Striking the Balance: Exploring the Roles and Benefits of HR Generalists and HR Specialists in the Modern Workplace


The field of Human Resources has been facing an upward slope in the past few years. Several Human Resource graduates are entering the market and workplace every day. Even though in the past, this field was not given that much importance by people. However, in recent times, these HR graduates have been given an opportunity to explore the vast variety of roles that companies offer them and with the help of the holistic experience they are getting from it, they are also defining their career paths.

It is a common misconception that the field of HR does not have much scope, because there are not many positions that come under this field. This is completely incorrect. Even though it varies from company to company, if you step on the right career path, you can easily climb up the corporate ladder. The positions that come under the HR field include:

  • Staffing Coordinator
  • Staffing Specialist
  • HR Assistant
  • HR Associate
  • HR Representative
  • HR Administrator
  • Personnel Manager
  • HR Specialist
  • HR Generalist
  • HR Supervisor
  • HR Analyst
  • HR Manager
  • HR Director
  • Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)
  • Vice President of Human Resources

The above list includes the most basic HR positions, starting with lower- or entry-level HR jobs and ending with Senior-level HR jobs. It is also important to note that these positions are not subjected to be limited to this, when you go into more detail, you will discover more specialized and more detail-oriented HR positions.

As you already saw the HR field includes many responsibilities and titles, and professionals in this field can also work as an HR generalist or an HR specialist. It depends entirely on the organizations on which kind of HR employees do they need. In the case of large organizations, they often employ both kinds of employees, specialists, and generalists. While on the other hand, smaller organizations mainly prefer generalist HR roles. Knowing the difference between HR Generalist Vs HR Specialist allows those working in the HR field to choose their career path and set professional goals.

HR Generalist

An HR Generalist typically undertakes an extensive range of HR-related tasks rather than specializing in one line of work. They are the ones who cover most of the HR functions, such as talent attraction, hiring, training and development, employee engagement and performance, compensation and benefits, and so on. Since they handle all the HR-related responsibilities, HR Generalists also support leaders in making people-related decisions and are involved in every step of the employee life cycle process.

HR Specialist

Unlike HR Generalists, Human Resources Specialists perform specific HR functions, such as recruitment, training and development, compensation and benefits, rewards, and employee relations. Even though they are known as specialists, but their day-to-day functions are not only limited to that particular task, in fact, they handle other HR tasks as well. An HR specialist is usually hired in an entry-level position by large organizations and consulting firms. Companies that employ HR specialists typically hire multiple HR specialists to handle different HR-related functions or tasks.

Exploring the Roles and Benefits of HR Generalists and HR Specialists

There is no hard and fast rule on becoming an HR Generalist or an HR Specialist. You can opt for either of the two depending on your interest and passion. You can be successful in both these career paths, only if you choose wisely what you like to pursue. One might be the better route for some, while the other might be the better option for another person. This difference depends on various factors, such as personal strength areas, career aspirations, personal goals, compensation, motivators, market opportunities, etc.

Some organizations believe that generalists are more flexible in their skill sets and are able to perform tasks across different HR sub-functions. However, others believe that specialists are stronger in terms of the extent of their knowledge and can innovate better.

No one has a crystal-clear idea from the beginning of what they need to become, and many practitioners even choose to explore both routes and then decide which one to focus on.

HR Generalist Roles

An HR generalist is fluent in all things related to human resources and is responsible for a wide range of key duties and responsibilities. The duties and responsibilities of a Human Resources Generalist differ slightly in every organization, as well as from country to country, depending on the local employment laws and regulations. Yet, the major roles an HR Generalist performs in an organization are:

Recruiting and Onboarding

Every company needs new employees at some point because employees either retire, are terminated, or leave organizations. To fill in those vacant positions, the recruitment and onboarding process is needed. The major key points of this process are:

  • Coordinating job postings
  • Sourcing candidates
  • Screening resumes
  • Scheduling interviews with the hiring team
  • Conducting interviews
  • Putting together an employment offer
  • Negotiating Salary
  • Managing the employee onboarding process
  • Working with immigration for visas for foreign hires

Benefits Administration

HR generalists also have to handle any queries and administration tasks related to employee benefits and perks, which include healthcare, pensions, retirement plans, leaves, and vacation time. Other than this, they are also responsible for keeping an eye on the competitors’ compensation and benefits packages, so that their organization could attract top talent through an attractive rewards strategy.

