Human resources are the most valuable assets of any organization since people are the ones who run, operate, and actually make a certain business happen. In a contemporary world of dynamic changes and development, organizations often find it hard to search and select competent personnel. The major goal of human resources management (HRM) is to find the right people. Therefore, HRM is one of the key success factors for every company as it exploits the capabilities of its workforce as the means of achieving business objectives.
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The responsibilities of human resources management go far beyond common activities of hire and fire. Instead, its key functions comprise a set of critical activities, including staffing, compensation, benefits, training, appraisal and development, and general effectiveness. Moreover, there are core functional areas that human resources management operates in, which significantly contribute to the overall performance of an organization. HRM in these particular areas helps build a high-performance work system and gain a competitive advantage over organization’s rivals. A high-performance work system is considered efficient when an organization finds a perfect fit between its workforce and technical infrastructure. Consequently, the core areas of the work system improvement are workers’ knowledge, empowerment of employees, and teamwork (Raymond, Hollenbeck, Gerhart & Wright, 2014).
Currently, knowledgeable workforce is in high demand within the business world. Organizations compete vigorously to acquire the most competent employees and talents. With the excess of fast-emerging jobs, especially within the Internet market, it is becoming increasingly hard for human resources managers to find and attract the desired employees. In particular, the concept of knowledge workers refers to individuals whose major contribution to organizations is their professional expertise. With the market transition toward knowledge-based orientation, the business world faces significant challenges in terms of a lack of experienced personnel. Therefore, organizations must stay abreast of all market trends in order to sustain business competitiveness. For example, HRM might need to provide appropriate training and educating services for its potential workers in order to lead and ensure their competence, and maximize productivity. Pat Panchak (2013), the editor-in-chief of the Industry Week magazine, believes that businesses can solve the shortage of skilled workforce by attracting millennials and treating them as professionals, which would include supervising, continuous training, setting both short and long-term goals, and full disclosure of business objectives and career opportunities.
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The empowerment of workforce refers to the extended freedom of action and autonomy in decision-making of an organization’s personnel. It grants employees with authority and responsibility for making decisions regarding company’s product or service, depending on its core business. In this case, HRM plays an indirect yet very important role. Although it is the leading manager who exerts power and authority on his or her employees in the first place, human resources management participates in performance management, work design, training, and compensation. These activities aim to ensure that empowerment of employees is executed in an appropriate and efficient manner. Moreover, such a practice motivates employee engagement and commitment. According to Paul, Niehoff & Turnley (2000), employee empowerment leads to higher quality of products or services, efficient decision-making, and lower turnover and absenteeism, altogether resulting in company’s higher productivity.
Teamwork is the most popular and discussed concept within organizations in terms of its success. Companies approach teamwork in order to maximize productivity and thus business results. Hence, teamwork is often used as the means of employee empowerment. Employee collaboration (work in a team) is believed to motivate and encourage people for higher accomplishments as its entails a certain level of autonomy and task diversification. The role of HR in this case is to offer a partial reward based on peer performance reviews. In turn, such a practice facilitates healthy and efficient working environment. Mendelsohn (1998) proclaims teamwork to be a key toward productivity, making a strong emphasis on members’ need to trust and respect each other because the ultimate success of every individual depends on their ability to work together.
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As any other business area, human resources management is a subject to certain regulations, which aim to establish equal treatment of all employees. In this case, it is called the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), which is most often regulated with the help of various governmental instruments such as laws, legislation, and executive orders (Raymond, Hollenbeck, Gerhart & Wright, 2014). Among the major EEO laws, it is important to distinguish the following four: the Thirteenth Amendment, the Civil Rights Acts (CRA) of 1866 and 1871, the Title VII of CRA, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The Thirteenth Amendment abolishes slavery in the workplace (Raymond, Hollenbeck, Gerhart & Wright, 2014). It is one of the most fundamental legislation acts that revolutionized the whole world, which used to be built on power abuse of individuals’ and even societies’ rights. This amendment reinforces modern society’s values and respect for human beings. In the organizational context, it ensures ethical practices and a socially responsible business behavior.
