What Is Human Resources (HR)?

Human resources, or HR as it is more commonly abbreviated, is a crucial function in any organisation that is concerned with managing everyone who works there. The term ‘human resources’ refers to the individuals who make up an organisation and the management of these employees is what the HR department is responsible for; think of it as a bridge between an organisation’s management and its workers. More companies than ever are using HR software services more so than traditional HR practices involving human input only.

Over the years, HR has been portrayed in a rather unflattering light by the media, with HR managers often being depicted in films as disdainful, iniquitous, and deceitful. While funny, these kinds of portrayals give HR a bad name, while simultaneously completely undermining the sheer importance of HR within an organisation. 

The History of HR

HR has its roots in the early 20th century when the concept of scientific management was being developed. Scientific management was a management theory that aimed to increase efficiency and productivity in the workplace by applying specific scientific methods and principles. The theory primarily focused on optimising the work of employees by using time and motion studies to determine the most efficient way to perform tasks.

The concept of human resources was actually created as a response to the negative impact scientific management had on workers, as they began to be viewed as mere machines who were not given the respect and recognition they deserved by their workplace. Thanks to the emergence of HR, financial and emotional well-being of employees has been at the forefront of managers’ minds ever since.

One of the main focuses of HR is employee experience, and HR professionals are committed to creating a culture of inclusion and diversity, providing opportunities for growth and development, and offering flexible work arrangements to promote a healthy work-life balance. Creating a positive employee experience like this also helps attract and retain the best employees in an era where the competition for top talent has become much more intense.

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What Does HR Do?

In the early days of HR, the department’s primary focus was compliance with labour laws and regulations, and the management of payroll and benefits. Over time, the role of HR has evolved to include a myriad of other responsibilities, such as recruitment and selection, training and development, employee relations, and performance management.

Today, HR plays a critical role in the strategic management of an organisation’s human capital and its responsibilities have further expanded to include talent management, organisational design, and employee engagement – put frankly, there is no aspect of a company that HR is not involved with! 

What Are The Main Responsibilities of HR?

The role of HR has expanded significantly from its emergence to today, and has become a critical function in any organisation. One of the primary responsibilities of HR is to essentially  make sure the company has the right people in the right roles at the right time. This can include recruiting and selecting candidates, onboarding new hires, and providing training and development opportunities for employees. 

HR is also responsible for managing employee relations, which can include anything from conflict resolution to performance management. As it always has been, HR continues to remain responsible for ensuring the organisation is functioning in compliance with labour laws and regulations, as well as managing payroll and benefits and developing and implementing HR policies and procedures.

The Future of HR

The future of HR is rapidly evolving as technology and globalisation continue to shape the world of work, with one of the most significant trends in HR being the use of technology and software to automate and streamline HR processes. The use of HR technology, such as applicant tracking systems, online training platforms, and performance management software, is becoming increasingly prevalent in organisations of all sizes. HR technology has the potential to significantly reduce the administrative burden of HR, allowing HR professionals to focus on more strategic initiatives and employee well-being. 

As you can (hopefully!) now see, HR is an incredibly critical function in any organisation and doesn’t deserve the bad rep it gets in movies and TV shows. If this article has sparked an interest in pursuing a career in HR, click here to learn more about getting a job in the human resources sector.