May 2, 2019

Human Resource Management - Introduction - A Revision Article

Human Resource Management Revision Article Series

The human resources of an organization consist of all people who perform its activities.

Human resource management (HRM) is concerned with the personnel policies and managerial practices and systems that influence the workforce. In broader terms, all decisions that affect the workforce of the organization concern the HRM function.


Summary of Chapter 1.

Strategic Human Resource Management in a Changing Environment


H John Bernardin, Human Resource Management, Fourth Edition, McGraw Hill, 2007


The human resources of an organization consist of all people who perform its activities.

Human resource management (HRM) is concerned with the personnel policies and managerial practices and systems that influence the workforce. In broader terms, all decisions that affect the workforce of the organization concern the HRM function.

The activities involved in HRM function are pervasive throughout the organization. Line managers, typically spend more than 50 percent of their time for human resource activities such hiring, evaluating, disciplining, and scheduling employees. Human resource management specialists in the HRM department help organizations with all activities related to staffing and maintaining an effective workforce. Major HRM responsibilities include work design and job analysis, training and development, recruiting, compensation, team-building, performance management and appraisal, worker health and safety issues, as well as identifying or developing valid methods for selecting staff. HRM department provides the tools, data and processes that are used by line managers in their human resource management component of their job.

What is the focus of HRM department?

“The HRM focus should always be maintaining and, ideally, expanding the customer base while maintaining, and ideally, maximizing profit. HRM has a whole lot to do with this focus regardless of the size of the business, or the products or services you are trying to sell.” (Dr. James Spina, former head of Executive Development at the Tribune Company). HRM is involved in managing the human resources with a focus on expanding customer base that gives profit to the company. The bottom line of the company is the focus of the HRM department as well as the function.

Contributing to the Bottom-line of the Company through HR Top-line Activities

A growing body research shows that progressive HRM practices have a significant effect on corporate bottom-line and middle-line performance. The positive effect on financial performance, productivity, product and service quality, and cost control are documented by researchers.

High-performance work systems (HPWS) is a term used to describe a collection of HR practices or characteristics of HR systems designed to enhance employees’ competencies so that employees can be a reliable source of competitive advantage. A summary of the research on HPWS indicated that a one standard deviation of improved assessment on a HPWS measurement tool increased sales per employee in excess of $15,000 per employee, an 8 percent gain in labor productivity.

The Activities of Human Resources Management

The activities performed by HRM professionals fall under five major domains:

(1) Organizational design,

(2) Staffing,

(3) Performance Management and Appraisal,

(4) Employee and Organizational Development, and

(5) Reward Systems, Benefits and Compliance

Acquiring human resource capability should begin with organizational design and analysis. Organizational design involves the arrangement of work tasks based on the interaction of people, technology and the tasks to be performed in the context of the objectives, goals and the strategic plan of the organization. HRM activities such as human resources planning, job and work analysis, organizational restructuring, job design, team building, computerization, and worker-machine interfaces fall under this domain.

Recruitment, employee orientation, selection, promotion, and termination are among the activities that fit into the staffing domain. The performance management domain includes assessments of individuals and teams to measure, and to improve work performance. Employee training and development programs are concerned with establishing, fostering, and maintaining employee skills based on organizational and employee needs.

Reward systems, benefits and compliance have to do with any type of reward or benefit that may be available to employees. Labor law, health and safety issues and unemployment policy fall under compliance component.

Major Trends Affecting HRM

The following trends have an effect on human resource management function and department. The importance of HRM increases due to some of them and the practices of HRM are affected to some extent due to some of them.

1. Increased globalization of the economy.

2. Technological changes and environmental changes.

3. The need to be flexible in response to business changes.

4. Increase in litigation related to HRM.

5. Changing characteristics of the workforce.

The Importance of HRM Measurement

Many HRM systems and activities are not subjected to systematic measurement. Many organizations do not assess either the short- or long-term consequences of their HRM programs or activities. A recurring theme of the book is that measurement and accountability are key components to organizational effectiveness and competitive advantage. Good measurement, allied with business strategies, will help organizations select and improve all of their HRM activities and provide a much stronger connection between HRM activities and organizational effectiveness.

Stanford University professor Jeffrey Pfeffer considers measurement to be one of the keys to competitive advantage. His book Competitive Advantage Through People cites measurement as one of the 16 HRM practices that contribute the most to competitive advantage.

A new book entitled The Workforce Scorecard by Professors Mark Huselid, Brian Becker, and Dick Beatty extends research on the "balanced scorecard" to a comprehensive management and measurement system to maximize workforce potential.

Competitive Advantage and HRM

Competitive Advantage refers to the ability of an organization to formulate strategies that place it at favorable position relative to other companies in the industry. Two major principles, namely customer value and uniqueness, are relevant for gaining competitive advantage.

Competitive advantage occurs if customers perceive that they receive more value form their transaction or relationship with an organization than from its competitors. HRM needs to make efforts to ensure that all employees are focused on understanding customer needs and expectations.

The second principle of competitive advantage derives from offering a product or service that your competitor cannot easily imitate or copy.

The status of HRM is improving relative to other potential sources of competitive advantage for an organization. Professor Pfeffer notes that "traditional sources of success (e.g., speed to market, financial, technological) can still provide competitive leverage, but to a lesser degree now than in the past, leaving organizational culture and capabilities, derived from how people are managed, as comparatively more vital."

For success in 21st century, HRM activities must be (1) responsive to a highly competitive marketplace and global business structures, (2) closely linked to business strategic plans, (3) jointly conceived and implemented by line and HR managers, and (4) focused on quality, customer service, productivity, employee involvement, teamwork, and workforce flexibility.

Importance of Study of HRM for Students Specializing in Other Functional Areas of Management

Even as line managers in any functional department, management students are likely to manage people at some point in their career. Research shows that the manner in which one conducts the human resource responsibilities of the management job will be the key for effectiveness and growth in one’s career.


H John Bernardin, Human Resource Management, Fourth Edition, McGraw Hill, 2007

Review notes  for all chapters of the book

Full Chapters of the Book Human Resource Management by Laura Dias

Originally posted at

Updated  3 May 2019,  8 June 2014


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