The importance of Human Resource Management

Human resources management has become a crucial part of any organisation and it is important to know what it comprises to determine whether this is the career path for you. Here we discuss exactly what HR  is about.

UJ - HR Blog June








Human resource management (HRM) is often regarded as the backbone of a successful organisation as it plays a critical role in driving growth and fostering a positive work environment. HRM is the management of people (the human resources) within an organisation to maximise efficiency, productivity and in most cases profit.

The business environment is constantly changing and organisations need to continuously adapt. This means that organisations need to be strategic in how they manage their most valuable resource and must keep up to date with evolving technology by ensuring staff have the necessary skills to remain effective and efficient.

In this article, we will shed light on the importance of HRM and how it contributes to the overall well-being of employees and boosts organisational performance. We’ll answer some common questions, take a look at human resource management courses and qualifications and cover some of the skills that you will need for a successful career in human resources.

We’ll also answer some South Africa-specific questions, such as how much HR professionals earn in South Africa and the different HR courses that are recognised in the country.



Human resource management defined


Human resource management (HRM) is the process of managing an organisation’s employees to achieve the goals of the organisation. It involves recruiting and selecting employees, providing training and development opportunities as well as ensuring that employees are treated fairly and equitably. HRM also includes administering benefits, managing performance and ensuring that the organisation remains in compliance with labour laws and regulations.

For a concise definition, we can also turn to the Cambridge Dictionary, which defin2es human resource management as: “the activity of managing a company’s employees, for example, by employing new workers, training them, managing their employment records, and helping them with problems”.




Examples of human resources


Human resource managers are responsible for multiple tasks within an organisation. Here are three examples of areas that HR managers are involved in.

One of the first fields of human resources that first-time job seekers and graduates are likely to encounter is the recruitment and selection of employees. HR managers and departments are responsible for attracting, screening, interviewing and selecting the most suitable candidates for specific jobs within the organisation.

New employees at an organisation who’ve successfully navigated the recruitment process will likely encounter another important function of the HR department, which is training and development. This is, however, not limited to new employees as HR departments are also responsible for the continuous development and upskilling of all employees.

After having worked for a few months at a new organisation, employees will likely encounter the HR department once again as they carry out the task of performance management. At its most simple, this entails assessing the employee’s performance against an appraisal system but effective HR managers will also seek to improve performance through support such as additional training and skills development. In more dire cases, this can result in retrenchment, which will bring the HR department back to the process of once again selecting and recruiting new staff.




Modern HRM history


The first recorded use of the term “human resources” dates back to 1893, when US economist John R. Commons used it in his book The Distribution of Wealth. However, the field has evolved greatly since entering more common usage in the 1960s.

During the 1960s and 1970s the field built on its strictly administrative functions of payrolls, records and legal compliance to become more strategic. Recognising that effective management of employees could provide a company with a competitive advantage, human resource departments began to include elements from the social sciences, such as psychology, organisational behaviour and motivation theory.

Technological advances in the 1980s and 1990s introduced software and other information systems to the field of HR, allowing for greater efficiency and giving HR managers access to increasing amounts of data.

More recently, the field continues to see technological improvements in systems and efficiency. HR departments today are building on the strategic foundations of the 1960s that saw good HR as having the potential to provide a competitive advantage, however, they now place far more emphasis on issues such as employee wellbeing, diversity and sustainability.






Successful companies or organisations are those that most efficiently allocate and effectively utilise the resources at their disposal. While different industries work with very different resources, the one that is common to all organisations is their staff. As such, human resource management’s role is to get the best out of an organisation’s employees.

Human resource managers are responsible for managing the recruitment, training, and development of employees, as well as providing them with the necessary tools and support to be successful.





A human resource management system (HRMS) makes it much quicker and easier for HR managers to do their job. The purpose of an HRMS is to store, record and process much of the data that HR specialists must work with, such as employee records, payroll processing and employee performance.

This allows them to handle far larger teams than they could if they had to manually carry out all the repetitive administrative tasks that an HRMS automates.






HR departments carry many responsibilities in an organisation. The four main functions and skills for HR specialists revolve around recruitment and selection, training and development, compensation and benefits and employee relations, which we will cover in more detail below.




Recruitment and selection


Human resource managers are responsible for all of an organisation’s recruitment. Their objective is to attract and select the people who are most suitable for the roles and who can perform that roles as efficiently and effectively as possible. The tasks involved in achieving this objective include the writing up of job descriptions, advertising job vacancies, screening and interviewing candidates and carrying out background and reference checks.

