HR Director vs. HR Manager: What’s the Difference?

Looking to know the difference between an HR director and an HR manager? You are at the right place.

An HR director plans, leads, and manages the HR policies and overviews the ongoing operations while an HR manager manages HR employees, and executes and implements the day-to-day operations like recruitment, application screening, and interviewing the candidates.

In short, HR directors are the head of an HR department, while HR managers answer before human resources directors.

This article provides detailed differences between the HR manager and HR director. Let’s dive in.

HR Director vs. HR Manager: What Do They Do?

HR directors and managers work together in the same department to check the department’s progress. However, enterprises have one human resources director directing the HR department, but they have more than one HR manager managing different HR areas and specialties. All HR managers answer for their job responsibilities before human resource directors since the HR directors supervise them.

Human resource managers such as HR payroll managers, HR employees, and training managers; all are responsible to manage, direct and supervise their teams. Since the HR directors carry the highest role in the human resource hierarchy and they are the executives of the department, all the managers report to them for their work progress.

Let’s explore each of these roles individually so you can get knowledge about the differences between these two positions in an HR department.

What Does an HR Director Do?

An HR director is an executive position responsible to create strategies for better business growth and allocating the budgets for employees and other organizational expenses.

In general, they focus on bigger outcomes, such as enforcing departmental and organizational goals, and strategies for business growth.

Human resources directors oversee the hiring processes and ensure that they hire the right talent based on the company’s requirements, priorities, and standards.

Furthermore, the HR directors plan, lead and manage the recruitment operations, policy implementation, and employee retention policies.

HR director skills you must haveThe HR director job description entails strategic responsibilities. For example, planning and developing strategies based on the company’s long-term and short-term goals for organizational development and growth. They also contribute insights into the development of organizational strategies. On top of that, they work to develop strategies not just for future achievements, but also for talent acquisition, employee retention, and labor management.

Human resources directors must ensure that employees comply with the policies or not. They collaborate with other department directors and managers to gain insights into how policies work in those departments. Furthermore, they collect employee feedback from their team leads to improve the employee experience.

Apart from strategic duties, they also oversee how the staff works in the human resources department. Furthermore, they work for business development and budget development programs.

In short, HR directors work on these responsibilities listed below:

  • Facilitate human resource managers
  • Work on organizational strategies
  • Define HR objectives
  • Improve and update company policies
  • Manage the work and employee discipline
  • Prepare progress reports to inform the business executives and senior management teams

What Does an HR Manager Do?

An HR manager overlooks HR employees and the day-to-day functions of the HR department. They execute the HR operations, supervise their coworkers, and report the outcomes, insights, and challenges to HR directors and senior executives of the human resources department.

HR managers have an operational role, unlike human resources directors who have a more strategic role. The human resources managers focus on workforce planning campaigns, recruitment campaigns, employee engagement, career assistance, screening applications, and employee benefit programs for healthy labor relations.

Furthermore, a human resources manager looks after performance management operations as these systems ensure fairness and honesty in the work environment.

Journey to become an HR manager

In addition to that, human resource managers are responsible for staffing duties. From screening job applications to interviewing the right candidate, hiring them, and helping them settle into the work organization is the responsibility of HR managers.

Apart from hiring, HR managers also train employees for quick and better business development. Whenever an employee faces some issues, human resources managers look after those challenges and help build better employee and work relations.

Human resources managers work on the compensation and employee benefit programs approved by the human resources director, such as employee monthly/yearly incentive plans, bonus programs, and competitional awards.

As they establish better working environments, they also oversee the safety of employees within an organization. Furthermore, they have practical duties to ensure that all employees follow the workspace laws and ethics.

In short, human resource managers are responsible for all practical workspace duties that range from guiding the employees and recruiting the best talent, to ensuring that the employees follow the workspace ethics.

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How Do HR Managers and HR Directors Work Together?

HR managers communicate with HR directors regarding their day-to-day operations, tasks, and work progress. Since the human resources director is superior to an HR manager, thus good communication between these two roles ensures the department is on the right track to target business goals.

A human resources director communicates with the human resource managers regarding the organizational policies and strategies they must adopt in their routine tasking.

As HR directors’ role is strategic, thus they work on developing effective strategies.

While human resource managers’ role is operational, thus they work to operate and perform practical tasks.

