The concept of human-resource management has evolved over the past twenty years. Prior to World War II, personnel were primarily concerned with record keeping and hiring. In the 1950s formal job classifications, pay systems, and administration of fringe benefits were added. In the 1960s, developments in the behavioral sciences led to increased training and development activities. In the 1970s, Equal Employment Opportunity-Affirmative Action (EEO-AA) programs, the Employment Retirement Income Securities Act (ERISA), the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and other governmental actions regarding personnel were taken. Proper compliance with these regulations was added to HRM responsibilities. Turbulent economic conditions, new technologies, changing demographics, new lifestyles, and altered worker attitudes in recent years have further contributed to making traditional views of personnel functions inadequate and obsolete.
Today the average company work force is better educated and more diverse in cultural background, interests, aspirations, and expectations than previous generations. HRM activities are now designed to improve employee effectiveness within the organization. Human resource managers provide expert advice and assistance to corporate managers regarding the use of the organization's human resources. It is also common for human resource managers to be involved in other corporate activities than personnel, such as acquisition and divestiture, consolidation and diversification, and international expansion.
The current economic environment makes it important for organizations to seek solutions to problems of productivity, turnover, and absenteeism. In the past, unprepared managements paid for poor human-resource practices in financial losses, disrupted operations, employee dissatisfaction, and poor public image. Out of necessity, human-resource management has become professionalized. The prepared, knowledgeable personnel professional orchestrates the organization's efforts to provide meaningful solutions to people problems while laying a foundation for the future.
As a human-resource professional, you would plan and control such areas as:
- overall staffing of the company, long and short-term;
- overall organizational effectiveness in terms of worker productivity,
- employee satisfaction, and competitiveness of incentive and
- reward systems; overall effectiveness of the company's compliance with government
- agencies, regulations, unions, and public interest groups
This continuous expansion of HRM's activities and responsibilities has led to greater involvement by top corporate management in planning and control of the personnel function, as well as involvement of other corporate staff units-especially the legal and public affairs departments-to support the personnel roles. The result has been greater general management accountability for personnel management performance, and increased emphasis on HRIS to provide communication and control.
Corporate organizational structure greatly affects the personnel department in how it functions, its sphere of influence, and its location. Usually, personnel units are on the corporate staff. In addition, personnel subunits of varying responsibilities and numbers of employees may report to operating or other staff units.
It is increasingly common for large companies to staff the personnel function at multiple levels. Most companies with under a thousand employees have only corporate-level personnel staff units, while companies with over sixty thousand employees typically have personnel units at several levels. Organizations with many divisions also have multilevel personnel staffs.
Human Resource Management Activities
The scope of activity in HRM departments depends on corporate size and philosophy. In small companies one or two personnel professionals may work primarily in the areas of compensation and recruiting. In larger firms more extensive HRM systems are needed to administer short and long-term planning, requiring a staff of specialists.
One problem the HRM field has faced is that personnel functions have often been viewed as a series of separate activities rather than an integrated system. This lack of integration may be due to lack of support from top corporate management and narrow views of specialists, both of which can adversely affect the achievement of overall corporate HRM objectives. Personnel professionals involved in HRM need to consider the activities described below as a system rather than a set of separate activities. The individual areas are building blocks which can collectively achieve overall HRM goals.
We have grouped the range of HRM activities into five categories: human-resource planning; recruitment, selection, and staffing; compensation and benefits; employee and labor relations; and training and development. Many skills and activities are common to all categories; most HRM professionals work to some extent in each area at various points in their careers.
Entry Level Opportunities
Human-resource management offers extensive opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that HRM will grow 168 percent faster than other professional fields in the next several years. The need for experts to oversee compliance with government regulations will continue to increase. And the growth of employee services will continue, particularly in career planning and developmental programs, pension and other benefit plans, and personnel research. Employers are recognizing the impact of human-resources management practices on the "bottom line," and coming to depend on the services of trained individuals to make the most of the organization's human resources.
Traditionally, people have entered the HRM field from other departments within the organization, or have had a specialized background such as education in labor and industrial relations. Today several universities offer master's degrees in HRM. People entering the field commonly have an undergraduate major in business, or a master's or doctorate in business, labor relations, public administration, or industrial psychology. Some companies offer a general training program for entry-level people, with rotation through various areas for exposure to all functional areas of HRM.
Entry-level opportunities in HRM are usually in technical areas such as job analysis or performance appraisal. These positions offer new employees a chance to learn about the company and the types of people who work there. A job analyst investigates positions by reading position descriptions and interviewing managers and job incumbents to determine actual job qualifications. By doing this a new HRM employee learns what jobs are performed in the organization and what skills, attributes, and abilities are necessary to perform them. Similarly, an employee who works on the development and use of a performance appraisal system investigates positions and determines performance criteria. Through these activities, they learn the organization's selection standards. College recruiting is another typical entry position; this work helps the HRM employee learn about the organization's public image.
Once an HR manager has developed technical expertise, he or she is considered a specialist. Specialists often supervise several clerical and technical support employees. In some organizations, specialists remain within one area throughout their career. Indeed, many satisfied training specialists, EEO representatives, recruiters, etc., decide either to remain in their present position or to seek a managerial position within their specialty. Others, however, wish to gain expertise in other personnel areas, either to become a specialist in a different area or to become a generalist or middle-level HR manager.
At the middle-management level in HRM, which requires several years of HRM experience, duties encompass a broad range of activity: You may direct the overall personnel program and coordinate subordinate programs, such as the training or benefits program. Or, you may contribute to planning the future direction of the organization. You may also advise other managers in the management of their personnel. At this level, titles and job responsibilities vary greatly.
At the executive level there are vice presidents of human resources and directors of personnel. These managers are involved in long-range, strategic planning with other high-level corporate managers. HRM executives influence company policies and recommend personnel-policy changes. Responsibilities are great and the position is vital to the successful operation of the organization. Top personnel executives spend considerable time with people outside the HRM office and the organization.
Required Skills and Educational Background
As an HRM worker, you must have more than a liking for people. As an HR manager you must have empathy for them and understand what motivates and leads them. You must be able to deal tactfully and patiently with people of varying intelligence, education, and ability- from line managers to clerical staff, from incumbent top management to entry-level job candidates.
You must be able to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing. You should be detail-oriented, since there is substantial administrative work. Analytical ability may be necessary, depending on your specialty. HR work often involves the collection and manipulation of numbers to arrive at useful statistical summaries, so you should not be afraid of digging into numbers.
Flexibility and adaptability in unexpected situations are important personal characteristics. Since HRM is involved in making the most of the work force as a resource in the organization, you must be adaptable to the various circumstances presented by employees. The service aspect of HRM work should be recognized, and you must be willing and able to fill legitimate employee needs as they arise.