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At its simplest, the function of Human Resource Management (HRM) is concerned with managing the employed individuals who work within an organisation, in order to provide quality goods or services (Kleynhans et al 2006). Examples within public services include various organisations and can be either directly linked via education, policing, defence or indirectly linked via provision of roads and waste collection (Massey and Pyper 2005). Effective and purposeful human resource management aims to make the organisation successful while valuing employee's contributions and helping them achieve more within a safe working environment. It also ensures that employee's efforts and hard work are rewarded so that they are empowered to continue working efficiently (Kleynhans et al 2006). These aims are imperative within the public services due to the nature of the service it provides and the individuals who it caters for.
In this essay, I am going to research and explain how human resource management has developed over time and how it applies to public services. I will also look at what challenges human resource management has faced to date, along with those challenges that public services may continue to face. In relation to the challenges discussed, examples of real life practice will be given in order to help advocate the discussed concepts.
Human resource management and managing people, formally known as personnel administration (Kleynhans et al 2006) has changed dramatically over the course of the twentieth century (Berman et al 2010). Towards the beginning of the nineteenth century, wage labour was typically seen as a primary resource which centred on internal processes such as recruitment, discipline, compensation and the application of rules and procedures (Berman et al 2010). Due to its influential nature, within the public and private sector it was tightly supervised and controlled. Within this time period the organisation governed the employees, and in return for a wage, employees were expected to accept and comply with the current work regime. However by the end of nineteenth century, a fairer and more humane approach to managing people was being implemented which we now know as human resource management and is a key business responsibility (Dransfied 2000).
In today's society, human resource management conceptualizes many differing factors; it is broader, more strategic and centres around having a greater person oriented approach than previously (Berman et al 2010). This method of management strives for increased employee contribution throughout the organisation, from the initial hiring through to motivation and the maintenance of effective human resources (Berman et al 2010). Additionally human resource management collaborates all the decisions that affect the relationship between the individuals and the organisation that they work for. These can include the development of both the individual and the organisation, overall performance management, systems of rewards and benefits, and improvements in productivity and staffing levels (Abramson & Gardner 2002).
Human resource management plays a vital part in any successful industry and it is essential to consider that the individuals and their knowledge is what remains a key resource within any knowledge based economy. This can be seen throughout any public service, as it is the existing employees which are the key drivers in economic stability and growth (Dransfied 2000). Human resource management in the public services face many challenges, however these challenges can similarly be applied to many other large organisations around the world.
The human resource management challenges that will now be discussed include a changing workforce, declining confidence in government, declining budgets (costs and targets), downsizing of the workforce (recruitment), demands for productivity and multi-agency working. These challenges influence the way managers carry out their organisational functions, with each challenge having significant implications for human resource management and the way public services are evolving (Berman et al 2010).
An ever changing workforce; the workforce has become both older and younger at the same time with little middle ground. Those born between 1960 and 1980 who might replace the many seasoned employees and managers who are in jobs now, are just not there, both in numbers and qualifications needed which has caused a greying and older workforce with retirement age being later in life than ever before (Berman et al 2010). However, with the large baby bomb that hit in the new millennia, candidates have now begun to enter the workforce looking to take up these positions, but through other influential factors, which will be discussed later; these positions and job roles are now not any longer open for recruiting (Berman et al 2010). Any industry or sector including that of public services will only be successful if the human resource management and executive body can respond well to the kind of change that is prevalent in its industry (Study Mode 2011). This includes that of a changing workforce and one certainty is that change in one shape or another will happen again.
A declining confidence in government; both trust in government and parliament has decreased dramatically since 2011, according to the data collected by the Euro barometer (The Guardian 2012). The results show that around only a quarter of people who were aged 15 and over tended to trust the UK parliament in this year's findings (The Guardian 2012). Many public opinion trends in several major democracies not just that of Euro barometer, are showing a decline of trust in politicians and parliament itself (Bowler and Karp 2004). Both the UK parliament and government saw a relative high in 2007, with around 41% of individuals surveyed stating that they trust the UK parliament and 34% stating that they trust the decisions made by the government. This can be compared to the 2012 figures, which have concluded that only 23% of individuals have any trust in parliament and 21% in that of government (The Guardian 2012). This is a clear indication that confidence and support for these organisations are declining. With figures as low these this can erode the moral of the public service members and impede overall performance, therefore it will remain a challenge not only for human resource managers but for any public service employee and the establishment as a whole.
