HR Generalist: All You Need To Know About the Role

HR Generalist: All You Need To Know About the Role

An HR Generalist is a professional who manages the day-to-day operations of an organization's human resources department. They play a vital role in ensuring that the company's human resources functions are efficiently and effectively done, contributing to the overall success and growth of the business.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of human resources specialists, which includes HR Generalists, is projected to grow 6 percent from 2022 to 2032, indicating a faster-than-average growth rate for all occupations (BLS). This growth can be attributed to the continuous need for organizations to recruit, retain, and manage their employees effectively. The HR Generalist role is marked by gender diversity, with women representing 79.5% of all HR Generalists in the United States (Zippia).

What Does a Human Resource Generalist Do?

An HR Generalist is a multifaceted professional whose role encompasses many responsibilities essential to the HR department's daily operations. Their duties span from strategic activities, such as designing business processes and modifying organizational structures, to routine tasks that ensure the smooth functioning of HR services.

According to job descriptions in 2023, HR Generalists are responsible for managing job recruitment, selection, and promotion; developing and overseeing employee benefits and wellness programs; maintaining accurate employee records; and ensuring compliance with various HR policies and labor laws. They also play a critical role in employee relations, performance management, and interpreting HR policies for business operations

Moreover, HR Generalists are often the first point of contact for employment-related inquiries from applicants, employees, and supervisors, and they handle a variety of complex and sensitive matters pertaining to HR . Their role requires a macro orientation characterized by a breadth of knowledge to perform managerial responsibilities that contribute to the overall health and functionality of the organization.

In summary, the HR Generalist role is a blend of strategic planning and hands-on management of HR-related functions that support and enhance the workforce of an organization. This role is critical in aligning HR processes with business objectives, managing employee-related services, and promoting an engaging and compliant workplace environment.

Related: Human Resources Job Titles, A Comprehensive List 2024

1. Recruitment 


Recruitment and staffing are integral functions of an HR Generalist's role, encompassing several key stages to ensure the organization attracts and retains top talent. The process begins with crafting detailed job descriptions that accurately reflect the roles and responsibilities and the qualifications required for the position. These descriptions are the foundation for posting job ads across various platforms to reach a wide audience of potential candidates. 

HR Generalists then screen resumes and applications to identify candidates who best match the job criteria. This initial vetting process is crucial in narrowing the pool of applicants to those most suitable for further evaluation. Following resume screening, HR Generalists conduct interviews to assess the candidates' skills, experience, and cultural fit. Interviews may be structured in multiple stages, each providing valuable insights into the candidates' abilities and potential for success within the company.

In collaboration with department managers, HR Generalists coordinate hiring efforts to ensure that the selection process aligns with the organization's strategic needs. This partnership is essential for understanding each department's requirements and making informed hiring decisions.

Once a candidate is selected, the HR Generalist manages the onboarding process, which includes conducting orientation sessions and explaining company policies, benefits, and procedures. This stage is critical for integrating new employees into the organization and setting them up for success from the outset (Indeed).

Overall, recruitment and staffing require HR Generalists to possess strong communication skills, judgment, and the ability to manage multiple tasks efficiently. These competencies ensure that the organization hires qualified individuals and fosters a workforce that is engaged and aligned with the company's mission and values.

Related: Recruitment Policies: Everything You Need To Know

2. Performance Management 

In performance management, HR generalists are deeply involved and play a strategic role. They are responsible for developing and overseeing a system that assesses and improves employee performance across the organization. This system includes setting clear performance standards that align with the company's strategic goals and ensuring these standards are communicated effectively to all employees.

Conducting appraisals or performance reviews is a key aspect of this process. HR Generalists work with managers to evaluate employee performance, providing constructive feedback and identifying areas for development. These appraisals are about assessing past performance and setting objectives for the company's future performance and personal growth.

3. Employee Orientation and Training 

Employee orientation and training are critical responsibilities of HR Generalists that ensure new employees are well-equipped to succeed in their roles and contribute to the company's objectives. HR Generalists design and facilitate orientation sessions introducing new hires to the organizational culture, values, and expectations. This process often includes a comprehensive overview of company policies, procedures, and any relevant legal and ethical conduct standards. 

