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Understanding the Function of Human Resources – Everything You Need To Know

Understanding the Function of Human Resources – Everything You Need To Know

what is the function of human resources
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Human resources (HR) is a vital function in any organisation, responsible for managing a wide range of tasks and ensuring that an organisation runs smoothly and efficiently. With the rapid evolution of technology and the growing importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace, HR professionals are increasingly taking on a more strategic role in decision-making processes. This article delves into the function of HR, its core responsibilities, the role HR plays in organisational strategy, the use of metrics and analytics, and some of the challenges and trends currently facing the HR industry.

The Evolution of Human Resources

The field of human resources has evolved significantly over the past several decades, transitioning from a primarily administrative function to a more strategic and integral component of an organisation’s success. Let’s explore some key developments and the impact of technology on HR functions.

From Personnel Management to Strategic HR

Historically, HR departments were known as personnel departments, with the primary function of managing the administrative aspects of staffing and payroll. Over time, as organisations recognised the importance of people management in driving success, HR professionals began to take on a more strategic role, focusing on areas such as talent management, organisational development, and employee engagement.

The shift from personnel management to strategic HR also involves a greater emphasis on aligning HR activities with an organization’s overall goals and objectives. This includes developing policies and programs that foster a positive and productive workplace culture, promoting employee growth and development, and implementing performance management systems that align with business goals.

One of the key drivers of this shift has been the recognition that an organisation’s people are its most valuable asset. By investing in the development and well-being of employees, organisations can create a competitive advantage that is difficult for competitors to replicate.

The Impact of Technology on HR Functions

Technology has significantly impacted how HR functions are performed, increasing efficiency and effectiveness in many areas. Technological advancements have transformed HR into a more strategic and data-driven function, from automating routine tasks like payroll processing and benefits administration to providing data analysis and decision-making tools.

Emerging tools and platforms, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, are further revolutionizing HR by providing new ways to manage the recruitment process, predict employee performance, and identify opportunities for improving employee engagement and retention.

For example, AI-powered chatbots can answer employee questions and provide guidance on HR policies and procedures, freeing HR professionals to focus on more strategic initiatives. Machine learning algorithms can analyse large data sets to identify patterns and trends related to employee performance and engagement, enabling HR professionals to make more informed decisions about talent management and development.

However, it is essential to note that while technology can enhance HR functions, it cannot replace the human element of HR. HR professionals still play a critical role in fostering a positive workplace culture, building employee relationships, and providing guidance and support during times of change or conflict.


Core Functions of Human Resources

Human Resources (HR) is a vital department in any organisation. It is responsible for managing the most critical asset of an organisation – its people. While the specific responsibilities of HR can vary depending on an organisation’s size and industry, several core functions are commonly associated with HR departments. These functions ultimately contribute to the overall success and growth of an organisation.

Recruitment and Selection

One of the primary functions of HR is to manage the recruitment and selection process, which involves identifying, attracting, and hiring the best talent for an organization. This process is crucial as it determines the quality of employees an organization hires. HR professionals must ensure that the recruitment process is effective, efficient, and compliant with legal and regulatory requirements, while also promoting diversity and inclusivity. They must also ensure that the organization’s culture and values align with those of the potential candidates.

HR professionals use various methods to attract potential candidates, such as advertising job openings on job boards, social media platforms, and career websites. They also conduct pre-employment tests and assessments to evaluate the skills and knowledge of the candidates. Once the candidates are shortlisted, HR professionals conduct interviews to assess their suitability for the role. After the selection process, HR professionals make job offers to the successful candidates and negotiate their compensation packages.

Training and Development

HR departments play a crucial role in employee training and development, ensuring employees have the necessary skills and competencies to perform their responsibilities effectively. This is important as it helps employees to grow and develop in their roles, which in turn contributes to the growth and success of the organisation. This may involve designing and implementing training programs, coordinating professional development opportunities, or simply identifying areas where additional support and training may be needed.

