Richard Heiser | Defining and Applying HRM in the Workplace


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Workforce management in the U.S. has an inglorious history.  In the first decades of our nation, commerce and public organizations operated without any meaningful oversight by law and only a rare sense of concern for their employees, who were commonly hired preferentially on the basis of the candidate’s national origin, religion, gender, physical ability, race, and in government, politics.  Conversely, there was flagrant (and legal) adverse discrimination in dismissals on the basis of those same factors.  For example, a firm might employ only white, male, evangelical Christians.  People with disabilities were simply ignored.  Teenage children were commonly employed in unsafe conditions.  Authoritarian, arbitrary and frequently ruthless supervision was normal.  Employees were dismissed on a whim, and the fear of job loss was the principal motivator in the workplace, where workers were often viewed as a commodity.

The Rights and Roles of Workers and Managers
Common to all organizations are the distinctive rights of management and those of non-management workers.  Common law has adopted a number of management rights and actions that allow employers sufficient authority to maintain the needs of productivity.  Contemporary legislative actions and courts protect the civil and human rights of employees.  It’s important to understand general parameters of employer-employee relationships.  Issues and disputes between the groups are most commonly about rights, compensation and conduct.  (Page 107 is a full page of the rights of the two parties.)

A Variety of HRM Priorities
In private and nonprofit organizations, there is often uncertainty of the role and differences in the responsibility, authority and duties of HRM as a distinct function.  Its influence depends largely on the conditions provided and expectation of executive management.  The form of the hierarchical level of those responsible is important: the authority and accountability assigned the function, the executive support and latitude provided, and the ability of those assigned.  The function is commonly directed to provide:

  • Applicable principles and policies
  • Special knowledge
  • An efficient personnel record system
  • Legal compliance
  • A legal staffing process
  • Uniformity, consistency and equity
  • Pay guidelines
  • Administration of benefit programs
  • Two-way communication systems
  • An efficiency personnel record system
  • Coaching and training on legal matters and risks
  • Oversight of personnel management situations

Organizations often outsource training, payroll, executive employment, benefit administration and related communication.  Designated oversight of these activities is necessary, and because payroll benefits are financial in nature, the accounting unit might be assigned some responsibility.  However, who does what isn’t important if the work is done well. 118

In start-up situations, preparation for even the first person to be hired requires preparatory groundwork: providing for forms, work analysis and job specifications, initial pay and benefit positions, and satisfying safety requirements.  The training of supervisors, methods of communication and the implementation of sustaining programs, including unemployment and workers’ compensation, must also be readied. 119 Individual managers should understand their role in personnel management matters: Is there authority to hire, fire, and change pay?  An HR specialist may be contracted to see an organization through the start-up stage until a structured condition with policy and programs is in place.

Learn About the Work
Before staffing, those responsible for hiring must clearly understand the work to be done.  Whatever its nature, the type of work determines the type of people who are interested in the job and who can do the job, the equipment necessary to perform the job, the nature of the workstation in which the job is to be accomplished, as well as necessary pay, training and safety needs.  Knowledge of the work to be done is core information in personnel staffing, training, compensation and performance evaluations.  Those interested in the history of work analysis should read about the time-and-motion studies of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth.

Applying Fair Employment
The most frequent allegations of discrimination are on the basis of race, gender, age and disability.  Remedies for victims can include issuing back pay, attorney fees and compensatory damages.  In the case of harassment, employers may also suffer a requirement of extensive remedial training of all employees by discrimination experts.


It is our policy to comply with federal, state and local fair employment opportunity statutes and regulations.


