Introduction to Human Resource Management

For Mrs Dribble to manage an efficient HRM department within the swimming pool she first needs to be clear on the history of HRM and the role it plays in achieving the organisations goals and objectives. Human Resources is what is known as a ‘service’ function because its role is to help colleagues in other departments – HR does not generally make the decisions but it provides professional advice so that others can make the best decisions. The HR department plays several roles in a company.

The one which most people know is the administration relating to the staff – this normally includes handling recruitment (writing job descriptions, advertising posts and interviewing), making sure everyone is paid correctly and on time, issuing contracts of employment and keeping all the necessary records. Staff training and development is one of the responsibilities of the HR department. HR also helps managers to sort out problems. The HR department keeps up to date with the latest employment law and writes policies on a range of issues. It also provides practical advice on how to use the policies.

For example, if a manager has an employee who frequently comes to work late, the HR department would suggest how the manager might approach the problem and which policy would be best. The manager would then speak direct to the employee to resolve the matter. In many companies Human Resources works closely with the senior directors helping to decide on the direction the company takes. The role HR plays here is to advise on how the strategy will affect the staff, and what the ‘people’ issues are. Human resource management (HRM) is a relatively modern label for the range of themes and practices involved in managing people.

It is defined and described in a variety of (sometimes contradictory) ways. In fact, line and general managers have been instrumental in the adoption of HRM – often pushing changes through despite the resistance of personnel specialists (Storey, 1995: 7) The swimming Pool should adopt the theory of HRM. The concept of HRM. What exactly is ‘human resource management’? Many people find HRM to be a vague and elusive concept – not least because it seems to have a variety of meanings. This confusion reflects the different interpretations found in articles and books about human resource management.

Townley (1994) argues that much of the confusion over the role of human resource managers is due to two factors:- 1. The conflict between the ‘welfare’ tradition of personnel management and the strategic orientation of modern HRM 2. A gender divide between: – ‘female’ or ‘soft’ personnel management (particularly in respect of the welfare tradition) at lower management and administrative levels; – ‘male’, hard-nosed human resource managers within upper management or corporate headquarters. She contends that the gender issue should be taken further than ‘counting the number of women’ into an examination of language, role divisions and power.

In particular, Townley (1994) holds that gender is inherent in how ‘personnel’ has become a subject of study. In the UK the professional institution has had several different titles since it was founded as the Welfare Workers Association in 1913. Currently it is the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, having been unable to face the ultimate change to a name which parallels the Australian Human Resource Institute (AHRI) or the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in the USA.

Townley (1994) points to the debate about consequences of the name on employment prospects: ‘debates centred on the image projected – welfare was thought to reflect the feminine’. The consequence was that more ‘strenuous terms’ were used: in 1924 it became Industrial Welfare Workers; in 1931 it changed to Institute of Labour Management; in 1946, the Institute of Personnel Management, a title which remained for the next half century. Throughout the last century there has been a polarisation between male and female aspects of people management.

As an example, Townley cites industrial relations as a male preserve in the 1960s and 70s, whereas training was mainly staffed by females. More recently, she believes that: “The present division between personnel and HRM … equally reflects the same gendered elements. Put bluntly, the focus of HRM – an agenda, in the main, prescribed by men – has been ‘important’ men in one field talking to, reflecting and reporting on ‘important’ men in another. “