Human Resources: What you Need to Know

Human Resources: What you Need to Know
Last Updated: August 7, 2023

What is human resources?

Human resources is the embodiment of everything to do with people at work. Human resources can be viewed as the people employed, especially their collective knowledge and skills as they are applied to the work situation.

Human resources could also be viewed as any citizen possessing the knowledge and skills required in a work situation. This is why people talk about the quality of human resources in an organization or country. Other terms used to refer to human resources are; workforce, manpower and human capital. Again it is a collective group of people working for an organization encompassing all the skills and knowledge they bring. At the country level, the quality of human resources a country possess plays a big role in the socioeconomic development of a country.

An article on the World Economic Forum website suggests, "The worst thing we ever did in corporate America was to take the most vital part of any company - the people powering it - and label it so dismissively as "human resources". This commentary suggests that others are unhappy with how people's value at work is labelled as human resources.

Based on the research carried out in the field of human resources by various specialists, here are the key insights provided by each author:

  1. Manolescu (1998) says that human resources are not only a common resource but also a crucial one for organizations. They contribute to the development and competitive success of organizations.
  2. Rotaru and Prodan (1998 emphasize that human resources possess unique characteristics that directly impact their productive use and exploitation compared to other categories of resources.
  3. Burciu (1998) defines human resources as an organization's entire staff. The organization's progress depends on how effectively they carry out their work with a focus on quality.
  4. Certo Samuel C. (2001) states that the right human resources in an organization are those individuals who actively contribute to achieving organizational objectives.

American futurist Alvin Toffler eloquently emphasized the paramount importance of intellectual work, stating, "Money is spent forever, power is lost; it is only human intellect that, when used, is not only preserved but also grows" (Toffler, 1992: 41). This quote highlights the profound significance of human resources in the overall development and progress of societies.

In the intricate web of resources comprising capital, natural resources, facilities, techniques, science, and technology, human resources stand out as an endogenous force that governs and propels the socio-economic development process of every nation. Unlike other resources susceptible to depletion and exhaustion, human resources possess a remarkable advantage. This advantage lies in their inherent ability to thrive and expand if nurtured, harnessed, and utilized effectively.

The distinguishing factor that sets human resources apart is intelligence. The human intellect serves as the driving force behind innovation, creativity, problem-solving, and adaptability.

While others want to look at human resources as a department, in this paper, I take the view that taking human resources merely as a department trivializes the importance and significance of human resources in business. I will still explain what human resources means when viewed as a department. It is important to note that human resources significantly differs from human resources management.

Human resources is also viewed as the department that manages human resources in an organization. The people mandated with managing human resources are called HR professionals. However, every person who manages people at work is in charge of human resources. This means every manager with people responsibilities is managing human resources. The human resources department is responsible for human resources processes and practices namely recruitment and selection, training and development, employee relations, organizational development and remuneration management, among other key activities.

The importance of human resources


A by the Word Economic Forum and Willis Towers Watson report make a bold statement on human resources "Human capital can be a company's greatest asset; it can make or break the business strategy and is a key differentiator. A company's intangible assets, including human capital and culture, are now estimated to comprise on average 52% of a company's market value".

The same paper notes that investing in the workforce is crucial for achieving long-term business results. While the impact may not be immediate, taking a longer-term view can inform human capital policies that drive success. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Building versus buying talent: Organizations must decide whether to invest in developing their existing employees or acquiring new talent externally. Building talent involves investing in training, mentoring, and career development programs to enhance the skills and capabilities of the current workforce. On the other hand, buying talent refers to recruiting individuals with the desired skills and expertise from outside the organization. A balanced approach that combines both strategies can yield optimal results.
  2. Upskilling and reskilling employees: With rapid technological advancements and evolving business needs, investing in upskilling and reskilling initiatives is essential. This involves providing employees opportunities to learn new skills and adapt to changing job requirements. Organizations can enhance productivity, foster innovation, and improve employee engagement by investing in employee development.
  3. Reinventing jobs through technology augmentation: Technology plays a significant role in reshaping job roles and responsibilities. Organizations should embrace technology augmentation by integrating automation, artificial intelligence, and other emerging technologies into their operations. This can increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve customer experiences. However, it is crucial to ensure that technology is used to enhance human capabilities rather than replace them.
  4. Alternate ways of working: The traditional 9-to-5 office-based work model is evolving rapidly. Organizations should explore flexible work arrangements such as remote work, flexible hours, and gig economy partnerships. Embracing these alternate ways of working can attract top talent, increase employee satisfaction, and improve work-life balance.

The importance of human resources in driving organization success is well documented in research. For that reason investing in human resources benefits individual organizations and the countries they operate in.

The quality of human resources is important

High-quality human resources refer to individuals who possess the necessary qualifications, skills, and attributes to contribute effectively to their profession and the overall development of their country. Developing such human resources involves providing them with professional and technical training that aligns with the requirements of their respective fields.

