What is human resources in the 21st century?

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Paul Sethi
Paul Sethi is the founder and president of Cognizant HR and Tax in the Inland Empire, serving small businesses with their human resource needs like payroll, compliance audits, employee handbooks, investigations, training, taxes and more. He brings over 10 years in the field and is SHRM certified professional with an MBA. Courtesy photo

The role of human resources has evolved over the past 20 years into delivering more value-added services that support the strategic vision of the organization. The term “human resource” was first used in the 1960s when companies realized the value of labor relations, human behavior and organizational development. Human resources was known as personnel department in most organizations until the advent of 21st century. Human resources is currently related to management of an organization’s human capital, including employees at all levels and sometimes contractors.

There are seven key areas of human resources.

Recruitment and retention are the process of creating job descriptions, pay ranges of each job type, placing advertisements for new openings, the interviewing process, job offers, onboarding, training and most importantly, retaining the top talent.

Administrative and compliance is where human resources plays a critical role to create and maintain employee files and create metrics to assist the leadership team. Creating company policy and procedures and ensuring all employees are properly communicated of these guidelines in a timely fashion. Human resources ensures that all employees comply to these internal guidelines that are usually congruent to organizational mission and vision statements. The employers must be compliant to all laws that impact them at a state and federal level. Some of the key laws that impact most employers are Title VII, Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, California Family Rights Act, Fair Employment and Housing Act, Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act for continuation of health coverage, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Employment at Will, Equal Opportunity Employment, Form I-9, Form W-4 and much more.

The employee handbook is a non-legal document that all employers should have an introduction to the company, employee rights, expectations and responsibilities, policies and procedures, pay and vacation procedures, state and federal laws impacting the employer, rest breaks and all relevant information that new employees must know to be productive members of the organization.

Compensation and benefits is handled by human resources to create pay policies, comprehensive benefits package for new employees, retirement plans and more. The pay policies include details on complying to state and federal minimum wage and overtime laws, pay ranges, meal and rest breaks, payroll periods and so forth. The benefits package might include health, dental, vision and life insurance as well as employee perks if offered by the employer. The benefits package might include retirement benefits like 401(k) or an employee stock ownership plan.

Training and development ensures that employers provide employees with the tools necessary for their success which, in many cases, means giving new employees extensive orientation training to help them transition into a new organizational culture. Many human resource departments also provide leadership training and professional development. Leadership training may be required of newly hired and promoted supervisors and managers on topics such as performance management and how to handle employee relations matters at the department level.

Employee relations, investigations and complaints are handled by human resources departments, which must be equipped to handle any complaints that may arise from confusion caused by unfair practices, non-compliant policies, poor communication and launching investigations to follow due process and to ensure all employees are treated fairly. Human resources acts as a liaison between the employee and the management in an organization to maintain harmony at all levels and to ensure its policies are fair and consistent. Some of these complaints might lead to investigations in cases like harassment or theft or illegal drug usage.

A strategic business partner, human resources in the 21st century, is much more than the administrative office of the past. It has a seat at the table in the executive board room where it has access to strategic initiatives of the organization allowing it to be a better partner to the company and its employees.

Other human resource roles might include organization, leadership development, diversity and inclusion.

Paul Sethi is the founder and president of Cognizant HR and Tax, serving small businesses with their human resource needs like payroll, compliance audits, employee handbooks, investigations, training, taxes and more. He brings over 10 years in the field and is SHRM certified professional with an MBA. Sethi can be reached at (951) 288-2367 or cognizant.hr.tax@gmail.com.