Employee Relations

Managing relations with employees is one of the crucial responsibilities of HR Generalist. Being the most important task, it is also considered the most difficult and most sensitive issue to handle. The functions that come under this area are:

  • Management training
  • Conducting investigations on issues of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, age discrimination, racial discrimination, and national origin discrimination.
  • Employee misconduct investigations
  • Firing employees
  • Conducting exit interviews
  • Collective bargaining and unionized workforce negotiations

Performance Management

Without managing employees’ performance, you won’t be able to know which employee is performing below the mark and which one is performing higher than expected. Performance management plans are very important for an organization’s success. HR Generalists usually work with managers to create performance management plans and oversee the entire process, including goal setting, performance appraisals, career development planning, and so on.

Training & Development

T&D is one of the most important parts of the employee life cycle process. To retain an employee, an organization needs to ensure that the employees are getting proper training and development opportunities. In smaller organizations, HR generalists are responsible for training and development programs, which include orientation programs, skills development training, workshops, leadership training, coaching, etc.

Benefits of HR Generalist as Career Choice

Having an HR Generalist could be extremely beneficial for the organization. Some of these benefits include:


The main purpose of hiring a human resources generalist is that they are multi-taskers. An HR generalist is great at covering all bases with their extensive knowledge. They can take care of onboarding, benefits administration, and even terminations.

Strong Understanding of Employee Relations

As one of the responsibilities of an HR Generalist is to manage employee relations, it is said that they know how to handle delicate issues with employees, and that is truly a valuable skill. They can help mediate disputes, handle harassment allegations, and also conduct investigations.

Training Employees

The HR Generalists provide new hires with the necessary training and orientation to help them succeed in their roles.

Updated with Latest Laws & Regulations

With strong connections with other HR managers, generalists, and specialists, HR generalists are usually updated with all the latest information regarding labor laws and regulations. They try to make sure that the organization is compliant with all applicable laws.


Human Resources is a field where there are always going to be problems that need to be solved. An HR generalist is great at coming up with creative solutions to these problems. They are also great at finding quick solutions to various problems.

Strong Communication Skills

Out of everything, the main task of an HR Generalist is to speak with people on a regular basis. Therefore, they have strong communication and interpersonal skills which makes them great at working with people.

HR Specialist Roles

As said earlier, unlike an HR generalist, a specialist focuses on just one area of expertise. An HR specialist must possess several years of industry experience in a specific HR management area. Having industry experience is a must for becoming a specialist, because an HR professional would be called a specialist, only when they have tested their skills and abilities in the market. When they have the relevant skills and experience in that specialty area, they will be able to understand the overall HR department’s role and programs more easily and will reflect the organization’s goals and objectives in their functions. Some of the typical HR roles and responsibilities you could expect in an HR specialist job description include:

Employment and Recruitment

It is a necessity for an HR specialist to be a recruitment specialist too. One of the major tasks of an HR specialist is to recruit new employees for the organization, this process could also be called Talent Acquisition.

Usually, organizations don’t provide enough details to create a well-rounded job description. This leads HR specialists to work with different stakeholders, survey them about their needs and the role requirements, and after all that, make the appropriate job description. After creating a job description, an HR specialist’s duty is also to find suitable candidates for the roles and ensure they fit the description while also fitting the organization’s culture.

Training and Development

Since HR specialists are experienced and skilled human resource professionals, they are also responsible for conducting and organizing new employees’ training & development. They have to provide a constant stream of education to new team members about essential HR policies and the organizational culture.

