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All Articles / Human Resources

How to Become a Human Resources Manager

Two women discussing work

It’s 2024, and still many Australians don’t know the full extent of their rights and responsibilities at work. There’s a lot of confusion out there about everything from having to do training, to how to ask for flexible work arrangements. Despite years of PSAs, and having work studies in the Australian curriculum. On the flip side, many entrepreneurs and small businesses don’t know enough about their freedoms and obligations around employing staff. Even medium-sized businesses can get it wrong, with policies and practices that are technically against the law. This lack of knowledge, and inefficient processes, can cost a lot of money in the long run.

That’s where human resources managers come in.

HR professionals are more in demand than ever before. According to some of the latest stats:

  • There are around 95,000 human resource managers employed across Australia
  • Future growth is projected at 16.3%!
  • Average weekly earnings are $2,445

If you’re looking for a career with plenty of future potential, and the opportunity to make a huge difference to both an organisation and its individual staff, HR could be for you. In this article, we’ll look at what it’s really like to be an HR manager, including some of the skills and experience you need to be successful. We’ll also look at different pathways to becoming an HR professional (big hint: you don’t need a uni degree to get started).

What’s it like to be an HR manager?

“Studying HR equips you with essential skills for managing and developing an organisation’s most valuable asset—its people. It’s a rewarding career path that offers opportunities to make a real impact on workplace culture and employee well-being.”

– Terrena Hooper, Monarch HR Trainer

Speak to more than one different HR manager, and you’ll find the one thing that’s consistent is the variety of work. Depending on the organisation, and how important HR is to their overall business strategy, different HR managers have different experiences. That’s why it’s trickier than it sounds to answer the question “what’s it like to be an HR manager?”. However, surveys consistently reveal a few critical themes in what HR professionals love about their jobs. These include:

  • Impact on people’s lives: HR managers play a crucial role in shaping the work environment and can directly impact employees’ satisfaction and productivity. They often find it rewarding to help employees develop their careers and improve their work life.
  • Variety of work: the HR role encompasses a wide range of functions, from recruiting and training to employee relations and benefits management. This variety keeps the work interesting and challenging.
  • Problem solving: HR managers often act as mediators in conflicts and must find solutions that align with both company policies and employee needs. The challenge of solving complex interpersonal issues can be intellectually stimulating.
  • Strategic influence: in many organisations, HR managers contribute to strategic planning, especially concerning organisational structure and talent management. Being involved in shaping the strategic direction of the company can be very satisfying.
  • Opportunity for continuous learning: the field of HR is always evolving with new laws, technologies, and strategies. HR managers often appreciate the continuous learning and professional development opportunities.
  • Building a positive workplace culture: HR managers have a significant hand in creating and maintaining a positive, healthy workplace culture. Seeing a tangible improvement in workplace dynamics and culture can be immensely gratifying.
  • Networking and collaboration: the role involves interacting with various people, both within and outside the organisation, which can be enriching and helps build a broad professional network.

Not sure how all these fit into a real work day? Here’s an example of a day in the life of an HR manager working in a community services organisation.


Emails and communication: start the day by checking and responding to emails that might include inquiries from staff, coordination with service managers, or updates on funding and compliance issues.

Daily check-in meeting: conduct a brief meeting with the HR team to discuss the day’s schedule, prioritise tasks, and address any immediate HR concerns. This might include updates on staffing needs in various departments, particularly those facing high stress or turnover rates.


Recruitment and staffing: focus on recruitment activities tailored to the specific needs of community services, such as screening candidates with suitable qualifications and the right temperament for high-pressure and emotionally demanding roles. This may also involve arranging interviews and discussing potential hires with department heads.

Compliance and training oversight: ensure that all staff have up-to-date training on relevant laws, ethical practices, and safety protocols, especially those directly involved with client care. This could include organising training sessions or updating training materials.

Lunch break

Networking or team support: lunch might be used as a time to network informally with other department heads or provide an open-door period for staff to discuss personal or professional concerns in a relaxed setting.


Employee relations: handle sensitive employee relations issues, which can be more prevalent in community services due to the emotional nature of the work. This might include offering support for staff experiencing burnout, mediating conflicts, or managing performance reviews.

Policy development and implementation: work on developing or refining HR policies that support the well-being of the staff and the operational efficiency of the organisation. This includes ensuring policies are inclusive, equitable, and supportive of a diverse workforce.

Safety and wellbeing programs: given the challenging nature of community services work, part of the afternoon might be dedicated to developing and overseeing mental health and wellness programs to support staff resilience and well-being.

Late afternoon

Reporting and strategy meetings: prepare reports on HR metrics such as staff turnover, recruitment success, and training compliance for senior management. Attend strategy meetings to discuss long-term HR planning which aligns with the overall goals of the organisation, such as community outreach and service effectiveness.

End of day

Wrap-up and plan for tomorrow: review the day’s achievements and set up tasks for the next day. This might include finalising candidate selections, preparing materials for upcoming trainings, or drafting communications related to HR initiatives.

This schedule highlights the HR manager’s role as both a strategic and supportive force within a community services organisation. As you can see, they’re focused heavily on staff support, strategic alignment with service goals, and compliance with sector-specific standards.

HR skills, experience and technology

Human resources managers come from a variety of different professional backgrounds. Many gain experience and familiarity with HR functions by working in associated roles, like being team leaders or line managers, and decide to upskill to specialise in human resources. So, if you’re looking to apply your existing skills and experience to a new role, chances are there’s a bit of crossover with HR.