High-quality human resources can creatively apply the knowledge and skills acquired during training. This ability to think innovatively allows them to solve problems, improve processes, and contribute to the advancement of their profession.

One key aspect of high-quality human resources is their ability to adapt to rapid production and business technology changes. In today's fast-paced world, technological advancements are constantly shaping industries. Therefore, individuals need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to keep up with these changes and contribute to the productivity and efficiency of their work.

Physical well-being is essential for individuals to perform optimally in their roles.

Investing in human resources is a strategic decision for any country. A nation can enhance its overall productivity and competitiveness by allocating resources towards developing high-quality human resources. These individuals become valuable assets who can contribute significantly to national development.

By investing in education, training, and skill development programs, countries can empower their citizens to contribute meaningfully to various sectors of the economy. A well-educated and skilled workforce enhances productivity and fosters innovation and technological advancements. This virtuous cycle of intellectual growth fuels economic prosperity and societal well-being.

By valuing diversity and promoting equal opportunities for all individuals to participate in the workforce, societies can harness their citizens' collective intelligence and talents. Inclusive policies prioritizing education for marginalized groups and promoting gender equality can lead to a more equitable distribution of wealth and opportunities.

However, it is crucial to recognize that the potential of human resources can only be fully realized when accompanied by supportive infrastructure, access to healthcare services, political stability, and a conducive environment for entrepreneurship and innovation. These complementary factors create an ecosystem that nurtures and amplifies the impact of human resources on socio-economic development.

Recent growth theories emphasize the significance of three fundamental pillars for an economy to achieve rapid and sustainable growth: adopting new technology, developing modern infrastructure, and improving human resources. Among these pillars, human resources drive long-term economic growth. Specifically, high-quality human resources nurtured and developed with diverse skills, knowledge, professional expertise, experience, and creative capacity are considered valuable "human capital".

High-quality human resources possess technical skills, critical thinking abilities, problem-solving capabilities, adaptability to change, and creativity. These individuals are equipped with a deep understanding of their respective fields and possess the capacity to innovate and drive progress. By investing in education and training programs that foster these qualities, countries can cultivate a well-prepared workforce to navigate the complexities of the modern economy.

One country that prioririse the development of quality human resources is Australia. It is known for its exceptional approach to training high-quality human resources. Students can learn from experts and gain practical experience in real working environments. The vocational education system in Australia also collaborates effectively with trade unions, ensuring trainees acquire valuable job experience that facilitates the recruitment process. Vocational schools in Australia offer a wide range of professions and training programs.

Frequently Asked Questions about human resources

What do you mean by human resources?

Human resources refer to the knowledge and skills people possess and can utilize when employed. In this instance, human resources is a resource and not the process of managing that resource, referred to as human resources management. Human resources refers to the workforce, a collective of the skills and knowledge they bring to the workplace.

What is the best HR definition?

HR refers to human resources, which refers to people's collective skills and knowledge that are usable in the workplace. There has been confusion between human resources and human resources management. Human resources is a noun that depicts the presence of something. Translated directly, human means people, and resources means something of value ready for use. Human resources management speaks to managing people at work to enable them to add value to the organization.

What is the role of the HR?

The role of HR is to manage human resources processes and practices for the benefit of the organization. Ulrich (1998) argues that HR should focus on business results that enrich the company's value to customers, investors, and employees. Hailey (2005) provides an overview of empirical research articles into the linkages between HRM and performance, while Truss (2002) examines the changing role of the HR function within two contrasting organizations. Overall, the papers suggest that the role of HR is complex and dynamic and that it can vary depending on the organization and its goals.


Over time, human resources have evolved into strategic assets in society, despite the impact of automation and digitization on the workforce. They continuously reinvent themselves, adapt to modernization processes, and find innovative solutions. The key advantage of human resources lies in their ability to transform and stay updated with modernization trends, actively supporting the development and modernization of society.

Regardless of organizations' methods to streamline their operations, such as technology, digitalization, or robotization, people remain a vital resource that ensures organizations' survival, development, and competitive success across all industries. People are essential for implementing the procedures and activities necessary to achieve organizational objectives. Effective coordination by managers and leaders is crucial to prevent chaos and ensure the organized execution of tasks. The efforts of human resources directly impact organizational success. Many individuals develop a strong attachment to their organization, perceiving its successes as their own and its failures as personal setbacks.

Investing in human resources is crucial for an organization's long-term success and competitiveness. In today's dynamic business environment, human capital has surpassed financial capital in terms of strategic importance. Human resources specialists have experienced significant changes in recent years, focusing on improving recruitment processes, reducing turnover rates, implementing innovative motivation techniques, and enhancing career management. These transformations reflect human resources' adaptability and problem-solving abilities as they continuously strive to overcome limitations and meet the evolving challenges within the organization.

Memory Nguwi
Super User
This article was written by Memory a Super User at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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