What Does an HR Generalist Do? [Ultimate Guide]

Updated on December 22nd, 2021
What Does an HR Generalist Do? [Ultimate Guide]

HR generalists are HR professionals that understand and can perform a broad range of HR functions – rather than being specialized in any single field. Therefore, when you ask, what does an HR generalist do, the answer is rather simple: They can handle pretty much every human resources task at an entry level.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the question and explore what an HR generalist does in an organization. If you're interested in learning more via video, then watch below.

Let’s dive right in.

What Does an HR Generalist Do? Typical Roles in Organizations

Human resources generalists can recruit, screen, interview, and place workers in an organization. They can also handle compensation, benefits, training, employee relations, and payroll, among other HR functions. Therefore, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact HR generalist job description for a given company.

The human resource generalist role can change and adjust with various state laws and company policies in the United States. For example, some companies may let HR generalists handle benefits administration completely, rather than hiring an HR specialist. While such scenarios are common in smaller organizations, some medium-sized companies also tend to compartmentalize their HR departments mildly.

In any case, HR generalists work under the HR manager or HR director. Some smaller companies start their recruitment process of a human resources department by hiring an HR generalist. Primarily because the HR generalist roles can vary from business administration to things like employee relations and basic human resource management.

Therefore, the HR generalist job title can mean any number of things depending on the organization, state, and level of experience you have.

What Does an HR Generalist Do – Duties and Tasks

In human resources management, roles of jobs such as the human resources specialist are defined according to their specialization. However, the HR generalist role is never limited to any one field; it can develop and expand along with the organization.

The following duties and tasks are what the typical human resources generalist has to manage.

  • Help with recruiting and staffing logistics, and if there isn’t a recruiter, the HR generalist may have to handle the recruitment directly.
  • Assist in decision-making, organizational development, and company policies.
  • Make sure that the company is compliant with regulations, labor laws, and employment laws. HR generalists may even have to report regulatory compliance.
  • Help establish performance management, improvement, and training programs and systems.
  • Take part or host employee orientations, development programs, and training regimens. Furthermore, they help new employees settle in using onboarding programs.
  • Establish active employee communication systems for all departments.
  • Manage compensation and handle benefits administration.
  • Conduct exit interviews to understand employee behavior.
  • Calculate and analyze metrics such as employee turnover and return on investments on various company programs and policies.

HR generalists are usually part of smaller organizations that can’t afford to hire a separate HR professional for function, or they don’t need to do so. For HR generalists, it’s an opportunity to learn what HR functions they can specialize in.

HR generalists in medium-sized companies may also require a basic understanding of Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS).

What Does an HR Generalist Do – Skills and Abilities

HR generalists require excellent interpersonal skills because they need to be approachable. Therefore, they also require strong verbal and written communication skills so they can listen, learn, and actively communicate with employees.

Furthermore, HR generalists need organizational skills to manage multiple HR functions of a company. For that reason, they also need strong decision-making skills to solve disputes, develop training programs, and oversee recruitment.

Most importantly, confidentiality and discretion are needed because HR generalists are exposed to sensitive company and employee information.

How to Become a Human Resources Generalist

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 600,000 HR generalist jobs in the United States. The average median HR generalist salary is around $53,330, per year.

Most companies want HR generalists to have a Bachelor’s degree, at least. Bigger organizations tend to prefer someone with a Master’s degree. The minimum work experience can be as low as one year, while some companies may require at least three years of experience.

It’s advisable to be familiar with HR generalist resume examples so that you can develop a strong resume.

You can also develop your HR career and become a better HR generalist by getting HR certifications. Most notably, you can opt for the SHRM Certification (Society for Human Resource Management) or HR Generalist Certification from HR University, SPHR Certification (Senior Professional in Human Resources), or the simple PHR Certification (Professional in Human Resources).

Becoming a Great HR Generalist

Now that you have the answer to the question what does an HR generalist do, you can focus on becoming one. More importantly, it would be better to focus on how to become a great HR generalist.

HR generalists are expected to have a solid grasp of all HR functions. Therefore, you should focus on filling your knowledge gaps by learning more. You should opt for a bachelor’s degree, and if you have one, you should concentrate on completing courses and certifications.

It’s best to take advantage of the experience you gain from HR generalist roles to work out where you can specialize.

Lastly, it’s always best to stay up to date with the industry and learn more about the HR generalist role and human resource management.


If you are new to Human Resources and are looking to break into a HR Generalist role, we recommend taking our HR Certification Course, where you will learn how to build your skillset in human resources, build your human resources network, craft a great HR resume, and create a successful job search strategy.