  • Communication skills: proficiency in both verbal and written communication is crucial. Effective HR managers must be able to clearly convey information, mediate disputes, and sensitively handle confidential information.
  • Interpersonal skills: the ability to interact effectively with different people, understand their needs, and maintain a positive relationship is essential. This includes empathy, patience, and active listening.
  • Organisational skills: being organised is vital for managing multiple HR functions such as recruitment, training, and employee records. Effective time management and the ability to prioritise tasks are part of this skill set.
  • Problem-solving skills: the capability to identify problems, think critically, and come up with practical solutions is important, especially when dealing with complex employee relations issues and strategic planning.
  • Leadership and management skills: experience in leading a team, making strategic decisions, and managing both people and projects is invaluable for an HR manager.


  • Recruitment and staffing: experience in hiring processes, from drafting job descriptions to conducting interviews and making hiring decisions, is directly applicable to an HR manager role.
  • Workplace relationships: experience handling workplace conflicts, employee grievances, and disciplinary procedures is crucial for managing the interpersonal aspects of HR.
  • Performance management: familiarity with setting employee goals, monitoring performance, and conducting appraisals is useful for managing the performance review process.

Additional qualities

  • Cultural sensitivity: experience working in diverse environments and understanding different cultural backgrounds can help in managing a diverse workforce sensitively and effectively.
  • Change management: experience with managing change within an organisation, such as during mergers, restructurings, or culture shifts, is particularly valuable.

There are also several technical skills and areas of knowledge that are specific to human resources specialists. Whilst you may have had brief experience with some of these while working as a leader or manager, they’re generally things you’ll need to work on further before launching into your first HR specialist job. These include:

HR specific skills

  • Compensation and benefits: understanding how to structure and manage compensation and benefits programs that attract and retain talent while aligning with budgetary constraints and industry standards.
  • Training and development: skills in assessing training needs, as well as developing and implementing effective training programs that enhance employee skills and knowledge.
  • Succession planning: ability to identify and develop employees with the potential to fill key business leadership positions in the company.
  • Organisational development: knowledge of how to plan and manage changes to improve organisational effectiveness.

Legal knowledge

  • Employment law: familiarity with national and local laws affecting employment issues such as hiring, termination, workplace safety, discrimination, and harassment. For example, understanding of the Fair Work Act 2009 in Australia.
  • Data protection and privacy: knowledge of laws and best practices around handling personal employee data, including the Privacy Act.
  • Labour relations: understanding of collective bargaining, dealing with unions, and managing industrial disputes.
  • Compliance management: ability to ensure that the organisation complies with all existing governmental and labour legal and regulatory requirements.

HR technologies and software

  • HR information systems (HRIS): proficiency in software that manages employee data and HR processes, such as Workday, SAP SuccessFactors, or Oracle PeopleSoft.
  • Applicant tracking systems (ATS): skills in using systems that streamline the recruiting process, like Taleo.
  • Performance management tools: familiarity with tools that facilitate tracking and evaluating employee performance, such as BambooHR.
  • Learning management systems (LMS): knowledge of platforms that administer, document, track, and report on educational courses and training programs, such as Moodle.
  • Payroll software: understanding of software used for processing payroll, applying deductions, and managing employee pay, such as ADP or Xero.
  • Employee engagement tools: experience with tools that help measure and improve employee engagement and feedback, like Culture Amp.

HR manager-related courses

So how do you get those HR-specific skills, other than on-the-job training? The key is an HR management course that’s specifically practical and designed to help you develop the abilities that employers are looking for.
Monarch Institute’s human resources courses are nationally recognised, and accredited by the Australian HR Institute. They’re taught by experienced HR professionals, and designed to give you the flexibility you need to fit your studies around current work (and life) commitments. There are three main pathways to choose from, depending on your current position, and your personal goals. These are:

Human Resources Foundation Skill Set

This shorter course is made up of four essential topics: general HR functions and processes, recruitment and onboarding, performance development, and employee/industrial relations. It’s designed to cover the very basic functions you need to transition into an HR assistant or HR officer role. The Skill Set also gives you credit towards a full qualification, should you decide to continue your studies. It’s the ideal choice if you’re looking for an intro to professional HR, whilst keeping your options open.

Certificate IV in Human Resource Management

The Certificate IV is ideal for junior staff, administrators, and those looking to transition sideways into an HR role from other departments. It’s got the same basic HR topics as the Skill Set, plus eight other essentials covering the whole cycle of HR work from recruitment to separation and termination. As a bonus, there are no particular entry requirements, so you can get started on the Certificate without having direct HR work experience.

Diploma of Human Resource Management

The Diploma is ideal for those who are ready to step into a human resources management or leadership role, including those who already have some work experience in HR. To do the Diploma, you’ll need to have either two years’ relevant work experience, or have completed the Skill Set. Compared to the Skill Set and Certificate, you’ll cover advanced topics including workforce planning and strategy, business risk, developing critical thinking in others, and learning/development coordination. Like the Certificate IV, the Diploma is 100% online and can be completed in up to two years, giving you plenty of time to learn at your own pace. The Diploma can also provide a pathway to university study. You may get advanced standing (up to a year off a full degree); make sure you check with your preferred uni before you enrol, if this is an option you’d like to take.

Not sure which HR entry pathway is right for you? Chat to one of our friendly Course Consultants today.

Any questions? Ask away!