Ask as many people you can think of to explain how they define ‘Human Resource Management’ and you will get a variety of answers. The people who run the HR department in all organisations will tell you how differently they are perceived by their staff, and quite often incorrectly.
Human Resource Management is a philosophy of people management based on the belief that human resources are uniquely important to sustain business success. An organisation gains competitive advantage by using its people effectively, drawing on their expertise and ingenuity to meet clearly defined objectives. HRM is aimed at recruiting capable, flexible committed people, managing their performance and developing key competencies. (HRM Guide)
The HR concept
Business is people – no company, large or small, can exist for long without following three basic human resources management practices:
The organisation needs to provide at all times clear and thorough communication both on an interpersonal and organisational level
The organisation should employ systematic, organised legal procedures for hiring, training, motivating and retaining capable employees
They must then ensure consistency and uniformity when applying points one and two
The Human Resources Department provides a service to the organisation to give advice on managing its most valuable assets – its people. Ideally, the HR department must ensure that all the company managers are able to get the most out of their human resources and that productivity is increased through the improvement of the work environment, development of better work methods and the effective use of employee time. They are the in-house consultants for anything pertaining to the needs of the employees – their client is the Organisation.
What is the HR Department actually responsible for?
The Human Resources Department takes on the responsibility of work psychology, the management of the staff, payroll, industrial relations, health and safety, training and development and employment law. Many Human Resources Departments also take on the responsibility of the Administration for the organisation.
One of the major tasks of the Human Resources Department is the recruitment and selection of the company’s task force – this is usually done in conjunction with the department or section manager to ensure that the best person for the position is hired. Before hiring, the HR Department and the department Managers work together to develop the Job Specifications for the position in question, and then prepare a Job Description. It is against this, that the text for the vacancy is drafted and used when interviewing, to ensure a good match is made.
Another major and important task of the HR Department is to keep informed with any changes in legislation that can and will affect the employees and the company – the latest in the way of EU Directives; the white paper on employment law; the new Health and Safety requirements; Equal Opportunities, parental leave, race discrimination, Union Directives and Disability Discrimination act.
Human Resources Management
The Harvard Interpretation sees employees as resources. However, they are viewed as being fundamentally different from other resources – they cannot be managed in the same way. The emphasis is on people as human resources.
The Harvard Map
The Harvard Map or model clearly outlines four HR policy areas:
Human Resource Flows – recruitment, selection, placement, promotion, appraisal and assessment, termination etc.
Reward Systems – pay systems, motivation etc.
Employee Influence – delegated levels of authority, responsibility, power
Work Systems – definition/design of work and alignment of people
This in turn leads to the ’10 C’s’ or HR policies that have to be achieved. (Taken from the Principles of HRM: the 10 ‘C’ model from HRM in a Business Context) They are:
Comprehensiveness – This includes all aspects of people management
Cost Effectiveness – Competitive fair rewards and promotion on systems
Coherence – HR Management activities and initiatives form a meaningful whole
Control – Ensure performance is consistent with business objectives
Credibility – Staff trust top management and believe in their strategies
Communication – Objectives understood and accepted by all employees; open culture with no barriers
Creativity – Competitive advantage comes from unique strategies
Competence – Organisation competent to achieve its objectives; dependent on individual competencies
All leading to final central ring
Change – Continuous improvement and development essential for survival
Commitment – employees motivated to achieve organisational goals
By definition Human Resource Management purpose is “to ensure that the employees of the company are used in such a way that the employer obtains the greatest possible benefit from their abilities and the employees obtain both material and psychological rewards from their work” (Human Resource Management – HT Graham & Roger Benett)
Do we really need HR?
Many times the question that arises is “Do we really need HR?” A quote that was taken from the wall of one HR Director pretty much sums up how the people within the HR Department quite often feel – ‘We the willing are doing the impossible, for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long, with so little, that we are now qualified to do anything, with nothing’.
The fact that the HR Department provides a service means that the results of their endeavours are not often seen immediately. Later on however, when the effectiveness of their recruitment comes to fruition; or when the knowledge of the HR department in the legalities of employee relations ensures the organisation maintains its excellent relations with unions; or when the performance appraisal programme now means uniformity and better awareness of the employee needs; or the training programmes held throughout the year have now yielded their results in providing a well informed, highly skilled workforce; or the number of times the HR department has been there to advise and assist and therefore, ensuring the retention and motivation of employees; or the effective health and safety programme that is now in place, and means that the company is conforming to local legislation – then and only then, will the benefit of human resources management, be truly appreciated.
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