Difference between HR Generalist and HR Specialist

Anyone working in a business, especially managers and HR staff, needs to understand how to perform practical HR functions and operations. This is true whether the organization is private or public, large or small, slow-growing or fast-growing. We’ve discussed the attributes and competencies of HR managers and professionals, including HR workers, throughout this first topic. While the HR department contains many employees with various titles and responsibilities, HR professionals are typically divided into HR generalists and HR specialists as outlined below.

HR Generalists

HR generalists usually provide advice, support management, and serve as a source of aid and information on human resource concerns. At the same time, their specific duties and responsibilities vary depending on the industry and organization. HR generalists are frequently in charge of all human resource management activities in small businesses. However, HR generalists may direct and supervise subordinates who each have particular HR tasks and functions in large organizations.

Furthermore, HR generalists frequently:

  • Manage the company’s numerous human resource plans.
  • Participate in the development of departmental goals and objectives.
  • In charge of compensation programmes
  • Organize and administer benefits
  • Affirmative action programmes should be developed and maintained.
  • Make an effort to recruit.
  • Take care of employee relations
  • Attend meetings with the administrative personnel.
  • Assist with report and decision evaluation.
  • Maintain records in the human resource information system.
  • Ensure that federal and state regulations are followed.

HR generalists should have many of the same characteristics as HR specialists; however, an HR generalist’s level of competence may not be as deep as an HR specialist’s. The generalist must have a reasonable level of skill in a variety of HR functions and the ability to acquire additional specific knowledge as needed. An HR generalist should be well-versed in the following topics:

  • Training and Development: Training and development, as described later in the course, refers to actions aimed at improving an employee’s current or future performance by enhancing their ability to perform. The quantity of learning that occurs and is transferred to the job is a good indicator of a training’s success. HR generalists must be actively involved in developing and expanding the firm’s training and development.
  • Compensation and Benefits: Compensation is focused on developing programmes that attract and retain quality job candidates, particularly those who are most likely to assist the firm in achieving its strategic goals and objectives. HR generalists should be knowledgeable about various types of compensation and the value of employee benefits. HR generalists must also be able to assess and improve the company’s present salary and benefits packages.
  • Employee and Labor Relations: HR generalists should be familiar with labour relations systems and the numerous complex union-management interactions seen in many businesses. Furthermore, HR generalists should have a thorough awareness of the labour relations system and how economic, political, legal, and social factors affect it.
  • Recruiting and Selecting People: Recruiting and selecting employees is one of the most critical aspects of human resource management. The organization will not achieve its strategic goals and objectives without successful recruitment and selection. As a result, HR professionals must understand how to recruit and secure a sufficient number of highly qualified applicants, as well as how to build up processes to ensure that the organization selects the best candidates for organizational positions.
  • Health safety and security: Employees have the right to work in a safe workplace, so HR generalists should know how to reduce safety risks. Employees should be informed of the related dangers, even if the nature of their work is hazardous, and employees, supervisors, and HR professionals should collaborate to reduce accidents.

HR Specialists

HR experts are in charge of the organization’s specialized human resource management functions. HR professionals may specialize in areas such as hiring and recruiting, labour and employee relations, training and development, job analysis, salary and benefits, and other areas. Specialists are obviously significantly more numerous in large businesses than in small ones.

HR specialists must possess the necessary abilities for the speciality, an understanding of the speciality’s relationship to other HR activities and a thorough understanding of the business and its HR department’s role within it. Qualified experts can originate from concentrations in law, industrial and organizational psychology, labour and industrial relations, organizational development, and medical and health sciences since specialists can work in nearly any HR activity.

Specialists have a broader understanding of their field, which includes subjects like:

  • Specialist in workforce planning and employment.
  • Specialist in human resource development
  • Specialist in total rewards
  • Employee relations and labour relations expert
  • Specialist in risk management
  • Specialist in metric management
  • Specialist in human resource information systems
  • Human resources expert on a global scale
  • Specialist in organizational development

HR Generalist vs HR Specialist

HR generalists may specialize in several areas, but they typically have enough experience to provide trustworthy guidance and counsel to both employees and managers. In addition, because generalists interact directly with employees, they might have a wide range of tasks.

HR generalists are a good fit for people who like variation and variety in their profession because they rarely do the same thing every day. Instead, depending on the situation or a daily necessity, they may be forced to abruptly shift their concentration from one topic or issue to another. 

Unlike an HR generalist, a human resources specialist has knowledge in a single HR field rather than a variety of HR areas. As compared to HR generalists, specialists have a more comprehensive understanding of their subject, and they typically have more routine responsibilities, well-defined goals, and timeframes. However, as an expert in a specific HR area, they must demonstrate a strong work ethic and keen attention to detail.


To distinguish between an HR specialist and an HR generalist, keep in mind that HR generalists may have a broad understanding of the HR sector but may lack the in-depth knowledge or experience that an HR specialist has in a specific HR area. HR experts will have in-depth knowledge or experience in a particular area of HR, but they will lack a broad understanding of the subject as a whole.

You can check out more on the comparison between HR Generalist and HR Specialist here.

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