HR professionals work closely with managers and team leaders to identify the training needs of employees. They also design and implement training programs that align with the organization’s goals and objectives. These training programs may include on-the-job training, classroom training, e-learning, and coaching and mentoring programs. HR professionals also evaluate the effectiveness of the training programs and make changes where necessary to ensure that they are meeting the needs of the employees and the organization.

Performance Management

Managing employee performance is another critical function of any HR department, as it helps evaluate employees’ effectiveness and promote productivity and continuous improvement. HR professionals are responsible for developing performance management systems, setting performance expectations, conducting regular performance reviews, and providing employee feedback and coaching. When done effectively, performance management can lead to higher employee engagement and satisfaction levels.

HR professionals work with managers and team leaders to set employee performance expectations. They also design and implement performance management systems that align with the organisation’s goals and objectives. These systems may include performance appraisals, goal setting, and improvement plans. HR professionals also provide feedback and coaching to employees to help them improve their performance and achieve their goals.


Compensation and Benefits

Designing competitive and equitable compensation and benefits packages is a crucial aspect of HR’s responsibilities. This includes determining salary ranges, bonus structures, and benefits packages that attract and retain top talent while maintaining internal equity and fairness. Compensation and benefits strategies should also consider industry benchmarks, cost of living adjustments, and legal and regulatory requirements to ensure compliance and competitiveness.

HR professionals work with managers and team leaders to determine the compensation and benefits packages for employees. They also conduct salary surveys and analyze market trends to ensure that the organization’s compensation and benefits packages are competitive. HR professionals also ensure that the organization’s compensation and benefits packages are compliant with legal and regulatory requirements.

Employee Relations

Maintaining positive employee relations is another important function of HR, as it helps to foster a healthy, productive, and engaging work environment. This encompasses a wide range of activities, from addressing employee grievances and conflicts to supporting employee wellness programs and advocating for fair and respectful treatment of all employees. Effective employee relations management can reduce turnover, improve morale, and create a more inclusive workplace culture.

HR professionals work with managers and team leaders to address employee grievances and conflicts. They also design and implement employee wellness programs that promote physical and mental well-being. HR professionals also advocate for fair and respectful treatment of all employees and ensure that the organisation’s policies and practices are aligned with this goal.

Legal Compliance

Ensuring legal compliance in all aspects of HR is a critical responsibility for any organisation. This includes staying up-to-date on labour and employment laws, ensuring that workplace policies and practices are compliant, and providing training and guidance to employees and managers on relevant legal and ethical issues. By maintaining compliance, HR professionals minimise the risk of legal disputes and penalties and promote a fair and respectful work environment for all employees.

HR professionals work closely with legal and compliance teams to ensure that the organisation’s policies and practices comply with legal and regulatory requirements. They also provide training and guidance to employees and managers on legal and ethical issues, such as discrimination, harassment, and workplace safety. HR professionals also ensure that the organisation’s hiring and termination practices comply with legal and regulatory requirements.


In conclusion, HR plays a vital role in the success and growth of any organisation. The core functions of HR – recruitment and selection, training and development, performance management, compensation and benefits, employee relations, and legal compliance – are essential for managing an organisation’s most important asset – its people. By effectively managing these functions, HR professionals can help organisations attract and retain top talent, promote productivity and continuous improvement, and create a healthy, productive, and engaging work environment.

The Role of HR in Organisational Strategy

As HR evolves into a more strategic function, its role in shaping and driving organisational strategy becomes increasingly important. Let’s explore some key areas where the HR function can significantly impact a company’s strategic direction.

Aligning HR Goals with Business Objectives

One of the primary ways HR can contribute to an organisation’s strategy is by aligning HR goals and initiatives with overall business objectives. This involves thoroughly analysing the organisation’s current and future workforce needs, identifying critical areas of opportunity and potential improvement, and developing data-driven strategies to address these needs. By aligning HR goals with business objectives, organisations can ensure that their workforce is optimally structured and managed to drive success.

