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Thursday, May 19, 2011

What is HR?

Do you know what HR is?

No seriously. Think about it. What is Human Resources? I'm guessing that the first things that came to your mind were hiring, firing, telling people off for not doing work etc. Basically the 'parent types' of an organisation.

People in HR constantly have to defend what we do - even though its such a huge field and pops up in pretty much every industry, people seem to have no idea what we do. Or they think what we do is meaningless - a 'soft' job if you will. Or what we do is just get in the way.

I was talking to someone the other day, who I just met, and I mentioned that I studied HR. He actually asked me, and I kid you not, 'You wouldn't have exams for HR would you? I mean theres nothing they can test you on'. I was so shocked I couldn't speak. How dare he imply my degree is 'untestable' and basically that my hard work is worthless?

So, in honour of the lack of knowledge of HR, I present to you....

Human Resources: What it is

' Human resources is 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).'

In any business, people are your greatest asset. No matter how good your computer system is, no matter how good your product is, no matter how pretty your office is, without people, you have nothing. This could be 1 person, 2 people or 200 people. Having a Human Resource specialist, to ensure you have the best people, who have the highest productivity, as happy as possible, thereby staying productive, and doing things the most profitable way, without killing themselves, therefore churning out the highest productivity, is pretty friggen important.

I will take a list from Wikipedia detailing what HR people do with my comments in italic:

  • Maintaining awareness of and compliance with local, state and federal labor laws - yes, this is important, otherwise you are in breach of that thing called the law, and will be fined and spend time in jail. Have you ever tried to interpret an award, or a industrial relations law? Its not easy yet HR people know how to do it for you - and do it right.
  • Recruitment, selection, and on boarding (resourcing) - this is hiring. Basically making sure you have the best employees in your business as possible, which will make you more money.
  • Employee record-keeping and confidentiality - it is illegal to keep certain types of information and it is illegal to give information to anyone other than the employee in question (with a few exceptions). Record keeping is vital - how else are you going to know how much money you paid for that workers compensation claim, or how many warnings that employee has gotten?
  • Organizational design and development - this is the processes that workers engage in, in order to gain the best outcome for the organisation.
  • Business transformation and change management - in general, people don't like change. Change can cause negative outcomes for a business. HR manages people through the change, whether it be a new computer system or a whole new management system or shifting to a new department, and ensures the intended outcomes are reached. 
  • Performance, conduct and behavior management - this is the naughty stuff. If you spend 90% of your time on Facebook at work - HR will get involved. They also ensure no one is behaving inappropriately, and on the flipside - recognise when work is being done well. If you are performing well and HR knows about, chances are it will come up in your next performance review and that could mean a promotion or pay rise. 
  • Industrial and employee relations - negotiating with unions, making sure everything is legal, managing industrial action etc etc 
  • Human resources (workforce) analysis and workforce personnel data management - you know when companies boast that 40% of all senior management are females? Or a workplace audit takes places and its discovered the company has been deliberatly hiring juniors to pay them less? And how the company knows everything about you - work history, medical stuff, performance reviews, salary etc? HR controls all of that info, and in the case of the audit, works to fix it by creating goals for workplace diversity 
  • Compensation and employee benefit management - money money money, its so funny, in a HR world! This also relates to other non-salary benefits, such as a car parking space, or a fancy office, or a health care programme
  • Training and development (learning management) - have your skills been lacking in something lately? Perhaps you'd like to move into a different area and need a certificate to do so? Or maybe a new system was implemented at work and no-one knows how to use it. HR will teach you what you need to know.
  • Employee motivation and morale-building (employee retention and loyalty) - Many people feel a bit blah at work. Unless you truly love what you, which lets face it, not a lot of people do, it can be hard to stay motivated. HR makes an effort to keep employee motivation up through various initiatives, and working with the management team.
So you see, HR is a real discipline and is vital for all workforces. Without your people, you don't have a business, but without HR, you don't have people. Or you might have people but they are incorrectly paid, unmotivated, untrained and severely lacking in compliance.

To this end, I would like to shout out to the guy who asked me whether or not there were exams in HR:


When I'm sitting on a recruitment committee and you come looking for a job, guess whose not going to get it?

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