Why Study Human Resources Management (hrm)?

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If an organization is to achieve its goals, it must not only have the required re­sources, it must also use them effectively. The resources available to a manager are hu­man, financial, physical, and informational. While human resources (HR) have always been critical to the success of any organization, they have assumed an increasingly greater importance that is being recognized inside and outside work organizations.

Human resources departments typically include individuals with a wide variety and range of knowledge, skills, and abilities who are expected to perform job activities in a manner that contributes to the attainment of organizational goals. How effectively em­ployees contribute to the organization depends in large part upon the quality of the HR program (including staffing, training, and compensation) as well as the ability and will­ingness of management--from the CEO to first-line supervisors--to create an environ­ment that fosters the effective use of human resources.

Why Study Human Resources Management (HRM)?
Anyone who embarks on a course of specialized study typically wonders about its relevance to his or her interests and goals. The answer to the question "Why study HRM?" should become apparent as we explore the importance of HRM and examine the contributions it can make to an organization. Whether you are working in the HRM function of your organization or as a staff professional or line manager, you will definitely need to be aware of the various roles and responsibilities in dealing with employers in your organization.

The Importance of HRM
For many decades such responsibilities as selection, training, and compensation were considered basic functions of the area historically referred to as personnel management. These functions were performed without much regard for how they related to each other. From this narrow view we have seen the emergence of what is now known as human resources management.

Personnel management

basic functions of selection, training,

compensation, etc., in the management of

an organization’s personnel
Human resources management (HRM), as it is currently perceived, represents the extension rather than the re­jection of the traditional requirements for managing personnel effectively. An understanding of human behavior and skill in applying that understanding are still required. Also required are knowledge and understanding of the various per­sonnel functions performed in managing human resources, as well as the ability to perform those functions in accordance with organizational objectives. An awareness of existing economic, social, and legal constraints upon the perfor­mance of these functions is also essential.

Human resources management (HRM)

extension of the traditional requirements of

personnel management, which recognizes the

dynamic interaction of personnel functions

with each other and with the strategic

and planning objectives of the

HRM, as it is practiced today, recognizes the dynamic interaction of person­nel functions with each other and with the objectives of the organization. Most important, it recognizes that HR planning must be coordinated closely with the organization’s strategic and related planning functions. As a result, efforts in HRM are being directed toward providing more support for the achievement of the organization’s goals, whether it be a profit, not for profit, or governmental or­ganization.

HRM: Current Challenges
According to a survey of senior HR executives in Personnel Journal's top 100 com­panies (based on 1992 revenues), the most challenging HR issues are health care costs, reorganizing and downsizing organizations, and mergers and acquisitions. These issues are followed by problems in managing diverse groups of workers who have different attitudes, values, and work behaviors; managing for top-quality performance (TQM); team building; and responding to the needs of the families of employees. Other areas presenting challenges are workers’ compensation, labor relations, and management development. International companies face increased global competition.

One may expect to see new issues and challenges emerging in the future that require appropriate action. Evolving business and economic factors forge changes in the HR field requiring that preparation for change be an ongoing process.
Role of the HR Department
Top management generally recognizes the contributions that the HR program can make to the organization and thus expects HR managers to assume a broader role in the overall organizational strategy. Thus HR managers must remember the bottom line if they are to fulfill their role. Investment in sophisticated HR practices contributes to greater financial performance and productivity and to reduced turnover.

In the process of managing human resources, increasing attention is being given to the personal needs of the employees. The HRM Department activities influence both the individ­ual and society.

Increasingly, employees and the public at large are demanding that employ­ers demonstrate greater social responsibility in managing their human resources. Complaints that some jobs are revitalizing the lives and injuring the health of employees are not uncommon. Charges of discrimination against women, minori­ties, the physically disabled, and the aged with respect to hiring, training, ad­vancement, and compensation are being leveled against some employers.

Issues such as comparable pay for comparable work, the rising costs of health benefits, day care for children of employees, and alternative work schedules are concerns that many employers must address.

All employers are finding that privacy and confidentiality of information about employees are serious matters and deserve the greatest protection that can be provided.

