An HR Student Wonders About the Role of Human Resources

One of my (Ken Godevenos’) acquaintances emailed me some questions regarding Human Resources. He was studying the topic in his college class and wanted some answers. Below are his questions and my replies. Perhaps they’ll give you a new perspective on the field….

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1)What should an HR department or person’s philosophy, values and general approach be towards it’s market?

I believe that an HR person’s (or their department’s) “market” is trifold — the employer, the employees, and the “integrity of human resources practices” everywhere. HR practitioners must remember that they exist to help attract, retain, and motivate the best employees possible for the organization for which they work. To that end, their key responsibility is to help their employer do just that with the best of strategies, programs, practices, and advice. They must remain “current” in their field, know their organization’s industry extremely well, and provid “value-added” assistance to the company ‘managers’.

2)What should an HR department or person’s philosophy, values and general approach be towards employees?

In carrying out the philosophy described above, the HR person (or department) must do so with the best interests of the employees he/she is attempting to attract, retain, and/or motivate for the employer. For if he/she does not, then all the parties potentially lose out. More directly, the HR person has the responsibility to protect and provide the employees all the provisions afforded them in Human Resources related legislation as well as in any company policies and/or applicable collective agreements. Finally, an HR person’s commitment to the profession requires him/her to behave in this way.

3)What should be the functions, positioning and role of Human Resources in an organization?

Organizations that are no longer just fighting fires all the time, are those that have a high value for the contributions of an HR department. Specifically, HR should be seen as a uit of experts which assist the organization to achieve its long-term objectives through human assets. To that end, it must be given executive “equality” along with the other key functions of an organizational structure. More specifically, the top HR job must report directly to the CEO and not to one of his Vice Presidents in order to have the appropriate impact. In exchange the top HR position and his/her direct reports must fully understand the company’s needs and business environment in order to provide added value.
The HR function must equip all managers to be able to optimize relationships with employees in order to maximize corporate productivity and long-term sustainability. These relationships embrace the recruitment, training, compensating and otherwise rewarding and motivating of employees with a whole slate of programs covering the full spectrum of the HR field.

4)Do you plan ahead of time in HR and if so why?

If you don’t, you’ll be planning for your future employment elsewhere! In order to be seen as having “value-added” benefits to an organization’s senior management, HR must always be “predicting the future and/or the implications for resources of any environmental condition or corporate program in place or being considered. Failure to do so puts the department’s credibility at risk as well as contributes to the possible deterioration of the organization as a competitive market force.

5)What should the relationship be between the HR Department and Employees, and why?

If the HR department has taken the time to properly communicate its philosophy to both the managers of the organization as well as the employees, then the relationship between HR and employees can very well be one of “healthy trust”. Employees will need to be convinced that they can get straight answers from HR, even if they always don’t like what they hear. In addition, employees need to know that they will be “listened to” as HR is often the only one that will (although HR has a responsibility to train managers to do so). Finally, employees always need to that they will be treated equitably, if not identically as others and that someone will explain the often asked question of “why?”. HR is that someone.