To an average employee, it often seems that the HR department is mainly concerned with ensuring a good company atmosphere and organizing team integrations. While in many ways it’s true (because HR includes people resources), it lacks other aspects associated with the scope of this department. What then is HR, what role does it play in a company and what challenges does it currently face? Read on to find out!
HR department – table of contents:
- HR – definition
- HR department – basic tasks and functions
- Contemporary challenges of HR departments
- HR – summary
HR – definition
At the outset, we should state that the term HR (Human Resources) has two meanings. By the first definition, we understand it as all human resources employed in a given company (from executives down to the lowest-level employees). However, HR is also the department that is primarily responsible for attracting and retaining employees in a company – that is, human resources management. It usually acts as a liaison between employees and managers.
To explain further what the HR department does, we must point out its division into 2 types: hard and soft. For a while, it used to be the hard HR which involved payroll activities (preparing contracts, calculating vacations, keeping employee records, etc.), that was considered “the real one”. However, accountants or HR staff, not HR specialists performed the aforementioned duties in the company. Over time, the business approach to employees changed – they began to gain recognition as a resource that builds competitive advantage, not just a cost to the organization.
In the next step, it was realized that there was a need for people who would take care of the development of employees, resolve conflict in the team or motivate them to perform their duties – this is how soft HR, which is now well known, was created.
HR department – basic tasks and functions
Nowadays, we can state with certainty that the HR department plays the role of a strategic partner of management – without its efforts to attract and retain employees in a situation of dynamic competition in the labor market, achieving the expected results would not be possible. Here, we reach the essence of the HR task, which is, getting the best employee for the company. This is done through a process involving several stages:
- Begin the search based on the guidelines provided (preparation and publication of an ad, active sourcing, e.g. on LinkedIn),
- Selection of resumes received,
- Arranging and conducting recruitment interviews (together with the hiring manager),
- Selecting candidates and offering them the terms of employment (leading to the signing of a contract).
Later, this department becomes also responsible for the best possible introduction of the employee to the company through onboarding processes (including various types of training). However, it does not end with the recruitment and training of new employees alone. The responsibilities of the HR department also include:
- Keeping an eye on employee records (benefits, leave, wages, etc.),
- Taking care of the employer experience (providing the best possible working conditions),
- Organization of talent management processes (providing training, support in improving their professional skills),
- Establishing incentive systems (managing wage and non-wage benefits),
- Conducting employer branding activities (building a positive employer image among recipients),
- Organization of various events aimed at integrating employees (family picnics, company barbecues, employee Christmas parties, etc.),
- Resolving problems arising in the various departments.
Thus, the HR department primarily performs organizational and administrative functions (in terms of the formal area of hiring employees), but also has a recruitment, motivation or development function.
Contemporary challenges of HR departments
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected the labor market, changing existing employment conditions and posing entirely new challenges for HR departments. Among the most crucial ones are: the need to take care of resources scattered in different parts of the country (due to remote work), shortages of specialists in various industries (primarily in the rapidly growing IT), and the need to compete with elements other than salary (benefits, atmosphere, development prospects, innovation, etc.). At the same time, we are seeing increasing digitization and automation of processes taking place in companies, which employees perceive positively, but it requires a lot of work by the HR department.
What’s more, HR must constantly look for ways to build an employer brand in a way that appeals to potential candidates – and attitudes toward work itself have been changing significantly in recent years because the market is taken over by Generation Z, and soon Alpha, for whom work is not the greatest value in life. Adapting to the ever-changing expectations of employees (with increasing retention in positions) is also now a huge challenge.
HR – summary
Nowadays, no one doubts that the proper development of a company and its ability to achieve business success is not possible without taking advantage of the potential inherent in employees. People are a company’s key resource – a resource that is not easy to acquire, and even more difficult at times to maintain (especially when they are very valuable and competing companies know this well). For this reason, the role that the HR department plays in every company is so important – it bears the responsibility of providing the right conditions for the self-realization and development of each employee.