what does an HR generalist do?

  • job profiles
  • September 04, 2020

HR generalists, as their job title suggests, are jacks-of-all-trades who hold down the day-to-day operations of the HR function at most companies today. At the same time, it’s a role that’s undergone significant transformation of late. With HR functions operating increasingly paperlessly these days, for example, many seasoned HR generalists have had to adapt to new digital modes of communicating and doing business in general.

Sometimes referred to as “senior HR generalists,” ”HR managers” or “HR coordinators” on job boards, HR generalists’ major day-to-day responsibilities include:

  • broadly managing the HR function
  • overseeing the training and development of colleagues
  • completing HR-related projects on time and within budget
  • continuously advising managers, leaders and other stakeholders on the latest and greatest best practices in HR management
  • ensuring comprehensive compliance with all applicable local, state and federal requirements
  • remaining current on new legislature as well as emerging trends in the HR space
  • offering guidance and direction on key performance management issues
  • addressing and resolving any interpersonal complaints and concerns that might surface between employees on an ongoing basis, with an eye toward providing recommendations on next steps to managers and senior leaders
  • supporting team members with payroll and benefits administration as required
  • coordinating and leading annual open enrollment

how do you become an HR generalist?

Good news! Provided you already have some sort of background in HR, there are relatively few barriers that stand in the way of you becoming a successful HR generalist today. Essential qualifications include:

  • bachelor’s degree or equivalent in a relevant field
  • at least some previous background experience or training as an HR generalist

one final tip

Before applying for jobs, make sure you’ve carefully read the entire job description. Ultimately, that’s the only way you’ll be able to tell if you’re a good fit for a given role.

what are the key skills of an HR generalist?

First and foremost, HR generalists need to have a demonstrated track record of success contributing to (and ideally leading) multiple aspects of daily operations within the HR function. They should also have some core hard skills: familiarity with HRIS, payroll and document-management systems, for example, as well as knowledge of today’s most important workforce analytics.

But, technical stuff aside, there are a ton of soft skills that can really set you apart as a candidate as well. What soft skills, then, should aspiring HR generalists showcase on their resumes?

  • cross-functional collaboration and leadership
  • team-building aptitude
  • strong interpersonal and communication skills
  • critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • proven organizational and time management abilities
  • emotional intelligence (EQ)
  • empathy

Not 100 percent sure you grasp what to showcase on your resume? Don’t sweat it. Just take a moment to review the essential differences between hard and soft skills, to understand where each type of skill should best be applied and other insights.

Plus, in the event that you need to secure a bit more relevant training in order to improve your overall readiness for the role, take advantage of some of the great online courses that are available today. Check out all of the HR-oriented classes that are currently on Udemy, our learning partner, to get started.

what's the pay rate for an HR generalist?

Compensation levels for HR generalists right now are fairly inconsistent and can vary considerably. Let’s look at the latest data for proof.

Right now, for example, it seems that average salaries for HR generalists can be grouped into three tiers — low, middle and high — depending on a lot of factors, such as your location, market, responsibilities and level of expertise.

  • low range $57,636-$69,916
  • mid range $64,129-$75,503
  • high range $71,289-$84,789

Want more granular insights? Our salary comparison tool will come in handy, if so. You can use it to help you understand the current pay rates for HR generalist roles in any location or market.

key takeaways

At this point, you should be pretty well versed in what HR generalists are up to on a daily basis, since we've walked you step-by-step through:

  • what HR generalists do on a day-to-day basis
  • training, experience and other requirements for this position
  • key skills
  • salary
  • and more

Got it all? Good! Now, it's time for you to take action. Why not start searching for highly in-demand HR generalist positions near you today?