Other benefits of effective recruitment and selection processes are that they can help to improve the organisation’s reputation as an employer, attract high-quality candidates and increase employee retention rates.




Training and development


HR departments are responsible for all the staff training and development within an organisation. This includes training and onboarding of new employees as well as ongoing skills development for existing employees.

The aim of this is to provide employees with the skills they need to remain effective at their jobs, maximise their potential and prepare them for future job responsibilities and career advancement opportunities.

Another objective of training and development is to increase employee engagement and motivation. This also has the added benefit of helping with staff retention as employees can grow within the organisation and are less likely to want to change jobs.




Compensation and benefits


It is the human resources department’s responsibility to set up and manage the organisation’s compensation and benefits system so that the organisation can attract and retain suitably skilled employees. Compensation includes an employee’s basic salary as well as additional performance incentives or bonuses.

Some examples of common employee benefits are medical aid and retirement plans. Some companies may also offer employee discounts or other perks such as a company car. HR managers must also ensure that all compensation is legally compliant and that any resulting tax liabilities are met.



Employee relations


HR departments are tasked with the responsibility of maintaining good relations between the organisation and its employees. HR managers must develop policies and procedures for employee conduct, the handling of employee grievances and the promotion of a positive work culture.

Good employee relations should promote a working environment that is both supportive and positive for employees. This in turn benefits the organisation through increased job satisfaction, higher levels of productivity and improved employee retention rates.






If you would like to become a human resources specialist then you will need to study human resources, preferably through one of the human resource management courses that are fully accredited with the South African Qualifications Authority. Once qualified, HR specialists in South Africa should also register with the South African Board of People Practices (SABPP), which is the professional body that handles human resources and designations in South Africa.




What are HR managers and their responsibilities?


A human resources manager is responsible for overseeing and managing an organisation’s HR department. HR managers must ensure that the organisation attracts, develops and retains high-performing employees while maintaining positive employee relations and ensuring compliance with employment laws and regulations.

You can look at our earlier section on HR functions and objectives for some more detail on the responsibilities of an HR department that an HR manager must oversee.




List of human resource management qualifications


There are several different academic qualifications to choose from to qualify as a human resources specialist or practitioner. Here is a comprehensive list of all human resource management qualifications that are recognised by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA):

At NQF level 4:

  • Further Education and Training Certificate: Human Resource Management


At NQF level 5:

  • Higher Certificate in Human Resource Management
  • National Certificate: N4 Human Resource Management
  • National Certificate: N5 Human Resource Management
  • National Certificate: N6 Human Resource Management


At NQF level 6:

  • Diploma in Human Resource Management
  • Diploma in Human Resource Management Practice
  • National Diploma: Business Studies: Human Resource Management
  • National Diploma: Human Resource Management


At NQF level 7:

  • Advanced Diploma in Human Resource Development
  • Bachelor of Administration in Human Resource Management
  • Bachelor of Commerce in Human Resource Management
  • Bachelor of Human Resource Management


At NQF level 8:

  • Bachelor of Administration Honours in Human Resource Management
  • Bachelor of Arts Honours in Human Resource Management
  • Bachelor of Commerce Honours in Human Resource Management
  • Bachelor of Social Science Honours in Human Resource Management
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Education Human Resource Management
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Human Resource Management
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Strategic Human Resource Management


At NQF level 9:

  • Master of Administration in Human Resource Management
  • Master of Arts in Human Resource Management
  • Master of Commerce in Human Resource Management
  • Master of Human Resource Management
  • Master of Management in Human Resource Management
  • Master of Management Sciences in Human Resource Management
  • Master of Philosophy in Human Resource Management


At NQF level 10:

  • Doctor of Commerce in Human Resource Management
  • Doctor of Human Resource Management
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Human Resource Management




How many years to study HR Modules & HR subjects


As shown above, several human resource management qualifications are recognised in South Africa. These human resource management qualifications range from one-year diplomas up to doctoral qualifications that can take as long as 10 years of study.

Here in South Africa, the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) acts as the professional body for the HR profession. It was established in 1982 and has since then registered more than 20,000 HR specialists and professionals in five different categories of designation. The SABPP requires at least an NQF level 4 designation for its entry-level designation, with more senior designations requiring higher NQF level qualifications. These designations also require relevant work experience, usually the same number of years as the years of study, though there are also requirements for the work experience to be at a suitable level of responsibility.

The lowest level of human resources qualification is at NQF level 4, which is a one-year certification. This is the minimum requirement for the SABPP’s entry-level designation of a human resources technician.

