The Role of HR Specialists within an Organization

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The role of HR specialists within the organisation

The theoretical development of HRM as a field since the early 1980s has focussed on its importance as a strategic area of management. One of the most influential presentations of the new field, that associated with the Harvard Business School proposed that HRM should be given a ‘General Managers’ perspective” (Beer et. al, 1986). In general the field has been presented as providing a break from tradition of personnel management by introducing the importance of a strategic link between HR activities and business policies (see discussion in Story (ed) 1995). As a consequence the role of the HR Department has itself come under scrutiny. Storey (2000) points out one of the important characteristics of HRM are that line managers should accept responsibility for making operational decisions about HRM and for driving the HR policy. In his 1992 book Storey described the possible roles of HR Departments in terms of two main dimensions. The first of these was the degree to which the HR Department intervened in the way managers at all levels undertook decisions on personnel related matters. The other dimension relates to whether their actions were related to the overall Strategic direction of the company or whether they were concerned with more tactical adjustments in staffing arrangements. The diagram below illustrates the way these two dimensions intersect. We will examine each of these dimensions in turn before considering the way in which they influence the overall approach to the HRM function.

Degree of Intervention in HR decisions

Strategic approaches to HRM suggest that there needs to be active choice made by managers in relation to human resource policy and practice (Beer et. al. 1986). In the original conception of this idea Beer et. al saw this as a ‘General Managers responsibility’. In practice HR specialists are increasingly expected to contribute to this role. An interventionist HR group might...
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