Human resources, HR departments – a lot of names for the same thing

…before there were no human resources departments in work organizations, but „personnel departments“ which were responsible for employment and salaries. However, today HR departments have more and more functions and are playing a bigger role…

Human resources (HR) is a term whose basic meaning in economy refers to manpower. In big organizations this term refers to individuals within a firm and their abilities, but also to a part of organization which deals with employment, laying-off staff, training and other staff-related work.

The employees are one of the company’s most important resources. Human resources are getting more and more important, so managing these resources is considered to be the main interest of the organization the managers in higher levels of the company deal with.

The term human resources is a relatively new one. In fact, there was a lot of controversy connected with its use. While those who criticize the term believe that it is degrading to people because is supposes they are equal to the object of management, those who are in favor of the term say this is signifying the end of the practice in which all other resources are more important than people. The term human resources is also getting a new meaning – it doesn’t only signify the employees, but also their overall potential.

Human resources see the employee as a valuable asset in the organization, and considering that its value is getting bigger as it develops, human resources departments are focused on growth and development of an individual’s potential and skills.

Human resources management is defined as a strategically coherent approach to managing the most valuable means in the organization – people working in it, in order to reach the organization’s goals. Managing human resources encompasses mutually connected activities out of which the most important ones are:

  • Planning the job offers and looking for human resources,
  • Work analysis,
  • Recruiting potential job candidates,
  • Selection of the candidates who applied for the job,
  • Socializing new employees,
  • Training and development of the employees,
  • Managing performance and behavior,
  • Motivating employees,
  • Abiding to the law,
  • Lay-offs.

The human resources department or an external partner – a firm dealing with human resources can oversee the implementation of these processes. If these processes are implemented efficiently they can significantly influence the financial gain of the organization.

The main characteristics of the human resources approach are seeing employees as a means in which one should invest and seeing human resources as a means of succeeding through employees.

There are two different approaches to human resources that stand out – hard and soft human resources managing.

According to Cook and Cripps (2009.) hard managing tries to maximize productivity and profit and sees the worker are a resource, and the managers are primarily responsible for their partners, while soft human resources management is open towards the growth of the employees, does not lean towards lay-offs (except in extreme conditions) and takes into consideration the employees’ interests.
The point is that while they are making an assessment on awarding someone of giving someone a promotion, in the case of hard human resources management the best worker will be given a bonus, but in the case of soft human resources management sometimes a worker who is not the best could be the one selected hoping that he will improve his abilities (in the near future).

Today the situation is such that more and more organizations are using the hard method, especially when privately-owned business are concerned, while the state-owned companies use the soft approach more.

It is important to emphasize that, until recently, in firms there were no human resources departments, but rather „personnel departments“ which dealt mostly with employment and salaries. However, HR departments are having more and more functions and they play a significantly more important role that the case was with the personnel department.

Companies that in the future will not invest in the human resources departments, and by that in the employees’ potential, will not be able to compete with other firms in the market. Actually, investing in human resources is more cost-effective than investing in any other resources.


  • Cook, M. & Cripps, B. (2009)
  • Wikipedia