What is human resources management (HRM)?

Human resources management improves training, retention rates, and the employee experience.

No matter the business, no matter the industry, employees are crucial to an organization’s success. However, this wasn’t always well understood. In the 18th century during Europe’s industrial revolution, industry leaders Robert Owen and Charles Babbage began to make note of the connection between employee wellbeing and improved business growth. They concluded that without happy, healthy employees, organizations simply could not endure.

Modern views on employee experience and satisfaction have come a long way, but they all relate back to those early ideals championed by Owen and Babbage: If you improve the employee experience, you improve your business.

Human resources management (HRM) is a strategic approach to maximizing employee performance and employee experience by focusing on effective staffing, onboarding, deploying, and overseeing of the workers within an organization.

HRM is often referred to simply as HR (human resources), which also lends its abbreviation to the department within a company which is generally responsible for managing employee policies.


Although using the term ‘resource’ to describe human employees may strike some as dehumanizing, the reality is that employees are company resources—the most valuable and vital resources a company can have. HRM exists to help organizations more effectively manage their employee resources, resulting in several key benefits.

The following are some of the advantages of implementing a working HRM strategy:

  • Better training and faster onboarding
    Hiring, training, and outfitting a new employee is an investment, one that they won’t be able to start paying back until they get up to speed on the job. Human resources management improves and streamlines the training process, so that new employees can quickly learn the skills and policies they need to begin producing.
  • Increased employee adaptability
    In an effective HRM strategy, the training doesn’t cease with the onboarding process. Human resources management facilitates ongoing personal and professional development, so that employees can adapt to changes and growth within the company.
  • More accurate recognition of employee merit
    HRM can be implemented in performing regular employee-performance appraisals. This allows businesses to identify exceptional work, and honor the best employees with bonuses, privileges, and other rewards.
  • Improved conflict resolution
    When conflicts arise between individuals or parties within a company, human resources management can help provide a mediating influence. Impartial consultants and other resources help ensure that conflicts are resolved quickly, without disrupting the work.
  • Increased productivity
    An increased focus not only on providing the right training and tools, but also on improving the employee experiences creates a work environment in which employees can thrive. This means fewer hurdles standing in the way of productivity, for reduced costs and increased output.
  • Better employee quality of life
    A positive employee experience is something that contributes to all of the other benefits on this list—as well as certain benefits not addressed here. Employees who have a clear understanding of their value and a positive perception of their work life and their relationship with management are happier. And happier employees create a more effective organization.

Human resources management extends to influence many internal aspects of business. From staffing and retention, through establishing workplace policies, to regulatory compliance. In fact, any department that includes or interacts with employees will naturally be included in HRM.

That said, human resource management can usually be divided into three specific categories of responsibility: employee, workplace, and legal.

Employee experience

At its most basic, employee experience describes an employees perceptions and feelings throughout the entirety of the employee journey—from first encounters and onboarding, through to the time when they move on to other employment. HRM’s responsibilities extend across the entire employee journey as well, and include the following:


Human resources management during the recruitment stage focuses on developing reliable policies and plans designed to find the right people for the right positions. This responsibility can be broken down into four specific areas.

  • Staffing-plan development
    To determine the personnel needs of the company, human resources management will assemble a staffing plan. This helps specify the number and skillsets of the employees a company will need to hire to adequately fill their needs and accomplish their goals.
  • Hiring-policies development
    HRM will not only need to determine how many employees the company needs; it will also be responsible to develop and implement hiring policies. Some of these policies may be designed to promote increased multiculturalism in the workplace.
  • Recruitment
    Identifying, attracting, and interviewing potential hires also falls within the responsibilities of human resources management. Finding the right people to fill open positions may involve teams of recruiters, a single recruiter, or even recruiters outsourced from third-party firms.
  • Selection
    Interviewing, negotiating with, and finally hiring employees is the final step in HRM’s recruiting process.


