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HR: Main Concepts

Get to know the ins and outs of Human Resource by reading our guide of the main concepts and top marked essays.

The recruitment process

This starts with a vacancy, which could be due to someone leaving, or expansion of the business. A vacancy can be an opportunity to examine work roles to see what exactly needs to be done by the job holder. This should lead to a job description which states the roles, responsibilities and position of the vacant post. Having determined what the role is, the next stage is a person specification. This should state the knowledge, skills, attitude and experience required for a successful applicant. A decision on the level of training available to a successful applicant needs to be considered at this stage. Now that they know who they are looking for, the business can place a job advertisement. This may be placed internally and/or externally. The level of job and type of vacancy will determine the best place to advertise the vacancy- you wouldn’t advertise for a chief executive in the local paper or for a low level clerical job in a national paper. For some jobs, it might be best to use a professional recruitment agency. Some businesses may have already received a number of applicants sending in their CV on spec, so an advertisement is not deemed necessary. The business may want an application form completed which enables them to compare candidates, or may want a CV sent in which allows the candidate to express their own strengths.

The selection process

Having attracted suitable applicants, the business must now select the best ones. Applicants should be compared with the person specification. It is likely that some of the attributes are essential, while others are only desirable. With this in mind, a shortlist of possible candidates can be drawn up and they should be invited to the selection. This can consist of an interview, tests, role plays, practical exercises or anything else that the business thinks will best help them decide who the most suitable applicant is. Interviews are most common and it is quite likely that the manager of the vacant post and the HR department will be involved. Usually a set of questions will be drawn up in advance so that responses can be compared. It is important for a business to be as objective as possible. Often, people decide immediately if someone is suitable or not, and then use the questions to confirm their first opinion (the halo or horns effect). A successful interview process will ignore this and find the most suitable applicant regardless of personal feelings.


Training is the process of developing the knowledge, skills and attitude of employees so that they are able to perform the job more effectively. There are three main types of training. Induction training is the initial training a recruit gets to help them feel part of the business and learn their role in the organisation. On the job training takes place in the workplace and is usually about the specific skills and knowledge required for the job. It is usually one to one and ranges from watching and learning to coaching. Off the job training happens away from the workplace and often consists of day release to college, training courses or self study. The benefits of training should include higher work output, better quality work and more motivated staff. The main downside is the cost and time for the benefits to become apparent, and well trained staff may be more likely to leave. However, untrained staff may leave even sooner and cannot do a decent job in the meantime. Training should always come about because a need for it is recognised- in other words there is a difference between actual and expected performance. Managers may work closely with the HR department to identify this need, plan how to meet it and then implement the training.


In a one man business, one person does everything. A bigger business must be organised so that everyone knows their role, who is responsible for what and who, and also how communication will flow up and down through the business. This usually leads to a hierarchy with the senior people at the top (answerable to the owners) and various levels of manager going down to the workers at the bottom. Employees are usually organised into groups which are usually determined by function (e.g. marketing, production, finance), product line (e.g. Ford Focus, Ka, Galaxy), or geographical area (e.g. UK, Europe, Japan). Most large organisations will need to have a mix of this somewhere in the organisation chart but much can be seen by looking at how the responsibilities of the board of directors are organised. A danger with organisational structures is that some employees may develop a silo mentality- where different departments do not work or cooperate with each other. Reorganising a business is hard, but most businesses will be aware that it might be necessary as the business evolves. The HR department may be involved in any reorganisation at a strategic level. This is more likely if the most senior HR professional is at a senior level (e.g. director).


This is the process in which a manager reviews the performance of their staff, gives them feedback on it and agrees what needs to be done to raise performance to the desired level, or to help the employee move on to the next level. It may identify training needs and may be used as the basis for determining any pay rise or bonus. In large organisations it is likely to be a formalised process. An employee should feel motivated by the appraisal process as their hard work is recognised. They should also be clear on their targets for the next review period and how they can achieve them. The targets will normally be a mix of tangible things to achieve e.g. process 100 customer orders a day and intangible e.g. improve cooperation with another department.


Motivation is the desire to do a good job. A motivated workforce is very important for a business. It will produce more and deliver better customer service. Many factors contribute to a well motivated workforce and many management theorists have examined this. Financial rewards are a factor, but all the evidence suggests that while low pay and a feeling of being exploited demotivate employees, more pay does not in itself motivate people in the long run. Most people go to work for money but more money does not usually make them work harder. Factors which are more likely to motivate employees are satisfying work, a sense of achievement, praise and control over their work (empowerment). This means that motivation is largely dependent on how people are managed. A business with a demotivated workforce is unlikely to solve it by giving everyone a pay rise. Apart from the fact that this is likely to be expensive and may even lead to less motivation as people compare themselves unfavourably with colleagues, they will need to look more closely at their organisation.