There are a number of challenges facing human resource departments today. Key trends such as increasing diversity, skills deficiencies, and an aging workforce each affect the environment in which HRM managers work. Further, HRM consists of many different functions, each governed by its own laws and regulations. Today’s human resource manager must work in the context of these different functions to deliver a coherent human resources strategy that meets the needs of the organization. That means not just hiring people, but setting out a full slate of HRM policies that allow those people to be at their most productive, and make the greatest contribution possible to the strategic mission of the organization (SHRM.org, 2016).
Key Functional Areas
There are several key functional areas in which human resource managers work. There are five key functional areas that have been identified.: Staffing, development, total rewards, employee relations, and safety. The following section will take a look at each of these.
Staffing refers to determining the organizations personnel needs and then recruiting the right candidates. This process begins with understanding the needs of the organization, and then writing job descriptions that accurately reflect the candidate who will meet those needs. The process of recruiting the candidate comes next — creating a job posting, screening, interviewing, skills assessments and in the end finding the right hire. In order to effectively perform this task the human resource manager needs to know the demands of the company well in order to select the right type of employees which will be the best fit for the job description. When HRM finished recruiting employees the next phase is training so the new employees meet the requirements of the job. Human Resource Manager must give equal opportunities to everyone.
Development refers to the training and education of workers, so that they are better able to perform. The first step is to identify the skills gaps that exist within the workforce, and the HRM manager then needs to develop a program to bring those skills and education levels up to where they need to be. This addresses the key trend of skills deficiency — employers often say that they can hire for cultural fit or personality and then train on skills; so the development function is actually very important for the human resource manager. Development can include training on specific software or tools necessary for the job, and but it can also include things like leadership training as well. By ensuring a structured development plan an HR manager ensures the long-term value of an employee The longer an employee stay with the company they get more loyal and value the company’s mission.
The next key function is employee relations. This area is about ensuring that employees are motivated and engaged with the organization — so it includes things like ensuring morale is high, performance appraisals, complaints and labor relations (if applicable). Employee relations is a key function in terms of reducing turnover, which is important if the organization is going to dedicate the time and energy to finding the right people and developing them. That sort of investment must be protected, which is where both employee relations and total rewards come into play. Having a workforce that is engaged with the organization will help it to grow long-term because it will not bleed talent.
Safety is another key area for human resources management. Safety in the workplace is typically governed by things like the Organizational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Human resources is usually responsible for things like safety audits, handling injuries and claims, safety training and accident reporting.
The human resources department must work within a legal framework to perform these various tasks. There are several equal employment opportunity laws, for example, that must be followed by human resources departments, governing different forms of job discrimination. The basis of discrimination law is Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Title VII prohibits discrimination in hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, fringe benefits, job training, classification, referral, and other aspects of employment, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Other acts have been passed, building on the framework of Title VII. These include the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, providing protections against discrimination for the disabled and for those over 40 as well. All of these are enforcement by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC.gov, 2003).
The CRA applies to employers with over 15 employees, or that have employees across multiple states. This means it does not apply to every company. Executive Order 11246 extends Title VII protections to workers of any federal contractor, regardless of whether or not the CRA applies to that company. E.O. 11246 is enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program.
Discrimination in employment has been given a fairly broad definition over the years. It includes such activities as hiring, promotions, wages/salaries, bonuses, transfers, training and development opportunities and more. Discrimination can also be found in terms of the workplace environment — harassment, jokes and slurs are all included in the definition of discrimination. These definitions have been arrived at on the basis of Supreme Court rulings, and on subsequent laws that were passed to address gaps that have been identified in the text of the original laws. For example, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed into law by President Obama as a means of addressing gaps in the laws against gender-based pay discrimination.
Discrimination based on religion is also prohibited in the work environment according to Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964. It is prohibited for a company to discriminate against an employee for their religious affiliation and the company must accommodate to a reasonable level needs of an employee based on their religion, such as provisions for religious holidays, prayer times, or other similar prescriptions. Theses legal boundaries have created a safe environment for people of all walks of life to be both relaxed and productive in the workplace. In my own workplace we have a diverse group of employees who feel safe and respected.
Research has shown that a flexible workplace has many advantages. In many organizations, workplace flexibility is tied to employee satisfaction and ultimately to a lower turnover rate, resulting in increased productivity for the organization. Workplace flexibility increases employee retention, job satisfaction and engagement, many employers save money by minimizing the time they spend recruiting, hiring and training new employees. I haven’t worked for a company yet that is offering flexible workplace but I would be glad to have it because my mom has six surgeries on her back, two on her neck and headed for knee replacements. I’m out of work most of the time to care for her and a flexible program would be the program I need. Many other workers feel the same way. It is important to retain good people, but sometimes life gets complicated and some flexibility on the part of the organization is important to retain quality employees.
Organizational flexibility also reflects development programs that build the skills of workers. People are not always going to be needed for the roles they were hired for — the organization has to build talent in a way that it can be deployed differently over time to meet the current market needs. Part of the role of HRM is to understand those needs, and build the workforce so that when flexibility is needed, the organization has it.
The trends in the workforce are not going away any time soon. These trends will be in place for years and human resource department needs to take them into account. Finding good people is harder than ever, in the information age, because of the high level of knowledge and specialization that many jobs require. As such, it is important to understand that HRM plays a critical role in organizational success. It is something of a cliche to say that people make the organization, but it is true. Without people, all the other assets in the world cannot do anything. HRM has often been overlooked in the past, but the trend towards HRM being more of a strategic partner is business is real and ongoing. It is important for human resource managers to understand not only the needs of the organization but the environmental trends and also the legal environment in order that they are able to best meet organizational needs both today and in the future.
Bolden-Barrett, V. (2016) Two major trends that are affecting the practice of human resource management. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved November 6, 2016 from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/two-major-trends-affecting-practice-human-resource-management-64232.html
EEOC.gov (2003) Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Management directive 715. EEOC. Retrieved November 6, 2016 from https://www1.eeoc.gov/federal/directives/md715.cfm?renderforprint=1
HR.org (2016). Employment discrimination law. HR.org. Retrieved November 6, 2016 from https://www.hg.org/employment-discrimination-law.html
SHRM.org (2016) Strategic HRM. Strategic Human Resource Management. Retrieved November 6, 2016 from https://www.shrm.org/india/hr-topics-and-strategy/strategic-hrm/Pages/default.aspx
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