Human resources are a word with which a lot of organization explains the mixture of conventionally directorial employee’s functions with performance, employee relations, and resource planning. The field draws upon concepts developed in Industrial or Organizational Psychology. Human resources have at least two related interpretations depending on context. The original usage derives from political economy and economics, where it was traditionally called labor, one of four factors of production. The more common usage within corporations and businesses refers to the individuals within the firm, and to the portion of the firm’s organization that deals with hiring, firing, training, and other personnel issues.
This article addresses both definitions.
The objective of Human Resource training and development is to maximize the return on investment from the organization’s human capital and minimize financial risk. It is the responsibility of human resource managers to conduct these activities in an effective, legal, fair, and consistent manner.
Human resource management serves these key functions:
2. Training and Development
3. Performance Evaluation and Management
6. Industrial and Employee Relations
7. Record keeping of all personal data.
8. Compensation, pensions, bonuses etc in liaison with Payroll
9. Confidential advice to internal ‘customers’ in relation to problems at work
10. Career development
Modern analysis emphasizes that human beings are not “commodities” or “resources”, but are creative and social beings in a productive enterprise. The 2000 revision of ISO 9001 in contrast requires identifying the processes, their sequence and interaction, and to define and communicate responsibilities and authorities. In general, heavily unionized nations such as France and Germany have adopted and encouraged such job descriptions especially within trade unions. One view of this trend is that a strong social consensus on political economy and a good social welfare system facilitates labor mobility and tends to make the entire economy more productive, as labor can move from one enterprise to another with little controversy or difficulty in adapting.
An important controversy regarding labor mobility illustrates the broader philosophical issue with usage of the phrase “human resources”: governments of developing nations often regard developed nations that encourage immigration or “guest workers” as appropriating human capital that is rightfully part of the developing nation and required to further its growth as a civilization. They argue that this appropriation is similar to colonial commodity fiat wherein a colonizing European power would define an arbitrary price for natural resources, extracting which diminished national natural capital.
The debate regarding “human resources” versus human capital thus in many ways echoes the debate regarding natural resources versus natural capital. Over time the United Nations have come to more generally support the developing nations’ point of view, and have requested significant offsetting “foreign aid” contributions so that a developing nation losing human capital does not lose the capacity to continue to train new people in trades, professions, and the arts.
An extreme version of this view is that historical inequities such as African slavery must be compensated by current developed nations, which benefited from stolen “human resources” as they were developing. This is an extremely controversial view, but it echoes the general theme of converting human capital to “human resources” and thus greatly diminishing its value to the host society, i.e. “Africa”, as it is put to narrow imitative use as “labor” in the using society.
In a series of reports of the UN Secretary-General to the General Assembly over the last decade [e.g. A/56/162 (2001)], a broad inter sectoral approach to developing human resourcefulness through hr training has been outlined as a priority for socio-economic development and particularly anti-poverty strategies. This calls for strategic and integrated public policies, for example in education, health, and employment sectors that promote occupational skills, knowledge and performance enhancement.
In the very narrow context of corporate “human resources”, there is a contrasting pull to reflect and require workplace diversity that echoes the diversity of a global customer base. Foreign language and culture skills, ingenuity, humor, and careful listening, are examples of traits that such programs typically require. It would appear that these evidence a general shift to the human capital point of view, and an acknowledgment that human beings do contribute much more to a productive enterprise than “work”: they bring their character, their ethics, their creativity; their social connections, in some cases even their pets and children, and alter the character of a workplace. The term corporate, culture is used to characterize such processes.
The traditional but extremely narrow context of hiring, firing, and job description is considered a 20th century anachronism. Most corporate organizations that compete in the modern global economy have adopted a view of human capital that mirrors the modern consensus as above. Some of these, in turn, deprecate the term “human resources” as useless.
In general, the abstractions of macroeconomics treat it this way – as it characterizes no mechanisms to represent choice or ingenuity. So one interpretation is that “firm-specific human capital” as defined in macroeconomics is the modern and correct definition of “human resources” – and that this is inadequate to represent the contributions of “human resources” in any modern theory of political economy.
Modern concept of human resources
Though human resources have been part of business and organizations since the first days of agriculture, the modern concept of human resources began in reaction to the efficiency focus of Taylorism in the early 1900s. By 1920, psychologists and employment experts in the United States started the human relations movement, which viewed workers in terms of their psychology and fit with companies, rather than as interchangeable parts. This movement grew throughout the middle of the 20th century, placing emphasis on how leadership, cohesion, and loyalty played important roles in organizational success. Although more increasingly challenged this view quantitatively, rigorous and less “soft” management techniques in the 1960s and beyond, human resources had gained a permanent role within an organization.