What is Human Resources?

20th November 2015

OPERATIONS

Whether you’re in work at the moment, or looking for a job, you’ve probably had dealings with the ‘Human Resources’ (or HR) team.

Did you know that you are a human resource? In fact, the ‘human resources’ definition covers you and everyone that you work with!

What is Human Resources?

A basic definition of Human Resources is:

‘the people involved in a business, company or organisation, regarded as an asset because of their skills, abilities and talents’

A business has many resources, from computers and desks to customer data and files, but no business resource is more important than a person. Unlike a computer, no individual person can be replaced by an identical model – each employee or member of staff is a unique business resource, and together they make up what a business counts as its Human Resources.

‘Human Resources’ is also the name given to the individual, or team, that deals with the people in a business. You might contact the Human Resources department for information about job vacancies, a part of your contract or any time off that is available to you.

Building the Best Collection of People

Employees are individuals, but as a whole they make up the workforce of a business.

Every business wants the best possible workforce at the best possible price, but it’s a balance that can be hard to find.

The most highly qualified and sought after individuals can command the highest salaries, and might be headhunted by larger companies that can offer a tempting package. Of course, each individual will have their own desires and wishes, which means that financial rewards are not the only option for an employer that wishes to tempt the best people to join them.

Other possible rewards include:

  • Flexible working hours
  • Home working options
  • Childcare benefits
  • Vouchers and gift cards
  • Free fruit, snacks or meals
  • Gym membership
  • Company healthcare, dental care or eye care
  • Days out and additional holidays as rewards

Employee benefit schemes are a very effective tool for recruitment, motivation and retention of human resources, but just as important can be a company’s culture. If someone feels that they’re the right fit for the business, if they agree with how things are done and feel comfortable at work each day, then they’ll remain happy and motivated.

Can the Value of Human Resources Change?

A business measures its human resources in terms of the value that they bring to the business. The value of human resources can increase or decrease over time.

Investing in ongoing training and development will increase the value of a company’s human resource, because individual employees will have a wider range of skills, or more specialist knowledge and experience, as a result.

It can be beneficial to employ highly skilled graduates or people that already have extensive experience, but this can require a high salary and employee benefits package right from the start. In some cases, where the experience isn’t immediately necessary, it works out better to offer on-the-job training and to build someone up from a basic level by investing in their future.

Are there any downsides to using the term ‘Human Resources’?

There is an argument that labelling people as ‘Human Resources’ can make them seem like ‘just another piece of office furniture’. If people are a resource then arguably they are of financial importance, rather than individual importance, and might be treated as commodities rather than as people. There is a suggestion that a person, as a human resource, is only as important as the profit that he or she generates.

As an employer, it’s important to appreciate that a human resource is not the same as any other business resource. That human resource leaves the office each day, drives home, greets her children at the door, kisses them goodnight and settles down to dinner with a loved one, before enjoying a TV show or going out to the gym. Vital for employee happiness is their employer’s awareness that they are an intricately detailed human being and not just a business resource.

What does a HR department do?

The Human Resources department is a company’s department specifically focusing on employees and their relationship with the business. This relationship works both ways, and so the HR department needs to represent the interests of the company and its employees independently and as a whole.

The HR department will typically be involved in:

  • Recruitment
  • Retention
  • Disciplinary action
  • Assessment and appraisal
  • Legal compliance
  • Safety and welfare
  • Training and professional development
  • Conflict mediation and resolution
  • Employee motivation

What challenges do Human Resources face?

In some industries, the human resource is lacking. More and more people are training for office jobs, media jobs and white collar work, meaning that manual workers are in short supply. When the workers are hard to find, it can be particularly tough to manage the resource that is available.

On the other side of the coin, there is the argument that jobs as a whole are hard to find due to the ever-increasing use of technology. Take, for example, the self-checkout machines at your local supermarket, where 8-10 checkouts are typically overseen by just one member of staff.

Another issue is the appropriate use of human resources – fitting round pegs into round holes, and square pegs into square holes. All too often, companies are fitting people into not-quite-perfect roles, rather than developing roles that make the most of their employee’s talents and abilities.

Could your business, or the one that you work for, make more of its human resources? How do companies make the most of each individual worker? That’s a question that needs to be answered by the Human Resources department, with input from everyone in the business.

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