Human Resource Management

The major elements of the human resource management process can be summarised into (HRM) three key areas:

  • attracting a quality workforce: this involves human resource planning, job analysis, recruitment and selection
  • developing a quality workforce: this involves orientation, socialising, training and development and performance management
  • maintaining a quality workforce: this involves career planning, work-life balance, employee retention and turnover, remuneration and benefits packages and labour-management relations

As an organisation's goals and strategies change in response to environmental circumstances, their human resource management (HRM) policies and practices must also change. Organisations must ensure that these policies and practices are related to the organisation's strategic direction and goals. In the past, HRM operated fairly independently of organisational plans and strategies because it was managed as an administrative function. More recently, however, HRM has become an integral part of business and human resource managers must participate in the strategic planning process.

The need for flexibility on the part of organisations and employees' desire for advancement has led to high turnover in most organisations. In professional jobs the average length of employment is around two years—a far cry from the life-time employment of thirty years' ago. Globalisation has created a diverse workforce, with staff coming from many different cultures.

Before recruitment can commence, the purpose of the job must be clearly defined. Effective recruitment relies on job analysis to understand the nature of jobs under consideration. The job analysis provides information that is then incorporated in the job description. Job descriptions are written statements of job duties and responsibilities. This can also be used to create job specifications, which is a list of qualifications, work experience and skills that management believes are required for a given job. A sensible approach to writing job descriptions is to specify areas of responsibility and the range of skills required, rather than the specific tasks involved.

Recruitment can be both external and internal to the organisation. External recruitment invites job applications from outside the organisation. Internal recruitment seeks applications from inside the organisation, making employees aware of job vacancies through job posting and personal recommendations. Selection is the process of determining which job applicant best suits the organisation's needs. Managers must determine the extent to which applicants have the skills, abilities, personality, flexibility and knowledge to perform effectively in positions for which they are being considered and for the future evolution of those positions.

Initial screening may be done by the manager or by someone acting for the manager. This involves evaluating the applications against the specifications in the advertisement, position description or specification. If the job is a routine one of little importance, then a satisficing (minimum acceptable standard) approach can be adopted. Whether you do those interviews alone or as part of a panel, you should remember that the purpose of an interview is to find the right person for the organisation. While an interview needs to be well-structured, with key information being elicited from each applicant and everyone being treated fairly, the real personality and skills of the person being interviewed are only gathered by unstructured and follow-up questions and probing into background issues and reasons for various career events.

Most organisations now use formal or informal orientation (or induction) processes to introduce new employees to the organisation, the job and the performance requirements of the organisation. Training and developing people at work are critical activities for organisations if they are to retain staff and achieve their strategic goals. Increasingly, organisations are now using training and staff development as a way of rewarding staff and emphasising the organisational culture features that the organisation wishes to develop. The continuous development of an organisation's human resources requires a successful performance management system. Performance management systems focus on the establishment of work standards and assessment of an employee's accomplishments. There are two purposes of performance appraisal; evaluation and development.

Common performance appraisal methods are graphic rating scales, behaviourally anchored rating scales, 360-degree feedback and critical-incident techniques. Hitt et al. describes these techniques on pages 548–551. Quantifiable performance measures can, in certain cases, eliminate much of the subjectivity in performance appraisal. Absolute measures, when correctly made and of real relevance, are much more convincing than qualitative measures of subjective matters such as quality or effort.

Work-life balance is, as the name implies, an attempt to achieve a balance between time devoted to work and time available for leisure and other activities. In most countries, as recently as 20 years ago, working hours made it possible for staff to maintain a balance between work and non-work life without too much difficulty. But since working hours have increased significantly in most industrialised countries, employees of many organisations now find it difficult to maintain this balance.

In the past, unions played a major role in negotiating pay and conditions of employees in many countries. There were collective bargaining negotiations which established an 'award' for particular categories of workers, especially in the trades and unskilled areas. This form of negotiation still operates in many places, but the decline in union membership and the introduction of laws limiting union power have, in many countries, led to a growth of alternative systems. Individual agreements between employer and employee have become far more common. Individual agreements can benefit workers when there is a shortage of suitable people; but for unskilled workers they seem to be leading to reductions in pay and conditions.

To enable individuals to perform at a high level it is important that they possess appropriate skills and abilities (ability), work in an environment which is conducive to high performance (support) and be willing to perform the task well (effort). Performance can be seen as the product of ability, support and effort. An increase in any of these three will increase the overall performance in the job in roughly the same manner. Naturally, an increase in two or more will have a profound impact on job performance.