By Yvonne Nhuta

From health care to education, every industry makes use of personnel management. That is why Human Resources (HR) is so important to an organisation. HR is responsible for the management of employees and any workplace associated difficulties or complications. The Human Resource Manager (HRM) therefore serves asthe direct point of contact for both higher and lower-level employees when there are situations that need to be ironed out. They are accountable for sorting out the unavoidable problems that occur in any company structure,essentially making them the organisation’s strategic partner. By keeping both managers and subordinates happy, they help the company develop and achieve its business plans and objectives.

Being educated

The first step to becoming an HRM is getting a Bachelor’s degree in a field that includes aspeciality in human resources administration or human resources management. Depending on what types of courses a particular institution offers, courses that can lead to a career in human resources management can be found in departments such as business administration, education, organisational development and public administration. However people wishing to become human resources specialists should also consider taking courses in compensation, recruitment, training and development as well as principles of management and industrial psychology.

An advanced degree has become a valuable asset in the job industry. Higher-level positions require applicants to have postgraduate degrees in order to qualify. With an undergraduate degree it will be possible to work as an HR executive for a few years. However for the HRM position a

Master’s degree in human resources or industrial and labour relations will definitely prove advantageous. Getting educated is a worthwhile stepping-stone to reaching the bigger goal.

Being an employee advocate

Traditionally, the HR professional in most organisations was seenas the regulating arm of executive management. It was designed from the need to filter the personnel and administrative functions, and carry out the one-sided purpose of serving management. However, these days the role of the HRM isthat of an employee sponsor or advocate for change. This is why it is necessary for the HRM to be well versed in areas of performance development, appraisal systems, career and succession planning as well as reward recognition and strategic pay. This knowledge will better the chances of being able to create the right working environment in which employees will be motivated and content. As an employee advocate, the HRM helps ensure an organisational culture and atmosphere that gives people a reason to work efficiently and effectively.

The primary responsibilities of the HRM include:

    Recruiting and staffing
    Organisational departmental planning
    Performance management and improvement systems
    Employment and compliance to regulatory concerns regarding employees
    Policy development and documentation
    Compensation and benefits administration
    Employee services and counselling

Having a dual focus

As much as the HRM is there to be an advocate for the employees, the position is not one-sided. Being the HRM also means implementing policies that have been put in place by the company managers. There will be instances when the HRM is working for the good of the employee and others when they are working for the good of the company. That is why it is essential for the HRM to fully comprehend employment contracts, workplace discipline and employment equity. As such, the HRM will most likely have to deal with problems ranging from sexual harassment to insubordination, in which they will be expected to carry out swift and just decisions.

The University of Cape Town (Law@Work) Practical Labour Law course is presented online throughout South Africa. For more information contact Nikki on 021 447 7565 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Alternatively, visit