Course Code: BRL–008
Course Title: Human Resources
Assignment Code: BRL–008/TMA/2014-15
Coverage: All Blocks
Maximum Marks: 100

Attempt all the questions
(A) Short Type Questions

1. What is Human Resource Management? Explain the activities of HRM. How are they performed in a Retail Organization?



Human resources management is to ensure the utilisation of employees of a company

In obtaining the goals & objectives of the company and looking after workers welfare.

Every organisation exists for a purpose either profit making or non-profit making.

To achieve the goals pf the organisation it is necessary to put human energy to

Productive use.

Human Resources management entails the following:-

a)     Deciding how the people are needed and what skills they require.

b)    Obtaining suitable people.

c)     Arranging people into groups or departments.

d)    Policy making, training, labour relations, discipline and grievances.

e)     Performance appraisals.

f)      Remuneration

g)     Safety

h)    Health & Welfare

Evolution of Human Resources Management/ Historical development of Personnel Management

1. Scientific Management (F.W Taylor)

F.W Taylor formulated this theory of scientific management in early 1900 in which rational-planning & efficient administration were paramount.

Improvement of worker method & techniques was seen as the best way of increasing output.

Workers had to adjust to management not management to workers.

The leader’s function was to enforce performance criteria to meet the organisation’s goals.

The economic self- interest of workers could be satisfied through various insensitive work plans. Management was divorced from human affairs.

2. Traditional School or Classical School

It originated in the 1920’s.

It saw management as a specialised function which was distinguished from the operating or technical work that a manager did.

It was based on a set of well-defined concepts & principles.

Hierarchical organisation structure with a well-defined chain of command.

Span of control.

Unit of command.

The subordination of the individual to institutional authority.

Identification of line & staff functions.

Specialisation & coordination of functions.

Delegation of responsibility & authority.

Formal policies, procedures, rules & written records.

These concepts form the basis of much of today’s management practice which is usually considered to comprise the following activities:-





3. Behavioural Approach

It originated in the Hawthorne studies carried out by Elton Mayo.

The studies demonstrated the positive effects of management interest & goodwill towards workers as a group.

Mayo’s work paved way for Douglas McGregor’s theory Theory X; Theory Y.

Theory X assumes that most people in the work’s situation prefer to be directed, do not like responsibility & are motivated by money, security & the threat of punishment.

Managers who accept Theory X tend to emphasize control & close supervision.

Theory Y assumes that people can be self-directed and creative at work if they are properly motivated.

Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchy of human needs theory ranging from basic needs to self- actualisation.

The motivation hygiene Theory of Fredrick Herzberg provides insights into the goals & incentives that tend to satisfy human needs.

Herzberg came up with hygiene factors and motivation

The extent to which employees’ needs are satisfied in the work situation, depends largely on styles of management and leadership which vary according to individual’s beliefs and attitudes towards subordinates.

4. The Modern Approach to Leadership

Leadership ability was considered depended upon the simultaneous attention to the needs of both the job or task and the needs of those who must complete the task.

More recently attention has been given to a 3rd dimension i.e the situation or the environment in which the leader is operating determines the effectiveness of the style he chooses.

An effective manager must discover what his people want from the jobs.

The four major roles or functions of H.R Managers or management:

1. Policy initiation and formulation.

The personnel officer is mostly involved in policy initiation and formulation.

It is his responsibility to propose and draft new policies or policy revision to cover recurring problems or to prevent some anticipated problems.

Once he has drafted the policies he refers them to top management and it is upon the top management authority that the policy is actually issued.

In processing a new revised policy the personnel officer must analyse problems that have occurred in the past, survey other companies to determine how they have handled similar problems.

He should discuss with colleagues and subordinates and give due consideration to the prevailing philosophy of the organisation.

He does all the necessary research and staff work but in most cases the new policy is authorised by top management.

2. Advice

The largest portion of the activities of those engaged in personnel management involves counseling and giving advice to line managers.

The foreman may not advice in handling a grievance over the decision of overtime, give advice on procedures to be followed on pay increase when suspending an employee etc.

Management must seek to so direct and coordinate the efforts of the people so that the goals of the organisation are achieved while at the same time providing satisfaction for the needs of the members of the organisation.

