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What is Human Resources (HR)? Meaning and Responsibilities

What is Human Resources (HR)

The role of Human Resources (HR) stands as a bridge between organisational growth and employee well-being. Beyond the conventional image of merely handling recruitment and training, HR has metamorphosed into a multifaceted department steering the ship of workforce dynamics. This article delves into the intricate realms of Human Resource Management (HRM) strategies, shedding light on the pivotal responsibilities that extend far beyond the recruitment process.

What is Human Resource (HR)?

John R. Commons, an influential American institutional economist, is credited with coining the term “human resource” in his seminal work, “The Distribution of Wealth,” which was published in 1893. Although the concept emerged in the late 19th century, the formal development of Human Resources (HR) departments occurred in the 20th century, specifically designed to address and resolve employment-related issues.

The significance of an HR department transcends the size of an organisation, as it plays a pivotal role in optimising employee productivity and safeguarding the company against potential workforce challenges. The multifaceted responsibilities of HR encompass crucial aspects such as compensation and benefits management, recruitment strategies, employee retention initiatives, termination procedures, and staying abreast of pertinent legal developments that could impact both the company and its workforce.

Key Responsibilities of HR

The HR department plays a pivotal role in an organisation, with a spectrum of duties that extend beyond the conventional realms of recruitment, administration, compensation and benefits, training and development, and employee relations. The following delineates the diverse responsibilities undertaken by an HR department:


HR professionals engage in a comprehensive spectrum of activities, from identifying candidate needs in collaboration with hiring managers to employing various channels such as job boards, social media, and employee referrals for candidate sourcing. Beyond the initial stages, HR is intricately involved in the interview process, assessing candidate suitability alongside department managers. Post-selection, the onboarding process becomes a critical facet, involving collecting pertinent documentation and preparing orientation materials.


A foundational responsibility of HR involves meticulous record-keeping, encompassing employee data related to attendance, leave, and other critical information. This not only ensures compliance with labour regulations but also guarantees accurate salary disbursements and benefits administration. The administrative function is fundamental to demonstrating adherence to working conditions and hours stipulated by regulations, fostering a compliant and efficient work environment.

Compensation and Benefits

HR professionals are charged with safeguarding employees’ well-being by managing competitive salaries and comprehensive benefits packages. This involves ensuring accurate payroll processing, potentially in collaboration with accounting departments or third-party entities. Those in HR management positions often conduct analyses of competitor compensation structures to inform decision-making, and they may implement new company policies related to benefits, such as retirement plans.

Training and Development

The HR department assumes an essential role in fostering continuous employee growth and skill enhancement through training and development initiatives. Whether internally developed or outsourced, these programs aim to provide employees with the tools and knowledge necessary for success. Balancing mandatory and voluntary opportunities, HR professionals contribute to shaping a workforce that is not only compliant with legal requirements but also aligned with the strategic goals of the company.

Employee Relations and Performance Management

As cultural ambassadors, HR professionals actively create a positive work environment and nurture healthy employee relationships. They discuss policies related to compensation, working conditions, and dispute resolution. Collaborating with management, HR contributes to the development of organisational structures and cultures that align with the strategic objectives of the company. Acting as liaisons between employees and management, HR professionals facilitate effective communication to maintain a harmonious work environment.

HR Strategies

Commencing in the 1980s, there was a discernible shift towards strategic initiatives within HR departments, propelled by research highlighting the profound impact of employee-related factors on a firm’s long-term business success.

Termed collectively as human resource management (HRM) strategies, this paradigm represents a holistic approach to managing both employees and the broader organisational culture and environment. At its core, HRM focuses on the intricate interplay of recruitment, management, and the overall direction of individuals within an organisation.

An HR department embracing HRM strategies assumes a proactive stance in enhancing the organisation’s workforce. It goes beyond traditional functions to recommend innovative processes, approaches, and business solutions to top management, thereby contributing to the strategic advancement of the organisation.

Illustrating this evolution, Google stands as a notable example of an organisation at the vanguard of active employee relations through its HR department. The company has implemented many employee-centric perks, including on-site wellness centres, meals and snacks, fitness facilities, massage programs, and ergonomic support. For Google, the correlation between employee satisfaction and productivity is unmistakable, fostering a corporate culture where the well-being and contentment of employees are integral to sustained success.

How Does HR Support Employees?

As an HR professional, your role in supporting employees is multifaceted, encompassing various dimensions that contribute to their professional growth, well-being, and overall job satisfaction. The following outlines key ways in which the HR department can provide valuable support to employees:

Career Development Paths

HR professionals play a crucial role in offering employees clear and defined career paths within the organization. This involves providing avenues for advancement, promotions, and potential transfers to different departments or divisions. By doing so, HR contributes to employee retention, encouraging them to stay with the company for new challenges rather than seeking external opportunities.

Continuing Education Opportunities

Overseeing continuing education programs is a pivotal function of HR. This can involve managing professional development initiatives, facilitating tuition reimbursement for courses or certifications, and creating opportunities for employees to enhance their skill sets and industry knowledge. These education assistance programs not only boost morale but also serve as effective recruitment and retention tools.

Managerial Training and Support

HR professionals collaborate with department heads and managers to enhance their knowledge and skills. By providing training to leaders within the company, HR contributes to the overall development and effectiveness of employees throughout the organisation. This training spans various aspects, including staff motivation, effective feedback mechanisms, handling disciplinary issues, promoting diversity, improving technical skills, and ensuring legal compliance.

Health and Wellness Programs

HR departments actively support employees by managing health plans, employee assistance programs, retirement planning, and disability benefits. These initiatives help employees manage conflicts, handle stress outside the workplace, and maintain overall well-being. Some companies extend these program benefits to the immediate family of employees.

