HR Specialists versus HR Generalist

By November 8, 2017

HR Specialists versus HR Generalist: Which way should you go?

We look at Human Capital Magazine’s annual HR salary and job guide to see the predominant trends shaping HR careers for 2018 and beyond..

It’s certainly no secret that the role of Human Resources has changed from predominantly an administrative focus to a more strategic role that ultimately raises investor confidence.

And with the evolution of HR role’s comes the evolution of skill requirements and salary expectations for the traditional HR Manager.

So what skills do you need as a HR professional today? Let’s investigate.

What are businesses looking for?

The HR Salary and Job Guide, an annual review by Human Capital Magazine, reports that businesses are now primarily looking for someone who can add more value to the bottom line.

Businesses are seeking candidates with a broad skill set to step into senior and HR advisor roles.

In short, HR Generalists who can cover a range of functions at a senior level such as recruitment, L&D, employee relations are in high demand across industries.

This is especially the case for temporary and contract roles in organisations with lengthy selection processes (such as the public sector) where they seek to temporarily fill a position to address immediate needs.

Interestingly, the report also highlights a growing trend regarding a candidate’s behaviour capabilities rather than just their technical experience and skills.

Employers are looking for professionals who display competencies such as leadership development, commerciality, influencing and change leadership.

Someone who can effectively provide high level advice and lead line managers and teams towards good decision making that supports overarching business goals.

So, does this spell the end for HR Specialists?

Rest assured it’s not all bad news for HR Specialists. In fact, far from it.

There is still a need for HR Specialists across the board, with Human Capital Magazine reporting a strong demand particularly within recruitment, learning and development, employee relations and changes management.

This is despite redundancies within the mining and manufacturing sectors in Western Australia resulting in a drop within specialist roles within the state.

Rather much of the demand for specialists seems to be coming from the public sector with constant change and reinvigoration on the table.  Yet, specialists certainly aren’t limited to just government as demonstrated by our table below:

HR Specialist Role Demanded by:
Workforce Planning Specialist
  • state and federal government departments to help manage continual change demanded by departmental restructures and mergers
  • new infrastructure projects across states
  • organisations in NSW and Victoria looking to grow internal team
Instructional Designers
  • companies looking to focus upon their online learning and L&D strategies to help expand skill sets and retain staff
Industrial Relations and Employee Relations
  • the public sector necessitated by continually evolving legislation and corporate compliance
Compensation and Benefits
  • the public sector again this time looking to deliver offerings more in line with the private sector
Change Management
  • senior candidates are being particularly sought out by large, complex organisations seeking change
Ethics and Compliance
  • by international businesses seeking to minimise risk
Organisational Development
  • growing organisations to guide the development of a strong workplace culture

But where are the roles?

So, it’s good news for both HR generalists and HR specialists but where are the roles?

Senior HR roles are reportedly slowly picking up but not at a fast pace.  Most senior HR positions seem driven by the need to fill maternity leave positions or roles becoming available when organisations relocate to Australia.

There is also a trend of employers directly undertaking the hiring of senior roles such as Director or Head of HR, which can tend to lead to a smaller candidate pool.

For those seeking mid to senior roles, these positions are predominantly temporary and contract with competition and quality of applicants’ high.

There is also good news for those starting out in HR with coordinators and administrators still needed to support the team overall.

And what about remuneration?

Generally, HR salaries in Australia are in line with national salary growth with organisations approaching salary increases cautiously, tending to only occur with promotion or job change.

However, there is good news.

HR Specialists whose skills are in high demand – such as IR/ER and compensation and benefit professionals –are being offered very competitive salary packages.

With a short of supply of senior candidates in the eastern states, HR advisor and senior advisors are also seeing an increase in salary offers.

HR Professionals tend to benefit from bonuses, with Frazer Jones’ Research indicating that 70% of HR professionals work in organisations that offer bonuses based on business and individual performance.

So overall, the role of HR – whether you are a generalist or a specialist – is still in high demand across industries.  Now it’s all about keeping up with the demands of the future workplace.

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