The activities carried out by HR practitioner do vary according to the needs of the organization, the job they carry out and their own capabilities.  In general however HR practitioners provide: –

  1. Services,
  2. Guidance and


  • HR specialists provide services to the internal customers, who include management, line managers, team leaders and employees.
  • The services cover all aspects of HRM; human resource planning, recruitment & selection, employee development, employee reward, employee relations, health & safety management and welfare.
  • Effective services are provided to meet the needs of the business, the management and its employees and to administer them efficiently.


Such guidance includes recommendations on HR strategies.  Guidance may also be provided on HR policies and procedures and their implications of employment legislation.  More general guidance may be given on the values the organization should adopt in managing people.  Guidance is provided to managers to ensure that consistent decisions are made on such matters as performance ratings, pay increases and disciplinary actions.


HR practitioners provide advice on such matters as job design, advertising for staff, drawing up short-lists for selection, identifying methods of satisfying training on recruitment or promotion, health & safety requirements, employee relations issues (disputes, grievances and communication) and handling people problems (discipline, capability, absenteeism, time keeping etc).

Advice is usually given to managers, team leaders and even individuals.  To individuals, such advice includes aspects of work & development, developing competence and employability; self managed learning and career development.  It may cover problems arising from work ailment, stress, bullying or sexual harassment.  Here the HR practitioner may take the role of counsellor or mentor as well as problem solver.


HR practitioners take on a variety of roles depending on their position in the organization, expectations of the management on the contribution HR should make and the HR practitioners’ capacity to make an impact.  The main roles include:-

  1. Reactive/Proactive roles
  2. Business partner role
  3. Strategist role
  4. Interventionist role
  5. Innovation role
  6. Internal Consultancy role
  7. Monitoring role



In a reactive role, HR practitioners do what they are told or asked to do.  They respond to requests for service or advice, they provide the administrative systems required by management.  This is a non-interventionary role and entails provision of service to meet demands of the line managers.

At a strategic level, HR specialists take on a proactive role.  They help develop HR strategies and volunteer guidance to ensure consistency in the organization.


Here, the HR practitioners share responsibility with their line management colleagues for the success of the enterprise.  HR practitioners in this role have the capacity to identify business opportunities, to see the broad picture and to see how their HR role can help to achieve the company’s business objectives.

In this role, the HR practitioners are aware of the business strategies, the opportunities and threats facing the organization.  They are capable of analysing organizational strengths & weaknesses and their HR implications.  They are aware of the critical success factors and know that HR has the ability to give an organization competitive advantage.


As strategists, HR practitioners address long-term issues concerning the management & development of people and the employment relationship.  The HR practitioner ensures other managers focus on the HR implications of their plan.  The HR strategists strive to achieve strategic integration and fit.  Integration means the strategies are linked together to form a coherent whole.  Vertical integration occurs when HR strategies are linked to and support business strategies.  Horizontal integration occurs when a range of coherent, interconnected and mutually reinforced are established.  Strategic fit means that both the business and HR strategies meet the needs of the organization.


HR specialists are expected to have a holistic approach to understanding organizational issues and their effect on people.  Following their analysis, the HR specialists can produce a diagnosis of any problems and their causes and formulate proposals on what should be done about them.

Intervention can be concerned with organizational processes such as interaction between departments and people, teamwork and structural change.  It may be necessary to intervene with proposals on job design, team building, training, communication, introduction of new technology etc.

The practitioners may also intervene when they believe that existing people management processes need to be improved or changed.  Other areas of intervention include performance, productivity, competence, motivation and commitment.


HR practitioners are expected to introduce new processes and procedures towards improving organizational processes and effectiveness


HR practitioners work like external management consultants, working alongside their colleagues their clients in analysing problems, diagnosing issues and proposing solutions.

The practitioners are concerned with the development of HR processes or systems performance management, personal development, new pay structures.  This role requires skill and credibility.


HR practitioners monitoring role entails ensuring that the policies and procedures of the organization are implemented with a reasonable degree of consistency.  They act as regulators through formulation and monitoring of employment rules.  E.g. the line managers may be given responsibility over salary levels, but the practitioner may monitor proposals made and question unusual awards.  When a disciplinary case arises, the HR practitioner has the right to insist that the standard disciplinary procedure is followed.

The HR practitioners also act as guardians of the organisation’s values concerning people.  They point out when behaviour conflicts with those values or where proposed actions will be inconsistent with them.

The practitioner also ensures that organizational policies and procedures comply with the necessary employment legislation and are implemented correctly by the managers.


