A Comprehensive View of Roles for Human Resource Managers in Industry Today

By Wiley, Carolyn | Industrial Management, November/December 1992 | Go to article overview
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A Comprehensive View of Roles for Human Resource Managers in Industry Today

Wiley, Carolyn, Industrial Management

Human resource managers play important roles in industry. They are influential because their activities and contributions are relevant to have a all aspects of the organization and definite impact on various organizational processes. These professionals do more than just keep records and create policies and procedures. They are involved in the strategic aspects of the business as well as the legal and operational aspects of managing an organization's most valuable resource, the human resource. Their main goal is to maximize the organization's potential through its human resources. Without the activities they supervise, companies could not function successfully or fulfill their goals.

These activities involve staffing, training and development, compensation and labor relations, to name a few. The various roles associated with these activities can be classified under three categories: the strategic process, the legal aspects and the operational aspects.


All organizations are involved in some sort of strategic planning. However, human resource professionals historically have not been viewed as players in this arena. Perhaps this is because of their previous role as personnel administrators, responsible for implementing operational decisions made by executives and other line managers. As their organizational role has expanded, however, so has their involvement in the planning process. Factors contributing to this trend including corporate satisfaction with the results obtained from using the internal organization development capabilities of the human resources (HR) department. Human resources departments also are better organized, more aggressive about the critical role they play and are building their own track record as planners. As such, various HR roles can be classified under the strategic process. These include: consultant, assessor, diagnostician, innovator/change agent, catalyst, business partner and cost manager.

In strategic planning, the mission statement defines the company, noting what makes it unique from its competitors. Flowing from this statement are objectives, usually stating where the company hopes to be at some point in the future. The HR professional, in this regard, assists management in the process of getting ideas out onto the table and in reaching a consensus. Such a consultant role advises management at all levels, and is used to develop objectives for specific business strategies. For example, a top HR executive might work with management to develop a plan that will support a specific business strategy. An organizational development specialist might advise management on how to bring about change. And, a compensation specialist might develop an incentive plan for a business unit manager.

The role that complements the consultant role is that of assessor. In an assessment role, the HR staff analyzes the internal and external factors operating in the business environment to contribute facts and figures about the work force. For instance, a company establishing plans to market itself on a global scale will use the staff to assess the educational background, foreign language skills and international experiences of its managers. The results of their assessment would answer questions such as how ready the company is for global activity and what it will take to get the company operating on a global scale.

To be successful in the assessment role, HR professionals must have ready access to key information. Once the organization knows its strategic objectives, it will envision what kind of people will be needed. The HR staff then must assist management in assessing or taking an inventory of the talent available within the organization.

After strategic planning, there is a need to deal with the problems and challenges of implementation. The application of problem-solving techniques depicts the HR manager in the diagnostic role. In this role, HR practitioners apply the appropriate personnel research methods to distinguish the symptoms from the causes and to develop alternative solutions.

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