They also have to design workshops and materials that are suitable for introducing new members to the organization’s HR strategy. Other than this, an HR specialist is also responsible for conducting all programs and practices that enhance an employee’s performance or prepare them for promotional opportunities in the organization.

Compensation and Benefit Plans

Compensation is a common specialty area in the field of HR. This area mainly focuses on attracting and retaining employees with competitive salaries, vacation, and health and wellness benefits. HR specialists have to supervise the planning and preparation of salary packages and benefits.

They must ensure that the employees’ needs and wants are fulfilled through their compensation packages, and the benefits or incentive plans are also strong enough to encourage employee retention.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion play an important role in promoting an inclusive workplace culture and ensuring an effective recruiting and hiring process. It aims to achieve these goals by overcoming unconscious biases, which are stereotypes about other people formed outside a person’s awareness, and identifying and mitigating microaggressions.

The HR specialists need to ensure that all the organization-related programs, structures, policies, and practices are equitable, inclusive, and culturally appropriate and comply with relevant principles and legislation.

Human Resources Information Systems Management

Specialists in the Human Resources Information System (HRIS) area are responsible for creating and maintaining HR technical information systems that manage HR data, that includes compensation, employee records, benefits, and performance development. This is a bit of a technical area of HR, and since it is linked with the technological side, this area has been seeing a boom in recent years.

Benefits of HR Specialist as Career Choice

Human resource specialists make some of the most critical decisions for the organization, mostly in the domain of HR. Therefore, organizations look for a human resources specialist who focuses on a specific area within HR and can provide experienced guidance over several matters. Some of the other benefits of hiring an HR Specialist include:

Attractive Benefits for Employees

In these modern times, compensation and benefits packages are the most important things for an employee. Benefits like healthcare, childcare, and retirement plans can help you attract and retain top talent from the industry. HR Specialists who have specialized in the area of compensation and benefits can help organizations prepare attractive benefits plans that will not only attract new employees, but will focus on retaining existing employees too.

Access to HR Platforms

Managing employee relations, benefits packages, and recruitment is quite tough. HR Specialists of HRIS can seek help from various software solutions. As these kinds of software can be very complex for an HR generalist to understand and comprehend, specialized HR professionals can make use of these software solutions easily, and can yield the results more efficiently.

Deeply Understands Other Employees

The main benefit of hiring an HR specialist is that they deeply understand the other employees of the organization. A specialized human resource professional will have a lot of experience working in the industry and therefore will know how to tackle various issues. This will also help the organization solve several existing issues, and conflicts among employees are also most likely to be reduced.


In whatever field the HR professional has specialized in, all specialized HR professionals are required to have a keen eye for detail. Attention to detail is also considered an essential HR responsibility, because most HR-related tasks require an eye for detail, such as analyzing each candidate’s qualifications and job interview results to determine the best individual for the position.

Final Thoughts

Whether it be an HR specialist or an HR generalist, opting for the field of HR is easier than other fields. To start off your career in Human Resources, you are not required to earn diplomas and degrees, you can even start without having any degree or certifications. However, if you want your career journey to be smooth and easy-going, it is highly recommended to opt for further education and take online courses to keep yourself updated with the latest trends and innovations.

You can simply start by obtaining a Bachelor’s degree, and enroll yourself in certification programs to develop the necessary skills to perform the HR role. Some companies are already including HR certifications as a qualification requirement in their job postings. Also, individuals with additional certificates experience a pay boost or faster career advancement opportunities in their career journey.

After that, you can pursue an internship or on-the-job training. You can even volunteer as an HR liaison in your college campus or businesses within your location. It is extremely important to gain professional experience, as it will give you first-hand training on working as an HR professional. The skills and knowledge gained from these experiences will be the foundation for your HR career.

Building a valuable network of contacts could also help you go a long way. An established network may help you land your next job, teach you new skills, or introduce you to reputable organizations or qualified candidates. You can even expand your professional network by joining several HR groups on social media or other digital platforms. Consider obtaining memberships from professional organizations and attending their hosted networking events to continue to grow your HR network.