This means attracting, retaining, developing and motivating the right sort of employees and helping to develop a n appropriate culture and climate.  Concern for people implies an ethical approach to their management.  This entails the following 4 ethical issues.

  1. Respect for the individual giving people a voice
  2. Mutual respect – establishing community’s interest in the organization and reconciling conflict due to poor communication.
  3. Procedural Fairness – covering all aspect of the ways in which people are treated.
  4. Transparency – opening up and explaining management’s proposals, decisions and procedures.


HR specialists have to be concerned about the contribution individuals and teams make to improve organizational performance.  This means ensuring the right skills are available and developed.  It also means that performance management processes are adopted by managers and individuals.


The following sub-topics will be discussed under this topic:-

  1. Meaning and importance of HR
  2. Evolution of HRM since the industrial revolution.
  3. Multi-disciplinary nature of HRM.
  4. Ethics and professional conduct.
  5. Professional conduct in Kenya

Importance of HR Management.

Of all the factors of production, labour is the most dynamic and significant.  This is because it is labour that makes it possible for the organisation to manipulate the other resources.  HRM is concerned with getting optimum use of the available knowledge, skills and abilities in the workforce.  HRM is the only resource to give an organisation a competitive advantage over the others.  This will only happen to an organisation that handles its workers well.  A HR manager can contribute to the company’s profits in a number of ways:-

  1. Reduce unnecessary overtime expenses by increasing productivity during a normal days working regime.
  2. Stay on top of absenteeism and institute programmes designed to reduce money spent for time not worked.
  • Eliminate time wastage through job design.
  1. Install and monitor effective health and safety programmes.
  2. Minimize employee turnover.
  3. Properly train and develop all employees.
  • Decrease costly material wastage by eliminating bad work habits and attitudes and poor working conditions that lead to carelessness and mistakes.
  • Have the best people available.
  1. Maintain competitive pay practices.


Evolution of Human Resource Management.

HRM has evolved through several stages since the industrial revolution. However the most noticeable developmental stages took place beginning the early 1900’s.  The main developmental stages include: –

  • Stage I:          Welfare
  • Stage II:         Personnel Administration.
  • Stage III:        Personnel Management
  • Stage IV:       Personnel Management – Mature Phase
  • Stage V:        Personnel Management – Entrepreneurial Phase
  • Stage VI:       Personnel Management – Post Entrepreneurial Phase

STAGE I: WELFARE (1914 -1918)

This was during the 1st world war.  Organisations that existed were more involved in the production of military hardware for the troops in the war.  The military personnel were the ones most involved in the industries and the war.  A main concern during this time was provision of transport facilities, canteens, sports activities and so on.


The services provided to the industries in the first stage i.e. transportation, canteen were also provided in this stage.  But we now saw the advent of a systematic administrative procedures – personnel administrative support to management now included areas such as recruitment, basic training and record keeping.


The stage saw a refinement in the manner in which the activities in stage I and II were being undertaken.  Other activities also now came in and included salary administration, training for supervisory levels, the introduction of industrial relations.  The employees now begun to get increasingly aware of their rights.


This stage saw the beginning of sophistication of the personnel function.  The period saw the introduction of; organisational development, systematic training programmes, concept of performance management and appraisal systems.  The most significant development of all was the introduction of manpower planning.  The period also saw an increase in involvement of personnel managers in corporate strategy matters.


The 1980’s saw a surge in businesses demands that there be a change in approach in HRM.  HR practitioners were now expected to be entrepreneurial in their approach to business matters.  They now had to have a business approach to the management of HR.

More and more research in HR was now being conducted especially by independent researchers and scholars at the Harvard University.  The main interest was to find out what it is in HR that could give an organisation competitive advantage.   They singled out a number of corporations as being successful in HR implementation.  These all had a common characteristic: they saw their employees as highly valued resources.  The theorists and practitioners then began initiating changes that initiated HRM and sent out personnel management.  From then onwards, people were seen as the most strategic asset in the organisation.


This is the stage we are in now globally.  There is now a higher involvement of HR practitioners in strategic management in the company.  HR practitioners now participate at the boardroom level in the formulation of corporate strategies.  Some of the current developments in HR include: –

  1. Management via the web: companies are now under constant change, organised around networks, built on shifting partnerships and alliances and constructed on technological advantages.
  2. Organisational structures: are becoming flat, with an intricately woven form that links partners, employees, external contractors, suppliers, and customers within areas of great interdependence.
  3. Organisations are now turning customers into business partners. The companies are now tailoring their products to each individual who is expected to design and say exactly what he/she wants.
  4. Intellectual capital will be important for business success. Companies now have to attract and retain the best thinkers – requiring huge pay cheques, excellent culture and reward systems.
  5. Businesses are now doing away with the old command and control hierarchies in favour of organisations that empower vast numbers of people and reward the best of them as if they were the owners of the enterprise.
  6. Talent is now being sought wherever it can be found globally.
  7. There is speed in the processing of work. All work is now being done in an instant.
  8. Concentration on the core business and the outsourcing of non core company activities is now the norm.


