When things take a sudden unexpected turn in someone’s life, whether at home or at work, who do they turn to? Very often, it’s HR. When something goes awry with the business, when change becomes the name of the game, who’s there to help people stay steady? HR professionals. When things suddenly explode or implode, HR is there.

Gympass salutes HR professionals everywhere as we approach Human Resource Professional Day on Sunday, Sept. 26, a day designed to pay tribute to those working in HR departments worldwide. The recognition is well deserved. While most of us primarily think of HR leaders as the people responsible for managing the company health plan or overseeing pay raises, much of what HR does occurs behind the scenes and often receives little recognition.

HR professionals seem to be responsible for everything from A to Z

After all, HR’s overarching mission is nothing less than managing the employee experience during the entire employee life cycle. HR mission statements range from HR committing to providing employees a “stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth” (Southwest Airlines) to promising “consistent, comprehensive, and cooperative services by a competent, courteous staff” (the University of Maryland, Baltimore County). Did we mention having a hand in talent acquisition? Yes, HR plays a role there too.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of the HR professional was tested like never before. The needs of employees and their organizations changed nearly overnight when much of the world went into lockdown. Helping employees manage the stress and uncertainty of working from home suddenly became job No. 1. This soon transformed into managing the desire of many employees to continue working from home permanently, at least part of the time.

It’s a far different role than when HR first emerged as a specific field of organizational management in the early 20th century. That’s when Frederick Winslow Taylor explored what he called “scientific management.” His efforts to improve economic efficiency in manufacturing eventually led Taylor to focus on what many years later would be recognized as the most critical element not only in manufacturing but in all of business: labor — the people doing the work.

World War I led to early studies of industrial psychology (and to HR)

Meanwhile, Charles Samuel Myers was studying the effects of shell shock and other disorders among soldiers in World War I. This led to the introduction of industrial psychology, which in turn planted the seeds for the human relations movement on both sides of the Atlantic.

Early research into how employee performance could be heightened by stimuli other than pay and better working conditions laid the groundwork for today’s rewards and recognition or total compensation programs. Organizational psychology, organizational behavior, and organizational theory all helped set the stage for what we know today as talent and workforce management.

And at the center of all of it, whether it’s directly their job or not, sits HR, responsible for company culture and development, in a role that continues to grow and evolve.

So here’s to you, HR professionals of the world, for all you give and all you do.