HR Generalist Vs Specialist: Understanding The Differences

One of the most fundamental skills to possess in human resources management is to understand the difference between an HR generalist and a specialist.

It would be better for a business to hire an HR specialist if it requires assistance, for instance, with hiring, recruiting, payroll and benefits.

This person will know how to deal with all things explicitly related to recruitment and hiring, while an HR generalist would need to learn how to handle recruitment and hiring issues and other human resources management issues. Both these roles are necessary for a business to function smoothly.

The HR generalist is a person who has a broad knowledge of all human resources functions. It would be the job of HR generalists to hire the right employees for a business, facilitate training and development programs, provide benefits such as medical insurance to the staff and handle all the legal responsibilities of a business.

HR specialists are experts in recruiting fresh graduates. They possess a great understanding of the job market, labour laws, and trends since they have an insight into various industries.

General HR Generalist Roles and Responsibilities

The HR generalist covers a wide variety of roles and responsibilities that include-

HR Assistant / Coordinator

This role combines HR coordinator, HR administrator, and office manager. This person is the one who will keep track of all the matters in the HR department related to talent management, recruitment, training and development, and quality management.

This person should be an expert in time management and practical communication skills. This person will be responsible for conducting the proper research before making a decision and constantly checking with the manager on behalf of the company.

HR Manager

The HR manager is the one who makes sure that every department follows all policies related to employee benefits, company policies, and employment laws. The person in this role also handles the recruitment of new employees.

The HR manager will have to update the staff on any new changes and make appropriate staff training programs to ensure they can handle their responsibilities.

The HR manager will identify any skill gaps in the current staff and assist them in taking required courses to improve themselves.

HR Director / VP of HR

The HR director is part of the executive team and is responsible for employee relations, succession planning, and talent management.

The HR director will be the person who signs any contract or agreement that the business signs with a new employee. The HR director will also sign any forms related to identity theft among employees.

The job of an HR director includes handling recruitment and talent acquisition, employee relations, leadership development, performance management, recruiting, and appraisal & compensation.

Chief HR Officer

This is the highest HR administrative head of a business. The person who is in this role will work closely with the business board of directors and other senior executives to ensure that all areas of the HR department follow all new policies and procedures.

It is also the responsibility of the chief HR officer to make sure that employee safety issues are addressed, the Information technology needs of the company are fulfilled, continuous training and development programs are made available to employees, healthcare needs of employees are taken care of, and general HR skills are improved.

HR Operations Manager / Partner

This role is more of a business analyst than an HR manager. The person in this role is responsible for analysing the workflow and reporting to the chief executive officer and other executives about obstacles in the HR department.

This person will also look into various technical issues that may hamper the smooth functioning of human resources functions.

Such problems would include inappropriate use of technology and the spread of computer viruses. The HR operations manager will also assist other managers in creating effective talent management processes for the company.

HR Specialists Roles and Responsibilities

No matter the title, an HR specialist always has their area of expertise to focus on. Here are some examples:-

Recruitment Specialist

The recruitment specialist handles the recruitment of all applicants, including filing applications, screening resumes, conducting interviews, and finalizing offers to new employees.

This person also handles all recruitment-related documents such as job descriptions, terms and conditions, and handbooks.

It is the responsibility of the recruitment specialist to train new employees who are hired to a business.

An HR specialist will send highly skilled employees to specialized training programs to become competent in the job assigned by an HR specialist.

Staffing Specialist

The staffing specialist handles hiring new employees for a business and manages their career path.

This person will also manage their training program and ensure they are ready to handle their new responsibilities on day one. The staffing specialist is responsible for training new employees so they can handle their new roles efficiently.

Training programs should include attendance, competency-based, and mentoring to ensure they are up to speed with the company and its needs.

It is the responsibility of the staffing specialist to train them with the latest technology and keep them abreast of any recent changes in their job roles.

Payroll Specialist

The payroll specialist is an expert on all matters about payroll. This includes garnishments, deductions, income tax calculations, and everything.

The payroll specialist will also work with the human resources staff in the company to make sure they have the necessary resources and software to handle all their tasks efficiently.

Some companies have invested in software that will help them in all payroll-based activities but still need human resources professionals to deal with payroll-related forms.

It is the responsibility of the payroll specialist to ensure that all paperwork is on time and accurate.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

HR professionals are responsible for ensuring that the company thrives in a diverse world. This involves ensuring that every department is represented at all company levels.

In most companies, hard skills and experience do not matter as much as gender, religion, and ethnicity. Every manager needs to ensure that they hire diverse and talented employees.

In a highly competitive market such as today, recruiting diverse employees who bring fresh ideas and innovation to the table is essential.

Diversity plays a significant role in the success of a company nowadays since it can quickly increase sales volume by reaching out to new customers or going overseas to acquire more customers.

Learning and Development

Every human resources professional should be competent in training and development activities. This involves designing, delivering, and assessing training programs for employees.

These programs can be anything from providing new employees with company handbooks to helping seasoned employees enhance their leadership capabilities. A learning and development program can be highly effective for a business if it is properly implemented.

