The Same Old… Then Some New

For the benefit of those who are  non-HR; new to HR; prospective HR or studying HR, I will seek to give a brief summary of what human resources (HR) comprises and what it doesn’t.

Without seeming to blow the HR trumpet, HR is indisputably key to the continued survival of any enterprise -a truth that sadly seems to have become cliché. In a sense, the concept may be seen in terms of a single individual who comprises a workforce or in another, HR could simply be viewed as the collection of  individuals that make up a firm (see, Beardwell and Claydon, 2010). Whichever your preference, the afore-mentioned has always attracted a variety of debates.

Having identified one perspective from which HR may be understood; my aim remains providing a basic understanding of HR as it relates to the unique set of practices/activities engaged in by the HR department of any establishment for the purpose of achieving a more strategic business objective.

HR goes beyond being administrative. It is essentially strategic. It serves to tie together the achievement of various day-to-day practices/activities/functions to a more long-term objective. It is in essence predominantly about assisting organizations attain and maintain a competitive edge through the use of several tools, processes, practices and policies (Storey, 2007) which include but aren’t limited to: human resource planning, talent management, performance management, learning and development, reward management and employee engagement. Although some may easily refer to these activities as purely administrative, doing so may be likened to labeling the job of the architect as same failing to recognize  the expertise required and the outcome created. In other words, it follows logically that while HR is concerned with the activities listed above, these do not constitute ‘ends’ in themselves but a ‘means to an end’.

It’s no surprise however that the bulk of the Nigerian working-class equates HR to mundane, obscure and sometimes easily dispensable activities that only seek to frustrate and carry out tasks management would rather not involve itself with. Whether or not its reason for such delegation is to leave its cloak untainted is another argument entirely. In HR, we aren’t just about hiring and firing; neither are we all about sanctioning and doling out mails that are both tactless and mechanical. We are all about partnering!

In a nutshell, HR concerns (or at least should concern) itself with the long-term (business partnering and strategy) and the short-term (that is; the seemingly set of mundane activities you already know it to be but which truly aren’t mundane at all). The fact remains; every board room decision has an implication for HR and vice versa. Whether or not this is followed through is entirely out of scope for now. HR is predominantly about finding that right balance between helping businesses make more money and ensuring the welfare of the employees who help bring about the former.

References:

  • Beardwell, J. and Claydon, T. (2010) Human Resource Management: A Contemporary Approach. 6th Ed. Harlow: Prentice Hall.
  • Storey, J. (2007) ‘Human Resource Management Today: an assessment’ in J. Storey (ed.) Human Resource Management: A Critical Text, 3rd edn. London: Thomson Learning.
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