Personnel management is an important element of the broader subject of HRM.  The following are some of the differences between the two.

  1. Personnel management is practical, utilitarian and mostly concerned with the administration and implementation of policies. HRM on the other hand is strategic and tends to integrate personnel and other HRM considerations in a company’s planning.
  2. HRM is more concerned with the wider implications of the management of change, whereas personnel management worries about the effects of such change on working practices.
  • Personnel management is reactive and diagnostic. It responds to changes in its environment – labour laws, labour market conditions and so on.  HRM is prescriptive and concerns itself with strategies, new activities and new ideas.
  1. Personnel management is concerned with imposing compliance with rules and procedures – through use of force, coercion, threat of punishment and so on. HRM is concerned with obtaining the employees commitment and loyalty through persuasion and motivation.
  2. Personnel management has short term perspectives while HRM has long term perspectives – wanting to achieve integration of all human aspects of the organisation.


This refers to those tasks and duties performed in both large and small organisations to provide for and coordinate human resources.  The main functional areas include: –

  • Human Resource Planning, Recruitment and Selection: conducting job analysis, forecasting HR requirements, recruiting, selecting and hiring people.
  • HR training and Development: Training, orientation, designing and implementing management and organisational development programmes, building effective teams, designing appraisal systems, assisting employees in developing career plans.
  • Compensation and benefits: design and implementation of compensation and benefits systems, ensuring fairness and consistency of the system.
  • Employee and labour practices: serve as an intermediary between the organisation and the union, design discipline systems and grievance handling systems.
  • Safety and Health: design and implement programmes to ensure employees health and safety, provide assistance to employees with personal problems that impact on their performance.
  • HR research: provide a HR information base, design and implement employee communication systems.


HR functions need to be performed by individuals who have the capacity and understanding from other knowledge areas.  The knowledge areas include:

  1. This is the rational investigation of the truth.  It refers to the basic principles and concepts which deal with ethical matters.  It focuses on morals or standards that have been set – good or bad, right or wrong.  Decisions taken by HR practitioners must reflect on their morals or standards and those of the organisation.  The decisions must be ethically acceptable.
  2. An organisation as a collection of people borrows immensely from sociological teachings. Sociology is the study of human interaction, how individuals conduct themselves in society.  An organisation is a collection of interacting and independent individuals who work together towards common goals.  Organisational social systems involve a number of relationships : –
  3. Cooperation over a task – an interaction takes place between team members, employees and their supervisors and employees and their managers.
  4. Managerial and supervisory roles and interaction – interaction between managers and supervisors as far as supervision is concerned.
  5. General social relationship – existing among all members of an organisation in an informal manner.

Sociology helps understand the organisations social structure.  This is the formal and informal structure.  Formal structures are those made according to an organisations policy with the members.  Activities are regulated by a set of rules and regulations.  The leader of such a structure is formally known and the group’s purpose is to achieve set organisational goals.

Informal groups on the other hand, come into existence by coincidence. Reasons for group formation do vary from one group to another, and what is known is that groups are formed with members who share a common goal.  Informal groups have their own norms.

Both groups are of immense significance to the HR practitioner.  The practitioner must understand for instance the reasons that caused the formation of an informal group and what are its objectives.  The practitioner must understand the probable impact of the activities of the informal group on company objectives.  An informal group members interests reflect on a missing item or deficiency in the formal system.  Dealing with informal groups is a delicate issue – one may get total support for the company from such groups or a reject of set company rules and policies.

  1. This is the study of human mental processes.  The HR practitioner must understand the psychological processes in the employees.  The practitioner must have psychological in; counselling of employees, compensation, reward systems, discipline, conflict resolution, training programmes, recruitment and selection and so on.
  2. The HR practitioner is at the centre of the organisation in Communication matters. The role here is informational and decisional as well as interpersonal.  The practitioner must be a good communicator – clear, precise, accurate, timely, objective and so on.  These skills of communication are essential in all HR functional areas – recruitment and selection, training and development, policy formulation and interpretation, counselling, coaching and so on.
  3. Technology is vital for information processing.  The practitioner uses technology (HR management information systems, HRMIS) to access information when needed, make better decisions and store data.  This is to free the practitioner from repetitive paper work and make time for more important and strategic matters.
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