Human Resource Roles in India

Human Resource Roles in India
M. Srimannarayana
M. Srimannarayana is Professor, XLRI, Jamshedpur
8310 001, Email:
The purpose of the study is to find out the human resource (HR) roles in India replicating the model for multiple roles proposed by Conner and Ulrich (1996). Based on the data collected from 293 managers - both HR and non-HR, the study concludes that HR is playing predominately administrative expert and employee champion roles now. But in future its predominant roles will be strategic partner and change agent. The study finds that the overall quality of delivery of HR services is going to be increased. Further, no significant difference is established about the HR roles between manufacturing, service and software organisations. ____________________

Human resource (HR) function is facing a diverse set of issues and challenges from both internal and external environment. Global competition, technological advancement, changing profile of employees, skill shortages, retention, downsizing, and outsourcing are some of the most common HR issues and challenges. To address the issues and to meet the challenges, HR has to play different roles. A review of literature reveals different roles proposed by different scholars. This paper makes an attempt to identify the HR roles in India replicating the model for multiple roles proposed by Conner and Ulrich (1996). A brief review of different HR roles proposed by different scholars over a period of time is presented in the first part of the paper. This is followed by summary of evolution of HRM in India. The latter part presents the research carried out in India to find out the HR roles. Human Resource Roles:

Pigors and Myers (1973) indicate that personnel administration is a line responsibility, but staff function. As it is a staff function, Flippo (1984) mentions that personnel department’s roles are extending advices and services to line managers. Personnel/HR professionals extend their services using their expertise in HRM to the top management to evolve HR policies and procedures and help all line managers to solve employee related issues in their respective shop floors. On the other hand, Senge (1990) suggests that in order for organisations to become learning organisations, HR professionals must play the roles of coaches and mentors. Wiley (1992) classifies the HR roles under three headings - the strategic process, the legal aspects, and the operational aspects. The strategic process role is defined as consultant, assessor, diagnostician, innovator/change agent, catalyst, business partner, and cost manager. With regards to the legal aspects of the role, it includes auditor/controller, consultant, provider, and conciliator. Lastly, she defines the role as operational aspects: firefighter, innovator/change agent, employee advocate, facilitator, policy formulator, and consultant. Ulrich (1993) proposes a conceptual framework about HR roles that adds value in an increasingly complex environment based on two main dimensions such as operational focus and strategic focus. From the juxtaposition of these two dimensions, four types of HR roles emerge. They are defined as strategic partner, administrative expert, employee 2

champion and change agent. Conner and Ulrich (1996) measure this model by developing a questionnaire and administering it on executives. They find that the scores are higher for employee champion and administrative expert roles and lower for strategic partner and change agent roles. Schoonover (1998) identifies three roles for HR professionals: HR product and service specialists, HR generalists, and HR strategists. Hunter (1999) assumes that HR professionals will become leaders in affecting organisational performance and will be accountable for obtaining a competitive advantage through people. Adopting from Ulrich, Kossek and Block (2000) classify HR roles into transaction, translation,...
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