Next up in the SABPP hierarchy is a human resource associate, which requires an NQF level 5 qualification that takes two years to complete.

To qualify as a human resource professional at the SABPP requires either an NQF level 6 or 7 qualifications, either of which takes three years to complete.

HR practitioners who have completed an NQF 8 qualification can register as chartered human resource professionals. This is a postgraduate qualification and requires a total of four years to complete when the undergraduate qualification is included.

The SABPP’s highest designation is that of a master human resource professional, which requires an NQF level 9 or higher qualification. This requires five years of studies at the very minimum.




Skills for HR career & opportunities


If you would like to pursue a successful career in human resources, you will need a combination of technical knowledge and soft skills. While some of the job involves administrative tasks, human resource professionals by definition work with people from day to day. This requires strong communication skills and ethics as well as a high level of emotional intelligence and empathy or understanding of people.

On the technical side, HR professionals need to be well-organised and pay attention to details, while also having the necessary knowledge to work with HR software and systems. A successful career in HR also requires a commitment to continuous learning and professional development. HR professionals need to stay up to date with the latest trends and best practices in HR and adapt to changes in the workplace.




How much does HR earn in South Africa?


Jobs listing website Indeed.com provides average salaries for the following HR positions based on data from recent job postings in South Africa.





Here are some common questions relating to human resources that you might want answered.



What is HRM software?


HRM software, also known as human resource information systems (HRIS), is software used to manage and store employee information. It helps organisations to better track and streamline their HR processes from recruitment to performance management. HRM software also automates repetitive and time-consuming tasks such as creating employee profiles, tracking attendance, managing payrolls and generating reports.

Another benefit of HRM software is that it can help organisations better understand their workforce by providing insights into employee performance and satisfaction levels. With the help of information supplied by the software, human resources specialists have the tools to make data-driven decisions that can improve the organisation’s efficiency and productivity.




What are the top 5 HRIS systems?


There are many different lists and rankings online of different HRIS systems, but finding agreement among them is difficult. Aside from many lists promoting referral links, this issue is complicated by the fact that determining the best HRIS system for an organisation depends on its specific needs and budget.

When deciding on the best HRIS system, HR managers must consider factors such as company size, the complexity of the HR processes and the level of integration required with other systems.

Forbes Advisor produced a list of the best HRIS systems for 2023, based on what it called an “unbiased five-star rating system to rank and rate each company researched”. They also provided different rankings for different needs, with the following HRM systems being selected as the best option for each purpose:




What are the three types of HR software solutions?


There are three main types of HR software solutions: applicant tracking systems (ATS), human resource information systems (HRIS) and employee self-service (ESS). Each type is designed to meet different needs, from recruitment to performance management.

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is used to manage the recruitment process, from job postings to candidate selection. It helps recruiters streamline their workflow by automating many of the manual tasks associated with recruitment.

Human resource information systems (HRIS) provide a comprehensive overview of employee data, including payroll, benefits, leave and performance reviews. It helps HR departments keep track of all employee information and streamlines many administrative processes.

Employee self-service (ESS) solutions allow employees to access certain HR information and perform certain tasks without having to contact an HR representative directly.

It is worth noting here that there are many other names and types of HR software solutions that you may come across in the field of human resource management. These include talent management systems (TMS), human capital management (HCM) systems and human resource management systems (HRMS).



Is SAP an HRMS software?


SAP, which was abbreviated from Systems Applications and Products, is a company that develops and provides a range of software applications and solutions for large enterprises. Although it labels it as a human capital management system, SAP does offer a human resource management system (HRMS) software application.

SAP SuccessFactors is a cloud-based HRMS solution that provides a comprehensive set of tools for managing HR processes, such as employee benefits and payroll management, talent acquisition and development and performance and goal management. The solution also includes modules for core HR processes, such as employee data management, time and attendance tracking, and compliance reporting.




What is the role of a human resource manager?


Although they are rarely in the spotlight, human resource managers are integral to their organisation. Employees are any organisation’s most important asset and HR managers are responsible for managing the recruitment, training and development of employees.

HR managers also assist in resolving conflicts between staff members and other employee relations issues such as disciplinary actions and performance reviews. Through creating a positive work environment, successful HR managers help organisations attract and retain top talent in the organisation.

It is also the responsibility of the human resource department to ensure compliance with all relevant labour laws and regulations, which also entails setting up policies and procedures to ensure that the workplace is safe and productive.




What are the three major roles of human resources management?