Apart from oral advice the personnel department prepares and circulates reports and procedural guidelines for the interpretation and implementation of personnel policies.

3. Service

The service responsibility of the personnel department is apparent when one examines such functions as employment; training and provision of staff benefits.

Training programmes are planned, organised and often staffed through the personnel officer.

The personnel department must see that adequate instructional materials and facilities are available.

Once pension and insurance programmes have been set up all claims must be processed through the personnel department.

The maintenance of the adequate employee records functions.

4. Control

The personnel department carries out important control functions.

It monitors the performance of line departments and other staff departments to ensure that they conform to established personnel policies, procedures and practises.

The control function is comparable to quality control and auditing.

Examples of control function are, a company policy requires that all employees’ performance be appraised once a year. If supervisors fail to send performance appraisal reports to personnel office when required then a follow up is done by the personnel department.

2. What is Job analysis? What are its methods? Discuss the factors affecting job analysis.


What is Job?

Group of related activities and duties

Made up of tasks

Tasks is Basic elements of jobs “what gets done”

What is Job Analysis?

A job analysis is the process used to collect information about the duties, responsibilities, necessary skills, outcomes, and work environment of a particular job.

Process of defining a job in terms of its component tasks or duties and the knowledge or skills required to perform them

Methods of Job Analysis:

Direct observation

Interview of existing post holder

Interview of immediate supervisor


Previous studies

Work dairies

Direct observation
Information Source: – Observing and noting the physical activities of employees as they go about their jobs

The Interview
Information Sources

– Individual employees (existing job holder)

– Immediate boss (Supervisors) with knowledge of the job.

Information Source: Have employees fill out questionnaires to describe their job-related duties and responsibilities.

Questionnaires format:

- Structured checklist.( to identify  the task performed)

- Open ended questions

Previous studies
Information source: Past record of any employee.

The analyst keeps the past record of the employees and  keeps the previous experiences and issues related to the job analysis process of the organization.

Work Diaries
Information Source: Workers keep a chronological diary/ log of what they do and the time spent on each activity.

Manager trying the job

This method is used to check the new post.

In this method the manager start a new job to check that whether this job is beneficial or not.

It’s a risky step to take because it may cause many fundamental problems.

Note: – Human resource experts cannot rely on individual job analysis techniques so normally all the methods are used collectively.

3. “Manpower planning is a process of estimating the future needs of manpower”. Comment and discuss the process of manpower planning.


Meaning and Definition:

ž In simple words, HRP is understood as the process of forecasting an organization’s future demand for, and supply of, the right type of people in the right number.

ž After this only the HRM department can initiate the recruitment and selection process

ž It’s called by manpower planning, personal planning or employment planning

ž It includes the estimation of how many qualified people are necessary to carry out the assigned activities, how many people will be available, and what, if anything, must be done to ensure that personal supply equals personnel demand at the appropriate point in the future.

ž Basically it’s the process by which an organization ensures that it has the right number & kind of people, at the right place, at the right time, capable of effectively & efficiently completing those tasks that will help the organisation achieve its overall objectives.




Embryonic stage – No personnel planning

Growth stage – HR forecasting is essential

Maturity stage – Planning more formalized & less flexible

Declining stage – Planning for layoff, retrenchment & retirement


Political, social & economic changes

Balancing programmes are built into the HRM programme through succession planning, promotion channels, layoffs, flexi time, job sharing, retirement, VRS, etc….


Short-term & Long-term plans


Type of information which should be used in making forecasts


Difference in employing a shop-floor worker &  a managerial personnel



Organizational Objectives and Policies:

HR plans need to be based on Organizational Objectives.

The role of HRP is to sub serve the overall objectives by ensuring availability and utilization of Human Resources.

In developing these objectives, specific policies need to be formulated to address the following questions:

Are vacancies to be filled from promotions from within or hiring from outside?

How do training and development objectives interfere with the HRP objectives?

What union constraints are encountered in HRP and what policies are needed to handle these constraints?

How to enrich employees’ job? Should the routine and boring jobs continue or be eliminated?

How to downsize the organization to make it more competitive?

HR Demand Forecast:

Demand forecasting is the process of estimating the future quantity and quality of people required.

The basis of the forecast must be the annual budget and long-term corporate plan, translated into activity levels for each function and department

Demand forecasting must consider several factors both internal and external.