  • Job vacancies will be advertised in a manner intended to reach a diverse audience.
  • Choices among people for opportunities in employment are to focus on job-related considerations.
  • The steps (tests) used in employment procedures will be valid and applied in a manner consistent with equal opportunity.
  • When employees cross the threshold of the organization’s property, they are expected to set aside any prejudicial behaviors that are illegal in the workplace.
  • Our workplace is expected to be free of disrespectful treatment of people.
  • Our supervisors receive instruction on our fair employment practices.
  • We endeavor to comply with federal equal pay regulations.
  • Disadvantaged applicants and employees are to be accommodated in accord with laws.
  • We recognize the personal privacy rights of our employees.
  • We intend that any dismissal decisions be made on the basis of business necessity or failure to meet standards for performance or conduct. 267

Pay Protocols
Despite the unique nature of millions of organizations, the formation of direct pay schemes, as herein addressed, follow a clear pattern in private, public and nonprofit workplaces regardless of size.  Protocols and functional principles exist because rational, methodical decision- making is commonly understood and applied.  Even the smallest of firms pursues equity, consistency and understanding about practices among workers.


PURPOSE OR INTENT: This section typically references the need to recruit and retain personnel, along with the pursuit of equity and legal compliance.

SCOPE: Identifies the employee groups to whom the program applies.

COMPONENTS OF THE PAY PLAN: Includes reference to ranking, surveys, steps, or open ranges.

RESPONSIBILITIES: Defines who will do what (e.g., write job descriptions, provide oversight).  In the public sector, a governing body such as the school board or city council often oversees activity.

TIMING: Avoids any commitment to pay-review frequency, and instead declares flexibility.

AUTHORIZATIONS: Provides some identification of the executive level necessary to approve hiring pay, titles and pay changes, and establishes the practice that an employee should be notified of a pay change only after approvals.

Developing Pay Levels
The amount of money that people are paid emanates principally from the difficulty and responsibility of the work they perform; pilots, for example, earn more than flight attendants.  Methods of determining pay differentials among jobs can begin with a simple best guess ranking of their perceived value.  A small business is well aware of who can lay bricks and who can only be the helper.  Ladders of increasing job difficulty can usually be agreed upon with a minimum of disagreement.  However, it’s the determination of the degree of difference between the jobs – should the pay spread between the levels be small or great? – that requires complete and accurate analysis.

Legal Compliance (Introduction of the Chapter Summary)

Managing compliance and legal risks is a major function of contemporary HRM.  Owners, customers, employees and the public have interest in an organization functioning within the law.  Government regulators have a specific duty to ensure compliance and respond to employee and citizen complaints.  Management should consider the array of eyes they have upon them, the multitude of points at which they are vulnerable, and steps they can take to keep them within social parameters.

This chapter enumerates scores of federal and state legal obligations of public and private employers, principal among them federal statutes about illegal discrimination, employee health, pay practices, child labor and collective bargaining.  It identifies state and federal court actions that make employers financially vulnerable.  It goes on to suggest programs (EEO), activities (education) and resources (legal information) that managements can use to satisfy the law and reduce legal exposure.  HRM is the normal channel through which personnel regulatory matters become implemented in organizations.

Separation (Introductory Paragraphs)
The relationship of an employee and employer will come to an end.  At some point, one or the other of the parties initiates action to dissolve the relationship; very rarely is it a truly joint decision.  One or both parties will probably suffer emotional pain and/or financial setback, and because of the potential for legal issues, management must use caution when a termination threatens.

Different forms of separations can be confusing because of the terms and language applied.  Separations are permanent, and either voluntary or involuntary, not to be confused with temporary layoffs or leaves of absence.  People removed from the payroll can be fired, dismissed or terminated, all terms that suggest misbehavior.  Other common expressions are downsized or released, which normally indicate that the separation is without prejudice, often occurring due to reduced activity or reorganization.  The terms separation or termination are often used interchangeably and indicate removal from the payroll and a break in service with the organization.  Furloughed is vacation time in military parlance, but when used to camouflage involuntary separation in the civilian sector can be viewed as deceptive; whether the departure is permanent or temporary is unclear.  The preferred expressions for an absence that both parties expect to be temporary are a voluntary leave of absence or an involuntary layoff.

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