Humans are an organization's greatest assets; without them, everyday business functions such as managing cash flow, making business transactions, communicating through all forms of media, and dealing with customers could not be completed. Humans and the potential they possess drive an organization. Today's organizations are continuously changing. Organizational change impacts not only the business but also its employees. In order to maximize organizational effectiveness, human potentialndividuals' capabilities, time, and talentsust be managed. Human resource management works to ensure that employees are able to meet the organization's goals.
"Human resource management is responsible for how people are treated in organizations. It is responsible for bringing people into the organization, helping them perform their work, compensating them for their labors, and solving problems that arise" (Cherrington, 1995, p. 5). There are seven management functions of a human resources (HR) department that will be specifically addressed: staffing, performance appraisals, compensation and benefits, training and development, employee and labor relations, safety and health, and human resource research.
Generally, in small organizationshose with fewer than a hundred employeeshere may not be an HR department, and so a line manager will be responsible for the functions of HRM. In large organizationshose with a hundred employees or more human resource manager will coordinate the HRM duties and report directly to the chief executive officer (CEO). HRM staff in larger organizations may include human resource generalists and human resource specialists. As the name implies, an HR generalist is routinely involved with all seven HRM functions, while the HR specialist focuses attention on only one of the seven responsibilities.
Prior to discussing the seven functions, it is necessary to understand the job analysis. An essential component of any HR unit, no matter the size, is the job analysis, which is completed to determine activities, skills, and knowledge required of an employee for a specific job. Job analyses are "performed on three occasions: (1) when the organization is first started, (2) when a new job is created, and (3) when a job is changed as a result of new methods, new procedures, or new technology" (Cherrington, 1995).
Jobs can be analyzed through the use of questionnaires, observations, interviews, employee recordings, or a combination of any of these methods. Two important tools used in defining the job are (1) a job description, which identifies the job, provides a listing of responsibilities and duties unique to the job, gives performance standards, and specifies necessary machines and equipment; and (2) the job specification, which states the minimum amount of education and experience needed for performing the job (Mondy and Noe, 1996).
Both the job description and the job specification are useful tools for the staffing process, the first of the seven HR functions to be discussed. Someone (e.g., a department manager) or some event (e.g., an employee's leaving) within the organization usually determines a need to hire a new employee. In large organizations, an employee requisition must be submitted to the HR department that specifies the job title, the department, and the date the employee is needed. From there, the job description can be referenced for specific job related qualifications to provide more detail when advertising the positionither internally, externally, or both (Mondy and Noe, 1996).
Not only must the HR department attract qualified applicants through job postings or other forms of advertising, but it also assists in screening candidates' resumes and bringing those with the proper qualifications in for an interview. The final say in selecting the candidate will probably be the line manager's, assuming all Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requirements are met. Other ongoing staffing responsibilities involve planning for new or changing positions and reviewing current job analyses and job descriptions to make sure they accurately reflect the current position.
Once a talented individual is brought into an organization, another function of HRM comes into playreating an environment that will motivate and reward exemplary performance. One way to assess performance is through a formal review on a periodic basis, generally annually, known as a performance appraisal or performance evaluation. Because line managers are in daily contact with the employees and can best measure performance, they are usually the ones who conduct the appraisals. Other evaluators of the employee's performance can include subordinates, peers, group, and self, or a combination of one or more (Mondy and Noe, 1996).
Just as there can be different performance evaluators, depending on the job, several appraisal systems can be used. Some of the popular appraisal methods include (1) ranking of all employees in a group; (2) using rating scales to define above-average, average, and below-average performance; (3) recording favorable and unfavorable performance, known as critical incidents; and (4) managing by objectives, or MBO (Mondy and Noe, 1996).
Cherrington (1995) illustrates how performance appraisals serve several purposes, including:(1) guiding human resource actions such as hiring, firing, and promoting; (2) rewarding employees through bonuses, promotions, and so on;(3) providing feedback and noting areas of improvement; (4) identifying training and development needs in order to improve the individual's performance on the job; and (5) providing job related data useful in human resource planning.
COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS
Compensation (payment in the form of hourly wages or annual salaries) and benefits (insurance, pensions, vacation, modified workweek, sick days, stock options, etc.) can be a catch-22 because an employee's performance can be influenced by compensation and benefits, and vice versa. In the ideal situation, employees feel they are paid what they are worth, are rewarded with sufficient benefits, and receive some intrinsic satisfaction (good work environment, interesting work, etc.). Compensation should be legal and ethical, adequate, motivating, fair and equitable, cost-effective, and able to provide employment security (Cherrington, 1995).
TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT
Performance appraisals not only assist in determining compensation and benefits, but they are also instrumental in identifying ways to help individuals improve their current positions and prepare for future opportunities. As the structure of organizations continues to changehrough downsizing or expansionhe need for training and development programs continues to grow. Improving or obtaining new skills is part of another area of HRM, known as training and development.
