I have worked as an HR generalist for six years. I find I am increasingly
interested in employee relations. What are the prospects for careers within
this area? Is there a demand for this specialism and where do you think such a
career path could lead? And would there be any disadvantages to such a career
Caroline Battson, head of interim, Macmillan Davies Hodes
Employee relations is one of the most popular areas of a generalist role in
HR. In addition to solid generalist knowledge, the attributes needed for
dealing with employee relations issues successfully within an organisation are
good communication skills, and the ability to influence and consult.
It is a specialism within a generalist’s remit in the same way as
compensation and benefits, and training. If employee relations is the area you
find most interesting, you should have little trouble finding a role that has
an employee relations focus.
You may want to concentrate on companies with large HR departments, as they
will often have dedicated employee relations’ positions within the HR team. You
will find that an in-depth knowledge of this area will ensure you are in a good
position to secure employment as it is the base for all HR roles.
Cliff Dixon, consultant, Chiumento
This field is specialist, and you will need to be sure you have sufficient
interest and aptitude to handle the necessary detail.
Traditionally, this work has been found in large corporations and sectors
such as manufacturing and engineering, but is now also being outsourced. This
is creating a demand for writers of clear formatted guides and deliverers who
can enable managers to get to the core of an issue as fast as possible.
You should thoroughly research the market for jobs, networking with both
specialists and relevant generalists. CIPD magazines will give you an
indication and HR recruitment agencies can help with unadvertised contacts.
Test your own suitability and temperament for this type of work with all
your contacts. You will also need to carefully assess your long-term career
plan. Moving from generalist to specialist not only means less variety of
content, but can be a disadvantage in the future should you wish to revert. In
any event, you will need to stay in touch with the entire HR sector to maintain
Peter Sell, joint managing director, DMSConsultancy
You say you are interested in employee relations but it depends on how you
define employee relations. A number of academics have put forward the view that
it is more than just procedures, staff negotiation and consultation. It is
about creating a climate that enhances the contribution of the employee. An
employee relations professional should therefore be looking at performance
management programmes, training and development to improve business performance
and employee involvement. If this is the view you subscribe to then this could
be a good career move where you can be seen to make an impact.
If you take a narrower view, namely that employee relations is about
employment legislation, conflict and policy, then there are roles in the
private and public sector. This will give you a specific expertise, but will
not necessarily restrict your future career options.