Human resource management would, on the face of it, appear to be pretty straightforward. It is the management of people within the organization.
Yet, that title masks a role which, like a river, can run deep and flow into a lot of areas historically considered outside the remit of the HR department.
When HR was merely personnel management, life may have seemed much simpler. The primary role of the personnel manager was to hire and fire as demanded by senior management.
Today that is just one small part of the picture as Human Resource Management can now broadly be said to encompass five key functions in the workplace.
Depending on the level of specialization and seniority of the posts being filled, a HR department may have specialist HR recruiters dedicated to sourcing prospective employees with the right skill set. In recent years this has evolved into a specialized area with a broad range of external agencies focussed on assisting HR in finding suitable candidates. Where there is a surplus of expertise in the market this may be unnecessary. However, where market demand outstrips supply, specialist recruitment agencies have the potential to give HR an edge over competitors.
More generally, effective HRM will set metrics around recruitment to generate measures of relative success, such as the cost of hire, time to position filled, retention term of new hire and many other metrics which can help shed light on the actual effectiveness of the recruitment function.
What was your first day on a new job like? Did someone introduce themselves, tell you who was who and what to expect before showing you to a desk and leaving you to it? Hard as it is to believe, some companies seem to utterly fail to capitalize on the opportunity presented by a new hire to immerse new recruits into company culture and practices. Yet, without doubt, doing so will ease their new job anxieties and discomfort and likely lead to much higher levels of employee satisfaction.
“An employee’s first impressions of an organization have a significant impact on their integration within the team and their level of job satisfaction. Induction is an opportunity for a business to welcome their new recruit, help them settle in and ensure they have the knowledge and support they need to perform their role. For an employer, effective induction may also impact turnover, absenteeism and employer brand.” Cipd.
3. Working Environment
If first impressions count, then a key part of that initial picture will be formed when a new employee is placed into their working environment. How an office or shop floor is organized can have a huge psychological effect on an employee’s attitude toward their employer. It indicates whether the company cares about their staff or simply see them as another ‘small cog in the machine’ to be exploited for maximum gain.
Today effective HRM recognizes that there is a continuum which runs from the recruitment and selection process directly into the working environment and ensuring that it is optimally organized to maximize employee performance and minimize absenteeism.
For example, an interesting development in recent years has been the emergence of support amongst some HRM practitioners for standing desks in the workplace, recognizing that this can reduce workplace sickness and dissatisfaction.
4. Staff Relations
“A positive climate of employee relations – with high levels of employee involvement, commitment, and engagement – can improve business outcomes as well as contribute to employees’ well-being.” Cipd.
Recognizing that employees are complex creatures and have varying needs, wants and desires both outside and within the workplace has become an important factor in evolving HRM practice. It should not surprise that good individual and collective staff relations between staff and the employer have the potential to raise levels of employee engagement, which, in turn, can lead to better employee performance and company competitiveness.
5. Staff Development
Staff development is referred to in a variety of guises. Sometimes it’s termed ‘Training & Development’, or ‘Learning & Development’. However, at its core is the notion that companies, in order to remain competitive, need to equip their employees with on-going on-the-job education.
Training should not be confused as being the same thing as development. Training involves a change in the employee’s attitude, skills or knowledge of their tasks. By contrast, development is generally more strategic in nature.
“The major difference between training and development … is that while training focuses often on the current employee needs or competency gaps, development concerns itself with preparing people for future assignments and responsibilities.” Management Study Guide.
Today, HRM has evolved to encompass a broad set of disciplines which mirror the employee journey, from a potential recruit to a staff member to promotion, skills development and ultimately departure through competitive hiring or retirement. As the work environment has matured through the 20th and into the 21st century, HRM has evolved in parallel, developing practices and skills aimed at helping employees and employers maximize value, ideally to mutual benefit.