Introduction to Human Resources
Of all the resources an organization has at hand, its people are its most important asset. No matter how clichéd it may appear, the truth underlying the statement does not get diminished. Although in simplistic terms, the phrase Human Resource implies the workforce of an organization, it has come to connote the broader function of managing the workforce and drawing up strategies for it, ultimately directing the course of the organization’s growth and success.
It is generally understood that the basic objective of a human resource department in any organization is to maximize the Return on Investment (ROI) on its human capital through the achievement of the organization’s objectives with minimal financial risk. Its function is to provide skilled individuals to fulfill objectives.
Evolution of HR
The emphasis on human resources surfaced by default due to obvious reasons – one can deal with other resources, experimenting at will, but it becomes a different ballgame altogether when dealing with the workforce, as they are a valuable asset. They come with their own set of behaviors and psychological needs, which cannot be separated from them - feelings, needs, aspirations etc.
The human resource as a distinct area of focus evolved out of the understanding gained through implementation of ‘welfare management’ in the early part of twentieth century; and subsequently through developments in Industrial Psychology and lessons learnt from ‘Scientific management’. It was proven that employee productivity and motivation registered an increase more on count of non-monetary factors. Employees began to be treated more as they deserved rather than as inanimate cogs in a large machine.
Initially, the new perspective of looking at an organization’s workforce evolved as a personnel function– recruitment, basic welfare, maintenance of data, workforce related crisis management, administrative tasks, payroll etc. But slowly and steadily, all matters pertaining to the workforce came to be integrated into it. The focus we know today of ‘human resources’ typically came about in the 1960’s.
With change in this perspective, personnel management function gradually began to shift its thrust from being just a staff function to a line function. The passive role was rapidly being transformed into a proactive function that could be dynamic and could hugely impact the core business operations.
The more well-defined and comprehensive role for HR emerged in the latter half of the twentieth century when opening economies, rapidly advancing technology and intense competition threw up a challenge for organizations to stay afloat. It is then that the differentiation of human capital from other resources as a clear ‘asset’ came to be. More emphasis was put on the ‘training and development’ of this asset. Newer ways of motivation, rewarding employees, and gauging performance were devised.
Human Resources is now increasingly being seen as a strategic partner within the organization. Its new role has more of a developmental orientation. It does not abandon the traditional, administrative responsibilities but takes on additionally the task of steering the organization towards success in its ventures and ensuring sustainability. It has ceased to be a backroom function.
Here is a look at the overall HR function in today’s world:
- Managing recruitment, payroll, employee separations and benefits
- Addressing internal questions pertaining to policy, benefits, employment law
- Drafting of standardized processes and policies for requisitioning more staff, developing staff, compensating and performance management
- Documenting talent management efforts
- Tools and strategies for employee retention
- Redeployment of employees
- Devising and implementing non-monetary motivation and reward systems
- Use workforce analytics or metrics for insights
- Coordinated efforts for knowledge management
- Analysis of people programs in rival organizations
- Workforce planning and productivity forecasting
- HR consultation in product design and development efforts
- Management of performance culture