Over the years, the role of Human Resources in the workplace has undergone significant changes. As internal business models and external market conditions have transformed, roles and responsibilities have shifted. Over time HR has started to break from its traditional, process-oriented role into a new, strategic function that solves real business problems. The role of the Human Resources manager has changed too, from just overseeing the people aspect of the business to being a key strategic partner in achieving the organization's mandate.
What is Human Resources Management?
The word "human resources" was first used to describe the individuals who work for an organization in the early 1900s, and then became more extensively used in the 1960s, since then the term has been evolving as businesses evolve. Tocher & Rutherford (2009) define Human Resources Management as "a set of distinct but interrelated activities, functions, and processes that are directed at attracting, developing and maintaining (or disposing of) a firm's human resources". Schermerhorn (2001) defines it 'as the process of attracting, developing and maintaining a talented and energetic workforce to support organizational mission, objectives, and strategies.
In Michael Beer's The Harvard Model of Human Resource Management, Human Resource Management is defined as a strategic approach to the employment, growth, and well-being of people working in a business. Human resources management encompasses all management decisions and actions that affect the relationship between the organization and its employees – in other words, its human capital.
The role of Human Resources Managers
Traditionally when one hears of an HR manager, the first thing that comes to mind is the person in charge of recruitment and selection and the overall welfare of employees within an organization. HR leadership is critical in both large and small businesses. These strong, compassionate leaders perceive issues from the standpoint of both employees and customers. They align their goals and ambitions with the company's, and they strive to make the workplace a better place for all employees. According to Davenport, T.O (2015) in his article "How HR plays its role in leadership development", one of HR's most crucial responsibilities is to ensure that the organization has the right individuals in leadership positions at all levels. This implies HR must concentrate its efforts on five essential areas: job design, employee assessment, performance management, talent management, and leadership capacity building. It's also up to HR to dismiss the myth that "soft skills" are less important than "hard skills."
Related: What is Talent Management?
HR managers are critical to the success of any company. They use smart and innovative leadership tactics to help achieve strategic goals and objectives. HR executives serve as liaisons between senior management and employees, advocating for employee interests. They raise awareness and guide all levels of the company during the period of change and transition.
In an article by HRD Connect, the following are listed as functions of an HR Manager:
- Planning: This involves ensuring the best fit between employees and jobs while avoiding any possible manpower shortages or surpluses within the organization. This involves four key steps:
- Analyzing the human capital headcount,
- Projecting human resource demand,
- Matching human resource demand with supply
- Aligning the above steps to the organization's strategic mandate.
- Organizing: This involves developing a reporting structure that ensures the organization can achieve its strategic goals. The structure is usually represented by an organogram, which provides a graphic representation of the chain of command within an organization.
- Directing: The HRM is there to ensure that employees perform to their maximum potential through constant motivation and command thus ensuring they contribute to the achievement of the organization's goals.
- Controlling: After planning, organizing, and directing, an employee's performance must be assessed, confirmed, and compared to organizational objectives. Control measures must be implemented if performance deviates from the plan.
- Recruitment and Selection: The role of the HRM is to ensure that the organization has the right talent to help achieve the organization's goals. According to research by the Allegis Group, recruiting and retaining talent is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses.
- Job Analysis & Design: The role of the HRM also involves outlining the nature of a job, and the qualifications, skills, and work experience required for one to perform a particular job within the organization. This is a critical aspect as it assists in combining tasks, duties, and responsibilities into a single work unit to achieve organizational goals.
- Performance management: Assessing, monitoring, and managing employee performance is another function of human resources management. According to Deloitte's Global Human Capital Trends research, 79 percent of executives prioritize redesigning performance management systems and processes to include aspects such as continuous feedback, goal-setting, and employee-driven communication.
- Learning & Development (L&D): The role of HRM is to ensure employees have the requisite skills for them to perform their jobs effectively. Through learning and development initiatives, the HRM ensures that employees have the relevant skills and knowledge for them to perform their jobs effectively. L&D also prepares employees for taking up a higher level of jobs within the organization. According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), organizations that offer comprehensive learning and development initiatives have 218% higher income per employee than organizations that do not offer learning and development programs.
- Compensation management: the role of the HRM also involves ensuring equitable pay practices within the organization by determining pay levels for different job types and compensations, incentives, bonuses, and benefits related to different roles within the workplace. According to a study by Jobvite, most people consider compensation when deciding whether to stay or leave an employer.
- Policies: This involves ensuring fair labor practices within the organization according to labor statutes through drafting, revising, publishing, and implementing organizational policies which are essential for the fair treatment of all employees.
- Employee Welfare: The role of the HRM involves ensuring employees have access to the best services and benefits that ensure their welfare. According to a study by MetLife, 51% of employers indicated that using health and wellness benefits to maintain employee loyalty and retain talent will become even more important in the next 3 to 5 years.
- HRMS: This function entails keeping a record of employee information, maintaining, and retrieving employee-related data such as employment history, work hours, and earnings history, among other things.
- Top Management Advice: One of the most important HRM tasks is advising top management on policy and procedure development. HRM's advisory job also includes advising upper management on personnel evaluations. This role also includes guiding how to maintain high-quality human relations and boost staff morale.
- Departmental Head advice: Human Resources also advises the heads of various departments on policies related to job design, job description, recruitment, selection, and appraisals.
Human Resources Management is the process of bridging the gap between an organization's employees and its management. A good Human Resources Manager that is committed to the organization's advancement and growth is required to run a successful business. HRM that is well-balanced is essential to the organization's productivity and collaboration. Effective HRM helps businesses to address human resource concerns strategically. HRM aids in attracting and keeping qualified workers assist leaders and staff in adjusting to organizational change and facilitates technology adoption. HRM is crucial in managing employees, assisting them in working successfully and creatively to help their company achieve its goals.
In most cases, the importance of the Human Resources Manager goes unnoticed in the organization with the routine hustle and bustle in the workplace, but without the effective contributions of the Human Resources Manager, the organization might not be able to achieve its fullest potential and expand its horizons.
Tatenda Sayenda is a Consultant-Organizational Development at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm.
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