A Day in the Life of an HR Manager

When you’re sat at your desk in your office (or you’ve got your feet up at home, and you’re trawling through your Teams messages) it’s natural to find our minds wandering to the roles of other people at our organisations.

We can often find ourselves daydreaming about what someone else’s day at work looks like, compared to your own. Is it as busy? Is it quieter? Is it full of meetings?

Carrying out thought experiments like this, and doing the follow-on research, can be a great way to think about career development: namely, helping you gain a good idea of whether or not you’d be suited to a particular type of career.

One of the most sought after roles for entry-level HR professionals is the HR Manager. If you’re aiming for this position, we’ve got the perfect article for you. In this blog we’re going to explore what a typical day in the life of a HR manager looks like.

What does a typical day in the life of an HR Manager look like?

Obviously, the typical day to day activities of a HR manager will vary, depending on the specific processes and routines of the organisation they’re working at, the priorities of their team and a whole range of other contexts that are entirely subjective.

PM Jobs, the official job site of the CIPD, provides a great summary of the main duties of an HR manager. They include things like:

  • Managing employee relations casework
  • Processing payroll
  • Implementing HR and L&D policies
  • Providing dedicated employment law advice
  • Providing dedicated HR advice to employees
  • Managing recruitment and retention
  • Supervising and managing team members
  • Carrying out inductions

The amount of variables that can change in a role as busy and reactive as a HR Manager makes predicting what a typical day will look like difficult. Whilst we can’t tell you exactly how every day will look for a HR manager, we can give you a rough overview of what one specific day will probably look like in a typical HR department, in a typical company.

A professional woman working from home at a desk whilst looking out of the window

1.   Early morning: Emails and plans for your day

You get into your office at around 8:20am, ready to start work at 8:30am. Since the end of the COVID-19 lockdowns, you’ve transitioned to hybrid working. You and your team work two days a week in the office and then spend the other three days working from home. You enjoy the flexibility and autonomy that gives you.

Setting up your desk takes a few minutes (by the time you’ve fished all of your equipment out of your locker because your office now uses hotdesking) but by 8:35am, you’re ready to start the day – a nice warm beverage in front of you and the whole day stretching before you.

The first task that sits in front of you is a monotonous but essential one: sifting through the pile of emails that you’ve received overnight and prioritising the most important tasks from the ones that can wait a bit.

Today is a fairly standard day, so you only have a few emails to respond to, one of which is an urgent task that you’ll need to find time today to complete.

With your emails dealt with and a rough idea of their priority gained, you start to build out your to-do list for the day. The issue from the email is very urgent, so you decide to do that first of all. You also know that today you have a few meetings in your calendar, so you pencil them in.

You know that you definitely have to send out a reminder at some point today about payroll: letting staff and managers know about the deadline that they have to submit payroll data to you this month in order for it to be processed in time, so you put that on your list.

You browse through your calendar to double-check you aren’t missing anything and remember that you’ve also got a few meetings today, so you pencil them into your plan for the day.

2.   Morning: The urgent/ essential tasks

You’ve managed to assemble your to-do list without too much pain, so it’s time to get started on your tasks. The urgent one you identified when you were going through your emails is the obvious one to tackle first, so you dive headfirst into it.

Whilst you’ve been completing the request – which is just sending over some insights on the latest employee satisfaction survey to the CEO – you’ve had a few more emails arrive into your inbox, so you take the time to make sure that you read and at least send a placeholder reply. You know you’ve got a relatively busy day ahead of you, so, realistically, you won’t be able to complete every single task that gets sent to you today.

With those tasks completed and about 30 minutes before your first meeting of the day, you grab a quick cup of coffee and take some time to talk to Bill from Accounts who you notice at the fridge, and chat for a bit about his recent trip to the world’s biggest ball of twine in Cawker City, Kansas (Bill has weird interests).

Two women in an office at work, standing chatting

3.   Late morning: Meetings

The large part of every type of manager’s day is taken up by meetings. The role of a HR manager is no exception.

Today, you’ve been called to a meeting of the board to give your professional perspective on proposals for a pay-rise for employees at your company. The meeting is quite long, but luckily you don’t need to sit in on all of it– the CEO’s personal assistant will come and get you when the board would like you to present your perspective.

You’ve been preparing what you will say for the past week, researching current trends in the economy, poring over reports, and digging into email exchanges that you’ve been part of. It’s one of the first face-to-face meetings about the subject, so you want to make sure that you get your points across as clearly as you can.

About 15 minutes go past, and the assistant taps on your shoulder, summoning you to the boardroom.

The meeting passes off without any disasters happening: the board seemed genuinely interested to hear your professional expertise. You feel proud that you delivered what you wanted to say confidently and feel that you’ve left a good impression on them. This is one of the aspects of the role that you really love: being valued for your professional opinion and being able to influence the direction the company takes when it comes to Human Resources.

You get back to your desk and notice that you’ve had a few more emails come through – nothing too major. You also notice that your stomach is starting to rumble because it’s nearly time for your lunch break. You decide to try and work through your emails quickly and then head to lunch. You fire off some replies, make a note of any tasks that you might have to devote more time to solving and head off to find some food.

4.   Early afternoon: One-to-One preparations

When you get back from your lunch, you take stock of your morning and assess how much progress you’ve made in your to-do list. Quite a lot by the looks of it. You turn your eye to what awaits you in the afternoon.

Today you’re dealing with the regular, monthly one-to-ones that you hold with members of your team. You’re responsible for line-managing two other members of staff that make up the HR department, and you use these meetings to check with them, offer guidance and make sure that they feel supported in their role.

Each one-to-one is around an hour long, but they’re usually shorter. Today, you’re using them to prepare for the yearly performance evaluations. You start preparing for these by printing out each employee’s targets so that you have them to hand and have a quick revision of what each person is working towards.

You breeze through each of the one-to-one meetings and feel a swell of fulfillment when you get back to your desk at how you are seeing the employees you manage improve their skills, knowledge and confidence. That’s another one of the main aspects of your job that you really love: helping people reach their full potential.

With another quick coffee in your hand, you dash off a few more emails and turn your attention to the remaining aspects of your to-do list for the day.

An office team sat in a boardroom around a laptop with a man gesticulating

5.   Late afternoon

It’s nearly home time. You’ve only got more item to do and then you’ve finished your pretty ambitious plan for the day.

Barbara from Sales comes over to your desk to get your advice on a sensitive matter to do with a member of her team. You find a spare meeting room and give her some advice based on what she tells you.

By the time you get back to your desk, it’s fast approaching 5pm. You manage to tick off the last item on your to-do list and that’s everything finished!

What will your day as a HR manager look like?

Obviously, we’re not gods, so we can’t predict exactly what a day in the life of every HR manager will look like. The above example is one that’s been based on the typical role responsibilities of a HR manager and the usual way that a working day flows. What do you think your day as a HR manager will look like? Will it be similar or will it be different?

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