Human resource management (HRM) is the strategic and coherent approach to the management of an organization’s most valued assets – the people working there who individually and collectively contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the business. Human resource management is both an academic theory and a business practice that addresses the theoretical and practical techniques of managing a workforce. Therefore, Human Resource Management (HRM) is the function within an organization that focuses on recruitment of, management of, and providing direction for the people who work in the organization.
Human Resource Management can also be performed by line managers. (Sparrow and Hilltop, 1994) Ethical issues and practices of the human resource management are the subject of this article that comprehensively addresses the questions of ethical approaches to the wide range of functional areas covered by the human resource management: recruitment, training and development, motivation, retention and termination. Particular attention is paid to the HR manager’s need to be cognizant of the organization’s interests while treating employees as more than only productive resources.
Moral Philosophy, Business Ethics and the Employment Relationship Suppose a company considers introducing a mandatory overtime policy, in which workers are fired if they refuse the order to work overtime. How is this action evaluated? Is it acceptable because it will improve economic efficiency, or because business owners have a right to implement working conditions as they want? Using ethical theories to evaluate behavior is an important application but they can also be used for positive analysis.
Ethics can help us understand actions in a positive or analytical sense rather than judge them in a normal or prescriptive sense. (Sparrow and Hilltop, 1994) There is a wealth of normative and positive ethical problems in this field of human resources and industrial relations, the full range of issues and intellectual perspectives on the employment relationships, from human resources management policies to industrial relations institutions, from theories of the labor movement to theories of government regulations, from property rights to human rights, and from unitarist to pluralist to critical schools of thought.
(Maundy, 2001) Recruitment We might expect gentler practices as related to recruitment. When recruiting the managers are expected to outline minimum qualifications, set an entry salary rate, advertise the position, refer applicants to hiring managers and review selection decisions in a way that balances the organization’s resources with an aim of finding the a well-qualified person. The ethical challenge here is to balance the individual’s expectation as well rights to equal opportunities with the organization’s obligation to resource stewardship.
The final step in the recruitment process is to select from among the applicants for a position however it is often performed by the hiring manager after the HR department has collected applications and eliminated people who clearly do not qualify. The HR manager establishes policies and procedures to be followed but may have little control over what occurs in the actual selection process. Screening of applicants can be performed by HR staff. They may add a set of preferred qualifications in addition to the minimum qualifications advertised that are more stringent.
They may use written or performance tests. In both of these cases the HR manager has to worry about not only being fair but also appearing fair. An ethical HR manager will implement systems to monitor the transfer of the training to the workplace and will build incentive systems that encourage safety. (Maundy, 2001) Training and Development The purposes of collecting personally identifiable information through monitoring technologies include “employee training and evaluation, facilities management and security-related objectives such as protection of tangible and intangible business assets and personnel.
Most employees presumably want to know the rules of the game. No one wants to be surprised by a new and unanticipated rule announced by management to deal with a given situation. Thus, at the least, management should design guidelines that accurately reflect its concerns and expectations as well as what is being monitored and measured. Employees certainly would want to be treated ethically. There should be few surprises, ideally the guidelines should be a product of an employer-employee team, responsible for the initial design and regular updates as well as evaluating effectiveness and fairness.
(Maundy, 2001) Motivation An emphasis on personal growth would be the likely response to problems of motivation or discipline. A managerial style that would focus on inspiration from the guru without being rigidly hierarchical or authoritarian would be probable. (Dale, 2001) In designing motivation systems, HR managers seek to align employees’ goals with those of the organization. This can be done coercively or by convincing employees of the worthiness of organization’s goals and the value of employee contributions to them.
Establishing effective motivation systems is difficult; ensuring they have not coercive element is almost impossible. The HR manager’s ethical challenge is to consider the amount of coercion used and discern whether it is reasonably balanced against the employees’ power in the situation and whether it serves the goals and values articulated by the employee. The problem of discernment for a HR manager wishing to behave ethically is determining the point at which “hazardous duty pay” stops being a reasonable recognition of risk freely undertaken by an employee and becomes an offer the employee truly could not refuse.
Coercion removes the employee’s freedom to choose, thus abridging the right to liberty. (Sparrow and Hilltop, 1994) Retention In the competitive world of today, organizations need individuals who perform well and remain as employees. Retention must be viewed as a strategic business issue. For instance, HR is accountable for workforce planning, staffing, and employee retention, all of which affect customer service. Organizations increase employee retention through formal career planning efforts. The tangible rewards that people receive for working come in the form of pay, incentives, and benefits.
A number of HR surveys reveal that one key to retention is to have competitive compensation packages. Managers believe that money is the prime retention factor. Often employees cite better pay or higher compensation as a reason for leaving one employer for another. However, recognition of an employee’s impact on the organization comes a long way in retaining the employees. (Dale, 2001) Termination Employee’s termination from a job may come as a last resort. Many a times, HR would have given a number of warnings, and failure by the concerned employee to change may result to termination of contract.
The process is usually gradual and articulate in that no malice is observed in the process, thus no account of unfairness. (Sparrow and Hilltop, 1994)
Dale, M. (2001): The Art of HRD: Developing Management Skills Vol. 3 Crest. Publishing House, New Delhi Maundy, L. (2001): An Introduction to Human to Human Resource Management: Theory And Practice: Macmillan, Palgrave Sparrow, P. and Hilltop, J. (1994): European Human Resource Management in Transition: Prentice Hall, New York