Among external factors are competition (foreign and domestic), economic climate, laws and regulatory bodies, changes in technology and social factors.

Internal factors include budget constraints, production levels, new products and services, organizational structure and employee separation.

Demand forecasting helps to :

Quantify the jobs necessary for producing a given number of goods

Prevent shortage of people where and when they are needed most

Determine what staff-mix is desirable in the future

Monitor compliance with legal requirements with regard to reservation of jobs

Asses appropriate staffing levels in different parts of the organization so as to avoid unnecessary costs

Forecasting Techniques:

ž Managerial judgments

- In this all managers sit together, discuss and arrive at a figure which would be the future demand for labour.

- This technique may involve a ‘bottom-up’ or ‘top-down’  approach. A combination of both could yield positive results.

žRatio-trend analysis
– This is the quickest forecasting technique.

- This technique involves studying past ratios, say, between the number of workers and sales in an organization and forecasting future ratios, making some allowance for changes in the organization or its method.

Work study techniques
– Work study techniques can be used when it is possible to apply work measurement to calculate the length of operations and the amount of labour required.

ž Delphi technique
– This technique is the method of forecasting personnel needs.

- It solicits estimates of personnel needs from a group of experts, usually managers

- The HRP experts act as intermediaries, summarize the various responses and report the findings back to the experts.

- Summaries and surveys are repeated until the experts opinion begin to agree.

ž Flow models

Other techniques

4. What is selection? Distinguish between recruitment and selection. (10)


Recruitment is the finding of applicants for jobs which the organisation wants to fill.
Selection means choosing those job applicants who are best suited for the vacant post.

Sources of Recruitment

a) Internal Sources

It is recruiting staff from within the organisation.

Employees know that they have a chance of promotion in an organisation.

However it promotes stagnation in the organisations by ignoring possible new ideas from the organisation.

Ways of recruiting internally are:-

Transferring an employee from a similar job somewhere else in a company.

Promoting an employee from a lower level job and upgrading him.

Increasing the educational or skill level of the employee.

Publicize job vacancies within the organisation on notice board.

Justification for internal recruitment

Some jobs requires specialised knowledge that can be obtained only within the organisation e.g. company secrets

It is argued that a company is in a better position to access skills of an employee who has been performing satisfactorily over a period of time than those of a person who is brought in from outside.

It is less costly to transfer or promote an employee than to attract an outsider from his employer.

It has a motivating role.

Internal recruitment assumes that people within the organisation have the aptitude, interest and potential of moving ahead which may not be true.

b) External Sources

It is recruitment by means of advertising in the press over the real deal, consulting employees, universities, colleges, work in applicants.

New ideas are brought from outside.

There is a high chance of getting better candidates however, it is expensive and does not motivate workers.

Steps in Recruitment process

1. Human Resources Planning

2. Job Vacancy

3. Job Analysis

4. Job Description

5. Job Specification

6. Draw up & putting the job advert

7. Receiving applications.

Steps in the Selection process

1. Preliminary screening of applicants: – that is eliminating obvious misfits to reduce time & cost of actual selection.

2. Review of application forms: – that is application form gathers information about the education, experience & personality of the applicants.

3. Employment testing: – that is are used to measure the qualification of job applicants for example intelligent tests, aptitude test

4. Reference checks: – that is to find out how the applicant performed on the previous job.

5. Employment interviews: – that is to learn more about job applicant’s background, interests & values.

6. Physical examination: -Is used to screen applicants whose physical qualifications are inadequate to meet requirements of the job.

5. Define training? What is its importance? Describe the methods of on-the-job training.



It is the systematic development of the knowledge, skills & attitudes required by an individual to perform adequately a given task.

Reasons for training employees are boost employee morale assist in the most efficient performance of the job.

Ensure continuity of a candidate for a higher post.

Assist the general efficiency of the business.

Ensure that standards are used by trainees.

Importance or Aims of training are:

a) To shorten the learning time so that new employees become as efficient as quick and economical as possible.

b) To improve the performance of current employees

c) To assist employees to develop their potential so that the needs of the organisation can be met from within.


Off the job training methods

i)       Lecture

Is the most commonly used method.