New technology, business growth, mergers & acquisitions, changing workplace practices, and availability of appropriate skills among workers require every organization to develop an organizational learning strategy that supports its strategy and human resources planning.

Training & Development Specialist

A training and development specialist is responsible for training new employees in their new roles and administering performance reviews.

This person will also identify training gaps, which existed during the previous year, and help to resolve them by communicating with fellow employees.

The training and development specialist will work closely with managers to promptly identify, schedule, and deliver all job-related training to all employees.

An HR professional in this role will also be responsible for identifying training gaps and helping to resolve them by communicating with fellow employees.

Compensation & Benefits Specialist

The compensation and benefits specialist is responsible for ensuring that all compensation and benefits policies and procedures are followed in the company.

This person will also work closely with other human resource professionals to ensure that the company has a competitive pay plan that attracts and retains good talent.

The compensation and benefits specialist will collect employee data from various sources, which will help set up an effective pay structure. It is the responsibility of this person to make sure that employees are rewarded based on their performance and not on their tenure in a particular job role.

HR Career Path Examples

The HR Generalist

A Generalist is a person who can perform different HR functions in an organization. This person will have to deal with people from diverse backgrounds and can hold the responsibility of training, recruitment, and benefits. Generalists work in various organizations and may have an HR specialist role and a recruitment role.

They may also represent the HR department at the board level. Generalists may be brought on board an organization after a few years of experience.

They will have to make a case for their ability to handle different HR roles and have to be able to handle conflict situations.

The Talent Acquisition Specialist

A Talent Acquisition Specialist will be responsible for recruiting new employees and managing the HR function in a small to medium-sized organization.

This person is expected to have excellent people and relationship management skills necessary to build strong relationships with clients.

Hiring new employees also involves hiring talent that fits with the current business strategy instead of hiring people with expensive skill sets.

The talent acquisition specialist will be able to have a good knowledge of the salary, hours worked, and work environment trends in their location as they are necessary to attract and recruit the right employees.

The HR Data Analyst

An HR Data Analyst is responsible for collecting data from different sources and preparing reports for the HR department.

This person will have to use statistical tools to ensure that good data is captured from multiple sources.

This includes surveys, talent performance reviews, and organizational audits. Information gathered from these reviews will help the organization to determine its current position in the market as well as understand what its strengths are and what areas of improvement are necessary.

The Payroll and Benefits Administrator

The Payroll and Benefits Administrator will be responsible for administering all payroll and benefits-related tasks in the organization.

This person is also responsible for handling all employee inquiries regarding wages, holidays, and insurance coverage.

The Payroll and Benefits Administrator can work with a team of support staff to ensure that every employee gets the information they need promptly.

This person will also collect data from various sources to ensure that the right amount of tax and employment insurance premiums are paid.

The Employer Brand Specialist

An Employer Brand Specialist is responsible for managing the employer brand campaign in their organization. This person will also be responsible for setting up flexible inbound and outbound recruitment campaigns, which help to attract and retain the right talent.

Employer brand specialists are expected to understand the market trends in their chosen industry and what motivates employees. These professionals will also have to have the ability to communicate with a diverse range of people.

The Employee Relations Manager

A Human Resources Manager is a person who manages the employee relations and employee relations team. Employees who work in this role are responsible for resolving workplace conflicts as well as improving productivity. The employee relations manager will also be expected to develop a strong working relationship with the employees of the organization.

Employee relations managers are expected to have the ability to communicate with all the different parts of the organization. They will generally be responsible for the retention part of their business.

The HR Specialist

A Human Resources Specialist is required to recruit, retain and manage the HR department of an organization. This person is also responsible for conducting employee surveys, managing staffing issues, and developing performance reviews.

Employee relations managers are expected to be very well-written and have excellent people skills necessary for this role.

They will be responsible for managing the daily HR functions of a small to medium sized organization.

An HR specialist can work under pressure and may be responsible for dealing with legal matters in the company.

This person will be able to relate well with people at different levels of the organization and will communicate effectively with their bosses, customers, and colleagues.

Is a Career in Human Resource Management Beneficial?

A career in human resource management can be very beneficial to an individual as it involves planning, organizing, and implementing effective strategies that help to develop employees.

The goal of the human resources department is to ensure that they maintain a sustainable competitive advantage with their business. They are also responsible for maintaining good relations with the community and other departments within the company.

Human resource managers are the ones who are responsible for planning and putting together policies so that their organization can stay competitive. They are also responsible for paying their employees fairly.

The human resources department is expected to assist management in achieving their business goals by ensuring they have the right people working well together as a team.

It is also the responsibility of the human resources department to solve various problems that arise in an organization.


The complexity of the HR industry makes it a challenging career option. It is expected that the demand for HR professionals will increase in the coming years as there is an increased focus on retention and engagement.

Several HR jobs are available in different parts of the world, but it is essential to evaluate what is most vital for you as an employee. You should also ensure that you have the necessary skills to perform your role.

The industry has also seen a rise in specialists such as talent acquisition specialists, employee relations managers, and employer branding specialists concerned with specific organizational functions.

The decision to move into a specialist role will depend on your interests, values, and work-life balance preferences.

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