Orientation programs are designed to help new employees understand their role within the larger organizational framework and to familiarize them with the tools and resources available to support their work. These sessions provide a platform for newcomers to build relationships with their colleagues and integrate into the workplace community.

In terms of ongoing training and development, HR Generalists assess the educational needs of the workforce and identify skill gaps that could impact performance. They then develop and implement training programs that address these gaps, providing opportunities for career development and upskilling. These programs range from technical skills training to leadership development and personal growth initiatives, tailored to support the organization's strategic direction and employees' individual career paths (Emerald Insight).

HR Generalists also play a strategic role in professional development, often collaborating with managers to create individual development plans that align with personal career aspirations and organizational needs. This approach to training and development is essential for maintaining a skilled and competitive workforce ready to meet the evolving challenges of the business landscape.

Related: What are the 5 Steps of Training Needs Assessment?

4. Benefits Administration 



Benefits administration is a central aspect of the HR Generalist's role, involving the management of various employee benefits programs that are critical to the overall compensation package. HR Generalists ensure employees are well-informed about their benefits options, including health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. They also play a key role in designing competitive benefits programs that meet the workforce's needs while ensuring compliance with legal requirements and organizational policies (Wiley Online Library).

HR Generalists are responsible for effectively communicating benefits information to employees, helping them understand the value of their benefits and how to utilize them. This may involve organizing informational sessions, creating employee handbooks or benefits summaries, and providing one-on-one consultations to address specific employee questions or concerns.

Additionally, HR Generalists handle the administrative side of benefits management, which includes processing enrollments, changes, and terminations of benefits coverage. They work closely with benefits providers to ensure that the company's benefits offerings remain up-to-date with market and regulatory environment changes. 

HR Generalists also monitor the effectiveness of the company's benefits programs by analyzing utilization data, employee feedback, and industry trends. Based on this analysis, they recommend improvements or changes to benefits offerings to enhance employee satisfaction and retention and ensure the organization's benefits programs remain cost-effective and sustainable.

Related: Starbucks Employee Benefits

5. Employee Relations 

Employee relations is a vital area of focus for HR Generalists, encompassing a range of activities to foster a harmonious work environment and address any workplace issues that may arise. HR Generalists are responsible for managing and resolving conflicts, handling disciplinary actions, consistently addressing employee grievances, and complying with company policies and labor laws.

HR Generalists act as mediators in conflict situations, providing a neutral ground for employees and management to express concerns and work towards mutually beneficial resolutions. They ensure that all parties are heard and issues are addressed promptly to prevent escalation. This role requires strong communication and interpersonal skills, a deep understanding of organizational dynamics, and the ability to navigate sensitive situations.

In addition to conflict resolution, HR Generalists are involved in developing and implementing policies related to employee conduct, performance expectations, and workplace behavior. They guide employees and managers on these policies, ensuring everyone understands their rights and responsibilities within the workplace.

HR Generalists also play a crucial role in maintaining employee morale and engagement through various initiatives and programs. They may organize team-building activities, facilitate open communication channels, and work to create an inclusive culture that values diversity and fosters a sense of belonging among all employees.

What is the Difference between HR Specialist and HR Generalist?

The distinction between an HR Specialist and an HR Generalist lies primarily in the breadth and depth of their responsibilities within the human resources field. HR Specialists tend to focus on a specific HR function, acquiring deep expertise in areas such as recruitment, benefits, compensation, or employee relations. They possess specialized knowledge and often handle tasks that require a high level of technical skill or a detailed understanding of a particular area.

In contrast, HR Generalists have a broad understanding of multiple HR functions and are typically responsible for various HR activities within an organization. Their role may encompass recruitment, employee relations, benefits administration, performance management, and compliance with employment laws. HR Generalists are often seen as the HR "jacks-of-all-trades" and are usually the first point of contact for employees and managers regarding human resources issues. They may work in smaller organizations covering all aspects of HR, or in larger organizations supporting HR departments with a mix of specialized and general tasks (Human Resource Management Review).