For example, if a company’s business objective is to expand its operations into new markets, HR can help by identifying the skills and expertise required to achieve this goal. HR can then develop recruitment and training programs to attract and develop employees with these skills, ensuring the organisation has the necessary talent to execute its expansion strategy.

Talent Management and Succession Planning

Effective talent management is essential for any organisation’s long-term success and involves developing strategies to attract, develop, and retain high-performing employees. Coupled with succession planning, which consists in identifying and preparing potential leaders for key roles within the organization, these efforts can ensure that a company has the necessary talent pipeline to maintain its competitive edge and promote growth.

HR can play a critical role in talent management and succession planning by developing and implementing programs to identify high-potential employees, providing them with opportunities for growth and development, and preparing them for leadership roles within the organisation. By investing in the development of its employees, a company can create a culture of continuous learning and improvement, which can drive innovation and growth.

Fostering a Positive Organizational Culture

HR is critical in shaping a company’s organisational culture by developing and implementing programs and initiatives to promote a positive and inclusive work environment. This may include employee recognition programs, diversity and inclusion initiatives, flexible work arrangements, and strategies to improve employee well-being. A positive and inclusive workplace culture contributes to higher employee engagement and satisfaction levelsand promotes innovation, collaboration, and overall organisational success.

For example, HR can develop programs to promote work-life balance, such as flexible work arrangements or wellness initiatives. By fostering employee well-being, companies can reduce employee turnover and absenteeism while improving employee morale and productivity.

Overall, the role of HR in organisational strategy is becoming increasingly important. By aligning HR goals with business objectives, developing effective talent management and succession planning programs, and fostering a positive corporate culture, HR can help drive success and growth for the organisation.


HR Metrics and Analytics

With the growing availability of data and the utilisation of technology, HR professionals are increasingly using metrics and analytics to inform decision-making and drive improvement in their functions. This has led to a shift in the role of HR from a traditionally administrative function to a strategic partner in the organisation.

HR metrics and analytics provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of HR processes and initiatives. By tracking and analysing key performance indicators (KPIs), HR professionals can identify areas of concern and develop targeted strategies for improvement.

Key Performance Indicators for HR

There are numerous HR metrics, or key performance indicators (KPIs), that organisations can track and analyse to evaluate the effectiveness of their HR processes and initiatives. Some common KPIs include:

  • Turnover rate: This metric measures the percentage of employees who leave the organization over a given period of time. High turnover rates can indicate issues with employee satisfaction, engagement, or retention.
  • Time-to-fill: This metric measures the length of time it takes to fill a vacant position. A long time-to-fill can indicate difficulty in attracting qualified candidates or issues with the hiring process.
  • Cost-per-hire: This metric measures the cost of recruiting and hiring a new employee. By analyzing this metric, HR professionals can identify areas where costs can be reduced or efficiencies can be gained.
  • Employee productivity: This metric measures the output of employees over a given period of time. By tracking employee productivity, HR professionals can identify areas where productivity can be improved through training, process improvements, or other initiatives.
  • Employee engagement: This metric measures the level of employee satisfaction and commitment to the organization. High levels of employee engagement can lead to increased productivity, reduced turnover, and improved business outcomes.
  • Training effectiveness: This metric measures the impact of training programs on employee performance and productivity. By analyzing this metric, HR professionals can identify areas where training programs can be improved or expanded.
  • Performance review completion rate: This metric measures the percentage of employees who complete their performance reviews on time. By tracking this metric, HR professionals can ensure that performance reviews are being conducted consistently and fairly across the organization.

By monitoring and analysing these metrics, HR professionals can identify trends, pinpoint areas of concern, and develop targeted strategies for improvement.

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Using Data to Drive HR Decisions

HR analytics involves analysing collected data to inform HR decisions, programs, and strategies. By leveraging data, HR professionals can make evidence-based decisions, optimise processes and maximise the effectiveness of HR initiatives.