Both of them work together in the sense that the HR director develops the policies, while an HR manager helps implement those policies. Hence, good collaboration between the HR manager and the HR director is fundamental for effective employee and business growth.

Who Earns More: HR Directors or HR Managers?

According to Glassdoor, a human resources director earns an average of $129k per year in the United States. This is the total average salary inclusive of the additional payments and average bonuses in the United States. The base pay for a human resources director is $99k, with an average of $29k additional allowances. This means almost $10-11k per month.

On the other hand, an HR manager earns $82k per year, according to Glassdoor. This figure includes the general salary of $75k, with $6-7k as additional allowances. That means HR managers make around $6-7k per month in the United States.

These stats explain that human resources directors earn almost 37-40% more than human resource managers according to our estimation from these salary figures obtained from Glassdoor.

What are the Differences Between HR Directors and HR Managers?

Now that you are aware of the general responsibilities of HR directors and HR managers. let’s jump into knowing the differences between methodology, career path, and skills for these two HR roles.


HR directors and human resource managers work with two different methodologies. The HR directors work with a strategic approach to perform their day-to-day tasks, while the human resource managers work with an operational and practical approach to their day-to-day duties.

The directors provide valuable strategies and policies for not just the human resources department but for the organization as a whole.  

HR Director vs. HR Manager

While human resources managers carry out practical tasks, like screening job applications, interviewing and onboarding candidates, ensuring the employees follow work ethics, and looking after HR operational tasks to target the company’s work and goals.


Another major difference between HR directors and managers is their skillset. When HR professionals hire for these positions, they prioritize the strategic and developmental capabilities of a human resources director. Here’s a detailed list of skills mandatory for an HR director’s role:

  • Analytical skills
  • Technical skills
  • Strategical skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Developmental skills
  • Business administration skills

On the other hand, when human resources professionals screen the applications for an HR manager’s role, they prefer candidates with good management and operational skills to ensure that they manage the HR processes smoothly with good handling capabilities. Here’s a list of fundamental skills for an HR manager’s role:

  • Practical skills
  • Management skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication skills
  • Analysis skills
  • HR skills

Hence, a human resource director is a technical role, while an HR manager is an operational role.

Career Path

When it comes to the HR career path, both these positions advance toward senior executive roles. HR directors promote to either HR business partners or HR vice presidents. Here is the career path for an HR director in order:

  1. HR business partner
  2. HR vice president
  3. HR president/chief HR Officer (CHRO)

On the other hand, human resources managers also follow the base career path trajectory of HR directors. Here is the human resource manager’s career path (regardless of order):

HR Manager Career Path

  1. HR generalist
  2. Labor relations specialist
  3. Training development specialist
  4. Employee benefit specialist
  5. HR recruiter
  6. Human resources assistant
  7. HR director
  8. HR vice president
  9. Chief HR officer

Not that, the career paths for these two positions are based on their skills and technical vs. non-technical competencies. In general, a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in human resources is a requirement for both roles.


In short, HR directors focus on the strategic side of the business and thus have a more technical role, while HR managers focus on the management and operation of HR with a comparatively less focus on technical business development competencies.

HR directors are seniors to HR managers. Note that there’s always just one HR director in a human resources department, but there is more than one HR manager in the department due to the need to handle different HR teams.


Here are answers to some of the most asked queries about HR directors and managers.

Can HR managers become HR directors?

Yes. an HR manager can progress to an HR director’s seat. HR managers are junior to HR directors, they aim for promotions and career transformations within the HR department. Human resources managers promote to HR directors if they exhibit enough strategic and organizational development skills.

Which is better: HR director or HR manager?

Although the preference between these two varies based on your taste, skills, and technical competencies, the HR director is a better role with respect to seniority and pay level.

However, keep in mind that HR directors are responsible oversee the strategic development of HR to ensure compliance with the company’s goals. Furthermore, they must report before the enterprise holders and other senior business authorities for their work duties.

If you are new to human resources and are looking to break into an HR director or an HR manager position, we recommend taking our HR Certification Courses, where you will learn how to build your skillset in human resources, build your human resources network, craft an excellent HR resume, and create a successful job search strategy that lands you a sought-after human resources director or manager job.

Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is the founder of HR.University. He's a certified HR professional and has managed global teams across 5 different continents including their benefits and payroll. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.