By: Tom Goulding

The COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation have shaken up how Americans think about the way they want to work. Experts who examine the systemic interaction of work and worker health are observing that COVID-19 has pushed millions of workers to quit over long hours and low pay, per The Guardian.

“People [believe] that they are systematically underpaid, they get a ridiculously low share of the value that they produce over the course of the day. They’re doing most of the work, and yet they’re treated badly and receive wages that they cannot live on,” Kathi Weeks, an associate professor of women’s studies at Duke University said. “The pandemic was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

According to the National Labor Relations Board, the pandemic seems to also have led to increasing petitions and successful unionizations with large corporations like Apple, Amazon and Starbucks. Unionization has a long history in the United States but has seen diminished activity in the last 70 years. With these recent trends surrounding worker attitudes in mind, human resources is now more important than it has been in decades — a go-between for workers' rights and companies to live up to their values.

Skilled HR specialists are in demand

Human resources specialists' job growth is expected to grow to the tune of 10% by 2030 and this demand will need skilled workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Standards for work are changing, and positive human resources are becoming more essential by the year, and perhaps more than ever. HR professionals receive training in the following skills:

  • Business management.
  • Communications.
  • Executive decision-making.
  • Problem-solving.
  • Leadership development.
  • Organizational analysis.
  • Finance.
  • Legal knowledge.
  • And more.

Any organization needs people with these types of skill sets. The big picture for prospective HR professionals remains that employers are always looking for qualified and skilled candidates in employee relations. They likewise need people who know how to identify and recruit qualified candidates.

Signs seem to point to workers in the market feeling undervalued and underpaid and experiencing high levels of burnout. Prospective human resources pros are here to help these organizational issues and help workers feel valued and fairly compensated, for a more fair workplace.

There are several avenues for HR work. As with any job, helping workers and companies align on goals naturally leads to specializations in the field. Below are some examples of HR specializations:

  • Employee training and development.
  • Benefits and compensation.
  • Financial management.
  • Recruiting.
  • Business leadership.

Human resources professionals hold great influence within their respective organizations. For instance, benefits and compensation specialists carry a diverse skill set. Understanding a company’s financial history, and understanding the layout of the market and competitors and what typical positions on average pay is not only essential but a huge value add to employee contribution. With this information, they can work with recruiting specialists to bring in top talent at competitive rates and retain those who are highly recruited while in their employ.

But for the most part, HR professionals are meant to be leaders in their organizations. They can help managers and higher-ups understand their workforce and needs — and even help mediate worker and employer disputes. They can teach others to become more empathetic, to help workers become more appropriately compensated and even develop future leaders. These kinds of soft skills can be very difficult to develop on one’s own but with the proper training, those passionate enough can find a successful career in this space.

UCR University Extension is currently offering an HR program for students who want to make a better difference in the lives of workers. We’ve been advancing our students for more than 65 years through professional development, personal enrichment and academic excellence, including an official endorsement by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), building HR professionals one class session at a time.

Every program is designed for our learners to start or further enhance their professional journeys with skills and ambition to match. Whether your goal is to upgrade your credentials or shift careers altogether, UCR University Extension offers a variety of choices with outstanding value and flexibility.