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A retired president of the American Management Association has been quoted as saying, Leadership is the development of people and not the direction of things...Leadership is Human Resource (i.e. people) Administration.

Human Resource Management is one of the most important functions in an organization with people being the most important resource to a company. Despite its importance, the human resource function has been misunderstood, under-managed, or mismanaged in many corporations for the past two decades. Today this is changing rapidly due to the influx of new laws and the demand for human rights of the workers.

Human Resource Management or HR should be the department within all organizations which:

• encourages, through strategic management, the utilization of human resources to achieve both the mission & goals of the organization

• promotes the growth, satisfaction and development of the employees

• provides support to ensure legal compliance in the labor related arenas of the law within the day-to-day employee process such as hiring, feedback, counseling, termination and safety et. al..

Certainly since World War II, the human resource, or personnel role as it was refereed to until the past few decades, has evolved from a narrow concept of people in the work force to a much broader, dynamic concept of the employee on the job.

Developments in the Evolution of the Human Resource Department's Role

There are many developments that have caused a shift in the role of the Human Resource role within a company:

• Social revolution in our country
• Economic growth
• Growth of the union movement
• Government pressure on management through legislation
• A more highly educated work force has raised the expectations of those entering the labor market
• An increased number of professional, technical and white collar workers whose needs differ from those of blue collar workers

Because of these developments, the HR function has been challenged to deal effectively with employees whose value structures have changed and may differ from the norm of the company. Today, the Human Resource Department can be responsible for many areas, including, but not limited to:

• Employee Planning
• Recruitment and Selection
• Orientation
• Performance Evaluation
• Discipline and Counseling Deficient Behavior
• Termination Issues
• Training and Development for both the Employee and the Manager/Leader
• Compensation
• Benefits
• Workers' Compensation
• Safety, Environmental and Health
• Equal Employment and Discrimination Issues
• Labor Issues
• Labor Law Interpretation and Policy Writing
• Career Development

The Organization of the Human Resource Department

A Human Resource Department is started when the basic HR activities become a burden to other departments in the organization due to the companies expanded size. The emerging HR Department is usually small and will report at the middle to upper management level. As the company grows and more demands are made on the HR Department, it increases in importance and complexity. The HR Department may be divided into sub-departments with the new Human Resource Director being placed in an upper management position.

A natural question which can be asked is, who performs HR activities in an organization? Certainly HR Managers and HR Specialists (Personnel, Training, Safety, Compensation, Benefits, etc..) perform the wide scope of activities which may be considered Human Resource related. However, Operating or Line Managers and Supervisors must also perform some Human Resource activities. Since the HR Department is considered a staff or supporting department in an organization, conflict can develop between the line-Operating department and the staff-HR department. Issues which could end up in a staff-line conflict include:

• Discipline procedures and/or situations
• Termination situations
• Promotional procedures
• Policy or Labor Law Interpretation
• Compensation
• Safety and Workers' Compensation Issues

In order to avoid the potential for staff-line conflict, it becomes vital that HR and Line Departments both understand the role of the Human Resource Department.

The Human Resource Department is considered to be service-oriented in nature. The HR Department assists the Line or Operating Manager within an organization. In effect, note that HR Management have staff authority within an organization. They can advise but do not have direct authority within the line managers area of responsibility of a company as it relates to production.

However, it is important to also note that there are certain areas in which the Human Resource Department is typically given authority. This is usually as a direct result of their expertise within the staff related areas mentioned above. An HR Manager is in a better position to interpret a situation involving people problems and inform the Line Manager of the best method of handling the problem. The HR Manager will not pull an employee away from the job because of a problem, once HR is informed of a problem, the HR Manager will assist the Line Manager so as to insure the proper procedures are followed and the persons involved are treated with dignity and respect.

Lastly, the HR Department does have some functional authority. Some of the areas that can be included are: the administration of compensation programs, Equal Employment aka discrimination issues, benefit programs, safety, workers’ compensation and training programs.

The Objectives of the Human Resource Department (at least a partial list....)

• To assist the corporation in the reaching of its goals
• To more efficiently manage the company's human resources
• To provide the company with well-trained and well-motivated employees
• To increase to the fullest the employee's job satisfaction and self-actualization
• To develop and maintain a quality of work life which makes employment in the company a desirable personal situation
• To create and communicate personnel and managerial policies to all concerned
• To help maintain ethical policies and behavior
• To provide a safe work environment
• To provide a work environment that is as free as possible from valid labor litigation


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