Human Resources – What is it?

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When I’m speaking with companies who are developing their HR departments or functions, or mentoring students who are studying business or HR, I’m asked “What is HR,” or “What should an HR Department look like?”

The basic description I give is something like this: Human Resource refers to the individuals or personnel or workforce within an organization who are responsible for performing the tasks given to them for  the purpose of achieving goals and objectives of the organization; and that this is possible only through proper recruitment and selection, providing proper orientation and induction, training, skill development, proper assessment of the employees (performance appraisal), providing appropriate compensation and benefits, maintaining proper labor relations, if unionized, and ultimately maintaining safety, welfare and health concern of employees, which is the process  of the Human Resource Management(HRM).

Human Resource Management has changed a lot over the years and is ever-changing today. Previously, HRM was called personnel administration or personnel management, and had to do with the staff or workers of an organization. It was mainly concerned with the administrative tasks that have to do with organizing or managing an organization, such as record keeping and dealing with employee wages, salaries and benefits. The personnel officer (the person in charge of personnel management) also dealt with labor relations, such as problems with trade unions or difficulties between employers (those who employ workers) and their employees.

And, to continue in response to their questions, this is where our discussions get really interesting and I’ll add in things such as ‘it depends on the size of your company; whether you’ve got specific or unique compliance requirements, etc.’

A current Human Resource Management model contains all Human Resource activities. When these activities are handled effectively, they result in a competent and willing workforce who will help realize and support organizational goals. But, there’s another variable in the model – environment. The Human Resource function is influenced by several internal and external forces like economic, technological, political, legal, organizational, and professional conditions. So, HR may look different today than it will next year!

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