The roles carried out by HRM can be split into the following three broad categories: recruitment, training and employee relations.

These three roles were described in the examples of human resources section towards the start of this article. The first two roles are relatively self-explanatory, but employee relations is a bit more of a blanket term. In the example above, we spoke of performance management and performance reviews, but more recent HRM best practice involves an ongoing process of nurturing employees rather than just an annual review.




What is the highest role in HR?


The highest role in HR is usually that of the chief human resources officer (CHRO), who oversees the entire human resources department. The CHRO has ultimate responsibility for setting policies, recruiting and developing talent, managing employee relations and directing overall human resources strategy.

It is, however, entirely possible that an organisation does not have a CHRO and instead has another title for the person in charge of the HR department. Depending on an organisation’s structure and naming conventions, the head of the HR department could instead be called the director of human resources or even the vice president of human resources.




What is the lowest position in HR?


The lowest positions in human resource departments are usually entry-level roles doing more basic administrative tasks. Exact names and job titles differ from organisation to organisation, but these are usually called HR assistant or HR administrator positions.

International job site Indeed.com provided a recently updated list of titles and average salaries for various HR positions based on their data. In addition to listing HR assistants and HR administrators, it also named staffing specialists, staffing controllers, HR associates and HR representatives among the entry-level job titles.




What are the five main areas of HR?


Earlier in this article we spoke of the four main functions of HRM and listed them as recruitment and selection, training and development, compensation and benefits and employee relations.

In addition to these four functions, we can also include HR administration. Administrative tasks include record keeping, payroll processing and regulatory compliance.




What are the objectives of human resources?


We went into some detail about the objectives and functions of human resources earlier in this article, where we spoke of four main objectives. These were recruitment and selection, training and developmentcompensation and benefits and employee relations.

A fifth objective of HR that can be added to that list is to carry out effective HR administration. These tasks include record-keeping, payroll processing and regulatory compliance. HR personnel must ensure that their organisation is in compliance with all labour laws and regulations and that employee records are accurate.




What is an example of a human resources objective?


Up until now, we’ve spoken of human resource objectives in quite broad and general terms. We’ve spoken of the HR objectives of carrying out effective recruitment and selection, training and developmentcompensation and benefits and employee relations, but these objectives should be measurable within a real-world organisational setting.

A popular way of setting management goals or objectives is to use the SMART technique, which is to set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Going by this method, an example of a measurable and time-bound human resources objective could be: “To reduce employee turnover rate by 10% within the next 12 months through implementing retention strategies such as improving employee engagement, enhancing the benefits package and offering career development opportunities.”



What are the seven functions of HR?


We’ve already gone into some detail on some of the most important roles and functions that HR personnel carry out in their jobs. Building further on that, we can list the seven functions of human resources (HR) as:



What is the HR planning process?


The human resources planning process is a strategic process that helps an organisation identify its current and future human resource needs, and develop strategies to meet those needs while also making the best possible use of the skills and abilities of all employees. HR planning involves multiple steps and HR planners need to carefully ensure that the HR plan is well aligned to the specific situation of the organisation to help it achieve its long-term goals.

While HR plans need to be variable and customised to the organisation, several HR planning steps are common across different industries and organisations.

The first step in the HR planning process is to assess the organisation’s HR needs. HR planners must work out both the current and future HR needs of the organisation, taking into account its business objectives and projected growth. The next step is to assess the organisation’s current HR resources so that this can be compared against the current and future HR needs, allowing HR personnel to identify any gaps or areas of weakness.

Once those two steps are complete, HR planners must develop strategies to address any gaps or weaknesses that were identified. Examples of this could be recruiting new employees with skills that are in short supply or instead building up those skills among current employees through training and development plans.

Lastly, these strategies need to be carried out and continuously monitored and evaluated to ensure the organisation’s HR needs are being met. Although often neglected, this last step is important as it allows for ongoing adaptation and adjustment. Without this, an organisation may otherwise be too slow to timeously respond to any unintended flaws in the plan or changing market conditions that threaten its goals.




What are the types of HR planning?


Human resources management is highly influential on an organisation and its operations and there are different types of HR planning to account for these many aspects of an organisation’s operations.

The simplest way is to split HR planning into two types – either hard HR planning or soft HR planning. Hard HR planning takes a more quantitative and data-driven approach to HR planning, while soft HR planning is more qualitative and people-centred. Hard HR planning focuses on organisational objectives, maximising efficiency and the bottom line, while soft HR planning focuses on employee wellbeing and development.

Another way of defining the types of HR planning is to split them into operational, tactical and strategic planning. Under these three divisions, operational HR planning focuses on day-to-day HR activities such as recruitment, selection and training. Tactical HR planning looks a little further ahead to focus on the short-term goals of an organisation and the immediate actions and decisions that need to be taken. Strategic planning then looks at the organisation’s longer-term strategy and involves aligning its HR policies to achieve these long-term goals.

Outside of these two broad ways of differentiating types of HR planning, some other types of HR planning that you might encounter include succession planning, workforce planning, diversity and inclusion planning and talent management planning.




What are the five recruitment methods?


There are far more than just five different recruitment methods that HR personnel can use in their task of recruitment and selection. Before we go into further detail, it is worth mentioning the two broad types of recruitment methods: proactive and reactive.

Proactive recruitment is done ahead of time and involves building up a “talent pool” of prospective new employees before positions open up. This gives recruiters a list of suitably qualified candidates that they can turn to when positions become available. Reactive recruitment is the more traditional method and involves recruiting new employees to fill existing vacancies as they open up.

Outside of these two broad types of recruitment, many more methods of recruitment are defined by how new candidates are sought. Recruiters are likely to use more than just one of these methods and determining which is best would depend on the organisation and the role.

Employee referrals work well within large organisations and are often a first option as candidates are already known and this has a lower cost per hire than other methods. This method works less well for very small organisations or when new skills are needed.

Social media recruitment entails posting about vacancies to reach a wide pool of potential candidates without incurring any costs for advertising the position.

Job boards are another avenue that can be used free of charge in most cases. While the majority of job boards are found online, this could also involve placing job notices in the classified sections of newspapers or job listings in other specialised industry publications.

Recruitment events are another method of reaching and attracting potential candidates. Although not limited to universities, university career fairs are used by companies that are looking for newly qualified graduates. UJ for example allows companies to register through ujcareerwiz.co.za to take part in on-campus and other virtual events.

Using a recruitment agency is a fifth method of recruitment that organisations can use. This is more common for highly specialised roles and rarer skills. This is a more expensive method, but aside from the cost it outsources much of the effort of screening candidates. This however is less likely to be used by companies with well-developed HR departments that can carry out this role internally.




What is HR planning and why is it important?


Human resource (HR) planning is the process of forecasting an organisation’s future workforce needs and developing strategies to address those needs. It involves talent acquisition, workforce development, succession planning, retention strategies and workforce analysis. The purpose of HR planning is to ensure that organisations have the correct people with the correct skills to help them achieve their objectives.

HR planning is important because it allows organisations to align their workforce needs with their overall strategy. It also avoids potential skills shortages by anticipating future changes to staffing needs, whether this be through growth, industry changes or just to fill vacancies as people leave.




What is HR compliance?


HR compliance is the process of ensuring that an organisation’s human resources policies and practices comply with legal requirements and industry standards. Areas that require legal compliance include employment laws, workplace safety regulations, compensation and benefits requirements and data privacy laws. HR compliance is critical to avoid legal risks and liabilities that can arise from non-compliance.

Here in South Africa, the Department of Employment and Labour is responsible for drafting the majority of labour laws and HR practitioners need to keep up to date with changes to employment legislation. As stated in its mission, the department is tasked with the responsibility for “improved economic efficiency and productivity, employment creation, sound labour relations, eliminating inequality and discrimination in the workplace and alleviating poverty in employment”.






Are you passionate about helping organisations thrive by unlocking the potential of their workforce? Do you envision a career where you can make a meaningful impact on people’s lives while also contributing to business success? Then pursuing a Bachelor of Human Resources online with the University of Johannesburg (UJ) might be the perfect opportunity for you.


Accredited 100% online courses


All of UJ Online’s courses and qualifications have the same accreditation as their traditional contact counterparts but can be studied with added flexibility and convenience. Online education has transformed the learning landscape, allowing you to acquire essential HR skills and knowledge from the comfort of your own home.


Study human resource management


If you study HR online, you have the benefit of flexibility while you study, allowing you to carry on with your career. Advancing your career through online study means you don’t have to hit pause on your career, as you would with traditional full-time HR courses.


Accredited online HR courses

You can enrol for UJ Online’s Bachelor of Human Resources Management at any point in the year. Thanks to the way the human resource management modules are structured, you can start to study HR online at any one of six starting dates throughout the year.

If you want to learn more about what it takes to study human resources, you can take a look at the entry requirements as well as what HR subjects are covered in the 29 human resource management modules that make up the qualification.


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