Just What Is This Thing Called HR

As I begin to write on this blog I thought it would be important to tell you what I believe HR and HR management are in a very broad sense. Each of us comes with our own ideas based on our experience and I wanted you to know what my general definitions are from where I sit.

You use the words “human resources” when you talk about your employees and “Human Resource Management” when you discuss how you manage them. But what really is this thing we call HR or Human Resource Management.

I have found that it can mean a lot of different things to different people; the person that does the company picnic, the person that does benefits or payroll or the individual that employees go to with workplace problems. In some rare cases (hopefully not yours) HR could mean that bureaucratic nightmare that keeps me from getting my job done. On the other hand it could be that helpful person and business partner that adds real perspective and insight when I deal with people issues. HR may be some or all those things to you, depending on your past experiences with it.

So what do I think? Simply put, I view HR as a business function that participates in, assists and guides management in the optimization of the people assets of the company. HR services are delivered in a wide variety of ways but in my opinion everything in the management of human resources or in an HR function should be focused on one or all of three areas; attracting, developing and retaining high quality, high performance employees at all levels.

As I write for this blog, I will talk about each of these key areas in the future but I wanted to set the stage to let you know what HR means to me.

Through these three attributes, HR management should be key in the day to day management and growth of the business enterprise


  1. Jim, I like your perspective on HR. One other point I would like to make, and this is from management/owners view of HR. It is a cost center. No revenue is generated by the HR department of a company, so it behooves a business owner to find the HR management processes that not help to attract, develop and retain employees, and help keep departments of labor at bay, but also do so at the lowest labor cost possible.

    • Jim says:

      I completely agree Kristian. It has to make business sense. I have always held that a good HR person has to be a business person first bringing an HR perspective to the party. That includes making the HR function as cost effective as possible.

      In the long run good business decisions are always good for employees. A part of the HR role is to help employees understand that and to lead by example. Even in difficult times.

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