Introduction to Human Resources

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Your company thrives when its people thrive and struggles when its people struggle. As a business, there are plenty of steps and strategies that you can implement to ensure that your staff will get the most out of their work experience and will in turn give back in ways that contribute to your company's success. Your human resources department is in charge of making sure your employees get what they need and also serves to bring out the best in them.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Human resources, or HR, takes care of managing staff at the human level as human assets as opposed to the personnel level, which manages people as part of your company's overall operational systems.

The Concept of Human Resource Management

Humans are more complex than machines and are certainly more valuable for their own sake and also for the sake of what they can bring to your operation. The concept of human resources management acknowledges this truth by dedicating an entire department and body of knowledge to the art and science of managing people as people.

Human resources addresses the process of managing people within an organization at both a micro and a macro level. At the micro level, it deals with employees as individuals, each having unique needs, strengths and weaknesses. This aspect of human resources requires a compassionate human element from HR staff, who must sometimes navigate sensitive situations, such as speaking to an employee about inappropriate behavior or cutting someone's hours because of a shoddy work ethic.

At the macro level, human resources is concerned with the way an organization as a whole relates to and takes care of its employees. The macro level encompasses overall personnel policies like pay rates, benefits and protocols for hiring and firing. This aspect of human resources requires attention to detail and an organized mindset.

Functions of Human Resource Management

Your human resources department plays a variety of roles in your organization. Some of these are clearly defined and delegated to the HR department. Others, such as stepping in when delicate interpersonal situations arise, may be taken on by human resources at the discretion of the HR department itself and the other managers who handle personnel and the issues associated with them.

Handling Employee Staffing

Of course, your human resources department won't be familiar with all of the qualities that each department is seeking in the employees it hires, but HR can be responsible for a first pass, including reviewing resumes and having an initial vetting conversation before recommending a job candidate for an interview with a department manager. Once that employee is hired, human resources takes care of onboarding processes, such as collecting necessary paperwork and contact information.

Handling Employee Retention

If you are lucky enough to hire employees who are a good fit for your company, it is in your best interest to keep them around. Employee retention depends on keeping workers satisfied and offering them opportunities for advancement within the company. The human resources department manages these aspects of your organization, checking in with staff about their overall job satisfaction and needs and concerns that should be addressed.

Handling Employee Benefits

Employee benefits are an important aspect of employee retention because workers are more likely to stay with your company if it takes care of their basic needs. Benefits such as health insurance and paid sick days also work in the best interests of your business because your employees will do better work if they are healthy and rested.

Your human resources department does the necessary paperwork for the benefits you offer and also makes sure that your employees have the tools and information they need to make the best use of these offerings.

Handling Employee Firing

Nobody likes firing employees, but sometimes it's in the best interest of your business overall to cut loose someone who is dragging down the overall morale and work flow. In addition to the interpersonal difficulties of the firing process, there may be legal steps that need to be taken, such as documenting the conversations that set the stage for the action. Human resources is in charge of covering the bases when an employee is fired and may also play the role of having the dreaded conversation.

HR Introduction Responsibilities

When employees first come on board with your company, your human resources department is responsible for making sure they know what they need to know to find their way around and succeed. If your company is large and has many employees, this may involve classroom-style sit downs to communicate the details of policies and expectations.

The first few days of an employee's tenure may be spent largely with the HR department taking care of these nuts and bolts. This HR introduction not only takes care of necessary practicalities, but it also sets the stage for establishing a relationship with the department so employees can come to human resources personnel when they're having issues with their work or the workplace.

HR introduction responsibilities may include:

  • Touring the facility
  • Introductions to co-workers
  • Explanations of benefits
  • Bank account paperwork for payroll
  • Providing training materials
  • Explaining company expectations

HR Ongoing Responsibilities

Once your human resources department has completed its introduction with new employees, it must continue to follow up with workers throughout their time with the company but especially during the early stages of employment. The department should develop a schedule for checking in with recent hires about issues or questions, starting with frequent contacts every few weeks and growing increasingly intermittent as an employee becomes familiar and comfortable with the organization.

The HR department should also check in with employees annually to see if any contact information or personal information has changed. This is especially important at tax time because a W-4 form that isn't current can lead to incorrect tax withholding and expensive penalties. Being proactive about keeping this paperwork updated saves hassles down the line.

Your human resources department is also responsible for orchestrating employee evaluations, which can take place annually or more frequently. Department managers should also take a hands-on role in the evaluation process because they are most familiar with their staff's issues, strengths and work ethic. However, human resources should take a lead role in setting the process in motion and then following up with conversations about concerns with broader issues such as attitude and company culture.

Human Resources Qualifications

Human resources work isn't for everyone. To perform it effectively, you should be both detail oriented and skilled at relating to people. You will be in charge of managing and organizing a trove of information, setting it up so you can not only find things yourself but so others who have access to the information can also understand your system. You will also be responsible for handling difficult and delicate situations, including conflict management and performance critiques.

If your company is large enough, you may have a human resources team with staff members delegated to these different types of tasks. One person may be in charge of benefit information, while another handles hiring and firing. If your company is small enough, other managers may be required to take on some HR functions, such as performance evaluations and onboarding. Regardless of who takes on these responsibilities, it's important to know what work needs to be done and to perform it on a regular basis.

References

About the Author

Devra Gartenstein founded her first food business in 1987. In 2013 she transformed her most recent venture, a farmers market concession and catering company, into a worker-owned cooperative. She does one-on-one mentoring and consulting focused on entrepreneurship and practical business skills.