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Definition of HR? Hint: It’s More than ‘I’m a People Person’

HR Management
by Stephen Bruce, PhD, PHR

When you talk to most HR professionals and ask them to define HR, you are likely to get a response that is similar to “HR is about the people” or “HR is about the greatest asset of any organization which is the people.”

When we asked Kojo Amissah, SPHR, HRMP, MBA from Ghana to define HR, he provided an answer you don’t hear every day: “HR is about the business to the extent to which you can utilize people to obtain business goals.”

Amissah supported his answer by explaining the reason why businesses do focus on the people that work for them and why it is a priority to ensure employees are happy, satisfied and motivated. Simply put, he says, “Organizations want people engaged to help achieve business goals. That is why employee satisfaction is so important”.

Amissah provided a great analogy that compares employees to the customers which the organization serves. Many of us ensure that when we encounter our customers we treat them with respect and kindness, and before ending our engagement we make certain that all of their needs were met.

Amissah asked us to think about why we take such care and spend so much energy on making our customers happy. Not a hard question at all. We want our customers to have a great experience so they will be repeat customers and tell all of their friends about the service and/or product we are offering coupled with the great experience they had.

Companies do the same. To ensure that they continue to attract the best talent, keep the best talent, and have a reputation for doing so, organizations must work hard to make their employees happy. The end result impacts the business’s bottom line.

Amissah believes that HR is put in place to ensure employees are happy and well engaged so in turn they will do more for the company. He suggests that HR leaders combine satisfaction with performance. It will allow them to better measure success. When linking HR to people alone it is almost impossible to measure performance but linking the people with business goals will provide HR with a more tangible gauge.



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  1. Anonymous        
    October 25, 2012 4:57 am

    I totally agree with Amissah, and have been saying a similar refrain for many years – employees and clients are not so different, and you cannot have a business without both.

    I would argue, however, that it is the role of the company NOT to make employees “happy”. It is our role to provide fair pay, treat them well, give them training and tools for success, keep them safe, provide a good work environment, and then, if they are the right employees, they will be happy at their job.

  2. Anonymous        
    October 25, 2012 9:14 am

    I agree with Linda Metzger.

    One definition of “happy” is “satisfied.” Those who study organizational behavior have said for decades that the relationship between satisfaction & performance is just the opposite of what the average person might think. Good performance, to the extent that it leads to rewards that recipients value, may actually increase satisfaction (happiness).

  3. Anonymous        
    October 26, 2012 6:49 am

    I agree with Amissah and the ladies, we need to treat everyone as a customer, in business, in our personal lives. It is critical that people can depend on us, when we tell them that we are going to do something, we deliver! Like Linda, I have preached the “customer service” mantra. That message needs to go beyond HR – throughout the entire business.

  4. Anonymous        
    October 27, 2012 7:04 am

    It is wonderful explanation of what is HR by Ammissah . The theme of the definition is Employee happiness and satisfaction related to achieve organisation goal. A realistic view of HR role in a business organisation

  5. Anonymous        
    November 8, 2012 1:24 am

    Great idea…the HR job is about valuing people, letting them achieve their best in the most conducive and regulated environment; its then that maximum performance is achievable and employee satisfaction unparalled.

  6. Anonymous        
    November 9, 2012 4:05 am

    I prefer to think of HR as similar to the United Nations, we benefit the world as a whole, and the people are our customers and we work hand in hand with diplomats, representatives, ambassadors (managers, supervisors) to make the world (or company) a healthier more engaging place. We cannot minimize the role or impact of front line supervisors and managers as supporting and guiding them is key to creating or maintaining employee engagement.

  7. Anonymous        
    November 9, 2012 6:52 am

    I totally agree with Linda. Many times professionals consider or use HR as the department of Sunshine and Rainbows vs. the department who aligns “the people” with business strategy.