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What is Human Resources (HR)?

Shamaila Yousaf

Human resources (HR) is the department within a business that is responsible for all things worker-related. That includes recruiting, vetting, selecting, hiring, onboarding, training, promoting, paying, and firing employees and independent contractors. HR is also the department that stays on top of new legislation guiding how workers need to be treated during the hiring, working, and firing process.

HR is considered by many business strategists to be the most important of all company resources. That’s because employees can gain new skills, thereby increasing the size of a company’s competitive advantage over time. Other resources simply don’t have that capacity.

The Trend Toward Outsourcing

As with many aspects of business, HR is one function that some businesses now outsource. By handing over responsibility to an outside agency to find, hire, manage, and pay qualified workers, the company can stay focused on developing its core competencies. At least that’s the thinking, which seems to be gaining ground.

Some different types of organizations that will handle your HR responsibilities include:

Professional employer organization (PEO) – PEOs assume complete responsibility for all aspects of your HR function. That includes finding and hiring workers and setting their pay rate. Employees work for both the PEO and your company.

Human resource outsourcer (HRO) – Companies uncomfortable with handing over all responsibility and control of their employee base may be happier with an HRO, which handles all HR activities but does not actually employ workers.

E-services – Using an online HR platform enables small businesses to maintain control of their HR activities while leveraging information technology to do it more efficiently.

HR Responsibilities

The list of tasks the HR department oversees is quite lengthy. Besides hiring and firing, HR professionals also take care of:


Background checks

Drug testing


Training and professional development

Compensation plan development

Employee assistance plan

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Payroll management

Benefits administration


Employee relations

A well-functioning HR search firms ensures that a business has all of the right employees it needs, at the right time, at an affordable cost, and it helps support the continued development of those workers, providing the company with an appreciating human asset.

Human resource managers are in charge of every aspect of the employee life cycle in an organization. The responsibilities of HR include preparing or updating employment records related to hiring, transferring, promoting, and terminating. The duties include planning, recruitment and selection process, posting job ads, evaluating the performance of employees, organizing resumes and job applications, scheduling interviews and assisting in the process and ensuring background checks.

Another job is payroll and benefits administration which deals with ensuring vacation and sick time are accounted for, reviewing payroll, and participating in benefits tasks, like claim resolutions, reconciling benefits statements, and approving invoices for payment.HR also coordinates employee relations activities and programs including but not limited to employee counseling.

The last job is regular maintenance, this job makes sure that the current HR files and databases are up to date, maintaining employee benefits and employment status and performing payroll/benefit-related reconciliations. Human resource management used to be referred to as “personnel administration.” In the 1920s, personnel administration focused mostly on the aspects of hiring, evaluating, and compensating employees. However, they did not focus on any employment relationships in an organizational performance level or on the systematic relationships in any parties. This led to a lacked unifying paradigm in the field during this period.

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