Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Human resources

Human resources is a term used to describe the individuals who comprise the workforce of an organization, although it is also applied in labor economics to, for example, business sectors or even whole nations. Human resources is also the name of the function within an organization charged with the overall responsibility for implementing strategies and policies relating to the management of individuals (i.e. the human resources). This function title is often abbreviated to the initials.
The term 'human resources' as used in organizations describes the workforce capacity available to devoted to achievement of their objectives. "

The early development of the function can be traced back to at least two distinct movements. One element has its origins in the late 19th century, where organizations such as Cadburys at its Bournville factory recognised the importance of looking after the welfare of the workforce, and their families. The employment of women in factories in the United Kingdom during the First World War lead to the introduction of "Welfare Officers". Meanwhile, in the United States the concept of human resources developed as a reaction to the efficiency focus of Taylorism or "scientific management" in the early 1900s, which developed in response to the demand for ever more efficient working practices within highly mechanised factories, such as in the Ford Motor Company. By 1920, psychologists and employment experts in the United States started the human relations movement, which viewed workers in terms of their psychology and fit with companies, rather than as interchangeable parts.
During the middle of the last century, larger corporations, typically those in the United States that emerged after the Second World War, recruited personnel from the US Military and were able to apply new selection, training, leadership, and management development techniques, originally developed by the Armed Services, working with, for example, university-based occupational psychologists. Similarly, some leading European multinationals, such as Shell and Phillips developed new approaches to personnel development and drew on similar approaches already used in Civil Service training. Gradually, this spread more sophisticated policies and processes that required more central management via a personnel department composed of specialists and generalist teams.
The role of what became known as Human Resources grew throughout the middle of the 20th century. Tensions remained between academics who emphasized either 'soft' or 'hard' HR. Those professing so-called 'soft HR' stressed areas like leadership, cohesion, and loyalty that play important roles in organizational success. Those promoting 'hard HR' championed more quantitatively rigorous management techniques in the 1960s.
In the later part of the last century, both the title and traditional role of the personnel function was progressively superseded by the emergence, at least in larger organizations, of strategic human resources management and sophisticated human resources departments. Initially, this may have involved little more than renaming the function, but where transformation occurred, it became distinguished by the human resources having a more significant influence on the organizations strategic direction and gaining board-level representation.

Human resources purpose and role

In simple terms, an organization's human resource management strategy should maximize return on investment in the organization's human capital and minimize financial risk. Human Resources seeks to achieve this by aligning the supply of skilled and qualified individuals and the capabilities of the current workforce, with the organization's ongoing and future business plans and requirements to maximize return on investment and secure future survival and success. In ensuring such objectives are achieved, the human resource function purpose in this context is to implement the organization's human resource requirements effectively but also pragmatically, taking account of legal, ethical and as far as is practical in a manner that retains the support and respect of the workforce.

Key functions

Human Resources may set strategies and develop policies, standards, systems, and processes that implement these strategies in a whole range of areas. The following are typical of a wide range of organizations:

Recruitment, selection, and onboarding (resourcing)
Organizational design and development
Business transformation and change management
Performance, conduct and behavior management
Industrial and employee relations
Human resources (workforce) analysis and workforce personnel data management
Compensation, rewards, and benefits management
Training and development (learning management)
Implementation of such policies, processes or standards may be directly managed by the HR function itself, or the function may indirectly supervise the implementation of such activities by managers, other business functions or via third-party external partner organizations.

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