Human Resources: Definition & Responsibilities

Instructor: Susan Fenner

Susan has an MBA in Management from the University of North Alabama. She teaches online and campus-based Business courses.

What comes to mind when you hear the term human resources (HR)? Many people only have a vague idea of what goes on behind the scenes in HR. This lesson will define human resources and explore the various responsibilities that fall under that umbrella.

What Is Human Resources?

Have you ever been interviewed by someone from human resources (HR) when you were applying for a job? You may already know that HR is involved with hiring new employees, but it might surprise you to learn that it is only a small part of the responsibilities involved with human resources management. Let's look at what we mean by 'human resources,' and then we'll examine the broad scope of responsibilities in the field of human resource management.

There are two basic definitions of human resources. First, a human resource is a person! Human resources is another term for the employees of an organization. If you currently have a job, you are a human resource! This way of describing the employees is used to emphasize the fact that they are an important asset and should be managed effectively to help the organization succeed.

But human resources isn't just another name for employees, it is also the name given to the department or function in an organization that is responsible for managing the employees, which is the focus of this lesson.

Today's HR professionals make an important contribution to helping the organization achieve its goals. In a large organization, HR is likely to be a separate department, and employ numerous workers. In a small organization, the HR functions may be performed by a single employee or even the business owner. Regardless of who the HR is, they have several duties they must perform, such as recruitment, hiring, training, benefits, risk management and employee relations. So where do we start, well let's start at the beginning with finding employees.

Staffing and Training Responsibilities

Recruiting people with the right qualifications is an important facet of HR's staffing responsibilities. But before you can recruit and hire the right person for the job, you must determine the hiring need and perform a job analysis to determine what qualifications are necessary to do the job. Think about it . . . how could you interview someone for a new job, if you've never figured out what the job is?

Once you've analyzed the job, and hired the perfect candidate, you'll need to train them to get off to a good start. Training may begin with orientation, but training the worker is an ongoing process that must keep up with the changing needs of the organization. HR is responsible for making sure that employees are properly trained when they are hired. They also keep records of ongoing training needs, and they may be involved in developing the training materials that are used.

Total Rewards Responsibilities

Now let's take a look at how we get that perfect candidate. To entice workers into our company, we must offer incentives or rewards. When we talk about rewards, we usually start with pay. In order to attract good workers, an organization needs to offer reasonable pay in line with the duties performed and the skills required. HR is responsible for making recommendations on what is reasonable, based on the actual duties (Remember that job analysis?), and on the current job market. If the company down the street is paying workers $20 an hour to build widgets, you are going to have a hard time keeping your employees if you only pay $10.

Another facet of total rewards is the employee benefits package, starting with health insurance. Important considerations for HR to weigh are whether or not your organization is required by law to offer health insurance, whether you will offer insurance even if it isn't required, and what is the best plan available within your company's budget. Keep in mind, though, that HR works for the company, so the 'best plan' may be the one that keeps the premiums the lowest for the boss, without causing the workers to quit in search of better insurance. Think about that . . . HR walks a fine line between the employer and the employees and trying to keep everyone happy can be challenging.

In addition to health insurance, there are other rewards used to attract and retain employees. Vacation and sick days, retirement plans, bonuses, and flexible work schedules are also examples of benefits that HR uses to attract, reward, and retain employees.

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