"Training focuses on learning the skills, knowledge, and attitudes required to initially perform a job or task or to improve upon the performance of a current job or task, while development activities are not job related, but concentrate on broadening the employee's horizons" (Nadler and Wiggs, 1986, p. 5). Education, which focuses on learning new skills, knowledge, and attitudes to be used in future work, also deserves mention (Nadler and Wiggs, 1986).
Because the focus is on the current job, only training and development will be discussed. Training can be used in a variety of ways, including (1) orienting and informing employees, (2) developing desired skills, (3) preventing accidents through safety training, (4) supplying professional and technical education, and (5) providing supervisory training and executive education (Cherrington, 1995).
Each of the training methods mentioned has benefits to the individual as well as to the organization. Some of the benefits are reducing the learning time for new hires, teaching employees how to use new or updated technology, decreasing the number and cost of accidents because employees know how to operate a machine properly, providing better customer service, improving quality and quantity of productivity, and obtaining management involvement in the training process (Cherrington, 1995). When managers go through the training, they are showing others that they are taking the goals of training seriously and are committed to the importance of human resource development.
The type of training depends on the material to be learned, the length of time learners have, and the financial resources available. One type is instructor-led training, which generally allows participants to see a demonstration and to work with the product first-hand. On-the-job training and apprenticeships let participants acquire new skills as they continue to perform various aspects of the job. Computer-based training (CBT) provides learners at various geographic locations access to material to be learned at convenient times and locations. Simulation exercises give participants a chance to learn outcomes of choices in a nonthreatening environment before applying the concept to real situations.
Training focuses on the current job, while development concentrates on providing activities to help employees expand their current knowledge and to allow for growth. Types of development opportunities include mentoring, career counseling, management and supervisory development, and job training (Cherrington, 1995).
EMPLOYEE AND LABOR RELATIONS
Just as human resource developers make sure employees have proper training, there are groups of employees organized as unions to address and resolve employment-related issues. Unions have been around since the time of the American Revolution (Mondy and Noe, 1996). Those who join unions usually do so for one or both of two reasonsto increase wages and/or to eliminate unfair conditions. Some of the outcomes of union involvement include better medical plans, extended vacation time, and increased wages (Cherrington, 1995).
Today, unions remain a controversial topic. Under the provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, the closed-shop arrangement states employees (outside the construction industry) are not required to join a union when they are hired. Union-shop arrangements permit employers to hire non-union workers contingent upon their joining the union once they are hired. The Taft-Hartley Act gives employers the right to file unfair labor practice complaints against the union and to express their views concerning unions (Cherrington, 1995).
Not only do HR managers deal with union organizations, but they are also responsible for resolving collective bargaining issuesamely, the contract. The contract defines employment related issues such as compensation and benefits, working conditions, job security, discipline procedures, individuals' rights, management's rights, and contract length. Collective bargaining involves management and the union trying to resolve any issues peacefullyefore the union finds it necessary to strike or picket and/or management decides to institute a lockout (Cherrington, 1995).
SAFETY AND HEALTH
Not only must an organization see to it that employees' rights are not violated, but it must also provide a safe and healthy working environment. Mondy and Noe (1996) define safety as "protecting employees from injuries caused by work-related accidents" and health as keeping "employees free from physical or emotional illness" (p. 432). In order to prevent injury or illness, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created in 1970. Through workplace inspections, citations and penalties, and on-site consultations, OSHA seeks to enhance safety and health and to decrease accidents, which lead to decreased productivity and increased operating costs (Cherrington, 1995).
Health problems recognized in the workplace can include the effects of smoking, alcohol and drug/substance abuse, AIDS, stress, and burnout. Through employee assistance programs (EAPs), employees with emotional difficulties are given "the same consideration and assistance" as those employees with physical illnesses (Mondy and Noe, 1996, p. 455).
HUMAN RESOURCE RESEARCH
In addition to recognizing workplace hazards, organizations are responsible for tracking safety- and health-related issues and reporting those statistics to the appropriate sources. The human resources department seems to be the storehouse for maintaining the history of the organizationeverything from studying a department's high turnover or knowing the number of people presently employed, to generating statistics on the percentages of women, minorities, and other demographic characteristics. Data for the research can be gathered from a number of sources, including surveys/questionnaires, observations, interviews, and case studies (Cherrington, 1995). This research better enables organizations to predict cyclical trends and to properly recruit and select employees.
Research is part of all the other six functions of human resource management. With the number of organizations participating in some form of international business, the need for HRM research will only continue to grow. Therefore, it is important for human resource professionals to be up to date on the latest trends in staffing, performance appraisals, compensation and benefits, training and development, employee and labor relations, and safety and health issuesboth in the United States and in the global market.
One professional organization that provides statistics to human resource managers is the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the largest professional organization for human resource management professionals. Much of the research conducted within organizations is sent to SHRM to be used for compiling international statistics.
Cherrington, David J. (1995). The Management of Human Resources. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Mondy, R. Wayne, and Noe, Robert M. (1996). Human Resource Management. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Nadler, Leonard, and Wiggs, Garland D. (1986). Managing Human Resource Development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Did this raise a question for you?