge, empathy, and tech-savviness are key.

What is the difference between an HR generalist and an HR manager?

Managers oversee teams, lead strategic initiatives, and have more budget or personnel responsibility. Generalists are hands-on with individual tasks.

What are the benefits of outsourcing HR tasks for small businesses?

Saves time and money, provides access to expertise, reduces compliance risk, and lets you focus on core business.

The Ultimate Outsourcing Guide:

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