HR Generalists must understand the entire scope of HR practices and are expected to apply this knowledge flexibly across different situations and challenges. They often collaborate with HR Specialists when in-depth expertise is needed in a specific HR domain. Additionally, HR Generalists may oversee HR functions in smaller companies or serve in a support role in larger organizations with more complex HR structures (The International Journal of Human Resource Management).

The choice between specializing or generalizing in HR can depend on the individual's career goals, the organization's size and needs, and the strategic importance of HR functions within the company. Both roles are essential for effectively managing human resources and contribute to developing and implementing HR strategies that align with organizational goals.

Is HR Generalist a Good Career?

Pursuing a career as an HR Generalist can be a good career choice for several reasons. Firstly, HR Generalists handle various people-centered tasks within an organization, which means the job is diverse and dynamic, differing from day to day . This variety can lead to a fulfilling career for individuals who enjoy tackling different challenges and being actively involved in multiple aspects of human resources.

Secondly, the role of an HR Generalist offers the opportunity for strategic thinking, human resources acumen, and leadership. It is a position that requires a combination of technical HR knowledge and interpersonal skills, making it an ideal role for those looking to lead and influence within an organization.

HR Generalists are often a key component in the employee life cycle, from sourcing potential applicants to managing exits from the organization. Their main aim is to create and deliver people strategies that help organizations meet their goals, giving them a significant role in the company's success.

Career advancement is also a potential benefit of being an HR Generalist. The role can provide a pathway to higher positions within the HR field, such as HR Manager or HR Business Partner, offering professional growth and development opportunities. An HR Generalist's broad experience in various HR functions can be a strong foundation for these advanced roles.

Additionally, the job outlook for HR Generalists is above average, with competitive salaries and an excellent pathway for advancement, which can lead to a lucrative career.

What is the Highest Salary for an HR Generalist?

The salary for HR Generalists can vary widely depending on factors such as experience, location, and the size of their company. As of March 15, 2024, the average annual pay for an HR Generalist in the United States is $65,839. However, the highest salaries can be significantly higher, especially in cities with a high cost of living and within companies that demand greater expertise and experience from their HR staff.

For example, in cities like San Francisco, CA, an HR Generalist can earn an average of $78,881 per year, one of the highest-paying cities for HR Generalists in the United States. Los Angeles, CA, also offers a high average salary of $71,740 for the same position. This suggests that location is a significant factor in determining the upper end of the salary range for HR Generalists.

According to Glassdoor, the average HR Generalist salary in the United States is $68,969 per year, typically falling between $42,000 to $116,000. This indicates that the highest salary for an HR Generalist could potentially exceed $116,000, especially among top performers in high-demand areas or larger companies where the role may include more strategic responsibilities.

It's worth noting that HR Generalists may also earn bonuses that contribute to their total compensation along with their traditional salary. For instance, they could earn around $4,259.21 in bonuses, adding to their overall earnings.

While the median salary provides a useful guideline, it's clear that the highest salaries in HR Generalist roles are achieved by professionals in certain geographic locations and possibly those with specialized skills or experience in high demand. As such, the potential for earning a high salary in this career is present, particularly for those who are strategic about their career path and development.


An HR Generalist role is a multifaceted position within the human resources field that requires a broad skill set and a deep understanding of various HR functions. This career path offers a dynamic work environment with multiple responsibilities, including benefits administration, employee relations, and overall HR management. HR Generalists play a crucial role in fostering positive work environments, resolving conflicts, and maintaining compliance with legal requirements.

The career prospects for HR Generalists are positive, with opportunities for strategic involvement and leadership within organizations. Advancement to higher HR positions is possible, and the role can be rewarding for those who enjoy a diverse set of challenges and contribute to a company's success.

Salaries for HR Generalists vary widely, with the potential to earn a high salary, especially in certain geographic locations and companies that value their strategic contribution to organizational goals. The upper end of the salary range can exceed $116,000, with additional bonuses contributing to overall compensation.

A  career as an HR Generalist can be fulfilling and lucrative for individuals passionate about human resources and seeking a role that impacts the core functions of an organization.

Natasha Chimphondah
This article was written by Natasha a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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