Human resources is the set of individuals who make up the workforce of an organization, business sector, or economy. “Human capital” is sometimes used synonymously with human resources, although human capital typically refers to a more narrow view (i.e., the knowledge the individuals embody and can contribute to an organization). Likewise, other terms sometimes used include manpower, talent, labor, or simply people. The professional discipline and business function that oversees an organization’s human resources is called human resource management (HRM, or simply HR).
From the corporate objective, employees are viewed as assets to the enterprise, whose value is enhanced by development. Hence, companies will engage in a barrage of human resource management practices to capitalize on those assets.
In governing human resources, the following major trends are typically considered:
The characteristics of a population/workforce, for example, age, gender or social class. This type of trend may have an effect in relation to pension offerings, insurance packages etc.
The variation within the population/workplace. Changes in society now mean that a larger proportion of organizations are made up of “baby-boomers” or older employees in comparison to thirty years ago. Advocates of “workplace diversity” advocate an employee base that is a mirror reflection of the make-up of society insofar as race, gender, sexual orientation etc.
Skills and Qualifications
As industries move from manual to more managerial professions so does the need for more highly skilled graduates. If the market is “tight” (i.e. not enough staff for the jobs), employers must compete for employees by offering financial rewards, community investment, etc. In regard to how individuals respond to the changes in a labor market, the following must be understood:
- Geographical spread: how far is the job from the individual? The distance to travel to work should be in line with the pay offered, and the transportation and infrastructure of the area also influence who applies for a post.
- Occupational structure: the norms and values of the different careers within an organization. Mahoney 1989 developed 3 different types of occupational structure, namely, craft (loyalty to the profession), organization career (promotion through the firm) and unstructured (lower/unskilled workers who work when needed).
- Generational difference: different age categories of employees have certain characteristics, for example, their behavior and their expectations of the organization.
Concerns About Terminology
One major concern about considering people as assets or resources is that they will be commoditized and abused. Some analysis suggests that human beings are not “commodities” or “resources”, but are creative and social beings in a productive enterprise. The 2000 revision of ISO 9001, in contrast, requires identifying the processes, their sequence and interaction, and to define and communicate responsibilities and authorities. In general, heavily unionized nations such as France and Germany have adopted and encouraged such approaches. Also, in 2001, the International Labor Organization decided to revisit and revise its 1975 Recommendation 150 on Human Resources Development, resulting in its “Labor is not a commodity” principle. One view of these trends is that a strong social consensus on political economy and a good social welfare system facilitates labor mobility and tends to make the entire economy more productive, as labor can develop skills and experience in various ways, and move from one enterprise to another with little controversy or difficulty in adapting.
Another important controversy regards labor mobility and the broader philosophical issue with usage of the phrase “human resources”. Governments of developing nations often regard developed nations that encourage immigration or “guest workers” as appropriating human capital that is more rightfully part of the developing nation and required to further its economic growth. Over time, the United Nations have come to more generally support the developing nations’ point of view, and have requested significant offsetting “foreign aid” contributions so that a developing nation losing human capital does not lose the capacity to continue to train new people in trades, professions, and the arts.
Human Resource Management
Human resource management (HRM, or simply HR) is the management process of an organization’s workforce, or human resources. It is responsible for the attraction, selection, training, assessment, and rewarding of employees, while also overseeing organizational leadership and culture and ensuring compliance with employment and labor laws. In circumstances where employees desire and are legally authorized to hold a collective bargaining agreement, HR will also serve as the company’s primary liaison with the employees’ representatives (usually a trades union).
HR is a product of the human relations movement of the early 20th century, when researchers began documenting ways of creating business value through the strategic management of the workforce. The function was initially dominated by transactional work, such as payroll and benefits administration, but due to globalization, company consolidation, technological advancement, and further research, HR now focuses on strategic initiatives like mergers and acquisitions, talent management, succession planning, industrial and labor relations, and diversity and inclusion.
In start-up companies, HR’s duties may be performed by trained professionals. In larger companies, an entire functional group is typically dedicated to the discipline, with staff specializing in various HR tasks and functional leadership engaging in strategic decision making across the business. To train practitioners for the profession, institutions of higher education, professional associations, and companies themselves have created programs of study dedicated explicitly to the duties of the function. Academic and practitioner organizations likewise seek to engage and further the field of HR, as evidenced by several field-specific publications.
In the current global work environment, all global companies are focused on retaining the talent and knowledge held by the workforce. All companies are focused on lowering the employee turnover and preserving knowledge. New hiring not only entails a high cost but also increases the risk of the newcomer not being able to replace the person who was working in that position before. HR departments also strive to offer benefits that will appeal to workers, thus reducing the risk of losing knowledge.