What is a HR Generalist?

Published on: 24 Aug 2015

Most modern companies are likely to employ Human Resources advisors, in addition to an experienced HR management and Directorship team. In these cases, HR advisors are expected to act as the first point of contact for all employee-related issues across a spectrum of departments.

However, larger companies may also take the decision to hire HR generalists in addition to advisors. This serves the purpose of ensuring that every employee-related matter is given the time and effort required to ensure a suitable conclusion for the business.

HR generalists are generally considered a 'starting-point' for employees to begin their Human Resources career, although this in no way infers that a lack of responsibility or HR knowledge should be attributed to the role, as we will soon see.

The difference between HR advisor and HR generalist

It must be remembered that in smaller companies, HR generalists are effectively performing an advisory role. A lack of resources in smaller companies may mean that both roles are remarkably similar to one another, and the only difference in roles will be determined by job title alone.

However, in larger companies you will often come across both HR advisors and HR generalists working concurrently.

In these cases, a HR generalist would normally report directly to the HR advisor, and would assist the advisor in inter-departmental issues, leaving the advisor to concentrate their efforts on necessary departmental tasks, such as rewriting company procedures, and preparing for investigatory/disciplinary meetings.

What does a HR generalist do?

Once again, this depends upon the size of the company, and the scope of the HR generalist role within the business.

However, some of the most common daily tasks undertaken by a HR generalist would certainly include:

  • Offering advice to line managers and company employees
  • Resolving issues of conflict before the need for escalation
  • Ensuring that company procedures are being adhered to on a daily basis
  • Assisting the HR advisor with clerical and administrative tasks essential to the smooth running of the Human Resources department
  • Taking notes/acting as a witness during disciplinary meetings

As you can see, the HR generalist can be an important member of any HR team, particularly within larger companies with a higher volume of employees.

Who does a HR generalist report to?

In most cases, a HR generalist would report directly to the HR advisor, or Senior Advisor, although they may report directly to the Human Resources manager in smaller companies.

The advisors would normally detail the tasks which a HR generalist must complete throughout the day, and as we have mentioned above, these can include both internal undertakings, and inter-departmental issues.

It should also be noted that while a HR generalist does not directly report to middle or senior managers across other departments, you should always respect the position and authority that these roles command.

If you feel your advice has been ignored and could potentially lead to further issues, report this directly to your HR advisor or manager immediately, but do not challenge inter-departmental managers without the authority of your Human Resources manager.

Who reports to a HR generalist?

In most cases, a HR generalist would have no direct reports of their own. However, it should always be remembered that members of most HR teams command a certain level of respect across many departments, and a lack of direct reports does not mean a lack of responsibility or authority over employee-related issues.

As a HR generalist, you are likely to find that you still have many middle-managers (and sometimes senior managers) coming to you for advice, or asking you to speak to employees on their behalf.

Never forget that any HR role is viewed as a position of authority by many external departments.

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