Labor Relations & Human Resource Management
This article examines the different business activities Human Resources participates in. These areas cover employment activities, training and development, and legal compliance. Human Resources should have core competencies which contribute to the overall growth and profitability of the company. Core competencies include ethics, communication, and strategic planning. By combining Human Resources experience and knowledge with the above areas and core competencies, Human Resources can be a valuable asset for a company.
Keywords Bottom Line; Conflict Resolution; Core Competency; Employee Handbook; Functionality; Globalization; Human Resources Department; Job Description; Mission Statement; Reporting Hierarchy; Retention; Wellness Program
Management: Labor Relations
This article explains the evolution and growth of Human Resource Management (herein referred to as HR) from simple labor relations functions (or complicated as the case may be) to modern HR functions in all areas of a company's activities. HR, in addition, provides an important resource to address areas where job responsibilities are ill defined or muddied. In today's business world, HR also provides much needed expertise in company newsletter publishing, web site maintenance, morale boosting and wellness programs.
In addition, and most importantly, HR has core competencies which add value to the company's bottom line. These competencies are discussed because they are the heart and soul of any company's success. HR's involvement in business is limited only to HR's imagination, ability, expertise, and competency. Anca-Ioana (2013) demonstrates the key role of HR in finding and exploiting competitive advantages that underpin a company's success against rivals who also seek to recruit the best talent and establish lean and purposeful organizational structures.
The core competencies of HR are: Communication, ethics, training, conflict resolution, motivation, record keeping, recruitment, negotiation, strategic planning, morale building, and legal knowledge.
Of the many core competencies listed above, few are extremely critical to the success of HR. Communication is the most important competency. Communication includes both the spoken and written word. Whether it is writing a company newsletter, a mission statement, or employee handbook, every employee must clearly understand what the company expects and what the company stands for. Well written documents allow for better understanding and a more effective work environment.
Legal competency requires the HR department to thoroughly know the rules and laws for equal treatment of employees. No company can afford to be labeled as discriminatory towards employees; the company's reputation is at stake. Bad press or bad public relations will make recruiting and retention difficult, and is financially damaging.
Strategic planning is a newer area for HR. In the past, most companies left strategic planning to upper management. Today, however, with globalization and complicated work environments, HR is asked to assist management and give input on many aspects of planning for the future in areas such as: future training needs, recruitment requirements, and work environments. HR must have the tools and knowledge to help develop these long range plans. The twenty-first century company is likely multinational in at least some respects. Marler (2012) explores and compares HR strategies from the United States, China, and Germany — three large economies with strongly cultural based business practices. Edwards et al. (2013) suggest that rather than attempting to impose a single monoculture on a multinational company, or even apply a primarily socioeconomic model based on national economic systems, HR practices should strive to harmonize local cultures with overall company strategies.
With employee contact on a day to day basis, ethics is endemic to all areas of the company's operations and this is especially true for HR. Every organization must have a value system to operate under. HR must insure that every employee knows and understands the business ethics of the company. If employees know the company follows and acts within sound and moral business practices, the employees will aspire to these ideals. HR must act in the same manner as the company. Where HR provides leadership, others will follow.
In the last century and before, HR, also known as the personnel department, grew out of the need for businesses to manage and work with labor unions. Labor unions grew in response to capitalism and the industrial revolution.
On a day to day basis, businesses needed a department to manage the ever present issues and difficulties between management and labor. Labor relations demanded mechanisms to deal with labor grievances against management. As labor contracts became more complicated and sophisticated, HR's role increased. HR continues to participate in grievance committees and grievance procedures, but management demands that HR assist with bargaining talks over labor contracts. HR also reviews other company's labor contracts and surveys these companies regarding salaries and wages. Federal and state laws need to be read and contracts brought into compliance.
Today, HR accomplishes the above tasks and responsibilities, but as the modern world has become more complicated, so has the HR role. HR should develop a reasonable and specific procedure to handle employee grievances. The procedure should be simple and clear. Employees must believe HR is unbiased and reasonable in the pursuit of resolving differences. Employees must believe their problems will be handled in a professional and timely manner. Both employees and managers should believe HR will not take sides in favor of one party or the other.
HR also takes on the role of developing training programs so the company has a trained and skilled workforce. HR continues to grow in response to many companies' development and continued growth.
HR still holds grievance hearings, etc. but only 12.5 percent of the US workforce is unionized. Most unions are in the government sector and the traditional heavy industries such as automobile manufacturing.
HR still processes employment applications, but now, instead of advertising in newspaper help wanted ads, HR helps departments to advertise employment on the company's web site or other employment web sites such as monster.com. Resumes now come to HR via e-mail or through on-line applications. Job descriptions should be available to assist HR.
HR is also tasked with developing and updating job descriptions. Job descriptions are necessary for managing the employment process. They inform an employee of responsibilities, duties, reporting hierarchy, and evaluation parameters. Job descriptions are the joint responsibility of HR and the department actually employing the employee. These descriptions should be concise and specific — making sure to avoid generalities. For new candidates, the description provides an accurate idea of what is expected from an employee.
Because job evaluations and success monitoring are based on the job description, the employees can measure their success against the employment standard; the job description. All job descriptions should be reviewed by HR and each department head annually or sooner if the position is being revised and changed.
In many companies, HR is the initial screener of candidates. For example, if a company is planning to add another accountant, the initial HR screening maybe used to "weed out" the non-degreed candidates or candidates without the necessary background. The needs and requirements will vary from department to department.
To assist in the hiring process, HR must ensure the candidate is acceptable and qualified. The information provided on the employment application must be verified. All references should be checked. Work history must be verified. Educational background and degrees should be checked. If the company requires back ground and credit checks, these also must be reviewed and verified. Please note that not all companies require these types of checks. Many companies now require drug testing. HR has the responsibility to order the tests and review them when received. All these requirements assure the company that the candidate is acceptable.
In another important area, the company should have an employee handbook which is given to all employees, particularly new employees. Normally, the handbook is written by HR because HR is the repository of company rules and...
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