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The CRA ensure individuals’ access to equal opportunities in terms of performing, amending, and terminating the working contracts as well as benefits (Raymond, Hollenbeck, Gerhart & Wright, 2014). This particular EEO lays the foundation for the equal treatment of employees and fair working terms and conditions. For example, it secures and prevents employees from inappropriate treatment by contractors. If an individual is willing to leave a job or change the terms, he or she is able to do that due to the policy of CRA.
The Title VII of CRA abolishes discrimination on the basis of one’s background, including gender, age, origin, religion, and so on, thus truly reaffirming the democracy in a workplace (Raymond, Hollenbeck, Gerhart & Wright, 2014). In today’s world, this legislation plays a crucial role with more and more businesses adopting diversity as the core value. What is more important, it promotes respect and fair attitude towards another human being, which is a significant factor of organizations’ success.
Finally, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 induces the provision of work placements for individuals with disabilities (Raymond, Hollenbeck, Gerhart & Wright, 2014). This act complements the two previously mentioned legislation acts and also ensures organizations’ open-mindedness and commitment to responsible social behavior. It is very important that people can be treated equally regardless of their physical abilities. Moreover, it promotes human values and caring work environment.
Today, there are three major trends that strongly affect organization’s performance: aging workforce, diversity, and skills deficiencies. Aging workforce and skills deficiencies present substantial challenges for contemporary businesses in terms of transition to newer technologies and innovative approaches (Raymond, Hollenbeck, Gerhart & Wright, 2014). In fact, these two trends are quite interrelated. HR of an organization must manage their older generation employees in order to follow the emerging trends; at the same time, older generations are usually those who have the most expertise in a business field. According to Leibold and Voelpel (2007), IT resources present one of the major solutions to retain knowledge and manage aging workforce by changing business practices and processes. For example, at the recruitment agency where I worked, almost all older workers were seniors, meaning that they knew the business better than anyone. However, with the global digitalization of businesses, some of their skills were no longer efficient. Moreover, the company planed to perform a transition of its operational activities toward innovative electronic systems. Therefore, HRM had to provide necessary IT trainings for the existing employees. As a result, the company incurred significant operational costs. Yet, those employees were of a high value to the business; and thus, HRM had no intention to fire them. Eventually, the issues of aging workforce and skills deficiencies were resolved, which led to company’s operations and performance being improved and maximized.
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Diversity was one of the challenges at my company. We had employees with different ethnic backgrounds, which sometimes was a great obstacle to effective communication within the organization and even led to big conflicts between the workers a few times. In attempt to eliminate hostility and create healthy work environment, HRM often initiated certain cultural events or business occasions. However, these actions did not justify themselves. Therefore, HR managers started assigning tasks to diverse teams. Indeed, teamwork and cooperation have contributed greatly to resolving the conflicts and even encouraged closer relationships between the employees.
In today’s world of globalization, organizations face a challenge of keeping the pace with the ever-changing market needs. Customers’ demands change very rapidly, and businesses must be able to respond to them in time in order to remain competitive. Therefore, HR department in particular may experience difficulties managing the workforce efficiently in terms of working schedules. A commonly accepted concept of a 40-hour work week no longer proves effective. Therefore, organizations adopt a very popular practice of schedule flexibility, which allows employees to allocate their time appropriately in order to maximize productivity. Moreover, it helps maintain a healthy work-life balance (Raymond, Hollenbeck, Gerhart & Wright, 2014).
For example, at the company that I worked for, a flexible work schedule had become a common approach to doing business. I worked as an Assistant of Sales and Business Development Manager. My major routine responsibilities included market research, lead generation, customer relationship management, and ‘cold’ calling. When I was just hired, I had a fixed weekly schedule with set office hours and a lunch break. However, in the course of work, once I got used to the place and became familiar with people and processes, I was given a choice to set a flexible schedule. Moreover, my job allowed me to work distantly. Being a student it was a great opportunity as I could manage my time more efficiently and eliminate daily travelling expenses. Certainly, I had to be actually present at work more than half of the time. Yet, a great deal of assignments I could do simply at home. Indeed, such an approach greatly benefited me in many ways. In particular, I no longer had to wake up early in the morning and rush to work missing a breakfast and wasting time on travelling to work. Moreover, it was not always convenient at all to go to work on certain days or hours due to the load of studies. Flexible schedule is a great opportunity and benefit for students mainly. As a result, I was more eager to work and ended up with more productive results, mostly due to efficient time management.