Success of the lecture is measured by the ability of the trainer to maintain the interests of the students and the means of the presentation.

ii)    Case studies

Are real life situations or events which have occurred.

These facts are given to the student and they are required to apply their knowledge and principle and finding potential solution to those problems.

iii)  Role playing

Students’ acts out a situation by assuming designated roles and this technique is usually used in conjunction with other methods.

iv)  Group exercises

Are specific exercises which the group is given to complete.

It allows group discussions and participation and together the individual members of the group must agree on one answer to the exercise.

On the job training methods

1) Demonstration

The trainer shows the student how to do a specific task and the trainee is given the opportunity to perform the same task under the supervision of trainer.

2)    Job rotation

Move the individual form one position to another so that the trainee gains experience, skills and knowledge of other jobs within the organisation.

3)    Coaching or tutorials

The method uses a one to one situation, where the trainer spends time with one specific trainee coaching him in the type of skills.

6. Discuss the barriers in communications. How an organization can overcome these barriers?


There are several barriers that affect the flow of communication in an organization. These barriers interrupt the flow of communication from the sender to the receiver, thus making communication ineffective. It is essential for managers to overcome these barriers. The main barriers of communication are summarized below.

Following are the main communication barriers:

Perceptual and Language Differences: Perception is generally how each individual interprets the world around him. All generally want to receive messages which are significant to them. But any message which is against their values is not accepted. A same event may be taken differently by different individuals. For example: A person is on leave for a month due to personal reasons (family member being critical). The HR Manager might be in confusion whether to retain that employee or not, the immediate manager might think of replacement because his team’s productivity is being hampered, the family members might take him as an emotional support.

The linguistic differences also lead to communication breakdown. Same word may mean different to different individuals. For example: consider a word “value”.

What is the value of this Laptop?

I value our relation?

What is the value of learning technical skills?

“Value” means different in different sentences. Communication breakdown occurs if there is wrong perception by the receiver.

Information Overload: Managers are surrounded with a pool of information. It is essential to control this information flow else the information is likely to be misinterpreted or forgotten or overlooked. As a result communication is less effective.

Inattention: At times we just not listen, but only hear. For example a traveler may pay attention to one “NO PARKING” sign, but if such sign is put all over the city, he no longer listens to it. Thus, repetitive messages should be ignored for effective communication. Similarly if a superior is engrossed in his paper work and his subordinate explains him his problem, the superior may not get what he is saying and it leads to disappointment of subordinate.

Time Pressures: Often in organization the targets have to be achieved within a specified time period, the failure of which has adverse consequences. In a haste to meet deadlines, the formal channels of communication are shortened, or messages are partially given, i.e., not completely transferred. Thus sufficient time should be given for effective communication.

Distraction/Noise: Communication is also affected a lot by noise to distractions. Physical distractions are also there such as, poor lightning, uncomfortable sitting, unhygienic room also affects communication in a meeting. Similarly use of loud speakers interferes with communication.

Emotions: Emotional state at a particular point of time also affects communication. If the receiver feels that communicator is angry he interprets that the information being sent is very bad. While he takes it differently if the communicator is happy and jovial (in that case the message is interpreted to be good and interesting).

Complexity in Organizational Structure: Greater the hierarchy in an organization (i.e. more the number of managerial levels), more is the chances of communication getting destroyed. Only the people at the top level can see the overall picture while the people at low level just have knowledge about their own area and a little knowledge about other areas.

Poor retention: Human memory cannot function beyond a limit. One can’t always retain what is being told specially if he is not interested or not attentive. This leads to communication breakdown.

7. Explain Herzberg’s two factors theory and differentiate it with Maslow’s theory.


Herzberg two factor theory

Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory is a “content theory” of motivation”.

Herzberg analysed the job attitudes of 200 accountants and engineers who were asked to recall when they had felt positive or negative at work and the reasons why.