There’s more to building an effective workforce than simply hiring the right people. Once the recruiting and selection process has found capable employees, human resources management must then begin helping these hires adjust to the social and performance aspects of their new job. HRM’s onboarding responsibilities include the following:

  • New-hire orientation
    Often, the first step in acclimating a new hire to their position is employee orientation. Orientation provides employees with basic information about the organization and prepares them to fulfill their role in the company. Orientation is also an opportunity to cement a positive relationship, and can set the stage for ongoing employee satisfaction.
  • Training and development
    While companies will often hire individuals for their skills and experience, most new hires will still require on-the-job training to perform their new functions satisfactorily. HRM’s responsibility is to not only instruct new hires in processes and expectations, but also to provide clear opportunities for ongoing development. Training must also include policy and legal training.
  • Compensation
    Human resource management is responsible for ensuring that compensation is fair, enticing, and meets established industry standards. In addition to determining salary for new hires, compensation responsibilities also include designating health benefits, retirement plans, paid time off, bonuses, and anything else that an employee might receive in compensation for the work they perform.

Retention initiatives

With the right employees hired and onboarded successfully, HRMs responsibilities shift towards retaining these employees within the organization. While employee compensation and salary may play a key role in whether or not an individual chooses to remain with a company, often there are other factors to consider as well—company culture, hierarchy, personal relationships, or issues with the job itself. To improve employee retention, human resource management’s responsibilities include the following:

  • Employee assessment
    Effective human resources management understands that employee assessment should be a two-way street. Evaluating employee performance and offering constructive criticism can help ensure that employees have the best opportunities for success. At the same time, soliciting honest feedback—often in the form of regular surveys—gives employees a chance to evaluate the company in general and their managers in particular.
  • Communication
    HRM has the responsibility of ensuring that communication channels are available and accessible for all employees. Effective communication provides a chance for dissatisfied employees to air their grievances and find solutions to issues before they reach the breaking point. Often, simply having the opportunity to vent will improve employee satisfaction.


Whether through voluntary resignation, involuntary termination, or retirement, eventually an employee and their company will need to part ways. Effective offboarding exists to ensure that this process is managed correctly, legally, and without leaving any loose ends. HRM’s offboarding responsibilities include the following:

  • Exit interviews
    Exit interviews are a final, formal opportunity for organizations and employees to exchange information before separating. HRM is responsible for establishing an exit-interview process—usually a one-on-one meeting or employee survey—that allows for open, honest communication. A properly managed exit interview will help generate reliable feedback on how to improve the organization, and allow a company and an ex-employee to part amicably.
  • Separation paperwork
    Legal offboarding requires documentation. Human resource management has the task of ensuring that all separation paperwork is in order and meets legal and company standards.
  • Coordination with IT
    As employees leave an organization, their access to company IT tools and resources must be revoked. HRM coordinates with IT to ensure that this process is carried out, and that any and all company-owned equipment is recovered and accounted for.
  • Final Payments
    HRM is responsible for ensuring that ex-employees receive payment for any outstanding work.

Workplace environment

Tied closely to the employee experience, the workplace environment can have a major impact on a company’s success. The term workplace environment describes the locations and conditions in which an employee operates. This includes physical issues related to the office itself, as well as less-tangible concerns, such as processes and procedures. Human resource management’s workplace-responsibilities include the following:

Workplace policies

Workplace policies exist to promote an environment conducive to productivity and equality. HRM is responsible for working with management and departments to identify the need for policies or policy changes, outlining these policies, seeking authorization and finalization for the policies, and then communicating the policies to the employees.

Policies may relate to dress codes, internet usage, disciplinary actions, or any other issues that are relevant to the work environment.

Office communication

An effective workplace environment cannot exist without reliable intra-office communication. HRM has the responsibility of establishing channels and coordination tools to promote clear, reliable communication throughout the work environment.