Where employees are organized into unions, employers can encounter costly collective bargaining proposals, strike threats, and charges of unfair labor prac­tices. Court litigation, demands for corrective action by governmental agencies, sizable damage awards in response to employee lawsuits, and attempts to erode the employment-at-will doctrine valued by employers are still other hazards that contemporary employers must try to avoid.

The HR Role of Managers and Supervisors
Students who are now preparing for careers in organizations will find that the study of HRM will provide a background of understanding that will be valuable in managerial and supervisory positions. Although HR managers have the re­sponsibility for coordinating and enforcing policies relating to the HR functions, all managers and supervisors are responsible for performing these functions in their rela­tions with subordinates.

It is in such positions of leadership that the majority of students will be employed. HRM is therefore oriented to help you in managing subordinates more effectively, whether you become first-line supervisor or chief executive officer.

Discussions concerning the role of the HR department can serve to provide one with a better understanding of the functions performed by this department. A familiarity with the role of the HR department should help you to cooperate more closely with the department’s staff and to utilize more fully the assistance and services available from this resource.

The present status of HRM was achieved only af­ter years of evolutionary development. You need to understand the forces that have contributed to this process and to become more aware of forces acting today that will have an effect on HRM in the future.
Development of Human Resources Management
HRM, at least in a primitive form, has existed since the first attempts at group effort. Certain HR functions, even though informal in nature, were performed whenever people came together for a common purpose. During the course of this past century, however, the processes of managing people have become more formal­ized and specialized, and a growing body of knowledge has been accumulated by practitioners and scholars.

An understanding of the events contributing to the growth of HRM can provide a perspective for contemporary policies and practices.





Earliest authenticated strike in America; Philadelphia printers seek to gain minimum weekly wage of $6.


Passage of a law in Philadelphia setting a minimum wage for workers in commercial occupations.


Beginning of Frederick W. Taylor’s work in scientific management at the Midvale Steel Plant in Philadelphia.


Establishment of the U.S. Civil Service Commission.


Founding of the American Federation of Labor (AFL).


Passage in Massachusetts of the first minimum wage law.


Establishment of the U.S. Department of Labor.


First course in personnel administration, offered at Dartmouth College.


First text in personnel administration, published by Ordway Tead and Henry C. Metcalf.


Point method of job evaluation developed by the National Electric Manufacturers’ Association and the National Metal Trades Association.


Hawthorne studies begun by Mayo, Roethlisberger, and Dickson.


Establishment of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) by several unions previously affiliated with the AFL.


Publication of the first edition of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.


Beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II, demanding the mobilization of individuals trained in personnel management and the rapid development of personnel programs in the military and in industry.


Merger of the AFL and CIO.


Federal Women’s Program established by the U.S. Civil Service Commission to enhance the employment and advancement of women.


Beginning of a professional accreditation (now certification) program by the Personnel Accreditation Institute.


Passage of the Civil Service Reform Act, which established the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), and the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA).


Beginning of the erosion of the employment-at-will doctrine, with increasing attention to "just cause" terminations.


Increased emphasis on employee participation in organizational decision making to improve productivity and competitive position.


Heightened awareness of privacy rights of employees as employers monitor employee performance.


Increased emphasis on global HR practices; greater use of temporary employees; observed


Emphasis on sexual harassment; heightened attention to greater diversity in the workforce; increased emphasis on total quality management; and downsizing or "rightsizing" of organizations.

The Factory System
During the nineteenth century, the development of mechanical power made pos­sible a factory system of production. The concentration of workers in factories served to focus public attention on their conditions of employment, which were often unhealthy and hazardous.

During the late 1880s, laws were passed in some states to regulate hours of work for women and children, to establish minimum wages for male labor, and to regulate working conditions that affect employee health and safety. It was also at this time that laws were enacted to provide pay­ments for injuries suffered in industrial accidents. Eventually, as the result of leg­islation and collective bargaining, employment conditions began to improve.