From this research, Herzberg suggested a two-step approach to understanding employee motivation and satisfaction:

Hygiene Factors

Hygiene factors are based on the need to for a business to avoid unpleasantness at work. If these factors are considered inadequate by employees, then they can cause dissatisfaction with work. Hygiene factors include:

- Company policy and administration

- Wages, salaries and other financial remuneration

- Quality of supervision

- Quality of inter-personal relations

- Working conditions

- Feelings of job security

Motivator Factors

Motivator factors are based on an individual’s need for personal growth. When they exist, motivator factors actively create job satisfaction. If they are effective, then they can motivate an individual to achieve above-average performance and effort. Motivator factors include:

- Status

- Opportunity for advancement

- Gaining recognition

- Responsibility

- Challenging / stimulating work

- Sense of personal achievement & personal growth in a job

There is some similarity between Herzberg’s and Maslow’s models. They both suggest that needs have to be satisfied for the employee to be motivated. However, Herzberg argues that only the higher levels of the Maslow Hierarchy (e.g. self-actualisation, esteem needs) act as a motivator. The remaining needs can only cause dissatisfaction if not addressed.

Applying Hertzberg’s model to de-motivated workers

What might the evidence of de-motivated employees be in a business?

- Low productivity

- Poor production or service quality

- Strikes / industrial disputes / breakdowns in employee communication and relationships

- Complaints about pay and working conditions

According to Herzberg, management should focus on rearranging work so that motivator factors can take effect. He suggested three ways in which this could be done:

- Job enlargement

- Job rotation

- Job enrichment

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a “content theory” of motivation”.

Maslow’s theory consisted of two parts:

(1) The classification of human needs, and

(2) Consideration of how the classes are related to each other

The classes of needs were summarised by Maslow as follows:

How does the Hierarchy Work?

- A person starts at the bottom of the hierarchy (pyramid) and will initially seek to satisfy basic needs (e.g. food, shelter)

- Once these physiological needs have been satisfied, they are no longer a motivator. The individual moves up to the next level

- Safety needs at work could include physical safety (e.g. protective clothing) as well as protection against unemployment, loss of income through sickness etc)

- Social needs recognize that most people want to belong to a group. These would include the need for love and belonging (e.g. working with colleague who support you at work, teamwork, communication)

- Esteem needs are about being given recognition for a job well done. They reflect the fact that many people seek the esteem and respect of others. A promotion at work might achieve this

- Self-actualisation is about how people think about themselves – this is often measured by the extent of success and/or challenge at work

Maslow’s model has great potential appeal in the business world. The message is clear – if management can find out which level each employee has reached, then they can decide on suitable rewards.

Problems with the Maslow Model

There are several problems with the Maslow model when real-life working practice is considered:

- Individual behaviour seems to respond to several needs – not just one

- The same need (e.g. the need to interact socially at work) may cause quite different behaviour in different individuals

- There is a problem in deciding when a level has actually been “satisfied”

- The model ignores the often-observed behaviour of individuals who tolerate low-pay for the promise of future benefits

- There is little empirical evidence to support the model. Some critics suggest that Maslow’s model is only really relevant to understanding the behaviour of middle-class workers in the UK and the USA (where Maslow undertook his research).

(B) Essay Type Questions

8. What do you mean by performance appraisal? Discuss the modern methods of performance appraisal.


According to Newstrom, “it’s the process of evaluating the performance of the employees, sharing that information with them and searching for war way to improve their performance”.

Performance Appraisal is the step where the management found out how effective it has been hiring and placing process.

A ‘Performance Appraisal’ is a process of evaluating an employee performance of a job in terms of its requirements.

Objectives: -

Opportunity to Regularly Discuss Results

Supervisor Identifies Strengths and Weaknesses

Fair and Equitable Format

Basis for Salary/Promotion Recommendations

Methods of Performance Appraisal:
Several methods and techniques are used for evaluating employee performance. These may be classified into broad categories.

Assessment Centre

Human Resource Accounting

Behaviorally Anchored rating Scales

Appraisal through MBO

Assessment Centre

An assessment centre is a group of employees drawn from different work units. These employees work together on an assignment similar to the one they would be handling when promoted. Evaluates observe and rank the performance of all the participants. Experienced managers with proven ability serve as evaluators. This group evaluates all employees both individually and collectively by using simulation techniques like role playing, business games and in basket exercises. Employees are evaluated on job related characteristics considered important for job success. The evaluators observe and evaluate employees as they perform jobs.

