What are the departments of a business?

A business isn’t one whole; it’s lots of parts working together.  

Businesses come in all shapes and sizes, but they have one thing in common; they need a proper organisational structure to be productive and profitable. The departments of a business and how it’s structured will depend on a number of factors, including the size of the company, its ownership structure and the sector it operates in.

Understanding what the different departments of a business are will help you when interviewing as it shows the employer you’re commercially aware. Not to mention that you’ve researched the business thoroughly before applying. Although every business will be structured slightly differently, there are some core departments which help a business function correctly.

Here are some of the most common departments of a business: 


Accounting and Finance

A healthy cash flow is needed to fund the day-to-day running of the business, cover any unexpected costs and help support the company’s growth.

The accounting and finance department (usually led by a Finance Director) is responsible for managing all aspects of a company’s finance, including:

Financial records: HMRC states that all limited companies must keep up-to-date records about the company and accounting records (bank statements, financial statements and balance sheets) that detail, among other things, money that comes in and goes out of the business.

Payroll: Working with the HR department, the accounting and finance team process the payment of employee wages – this may be weekly, bi-monthly or monthly.

Financial planning and growth: Based on current reports and projected sales and expenses, the team predicts the company’s growth in the next six, 12 or 18 months. Based on these predictions, management will update the business’s plans and targets.

Budgeting Budgets for each department will be set and, through regular analysis (usually quarterly), the team will report to department heads if they’re working within their budgets or not.

Taxation: All businesses have to pay taxes on the profits they make. They also need to deduct tax and National Insurance from their employees’ salaries (if applicable). The accounting and finance team are responsible for ensuring all relevant taxes are paid on time.

Want to work in accounting and finance? These accounting and finance courses could help you. 

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The HR department is responsible for looking after the human element of the business; the company’s employees.

Depending on the size of the company, an HR Director may lead the department. An HR Director makes the strategic decisions, and HR Business Partners or HR Assistants will usually support them.

HR functions can be split into five areas:

Recruitment: Writing job adverts, screening and interviewing applicants, feeding back to people after their interview, on-boarding new staff members and producing policies for new hires.

Training: Creating training programmes for departments or individuals, conducting training or finding external companies to manage this on behalf of the business and managing the training budget.

Pay/compensation: Ensuring employees and those contracted to work for the company receive the correct pay and on time. HR is responsible for facilitating deductions to salary, like tax and National Insurance, and the payment of things like expenses.

Employee benefits and relations: HR manages employee benefits (insurance, health and fitness scheme, training allowances, etc.) and checks the employee’s eligibility for these benefits. The HR department is also responsible for managing the relationship between managers and employees, assisting with disputes and grievances and overseeing the relationship between the company and trade unions. 

Legal compliance: Ensuring the company is complying with the current employment law and that changes are communicated promptly to department leaders.

Want to work in HR? These HR courses could help.

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Marketing and Advertising

The marketing department is where strategic thinking, planning and creativity come together to drive sales, build market share and help the company be profitable.

Marketers are responsible for understanding and anticipating the needs of their customers. They then develop campaigns and create communication materials to persuade customers that the company’s products or services can satisfy these needs.

Depending on the company’s size, the marketing department may consist of several people, led by a Marketing Director or Chief Marketing Officer (CM0). Or it may be a small team – or even a single person – who is responsible for all the marketing activity.

Specific tasks undertaken by the marketing department will vary company-to-company but can include:

Market research: Looking at what competitors are doing, analysing the needs of customers and researching new markets to expand into.

Branding: Building and maintaining the company’s brand positioning, awareness and identity.

Events: Organising company events such as webinars, seminars, conferences or trade fairs.

Internal communications and business support: Assisting internal departments with marketing support. For example, helping t tech teams to identify product gaps or creating collateral for the sales team.

Content creation: Planning and creating content for the company’s website, social media, newsletter, blog, etc.

Explore available courses in marketing and advertising.

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The sales department has a crucial role; it’s the generator of income for the business. By making sales and retaining customers, the sales department helps the business grow. The sales department can generate income in a number of different ways, including:

Lead generation: Using things like special offers, discounts or access to insightful content, the sales team gathers the contact details of people who may be interested in their product or service.

Account management: By building long-lasting relationships with customers and anticipating their needs and wants, the sales team can recommend the right product or service to their customers.

Pitching: Instead of responding to inbound leads, a company may approach customers directly to try to sell the value of their product or service. This is mainly used in business-to-business sales.

Referrals: Some companies offer discounts or special offers to people to refer their company to people they think may be interested in their product or service. The sales team will follow up on referrals to arrange a call.  

Affiliated selling: Also known as affiliate marketing, this is where the business pays commission to individuals or other companies for recommending the company’s products or services – or for driving visitors to the company’s website

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Most businesses are digital these days. Without a comprehensive IT system, a business will struggle to be competitive. 

You may associate the IT department with being the go-to team for fixing technical issues. It does, in fact, have a varied remit of responsibilities, including:

Training: showing employees how to use the company’s IT systems.

Maintenance and updates: Maintaining and updating the company’s current IT and telecom infrastructure (phones, servers, websites etc.), researching new systems and preparing business cases for its needs.

IT security: Ensuring the IT infrastructure is fully secured against potential threats, such as malware attacks and hackers.

Policy: Producing internal policies to guide employees, contractors and freelancers on the correct use of the company’s hardware and software (such as phones,  laptops/computers and internal tech tools). 

Crisis management: Collaborating with department leaders or the board to develop a crisis response plan that covers what to do when/if the company’s IT system goes down or is hacked.  

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