The Mass Production System
Mass production was made possible by the availability of standardized and inter­changeable parts designed to be used in assembly-line production. With this sys­tem came improvements in production techniques and the use of labor-saving machinery and equipment. The accompanying increases in overhead costs and wage rates, however, forced companies to seek ways of using production facilities and labor more efficiently. Frederick W. Taylor’s work at the Midvale Steel plant in Philadelphia stimulated the scientific management movement.

According to Taylor, scientific management required accurate performance standards based on objective data gathered from time studies and other sources. These standards provided a basis for rewarding the superior workers financially and for eliminating the unproductive ones. Taylor's approach was in sharp con­trast to the then-prevailing practice of attempting to gain more work from em­ployees by threatening them with the loss of their jobs.

Scientific management

substitution of exact scientific investigation

and knowledge for individual judgment of

either the worker or the boss

The Hawthorne Studies
Begun in the 1920s, the Hawthorne studies were an effort to determine what effect hours of work, periods of rest, and lighting might have on worker fatigue and productivity. These experiments constituted one of the first cooperative industry-university research efforts. As the studies progressed, however, it was discovered that the social environment could have an equivalent if not greater effect on productivity than the physical environment.
Hawthorne studies

experiments in the 1920s to determine

what effect hours of work, periods of

rest, and lighting have upon

worker fatigue and

Conducted at the Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne Works near Chicago, Illinois, these studies were a pioneering endeavor to examine factors affecting productivity. HR specialists generally agree that the Hawthorne studies played a very important role in the development of HRM.

The studies spurred efforts to hu­manize the workplace and to find more-sensitive ways to motivate workers. Out of the interviewing techniques used by the Hawthorne researchers grew the nondirective approach to counseling, which recognizes the importance of “feel­ings.” Until that time, it was generally considered inappropriate in employment situations to study attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and feelings.

The Human Relations Movement
The Hawthorne studies, and related industry research, helped to give rise to the human relations movement by providing new insights into human behavior. This movement focused attention on individual differences among employees. It studied the influence that informal groups can have upon employee performance and behavior. It also focused atten­tion on the necessity for managers to improve their communications and to be more sensitive to the needs and feelings of their subordinates.
Human relations movement

movement that focused attention on

individual differences among employees

and on the influence that informal groups

have upon employee performance

and behavior
This research emphasized the need for a more participative and employee-centered form of supervision. Various principles and practices currently applied in employee involvement, work teams, and employee empower­ment grew out of the work of researchers and practitioners of the early human rela­tions movement.

Contributions of the Behavioral Sciences
As the human relations movement evolved, it became broader in scope. The un­derstanding of human behavior was enhanced by contributions not only from the traditional disciplines of psychology, sociology, and anthropology, but also from social economics, political science, linguistics, and education. The interrelationships of these various disciplines are now referred to collectively as the “behavioral sciences.”
Behavioral sciences

various disciplines of psychology,

sociology, anthropology, social economics,

political science, linguistics, and education
The behavioral science approach is oriented toward economic objectives, concerned with the total climate or milieu, and consistent with the development of interpersonal competence. It is a humanistic approach. The use of groups and employee participation in the achievement of organizational objec­tives, including the management of change, is now a formally recognized field of study in universities worldwide.

Managers draw upon the results of these studies regularly in managing staffs. It is not just an HRM field of endeavor. Managers worldwide apply the concepts in everyday activities.

Growth of Governmental Regulations
Prior to the 1930s, employer relations with employees and with their labor orga­nizations were subject to very few laws and regulations in the USA. However, political pressures for social reform created by the depression of the 1930s gave rise to both federal and state legislation affecting these relations. Starting with the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, federal regulations have expanded to the point where they govern the performance of virtually every HR function. From highly industrialized nations to developing countries, governments constantly regulate the workplace.

HR managers and supervisors are responsible for compliance with all laws and regulations that govern work environments. These requirements are often very stringent and vary greatly from country to country in our global workforce.

Although employers are often critical of the demands these laws and regulations impose on their operations, most legislation is a response to employers’ lack of social responsibility, as manifested by their poor treatment of employees in the past. As a manager of people, wherever you work in the world, you will constantly be dealing with a great many legal regulations affecting your actions in dealing with employees.

