Strategic and operational roles of human resources

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Strategic and operational roles of human resources



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There are many definitions of the ‘concept of management’ advanced by different scholars and authors. Kootz and Weihrich define management as “the process of designing and maintaining an environment in which individuals working together in groups efficiently accomplish selected aims” (Reddy, 2004, p. 3). One of the most important considerations of management today is to create and maintain organizational competitive advantage through effective human resources management. Management of human resources is the primary function of human resources managers in organizations. Various management models, which have evolved over time, influence the strategic and operational roles of human resources managers in organizations, as discussed in the following section.

Evolution of management models and roles of human resources

In any organisation, the management makes sets of choices about how work needs to be done, how organisational objectives are defined, and how to motivate efforts, allocate resources and coordinate activities. These sets of choices made by managers in different organisations are known as management models. Management models are several decades old. Prior to and during the beginning of the twentieth century, managers in most notable organisations focused on scientific and technical matters (Fitzgerald, 2002, p. 15). They adopted mechanistic models which paid attention to ongoing, routine tasks in organisations.

From around 1930, the trend moved towards bureaucratic models which focused on dividing organisations into hierarchies while establishing strong lines of control and authority (Fitzgerald, 2002, p. 15). In these models, managers developed detailed and comprehensive standard operating procedures for all routine tasks in organisations. Due to their dehumanising effects, these models were eliminated by mid twentieth century and replaced with models that paid attention to human relations. These models, which have been operational until today, give greater focus on individuals and their unique capabilities in organisations. These models led to the establishment of human resources departments in organisations, which play a strong role in helping to understand the needs of staff and how the needs of workers and organisations may be aligned. If well implemented, the human relations models are very effective in helping organisations to reduce staff-related problems.

There are various roles of human resources (HR) departments established in the human relations models. One of the most fundamental roles of HR departments in organizations is recruitment of staff. This is the process of creating pool of potential candidates from which individuals can be selected to fill available job vacancies in organizations. It is the task HR officers to evaluate of abilities and competencies of potential candidates in relation to organizational needs in order to recruit suitable candidates and thereby enhance work efficiency. Human resources department is also mandated with selection of candidates to fill the available vacancies. This is done by carrying out tests and interviews on the applicants. According to Pedersen et al (2010, p. 116), Human resources department is responsible for creating suitable interview methods and materials which help in the selection of the most suitable persons among pool of candidates.

Once the most suitable persons are selected, they are made employees of organization but they may lack adequate skills to carry out the required tasks. This raises the need for training. HR planning facilitates organization in designing training or talent development programs meant to make sure that all these workers gain the necessary skills to enhance work efficiency (Sahlin-Andersson & Engwall, 2002, p. 86). According to Sahlin-Andersson and Engwall, (2002, p. 86) HR department is also responsible for motivating workers to perform their duties effectively and on timely basis. For instance, HR officers assist organizations in designing rewarding packages for well performing employees. Finally, HR department facilitates good relationship between organization management and employees through effective management of employee complaints and grievances.


Management models have evolved over time, driven by pursuit of perfect means of managing organisations. Initially, organisations adopted mechanistic models which focused on ongoing, routine tasks in organisations. With time, the trend moved from mechanistic to bureaucratic models in which management exercised strong control and authority over employees. The dehumanising effects of these earlier models led to the establishment of human relations model which are operational until today. These models led to the establishment of human resources departments in organisations which provide link with the external labour environment so as to attract, select and recruit workers with suitable knowledge, abilities and skills. Further, human resources help in designing training programs, motivating employees and ensuring that good relationship is maintained between management and workers. Thus, effective human resources practices can assist organisations to reduce problems related to the workforce if well implemented


Fitzgerald, S P. 2002. Organizational Models, John Wiley & Sons, London.

Pedersen, P M, Parks, J, Quarterman, J & Thibault, L. 2010. Contemporary Sport Management, Human Kinetics, Windsor.

Reddy, R J. 2004. Management Process, APH Publishing, New Delhi.

Sahlin-Andersson, K & Engwall, L 2002. The Expansion of Management Knowledge: Carriers, Flows, and Sources, Stanford University Press, New York.