This article describes the role of the HR function as a key part of the process of managing organizations. It dwells on the role of the function to provide advice, guidance and HR services. HR deals with the employees, the primary role of HR function revolves around taking initiatives and providing guidance, support and service in all matters pertinent to the personnel in the organization.HR is about attaining organizational objectives through people.
This article describes the role of the HR function as a key part of the process of managing organizations. It dwells on the role of the function to provide advice, guidance and HR services. HR deals with the employees, the primary role of HR function revolves around taking initiatives and providing guidance, support and service in all matters pertinent to the personnel in the organization.HR is about attaining organizational objectives through people. It is imperative for HR function to devised policies and practices that cater for everything concerning the employment, development and well-being of people and the relationships that exist between management and the workforce. HR function plays a decisive role in creation of culture where people feel like working, where they can belong and make best use of their capacities.
The role of HR function is increasingly seen to be business-oriented - contributing to the achievement of sustained competitive advantage. However there is a tendency for a focus on business performance outcomes to obscure the importance of employee well-being in its own right.
The activities of the HR function
The activities carried out within an HR function can be divided into two broad categories:
- Transformational that are strategic in nature and are largely concerned with the alignment and implementation of HR and business strategies,
- Transactional which covers the main HR service delivery activities of resourcing, learning and development, reward and employee relations.
It is important to note that actual competitive advantage will come from people and not from policies and practices, since it is a people who are entrusted with the responsibility to implement and exercise the policies. HR function has to devise ways where policies are accepted by employees in order to achieve the intended results. The 2006 survey by IRS of the work of the HR function (Crail, 2006) asked respondents to state what were the most time consuming and most important issues facing their HR departments. The results revealed that recruitment was the most time-consuming, although not the most important issue. Training and development was not very time-consuming but quite important. Strategic activities were believed to be important but were not mentioned at all as being time-consuming. The emphasis is on transactional activities.
The organization of the HR function
The organization and staffing of the HR function is contingent to the size of the business, the extent to which operations are decentralized, the type of work carried out, the kind of people employed and the role assigned to the HR function.
Guidelines on organizing the HR function
- Reporting mechanism must involve direct reporting by the head of HR function to the chief executive and be a member of the top management team involved in the formulation of business strategy.
- Operational units should be responsible for their own HR management affairs within the framework of broad strategic and policy guidelines from the centre in a decentralized organization..
- Strategic Capability is important, the professional members of the function should have understanding the strategic imperatives and should have the skills required to contribute to the formulation and achievement of strategic goals and â€˜act as catalysts for change, anticipating problems and making things happen’ (Hutchinson and Wood, 1995).
- Line Managers should be empowered and must take an increased responsibility for HR matters where appropriate.
Evaluating the HR function
It is necessary to evaluate the contribution of the HR function in order to ensure that it is effective at both the strategic level and in terms of service delivery and support. The prime criteria for evaluating the work of the function are its ability to operate strategically and its capacity to deliver the levels of services required. Research conducted by the Institute of Employment Studies (Hirsh, 2008) discovered that the factors that correlated most strongly with line managers’ and employees’ satisfaction with HR were:
- Being well supported in times of change;
- HR giving good advice to employees;
- Being well supported when dealing with difficult people or situations;
- HR getting the basics right.
The dimensions of HR effectiveness, Huselid et al (1997)
- Strategic HRM: The delivery of services in a way that supports the implementation of the firm’s strategy.
- Technical HRM: The delivery of HR basics such as recruitment, compensation and benefits.
Armstrong, M. (2006). Strategic human resource management: A guide to action (3rd ed.). London: Kogan Page.
Crail, M. (2006). HR roles and responsibilities 2006: Benchmarking the HR function, IRS Employment Review, 839, 9-15.
Hirsh, W. (2008). What do people want from you?, People Management, 18 September, 23-26.
Hutchinson, S., & Wood, S. (1995). Personnel and the Line: Developing the employment relationship, London: CIPD.
Huselid, M. A., Jackson, S. E., & Schuler, R. S. (1997). Technical and strategic human resource management effectiveness as determinants of firm performance, Academy of Management Journal, 40(1), 171 - 88.