Increased Specialization of HR Functions
Initially, the management of human resources was limited largely to hiring, firing, and record keeping, functions carried out by managerial and supervi­sory personnel. Eventually, clerical personnel were employed to assist in keeping records relating to hours worked and to payroll. Computers handle much of the general record keeping in most parts of the world.

By the 1940s the typical personnel department in a medium-sized or large firm included individuals with specific training and/or experience in carrying out various specialized functions. The major functions performed in organiza­tions today are shown below.

Increasing Emphasis on Strategic Management
Top management expects HR managers to assume a broader role in overall organizational strategy. HRM is playing a vital role in creating and sustaining the competitive advantage of an organization. In order to carry out their expanded role, many HR professionals will need to acquire competencies such as these:
1. Business capabilities. HR professionals will need to know the business of their organization thoroughly. This requires an understanding of its financial capabilities.

  1. State-of-the-art HRM practices. HR professionals will be the organization’s behavioral science experts. HR professionals should develop competencies in staffing, development, appraisal, rewards, team building, and communication.

  2. Management of change process. HR professionals will have to be able to “manage change processes” so that HR activities are effectively merged with the business needs of the organization.

The ability to integrate business, HRM, and management of change is essen­tial. By helping their organizations build a sustained competitive advantage and by learning to manage many activities well, HR professionals will become strate­gic business partners. Many of the most forward-looking CEOs are seeking top HR managers who will report directly to them and help them address key issues.
Professionalization of Human Resources Management
Because of the changes occurring in the workforce, HR managers can no longer function simply as technical specialists who perform the various HRM functions. Instead, they must concern themselves with the total scope of HRM and its role within the organization and in society as a whole. Therefore HR managers today should be professionals with respect to both their qualifications and their performance.

One of the characteristics of a profession is the development through re­search and experimentation of an organized body of knowledge. This knowledge is exchanged through conferences, seminars, and workshops sponsored by profes­sional associations. The latest information in the field is communicated through the literature published by the professional associations, as well as by various nonprofit organizations and educational institutions.

Other characteristics of a profession include the establishment of a code of ethics and of certification re­quirements for its members. HRM exhibits all these characteristics.

Professional Associations and Certification
Today a number of professional organizations represent general, as well as spe­cialized, areas of HRM. The professional association with the largest member­ship--more than 47,000--is the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Affiliated with SHRM are more than 400 local chapters in major cit­ies throughout the United States, many of which sponsor student conferences, seminars, and workshops.

The national annual meeting of the society is held in a different city each year. The society publishes HR Magazine (formerly Personnel Administrator) and HR News (formerly Resource), as well as various books and bul­letins. While HR Magazine is available to the general public and is found in most libraries, HR News is generally available only by personal or organizational sub­scription.

SHRM frequently collaborates with the U.S. Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) in conducting surveys in various areas of HRM.

Other leading professional associations in the field include the Interna­tional Personnel Management Association, the International Association for Personnel Women, the American Management Association (AMA), and the Conference Board (CB). AMA and CB are prominent nonprofit organizations that provide publications and educational services relating to HRM and other functional areas.

Organizations that represent specialized areas of interest in­clude the Human Resource Planning Society, the American Compensation As­sociation, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, the American Society for Training and Development, the Association for Industrial Research, and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology of the American Psychological Association. For professors in the field, there is the Per­sonnel and Human Resources Division of the Academy of Management.

All of these organizations sponsor meetings and workshops that promote the profes­sional growth of their members. They also provide opportunities for contact with other organizations, including government agencies. Most have excellent websites for you to review.
The professionalization of a field generally leads to some form of certifica­tion for practitioners to enhance their status and to recognize their competency. The Human Resource Certification Institute of SHRM has developed such a program for professionals in HRM. The program offers two types of certification, each of which reflects the number of specialties and the amount of experience and/or academic training possessed by the recipient.

recognition of having met

certain professional standards
To qualify for either certification, an applicant must provide verification of experience and pass an intensive four-hour written examination to demonstrate mastery of knowledge. The certifications, which must be renewed every three years, serve largely to indicate the qualifications of recipients and encourage others to qualify for certification.

