Human resource management may likely be the most prominent aspect of administration given that the function of “employee” permeates every public sector organization, be it a municipal transit service, a territorial finance unit, or a Crown Corporation policy analysis section. For this reason, and through choice or circumstances, human resource management presents a significant focal point for public managers.
Human resource management is said to refer to “the policies, practices and systems that influence employees’ behavior, attitudes, and performance”. (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart and Wright, 2000). As such, it incorporates management functions such as forecasting, recruiting, selecting, training, evaluating, compensating, and of course, facilitating employee/ employer relations.
Functions have been categorized into the following seven “steps”: determining human resource needs; attracting potential employees; choosing employees; teaching/preparing; rewarding; evaluating performance; and creating a positive work environment. Accordingly, Strategic Human Resource Management is said to be “a pattern of planned human resource deployments and activities intended to enable an organization to achieve its goals” and is presumably part of a broader organizational or strategic plan for an agency.
Human resource planning includes attempts to forecast organizational demand and labor force supply of potential employees. In strategic human resource management, this type of planning also includes allocating financial resources and determining human resource priorities in such a way that an organization’s vision and strategic plan are reflected in its human resource planning.
Recruitment, which is an intermediary phase between planning and the actual selection of new employees, serves as something of “buffer” in the human resource management process. Organizations that actively recruit are interested in increasing the number of applicants for each employment posting, targeting the type of applicants in order to find a match or “fit” between employee and the nature of employment, and increasing the likelihood that an applicant who is offered a position will actually accept that position.
A very challenging aspect of human resource management is the selecting the best applicant when filling an employment opportunity. In the hope of doing so, an employer may rely on interviews, ability tests, personality inventories, work samples, or reference checks in attempting to determine how well a potential employee will perform in a position. In varying degrees, each of selection techniques serve as predictive validity indicators – that is, they are independent variables used to assist an employer assess or predict how well a potential employee will function in a position.
Human resource managers will often acknowledge and consider their personal feelings and/or impressions towards an applicant in combination with the above noted selection means when hiring.
When the term training is used in human resource management, reference is usually being made to the provision of essential skills and services for new employees in an organization in order to help that employee meet job requirements. However, some also use the term to refer to the notion of furthering the skills of existing employees. Training is often approached in terms of: 1) conducting a “needs” assessment; 2) ensuring employees readiness (attitudes and motivation); 3) identifying learning objectives and training outcomes; 4) ensuring the transfer of training, i.e. management support; 5) selecting training methods; and, 6) evaluating training programs.
With respect to employee development within the agency, much attention in human resource management field has been paid to the concept of ”learning organizations”. By definition, learning organizations refer to agencies whose employees are “continuously attempting to learn new things and apply what they have learned to improve product or service quality”. In this regard, key features of a learning organization are: employees sharing learning with each other; the existence or creation of procedures for gaining and sharing knowledge; employees being encouraged to think critically and test their assumptions or the organizational environment; a system of rewards existing within the organization and supported by management as employees learn new skills; the encouragement of flexibility and innovation development of every employee.
A relatively new concept being applied in human resource management arising from notions of strategic human resource management is “performance measurement”. This concept equates successful performance of an employee to his/her product or outputs and has been said to be “…a process through which managers ensure that employees activities and outputs are congruent with organizational goals”. Conceivably, performance measurement can be used, along with other evaluative systems, to determine rewards for, and even the compensation of, employees.