Human resource professionals have a large number of responsibilities; these include benefits, training and development, performance appraisal, workplace safety, benefits, discipline, compensation, staffing, legal matters, and so much more. Though the human resources department has played a “supporting” role in the past, it has become more and more necessary over time. New positions in HRIS (human resource information systems) and other fields are being created. As technology advances, human resources professionals are developing new, cost-effective ways to help employees. As the workplace becomes increasingly complex, the HR staff leads the charge into the future.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics (2005), human resources experts “enhance morale and productivity, limit job turnover… effectively use employee skills, provide training… opportunities to improve those skills, and increase employees’ satisfaction with their jobs and working conditions.” The list of potential careers in the human resources field included more than twenty jobs. There is a job for every type of skill set. For example, a person that likes to travel and has an outgoing personality could work as a recruiter. Also, a person who likes to teach others could do well as a training specialist. Another person might like to solve conflicts between others; he/she could work in labor relations. Although education in a classroom is important for learning about the field, getting firsthand experience is the best way to learn about human resources. “For many specialized jobs in the human resources field, previous experience is… essential. Many employers prefer entry-level workers who have gained some experience… while in school” (BLS, 2005, p. 11). Human resources is a diverse field, and it can be rewarding for almost any type of person.
In an effort to further understand the human resources profession, I requested information from several HR managers. The answers were complete, concise, and courteous. One manager said that she wished she could have “taken more courses on human behavior, effective supervision, oral and written communication, etc.” (C. McCorkle, personal communication, July 7, 2006). When asked what she liked most about her job, she replied, “The feeling of making a difference in employees’ lives with helping them achieve career goals and then being part of a management team making a difference for the bottom line for our stock holders and company” (C. McCorkle, personal communication, July 7, 2006). Another human resource professional, Mr. Pete Ritch, had a short, yet powerful, answer to the same question. He stated that he enjoyed “making a difference in the success of the business by working with over 1,600 internal customers” (P. Ritch, personal communication, July 10, 2006). Both of their answers were surprisingly similar to each other. Each of them agreed that enjoying the work was the most important part of the process.
In an article titled “Let’s End ‘Socialist’ Practices”, John Sullivan (2005) compares human resources managers’ behavior to socialism. He uses this example: “compensation departments… frequently give across-the-board cost-of-living raises that reward everyone equally for just showing up.” It is simple to understand the concept of fairness, but there should be some type of incentive for the top performers. In a capitalistic setting, “all human resources organizations would spend the majority of their time and resources on the best-performing assets–in this case, top performers” (Sullivan, 2005). People who work the hardest and achieve the most are shunned in favor of the lower-performing employees. Not all people can work and achieve at the high levels some professionals do, but if there are rewarding, attainable goals, people will at least attempt to reach the goals. While human resources is supporting and helping the lesser-qualified workers, the ultimate goal should be to make everyone a top performer. With a few exceptions, every action a company takes is guided by a profit motive; and every action a human resource professional makes should support that profit motive. Human resources was originally developed to help the company utilize the biggest resource of all-people; however, human resources has fallen away from its original function.
One major problem facing companies today is turnover. Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of “Stopping the Talent Drain”, tells of a firm’s efforts to reduce turnover-by increasing generosity. The management team at LECG, a company in California, believes it has solved this problem. The company “takes care of its [employees] before the shareholders and everyone else” (Pfeffer, 2006). The employees, also known as “experts”, get a percentage of all sales, an atmosphere of autonomy, and a decentralized management system. David Teece, the chairman of LECG, says the company is “attacking some of the core contributors to worker churn: long hours, little attention to work-life balance, poor supervision and mentoring, and the pernicious politics of pay and promotion” (Pfeffer, 2006). So far, the plan is working; profits are rising rapidly, and turnover is virtually nonexistent. This is evidenced by Teece’s statement: “The company has grown from about $25 million in revenue in 1995 to $300 million today, with a comparable rise in profit” (Pfeffer, 2006). Turnover costs are devastating to a company’s bottom line. Some experts say that turnover costs could equal as much as four times the employee’s yearly wages. If this strategy continues to show these results, this management style could become prevalent in businesses everywhere.
Work in the HR field, like any position, has its good and bad points; however, in a recent survey by Money magazine and www.salary.com, a career in human resources management placed 4th on the list of top jobs. Surpassed only by software engineers, college professors, and financial advisors, human resources managers beat out the other ninety-six occupations for the number four slot. The authors state that “HR is no longer about benefits administration and the employee newsletter. Those tasks are increasingly outsourced, and directors and [vice presidents] are considered strategic planners” (Kalwarski, Mosher, Paskin, & Rosato, 2006). Many professionals in HR are consulted for company decisions; whereas twenty years ago the human resources department did not have much of a role in decision-making in the company. The power to change the workplace is now in the hands of many HR managers. “Even lower-level managers are expected to design employee programs that also benefit the bottom line” (Kalwarski, et al., 2006). The field of human resources management is expected to grow fairly quickly in the coming years, and this will hopefully attract more experienced, knowledgeable individuals to the business world. All in all, human resources is becoming a more strategic player in corporate decisions; this allows for greater involvement, more job satisfaction, and fresh ideas in the workplace.
In conclusion, though the role that HR managers play in the workplace is changing, they still hold onto some key functions: training, staffing, benefits, and legal matters, to name a few. Human resources professionals have a wide range of job functions, and they participate in many roles. The field of HR is changing every day with the introduction of technology and new laws, and HR professionals must stay on top of new developments in the field. Whether a problem involves turnover or questionable practices, human resource staff must work to solve problems for the betterment of the company. Human resources is becoming more and more of a front-line player in business, and human resource departments need to be sure that they are ready for the challenges this brings.
Check my CP page for other human resources-related articles. http://www.associatedcontent.com/bene
Bureau of Labor and Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Labor (2005, December 20). Human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists. Retrieved July 18, 2006, from Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-2007 Edition Web site: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos021.htm
Career Planning Staff. Human Resource Management/Development: What Can I Do With This Degree? (2004). Knoxville: Career Services at University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Kalwarski, T., Mosher, D., Paskin, J. & Rosato, D. (2006). Money magazine’s best jobs. Retrieved July 19, 2006, from CNN Money Web site: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bestjobs/
Pfeffer, J (2006). Stopping the Talent Drain. Business 2.0. 7
Sullivan, John (2005). Let’s end “socialist” practices. Workforce Management. 84, 12-14.