A declining budget; a combination of tax limitation measures, budget cuts, and political pressure to curb future expenditures has occurred at all levels of government impacting on the public services (Berman et al 2010). The police service is an example of one public service that the declining budgets are dramatically affecting, in October 2010; the government announced that the central funding provided to the police service would be reduced by 20 percent between March 2011 and March 2015 (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary 2012). With these implications all human resource managers in public services are finding it more and more of a challenge to run their departments efficiently and meet targets laid out by the government. According to the BBC (2012), the Met, Devon and Cornwall and Lincolnshire police constabularies are all at risk and may not be able to provide an efficient or effective service in the future. Another less publicised public service that budget cuts are dramatically affecting is the Criminal Justice System. Which plans to make a 2 billion pound cut in its 9 billion pound annual budget, this is said to equate to around 15,000 jobs being at risk, prisons being closed and courts being brought to a standstill (The Guardian 2010). Both of these examples indicate that this particular problem may be too big of a challenge even for the best human resource managers within today's economic climate.
A downsizing of the workforce; 'downsizing is defined as the planned elimination of positions and jobs' and the word elimination really drives home what can be the cruel reality in many industries (Public Service 2011). The belief that reduced staff numbers can be made productive enough to compensate for the work formally completed by normal staff levels seems to lack credibility in many cases (Proctor n.d). Those remaining after downsizing are said to be either at their best and encouraged to improve their productivity, or at their worst and feel threatened and live in a state of fear of losing their jobs and as a result become stressed, worn out and even ill (Proctor n.d). An example of this is in the police service with the proposed budgets cuts, there are statistics stating that these proposals will reduce their total workforce by 32,400 by the end of March 2015 (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary 2012). This is not simply increasing the challenge for human resource managers who are finding it hard enough with budget cuts, but with so many public service workers being laid off, many are saying it's almost impossible and are becoming overly stressed and worn out from this idea.
Within public services, human resource management can be a vital tool in developing and establishing future capabilities to respond to changes and challenges that may unfold in future scenarios within society (Michell and Casey 2007). As a method of achieving this, organisational leaders and mangers must remain focussed on recruiting employees with specific knowledge and expertise to obtain both current and future agency, business and personal aims (Michell and Casey 2007).
A demand for productivity; human resource managers at all levels are under pressure to improve performance without raising costs in public services, but with so many contributing factors already discussed like budget cuts, staffing cuts and morale at rock bottom, this is becoming more challenging every day. Public service workers are being asked to do more and more and in particular the police service has had enough, according to the Telegraph (2012). More than 20 thousand police, including that of Constable's, Sergeants, Inspectors and many other ranking managers alike, have took to the streets to protest against the cuts to public services and in particular policing (Telegraph 2012). People can, and frequently do change jobs, they can move from one organisation where they don't feel their contribution is valued to one where their efforts are recognised and rewarded. Yet within public services human resource managers can do very little to change the minds of thousands of employees and this will remain a challenge in the future as well (Dransfied 2000).
Multi-agency working; specific human resource management systems and organisational performance have been linked together through evidence. Among management professionals and human resource managers there is an intrinsic belief that developing positive relationships with employees and other organisations will be both rewarding and profitable for any establishment (Metcalfe and Dick 2000). Multi-agency working is and will continue to be a challenge for human resource managers in public services because of all the previous challenges mentioned. Efficiency within the public service will be determined by collaboration between agencies, however if budget cuts and staffing cuts etc continue like they are now this will break down even the best of public services.
Overall, money remains the most influential factor that affects the entire country; therefore it has prominent consequences for the public services and the human resource management that structures these organisations into a well-resourced and resilient public service. This highlights the imperative need for constructive and efficient human resource management, to ensure that the services provided to the public are not directly affected by the financial constraints put on them by the government and the economy as a whole.
A method of facilitating that the public services have the human resources capable of meeting its operational objectives within available financial resources, is to ensure that effective human resource planning is in place (Dransfied 2000). This can be achieved by developing a multi-skilled and flexible work force that can adapt its processes rapidly in relation to the operational environment whilst making optimum use of its human resources (Dransfied 2000).
To conclude, Human Resource Management (HRM) is concerned with managing the employed individuals who work within an organisation, in order to provide goods or services, and aims to make the organisation successful while valuing employee's contributions and helping them achieve more within a safe working environment (Kleynhans et al 2006). Human resource management has developed over the years and now conceptualizes many differing factors; it is broader, more strategic and centres around having a greater person oriented approach (Berman et al 2010).
In this essay, I have researched and explained how human resource management came to be and how it applies to public services. I have also look at what challenges human resource management have faced, along with those challenges that public services may continue to face. Human resource management has and will continue to experiences substantial challenges in its attempts to increase effectiveness and efficiency and reduce costs, whist improving the overall quality and extending the benefits of public services to all. These challenges will remain a long term priority, rather than short term not only in England but worldwide (Lane 1998). I have also come to the conclusion that a declining and inadequate budget is the underlying challenge for any human resource manager in the public services and while figures continue to be as low as they are in today's society. This will erode the moral of the public services and impede performance, so will remain a challenge not only for human resource managers, but for any public service employee and the establishments themselves.
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