Our guide to human resources management
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Our guide to human resources management

First published date January 08 2014 Amended date January 08 2014

Imagine saying “You’re hired” for a living! Human resources – or HR as it’s often called – is about matching people to the right jobs and making sure they stay happy in those jobs. And in today’s competitive climate, where employers want the very best people around, good HR managers are in high demand. In fact, human resources is now so important that many companies have their own departments dedicated to that alone. It’s where all the hiring (and firing), training and development of staff is managed. Study human resources and you’ll discover the significance of HR departments, the art of interviewing candidates, the importance of learning and development and how to keep people happy in their jobs.


You’re hired!

A big part of HR is recruitment, which is the hiring of staff – or ‘talent’ as people are also called. You’ll learn the importance of ‘employee planning’ – that’s forecasting when a business is likely to need more staff – and you’ll cover the processes involved in selecting that staff. You’ll soon learn to spot the difference between a good CV and a brilliant CV, and how best to conduct an interview.


You’ve been promoted…

Finding the right person for the right job is only the beginning. A human resources course will also teach you how to manage a person once they’re in their role. That means measuring their performance, setting clear and realistic targets and giving structured feedback. You’ll learn about employee contract law too, and how to deal with any complaints made by staff. It’s not all roses though, unfortunately there are times when employees need to be disciplined or have their contract terminated altogether. You’ll cover the correct and legal procedures that a company must follow to do this, and how to make the process as least damaging as possible for the employee involved.


Types of courses

Whether you’re already working and want to develop new skills, or you’ve just finished school and want full time study – there’s an HR course out there for you! Courses range from full time undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, to shorter courses and diplomas. You can even study from the comfort of your own home with an online distance learning course. There are also professional associations that offer further training and qualifications. A commonly known association, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development is the oldest professional HR association. 


Getting into the industry

Once you’ve mastered the art of hiring, you’ll want to get hired yourself! Here are some tips to help you along the way.


·         Pick the right course: Always make sure the course you do is a well-regarded one. Check its reviews and ask the course provider about the employment success of previous students (universities are actually obliged to give you this information now). Once you’ve got a qualification under your belt, you can begin looking for roles. Some larger organisations will have graduate trainee schemes for university graduates, while other smaller companies will take people on in entry-level positions. If you’re doing a specialist course, make sure it covers exactly what you’re expecting so that you get all the skills you need.


·         Finding your first job: One way of getting your first job in HR is to switch from another position within the same company. If you’re just starting out in your career, this could be in a secretarial or administrative role. Make it clear to your employer that you’re hard working and ambitious and when the time is right, inquire about moving across to the HR department.


·         Making a career change: If you’re already in a career, and want to make a switch to HR, it will help if you have a background in recruitment or employment legislation already. However, if your current role is completely unrelated you may need to consider accepting a decrease in salary and a more junior position. 


They said what?! Great quotes about human resources…

 ‘Human resources are like natural resources; they're often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they're not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.’ Ken Robinson, educationalist


‘Equipment, procedures – those things can be duplicated. Human capital is the only area where companies can really differentiate themselves.’ Meldron Young, HR manager


‘I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.’ Lawrence Bossidy, businessman


‘Leaders view their best employees as they do their best customers: Once they've got them, they do everything to keep them.’ Fred Reichheld, business strategist


‘Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.’ Steve Jobs, entrepreneur


By Rebecca Hobson

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