For example, by analysing trends in employee turnover, an HR department can identify the factors contributing to high attrition rates and implement targeted retention strategies to address these issues. Similarly, by analysing data on employee productivity, HR professionals can identify areas where training or process improvements can be made to increase output and efficiency.

HR analytics can also be used to evaluate the impact of HR initiatives on business outcomes. By tracking metrics such as revenue per employee or customer satisfaction, HR professionals can demonstrate the value of HR programs and initiatives to the organisation.

The Future of HR Analytics

As technology advances, tools and platforms incorporating AI and machine learning will provide HR professionals with even more powerful analytics capabilities. This will enable HR departments to analyse historical data and predict future outcomes and trends, making the HR function more agile and responsive to changing workforce needs and demands.

Overall, HR metrics and analytics are essential tools for HR professionals looking to optimise their processes and drive organisational improvement. By leveraging data, HR professionals can make evidence-based decisions that lead to better business outcomes and a more engaged and productive workforce.

Challenges and Trends in Human Resources

As the business landscape continues to evolve, HR professionals face numerous challenges and opportunities in managing an increasingly diverse and dynamic workforce. Here are some prominent trends shaping the HR industry:

Adapting to a Changing Workforce

With multiple generations working together, HR professionals must adapt their strategies and practices to effectively manage a diverse and multi-generational workforce. This may involve developing targeted benefits packages, flexible work arrangements, and employee engagement initiatives to appeal to different age groups’ unique needs and expectations.

For example, Baby Boomers may value retirement benefits and job security, while Millennials and Gen Z may prioritise work-life balance and opportunities for career growth. HR professionals must understand these differences and tailor their approach to meet the needs of each group.

HR professionals must also consider the impact of globalisation and the increasing prevalence of remote work. With employees working from different time zones and locations, HR must develop strategies to foster effective communication and collaboration across borders.

The Rise of Remote Work and Flexible Work Arrangements

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent increase in remote work have highlighted the need for HR professionals to adapt to new ways of managing and supporting a remote workforce. This involves implementing remote onboarding and training programs, leveraging technology to facilitate communication and collaboration, and adjusting performance management systems to better align with remote work environments.

However, remote work also presents new challenges for HR professionals. For example, it may be more difficult to monitor employee productivity and ensure remote workers are not experiencing burnout or isolation. HR professionals must develop strategies to address these challenges and support the well-being of remote workers.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace

As organisations increasingly recognise the benefits of a diverse workforce, HR professionals must implement strategies to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. This includes establishing diversity recruitment and retention initiatives, ensuring equitable compensation and benefits packages, and providing training and resources to foster a more inclusive work environment.

However, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion is more than just ticking boxes or meeting quotas. HR professionals must also address unconscious bias and systemic barriers that may prevent certain groups from advancing in the workplace. This requires a deep understanding of the organisation’s culture and a commitment to ongoing education and training.

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence and Automation on HR

As AI and automation technologies continue to develop, their potential applications in HR are vast. By adopting such technologies, HR professionals can automate routine tasks, streamline processes, and optimise data analysis capabilities. This can free up HR professionals to focus on more strategic initiatives and improve the overall efficiency of the HR function.

However, HR must also be mindful of potential challenges and ethical concerns related to AI and automation. For example, AI-backed recruitment processes may inadvertently perpetuate bias if the algorithms are not properly designed and tested. Similarly, automation may lead to job displacement and require HR professionals to develop new skills and competencies.

In conclusion, the HR industry is constantly evolving, and HR professionals must stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices to effectively manage their organisations’ workforce. By embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion, leveraging technology, and adapting to the changing needs of employees, HR professionals can help their organisations thrive in an ever-changing business landscape.


The Continued Importance of Human Resources in the Modern Workplace

The function of human resources has evolved significantly over the years and now serves as a vital component in driving organisational success. By understanding and addressing the changing needs of the workforce, leveraging technology and data, and staying informed about industry changes, HR professionals can continue to contribute to the growth and success of their organisations in today’s competitive business landscape.

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