There are other certifying agencies with specific certification designations in the areas of compensation, employee benefits, and safety and health. As the reputations of these programs grow and the pro­grams become more widely recognized by top management, certification will be­come an important qualification for individuals seeking positions in HRM.

Code of Ethics
It is typical for professional associations to develop a code of ethics that members are expected to observe. The code shown in Highlights in HRM 2 was developed for HR managers by the SHRM. Many large corporations have their own code of ethics to govern corporate relations with employees and the public at large.

Society for

Human Resource


Code Of Ethics

As a member of the Society for Human Resource Management, I pledge myself to:

Maintain the highest standards of professional and personal conduct.

Instill in the employees and the public a sense of confidence about the conduct and intentions of my employer.

Strive for personal growth in the field of human resource management.

Maintain loyalty to my employer and pursue its objectives in ways that are consistent with the public interest.

Support the Society’s goals and objectives for developing the human resource management profession.

Uphold all laws and regulations relating to my employer’s activities.

Encourage my employer to make the fair and equitable treatment of all employees a primary concern.

Refrain from using my official positions, either regular or volunteer, to secure special privilege, gain or benefit for myself.

Strive to make my employer profitable both in monetary terms and through the support and encouragement of effective employment.

Maintain the confidentiality of privileged information

Improve public understanding of the role of human resource management

This Code of Ethics for members of the Society for Human Resource Management has been adopted to promote and maintain the highest standards of personal conduct and professional standards among its members. Adherence to this code is required for membership in the Society and serves to assure public confidence in the integrity and service of human resource management professionals.

Adherence to a code often creates a dilemma for professionals, including those in HRM. Consider these questions. Whom do HR profession­als service? Who is the client--management or the individual employees? In the course of serving the employees and management and maintaining respect and regard for human values, whose needs are paramount? What happens when—as is frequently the case in HR work—the confidential issues of management and/or the employees are in conflict?”

These and similar questions are not easy to answer. However, the fact that there is a code in itself focuses attention on ethical values and provides a basis for HR professionals to evaluate their plans and actions.

The HR staff is concerned with monitoring ethics in its own operations. However, HR departments have been given a greater role in communicating the organization’s values and standards, monitoring compliance with its code of ethics, and enforcing the standards throughout the organization. Many organizations have ethics committees and ethics ombudsmen to provide training in ethics to employees.

The ultimate goal of ethics training is to avoid unethical behavior, adverse publicity, and potential lawsuits and to gain a strategic advantage. To achieve these objectives, two approaches are frequently used: (1) developing employee awareness of ethics in business and (2) drawing attention to potential ethical issues to which an employee may be exposed.

Professional Literature
Personal development in any profession requires knowledge of the current literature in the field. A number of periodicals contain articles on general or specialized areas of interest in HRM. Some of the more important journals students and practitioners should be familiar with are shown below.

Some Important Professional Journals

Compensation and Benefits Review

Employee Relations Law Journal

Employee Responsibility and Rights

HR Focus

HR Magazine

HR News

Human Relations

Human Resource Management

Human Resource Management Review

Human Resource Planning

Human Resources: Journal of the International

Association for Personnel Women

Industrial and Labor Relations Review

Industrial Relations

International Journal of Human Resources


International Journal of Selection and


Journal of Applied Psychology

Journal of Collective Negotiation in the Public


Journal of Labor Research

Journal of Management

Labor Law Journal

Monthly Labor Review

National Productivity Review


Personnel Journal

Personnel Psychology

Public Personnel Management

Supervisory Management

Training and Development Journal

Other periodicals that cover the general field of business and management often contain articles pertaining to HRM. Among these are Academy of Management Executive, Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Business Horizons, California Management Review, Canadian Business Review, Euro­pean Management Journal, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, Journal of Business Eth­ics, Management Review, Business Week, and The Wall Street Journal.

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