HRM is also closely involved with ensuring that businesses are adhering to applicable workplace laws and regulations. A well-run human resources management strategy helps promote vital compliance, and protects businesses and their employees from potentially devastating legal action. HRM’s legal responsibilities include the following:

Legal awareness

One of the most important duties of human resource management is being aware of the laws and obligations surrounding employment and business. These often include the following:

  • Discrimination laws
  • Healthcare requirements
  • Compensation requirements
  • Worker safety laws
  • Labor laws

Awareness of external factors

Although HRM is often thought of as being focused almost exclusively on the inner workings of an organization, it is also responsible for keeping up with external trends and other factors. These external factors may include the following:

  • Globalization, including international laws and regulations
  • Ongoing changes to employment law
  • Economic factors
  • Social factors
  • Technological advancements and trends
  • Healthcare costs

Given the wide range of HRM responsibilities, it makes sense that not every human resource management professional would adhere to the same specialization. Here are several areas within HRM than one may choose to focus their development on:

Workforce planning and employment

This may include creating and implementing a recruiting strategy, interviewing prospective hires, administering pre-employment tests, conducting background investigations, and processing promotions, transfers and terminations.

HR training and development

This may include developing and evaluating training programs, conducting training sessions, and maintaining records related to employee participation in training programs.

Total rewards/compensation benefits

This may include analyzing professional duties, creating job descriptions, performing evaluation and analysis, creating and reviewing compensation surveys, and managing any outsourced vendors who may be involved in these processes.

Employee and labor relations

This may include working with union contracts, resolving employee grievances, managing employee engagement programs, and negotiating collective bargaining agreements.

Risk management

This may include organizing and managing safety inspections, creating health and safety programs, keeping documentation of workplace safety incidents, preparing health and safety compliance reports, and maintaining a secure work environment.

Organizational leadership

This includes developing effective leadership techniques and programs, conducting professional workshops, and mediating conflicts.

Financial management

This includes planning department budgets, ensuring fair compensation for employees, and allocating resources for new programs and events.

Human resource management is a growing career field. Those who are interested in being a part of it should work on developing the following skills:

Employee relations

Employees put the human in human resources, so it’s no surprise that successful HRM professionals are adept at employee relations. The key here is the ability to work with both employees and administration, and to protect the interests of each at the same time.


Human resources management is extensively involved in the onboarding process, and prospective HRM professionals should be adept at finding and recruiting skilled individuals to join the organization.

HRIS proficiency

HRIS (human resources information software) is a class of software that automates and assists in certain HR tasks and processes. HRM professionals with a proficiency in using this kind of tool will be able to improve their productivity and efficiency.

Performance management

Strong communication and interpersonal skills—including empathy and emotional intelligence—serve HRM professionals well in performance management. By working with and motivating employees, human resource management can help them improve performance and accomplish company goals.


Human resource management extends into every department. As such, HRM professionals need to be able to collaborate effectively with non HRM personnel, identifying common goals and coordinating to overcome obstacles.


Scheduling, prioritizing, and rearranging tasks is an essential part of the HRM workload. Top HR managers are able to take into account many different conflicting schedules and produce a calendar that allows everyone to organize their time effectively.

Customer service

Although HRM is generally focused on employees, rather than customers, customer-service skills are still a valuable selling point. This is because conflict resolution is a major part of HRM, and customer-service skills carry over well into this responsibility.

Project management

HRM is often involved in larger, ongoing projects. Whether this means creating an employee handbook or revising out-dated workplace policies, being able to manage the time and resources needed to complete these projects is a valuable skill.

Worker’s compensation

HRM professionals need a clear understanding of the laws and policies regarding worker’s compensation. This includes drafting and overseeing plans of action for employee compensation in the event of a workplace accident, and helping employees and administrators navigate the compensation process.

Technological aptitude

We live in a digital world, and HRM professionals are expected to be able to keep up. A working knowledge of technologies and tools will help these professionals perform better and do more. Those with IT experience often have a leg up over those who do not.

Maximizing employee performance and employee experience means providing the right tools to help your people stay productive, informed, and happy. ServiceNow employee workflows give your workforce the information and resources they need to perform their best. Boost engagement, facilitate better communication, create improved solutions, and more. After all, your employees are your company’s most valuable resource; protect and support them, with ServiceNow.

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