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How does HR work?

An HR department is responsible for the design of the formal system within an organisation to accomplish goals.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

An HR department is responsible for the design of the formal system within an organisation that ensures the effective and efficient use of the human talent to accomplish organisational goals.

HR activities

There are a series of HR activities involved in this system, including human resource planning, recruitment and selection, performance management, training and development, pay and reward, discipline and grievance. It aims to attract, develop and maintain an effective workforce to help the organisation achieve its business objectives.

What does HR do?

HR as a process needs to add value to an organisation. There’s a clear line of sight between what HR does and business ‘bottom-line’ outcomes. The main function of HR should align the day-to-day HR work with business outcomes. This means focusing more on deliverables and business results than HR activities (Ulrich, 2009, p. 6).

The HR challenges

These are three-fold:

  • To add value to the organisation
  • To demonstrate and prove how the function adds value
  • To communicate to internal customers the value HR contributes to the organisation
As a business partner, an HR practitioner needs to focus on creating value for other stakeholders: customers, capital markets, competitors and communities (Ulrich, 2009, p. 7).
Over the past decade, HRM has shed its old ‘personnel’ image and gained recognition as a vital player in corporate strategy (Wimbush 2005). Many large corporations are outsourcing routine human resource administrative activities, freeing HRM staff from time-consuming paperwork and enabling them to take on more strategic responsibilities. HR departments not only support an organisation’s strategic objectives but actively pursue an ongoing, integrated strategic HR plan for furthering the organisation’s performance.


Wimbush, J. C. (2005). Spotlight on human resource management. Business Horizons, 48(6), 463-467.

Ulrich, D. (2009). The HR business-partner model: Past learnings and future Challenges. People and Strategy, 32(2), 5-7.

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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