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.

Concept - 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 competences. (HRM Guide)

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.

So what is the human resources 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 organisation`s administration.

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 that a good match is made.

Another major and important task of the HR department is to keep itself informed of any changes in legislation that can and will affect the employees and the company - the latest in the way of EU directives; the changes to the employment law; the new health and safety requirements; equal opportunities, parental leave, race discrimination, union directives and Disability Discrimination Act.

Different interpretations of HRM

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 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 Cs" 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:

Outer ring:

¤ 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.

Inner Ring:

¤ 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, depending on individual competences.

All leading to the 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 - H.T. Graham and Roger Benett)

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".

In fact in May 2001, a new Arthur Andersen survey showed that human resources executives were missing two things that could improve their effectiveness - support from top management and sufficient financial resources.

In this survey, it was found that HR executives believe HR and people strategy, could significantly improve profitability. But it seems that top company managers are less likely to see a direct link between people and profits.

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; when the knowledge of the HR department in the legalities of employee relations ensures the organisation maintains its excellent relations with unions; when the performance appraisal programme now means uniformity and better awareness of the employee needs; when the training programmes held throughout the year have now yielded their results in providing a well informed, highly skilled workforce; the number of times the HR department has been there to advise and assist and therefore, ensuring the retention and motivation of employees; 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.

CSB Employment Agency has been supporting the local business community with its services since 1987. For further information call 2122-5800 or 2124-6543, fax 2123-0520, e-mail jobs@vacancycentre.com, or visit www.VacancyCentre.com.

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