HR Professionals in Demand

Feb 20, 2011

When economic times got tough, their jobs were among the first to be cut.

They were the human resource professionals, who took care of benefits, planned training sessions, outlined company strategy and ensured diverse recruiting practices were taking place.

Organizations are quickly realizing things don't run so smoothly without them.

Welcome hot job No. 6 -- the human resource manager or specialist -- in The Star's series highlighting the top 10 jobs for 2011 based on annual growth.

"We need HR folks," said Deb Cohen, chief knowledge officer with the Society for Human Resource Management. "We need to know what our work force is thinking and feeling, what is going on with them."

This year alone, there will be 700 openings for human resource specialists in Indiana, and the job category will grow 22 percent nationally by 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Experts say there are plenty of reasons the HR industry is on a hiring spurt, beyond replacing the people lost during the recession.

"Benefits have become increasingly complex, so more and more organizations are finding they need to have people to specialize in the area," said Cohen. "Anytime you have new health-care legislation come along, that brings a need."

And as companies begin to hire more workers in all departments, more HR employees are required. After all, they do the recruiting, the hiring and the processing.

For Paula Davis, one of the best parts of her job as director of human resources at Just Marketing International is the variety.

As a manager of the Zionsville motorsports marketing company, she oversees all disciplines of HR -- from benefits and employee relations to ethics and training.

"It really is just something different every day," said Davis, who has two HR specialists working for her. "We must be on top of legislative factors, but also we have to have knowledge in the organization's business and industry."

Davis has worked for several different companies and learned a lot along the way.

"To this date, I can still tell the difference between real diamonds and fake, know the best way to high-speed shine manufacturing facility floors and know the ins and outs of the long-term care industry," she said, referring to all the different jobs she's had in the HR field.

Davis isn't surprised her industry is seeing a resurgence and neither are others in the industry.

"Organizations have already tried getting more efficient, they've tried all the technology stuff, they've tried outsourcing stuff and most of it worked," said Karl Ahlrichs, a human resources consultant at Gregory & Appel in Indianapolis. "What's left to do if they want to become more productive? Get the people they already have to get along and share and be productive. That takes HR people."

While human resource professionals take on many different duties at their companies, from administrative work to strategic planning, Ahlrichs said the bottom line job description is simple.

"HR is responsible for making sure the organization has the right people in the right place at the right time," he said. "Simply put, that's why it's important."

Human resource managers and specialists

» What they do: Every organization wants to attract, motivate and retain the most qualified employees and match them to jobs for which they are best suited. Human resource managers and specialists provide this connection. In the past, these workers performed the administrative function of an organization, such as handling employee benefits questions or recruiting, interviewing and hiring new staff. Today's human resource workers manage these tasks, but often consult with top executives regarding strategic planning. They have moved from behind-the-scenes staff work to leading the company in suggesting and changing policies.

» Average salary: $43,537.

» Education: The path to this career varies. However, more than a third of these professionals have at least a bachelor's degree in human resources. Many go on to earn master's degrees in human resources or an MBA with a concentration in human resources to advance their careers.


» 81 percent are female.

» 19 percent are male.

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Sources: and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics