Keeping it Human: Understanding the Importance of Human Resources

May 16, 2019

So, what is human resources? Learn the history of HR, why it's necessary, and when you should direct your employees to the HR department.

What is Human Resources? Umbrella with HR responsibilities raining down

A person’s understanding of Human Resources likely depends on their personal experience.  For example, if a person has never dealt with HR outside of the hiring process, then they’re probably unaware of the wide variety of issues HR covers.  In fact, most employees don’t realize a fraction of what Human Resources does for them!

While we can excuse employees for their lack of knowledge regarding Human Resources, business owners and managers should be well-aware.  So, let’s look at the layers of an HR cake and see what they do for your employees and company.  Then, once you understand the importance of HR, you can make sure employees feel empowered and know where to turn for a piece of that cake!

What is Human Resources?

Children working in an Indiana glass factory cir. 1908. Before HR was HR, it started with welfare secretaries that would ensure proper working conditions for women and children.
1908 Photo of Child Workers in a U.S. Glass Factory, which are the exact people the Welfare Secretaries protected via workplace visitation.

So, what exactly is Human Resources?  Well, what we call HR today began with officers called ‘welfare secretaries’ in the late 1800’s.  Welfare secretaries visited workplaces to ensure women and children were protected from harsh or unfair labor conditions.  Eventually, the role of the welfare officer evolved to protect more than just women and children’s interests.  As the economy and labor force grew stronger, so did the need for a permanent presence for the hiring, retaining, and firing of employees.

While it’s easy to say that HR’s only responsibility is hiring, retaining, and firing employees – that would be too simple.  Those three things merely fall under the umbrellas of their other responsibilities. 

Today, Human Resources must protect both the employee and the company. However, HR’s main goal is to find and hire qualified employees.  Once an employee is hired, HR’s goals shift to retention and the protection of their rights.  Finally, when the time comes for an employee to leave, HR conducts the termination process legally and smoothly.

Here are some of the services the HR department provides to employees:

What is the Human Resources role during the hiring process?

  • Recruiting: First, they find the perfect candidates for the company and the position during interviews.
  • Determining Compensation: They consider education, experience, competition, and budget to determine a new employee’s salary.
  • Hiring: After this process, they officially offer candidates a position within the company.
  • Training: Finally, they’ll teach new employees important information related to the business.

What is the Human Resources role in retaining employees?

  • Performance Management: HR will analyze performance to determine if employees are meeting goals.
  • Negotiating Promotions: Promotions involve using data from performance analysis to move employees to a higher position within the company.
  • Explanation of Benefits: They clarify company-provided benefits.
  • Leaves of Absence: When employees navigate time away from the job, HR helps facilitate this.
  • Managing PTO: An HR department will Keep track of employee’s paid time off accruals.
Related:  Hire With Confidence

What is the Human Resources role during the termination process?

  • Severance Packages: HR can determine the compensation employees receive during a buyout, layoff, or other separation from a company.
  • Termination Paperwork: When the time comes for parting with an employee, HR maintains the termination checklist, obtains a resignation notification, confirms mailing addresses, and any other related legwork.
  • Exit Interviews: They also Obtain candid information about why an employee is leaving the company during an exit interview.

Why is Human Resources important for business?

While it’s not always possible to have an in-house Human Resources department, it’s essential to have some level of HR available.  Human Resources is critical for businesses because it removes the guesswork from tedious processes. Above all, it eases the stress of legal consequences.

Today, many companies turn to a non-traditional form of Human Resources. Some outsource their HR needs to companies that focus on providing HR services at a fraction of the cost.  Finding alternate ways of providing HR services is a great way to protect your business.

When do I need Human Resources?

While any business can benefit from a consistent Human Resource presence, some employees might find too much interaction intimidating.  In other words, it’s not necessary to drag a member of Human Resources into every sales meeting you have.  A good rule of thumb? Engage with HR when you’re concerned about anything illegal taking place within the company.  After that, be selective about what you put on HR’s plate, or when to put your employees in front of a Human Resources manager.

One way to help determine if you should involve Human Resources, is to ask yourself some of the questions below.

  • Is this a business related question?  No – see HR.
  • Can I answer this question for this employee?  No – see HR.
  • Is this question related to employee benefits?  Yes – see HR.
  • Is this question related to employee PTO accruals?  Yes – see HR.
  • Is this employee a candidate for promotion?  Yes – see HR.
  • Does this employee need extended time off for a personal reason?  Yes – see HR.
  • Has this employee submitted a resignation notice, either written or verbally?  Yes – see HR.
  • Is there continuous and/or unresolved tension between a manager and an employee?  Yes – see HR.
Related:  Look on the Bright Side: Staying Positive at Work

The Evolution of Human Resources

While having a Human Resources solution helps a company navigate through various tricky hiring and firing issues, they have other vital functions. For example, HR also reflects on employees’ roles within the company.  Without people, a company would cease to exist.  Therefore, to pretend that employees are little more than a number or a cog in a wheel would be futile. 

Human Resources maintains the perspective that employees are an integral part of the business. Therefore, the ways we manage our employees influences the company as a whole.  HR Professionals remind employers they get more productivity and better quality of work from employees who are happy in their roles. 

Considering this, in addition to all the other areas of a company Human Resources oversees, you’ll often see the HR department taking the temperature of the office, from an employee morale standpoint.  The HR team wants to know if people are satisfied with the way the department is managed. On the other hand, they also monitor how employees get along with one another.

In general, HR needs to know if there are things that could be changed to improve overall satisfaction with the company.

Keeping it Human

In essence, Human Resources exists to protect the interest of the employee and the company. Both have to work together, cohesively for the success of the business overall.  Most importantly, Human Resources is intended to be a live person and not just an employee manual. 

Offering a Human Resource department or another type of HR service is a way to give the employer and employee a place to turn with unresolved work-related matters.  If you haven’t established some kind of Human Resources solution within your company, consider making it a top priority.  Help your employees understand what your company’s Human Resource solution is, and how useful it can be.

People holding hands to wrist in a circle formation, unity

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