Businesses since the 1960’s have become more and more sensitive to the value of the employee. Once called “personnel management,” human resource managers” (the change in name reflects the change in business attitude toward the workers) have become a vital part of any good business hierarchy, and their skills and competencies include:
- an understanding of the relationship between a company (an abstract, legal entity) and a worker (an individual whose identity includes his or her employment, but whose job is not an exclusive identity); this skill allows the HR manager to properly evaluate the importance of such benefits as healthcare, maternity leave, retirement packages, and flexibility of hours;
- a clear vision of how the world changes from decade to decade, a sort of worldview of all the dynamic forces in play in a global political economy;
- the psychological ability to see people in their complexity, to see underneath one’s superficial persona—this must come with a complete absence of prejudice against race, gender, nationality, etc.;
- the ability to see the possibilities of growth in an employee or prospective employee, past the current job description;
- the ability to anticipate a company’s employee pool needs in the future;
- a compassion for the people affected by a company’s “bottom line” choices;
- a full comprehension of how business “works”—a clear understanding of a company’s mission, place in the marketplace, advantages and disadvantages over competitors, etc.
The person considering a HR career, then, needs competence in business management, psychology, sociology, and world affairs, and must bring his or her humanity to the task each day.