Additionally, HR may collaborate with managers to establish employee wellness programs that encompass fitness challenges, healthy eating guidelines, and stress reduction practices. Whether offered on-site or through external vendors, these programs contribute to the health and productivity of employees, ultimately reducing the number of medical days taken and enhancing overall organisational performance.

A Career in HR

The field of HR offers diverse job opportunities, ranging from entry-level administrative positions to specialised roles and leadership positions. Here are some typical jobs available in HR:

  • Employee Relations Manager: Focuses on building positive relationships between leaders and employees, addressing employee concerns, and resolving disputes between employees and company leadership.
  • HR Assistant: Provides support to HR management by handling administrative tasks such as recording information, processing documents, and communicating with applicants.
  • HR Director: Supervises the entire HR department, oversees orientation and training programs, and ensures compliance with labor laws.
  • HR Generalist: Manages or oversees HR operations in small companies, including responsibilities such as hiring and onboarding new employees, overseeing compensation and benefits, and maintaining compliance.
  • Recruiter: Specializes in finding qualified candidates to fill open positions, conducting interviews, and managing the hiring process.
  • Training and Development Specialist: Develops and conducts training programs for employees to enhance their skills and knowledge.

The structure of HR roles within a company can vary based on its size. In larger companies, specialised teams may focus on specific aspects of HR, with each team member possessing specific skills and expertise. On the other hand, in smaller companies, HR professionals may have more general roles, handling a broad range of HR functions. The diversity of roles in HR allows professionals to find positions that align with their skills, interests, and career aspirations.

Skills You Need To Work in HR

Working in HR demands a diverse set of skills that encompass both interpersonal and technical aspects. Here are key skills you’ll find valuable in HR roles:

  • Active Listening: Ability to attentively listen to employees, understand their concerns, and demonstrate empathy. Active listening is crucial for effective communication.
  • Analysis: Capability to analyse data related to recruitment, employee performance, and other HR metrics. Data-driven decision-making is increasingly important in HR.
  • Administrative: Strong organisational skills, including the ability to manage data, perform data entry and analysis, and handle multiple tasks simultaneously. Administrative proficiency is essential for smooth HR operations.
  • Communication: Effective verbal and written communication skills are fundamental. HR professionals regularly engage in interviews, training sessions, and written correspondence such as emails, handbooks, and policy documents.
  • Training: The ability to develop and deliver training sessions for adults, including onboarding programs for new employees and ongoing professional development opportunities.
  • Technical Skills: Proficiency in using computers and common office software is essential. HR professionals often work with word-processing documents, spreadsheets, databases, and various talent management systems.
  • Conflict Resolution: Skills in managing and resolving conflicts, whether they arise between employees or between employees and management. A diplomatic approach to handling interpersonal issues is valuable.
  • Talent Management: Understanding of talent management principles, including recruitment, retention, and employee development. This involves recognising and cultivating the skills and potential of individuals within the organisation.
  • Legal Familiarity: Familiarity with employment laws and regulations is crucial to ensure that HR practices align with legal requirements and protect the organisation from potential legal issues.
  • Problem-Solving: The ability to identify and solve problems related to HR processes, employee relations, and organisational challenges. Creative problem-solving contributes to a positive workplace environment.
  • Adaptability: Given the dynamic nature of HR, adaptability to evolving policies, technologies, and organisational needs is vital. HR professionals must be flexible and able to navigate change effectively.
  • Ethical Judgment: Strong ethical judgment is necessary to handle sensitive information, make fair decisions, and maintain the trust of employees.

Collectively, these skills contribute to the effectiveness of HR professionals in managing the complex and dynamic aspects of human resources within an organisation.

In Conclusion

HR is an essential part of any company that wishes to run smoothly without internal or external mismanagement and conflict. It is a booming field that shall stay relevant as long as businesses and their operations remain relevant.

FAQs about HR

HR can be a rewarding career for those interested in fostering positive workplace cultures, promoting employee development, and effectively managing talent within organizations.

Securing an HR role does not require an MBA. A valid Bachelor's degree is typically sufficient, with practical experience and HR knowledge being crucial factors.

Being an HR manager can present challenges, but it is ultimately a rewarding career. HR professionals navigate the balance between employee well-being and organisational efficiency.

​​When negotiating salary with HR, it's crucial to begin by researching industry standards. Understand the typical salary range for your position, considering factors like experience and location. Armed with this knowledge, emphasise your worth during negotiations. Clearly articulate your skills and achievements and how they align with the company's objectives.

Patience is key during negotiations. Allow HR the time needed to review your proposal. Establish a bottom line – the minimum acceptable salary for you. However, be flexible and open to compromises that create a win-win situation for both parties.

HR, or Human Resources, is the department within an organisation responsible for managing personnel-related functions. This includes recruitment, training, employee relations, benefits administration, and fostering a positive work culture.

In a company, the HR department plays a vital role in managing the organization's most valuable asset – its people. This involves recruiting and retaining talent, overseeing employee relations, administering benefits, and contributing to the development of a positive and productive work environment.

To pursue a career in HR, start with obtaining a relevant degree, often in human resources, business administration, or a related field. Develop essential skills such as communication, problem-solving, and interpersonal abilities. Gain practical experience through internships or entry-level HR positions.

Consider obtaining certifications in the field to enhance your credentials. Networking with HR professionals and staying informed about industry trends are also essential steps in building a successful career in HR.

The full form of HR is Human Resources, reflecting its focus on managing and optimising the human capital within an organisation.

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