Human Resource Accounting Method

Human resources are a valuable asset of any organisation. This asset can be valued in terms of money. When competent and well-trained employees leave an organisation the human asset is decreased and vice versa. Under this method performance is judged in terms of costs and contribution of employees. Costs of human resources consist of expenditure on   human resource planning, recruitment, selection, induction, training, compensation,   etc. Contribution of human resources is the money value of labour productivity or value added by human resources is the money value of labour productivity or value added by human resources.

Behavioral Anchored Rating Scales




Extremely good


Can expect trainee to make valuable suggestions for increased sales and to have positive relationships with customers all over the country.



Can expect to initiate creative ideas for improved sales.

Above average


Can expect to keep in touch with the customers throughout the year.



Can manage, with difficulty, to deliver the goods in time.

Below average


Can expect to unload the trucks when asked by the supervisor.



Can expect to inform only a part of the customers.

Extremely poor


Can expect to take extended coffee breaks & roam around purposelessly.

Appraisal by Results or MBO
The concept of management by objectives (MBO) was developed by Peter Drucker in 1954. He called it management by objectives and self control’. Since then MBO has became an effective and operational technique of performance appraisal and a powerful philosophy of managing. It is also known as Work Planning and Review or Goal setting approach to appraisal.

Management by objectives has been defined as “a process whereby the superior and subordinate managers of an organisation jointly identify its common goals, define each individual’s major areas of responsibility in terms of results expected of him and use these measures as guides for operating the unit and assessing the contribution of each of its members” In other words.MBO involves appraisal of performance against clear, time bound and mutually agreed job goals.

9. (a)“A sound grievance procedure must contain some essentials features.” Explain


Every employee has certain expectations which he thinks must be fulfilled by the organisation he is working for. When the organisation fails to do this, he develops a feeling of discontent or dissatisfaction. When an employee feels that something is unfair in the organisation, he is said to have a grievance.

According to Jucius, a grievance is “any discontent or dissatisfaction, whether expressed or not, whether valid or not, arising out of anything connected with the company which an employee thinks, believes or even feels to be unfair, unjust or inequitable.”

1. Grievances or conflicting thoughts are part of industrial / corporate life.

2. It is essential to bring this conflict to the surface.

3. All conflicts cannot be eliminated but their exposure will contribute towards their reduction.

4. Such exposures lead to adjustments and further improved organizational effectiveness.


According to Fillipo, “The term would include any discontent and dissatisfaction that affects organizational performance. It can either stated or unvoiced, written or oral, legitimate or ridiculous.

(a) A complaint is a discontent that has not assumed importance.

(b) A complaint becomes grievance when the employee feels that injustice has been committed.


To understand what a grievance is, you must clearly be able to distinguish between dissatisfaction, complaint and grievance. Torrington (1987) provides us with a useful categorization in this regard:

Dissatisfaction: Anything disturbs an employee, whether or not the unrest is expressed in words.

Complaint: A spoken or written dissatisfaction brought to the attention of the supervisor or the shop steward.

Grievance: A complaint that has been formally presented to a management representative or to a union official.

Key Features of a Good Grievance

Torrington & Hall refer to four key features of a grievance handling procedure, which are discussed below.

a)      Fairness: Fairness is needed not only to be just but also to keep the procedure viable, if employees develop the belief that the procedure is only a sham, then its value will be lost, and other means sought to deal with the grievances. This also involves following the principles of natural justice, as in the case of a disciplinary procedure.

b) Facilities for representation: Representation, e.g., by a shop steward, can be of help to the individual employee who lacks the confidence or experience to take on the management single-handedly. However, there is also the risk that the presence of there preventative produces a defensive management attitude, affected by a number of other issues on which the manager and shop steward may be at loggerheads.

c) Procedural steps: Steps should be limited to three. There is no value in having more just because there are more levels in the management hierarchy. This will only lengthen the time taken to deal with matter and will soon bring the procedure into disrepute.

d) Promptness: Promptness is needed to avoid the bitterness and frustration that can come from delay. When an employee ‘goes into procedure,’ it is like pulling the communication cord in the train. The action is not taken lightly and it is in anticipation of a swift resolution. Furthermore, the manager whose decision is being questioned will have a difficult time until the matter is settled

(b)“HRIS has wide range of application in HR management”. Discuss.

A human resource information system (HRIS) is defined as a computer based application for assembling and processing data related to the human resource management (HRM) function. As in other types of information systems, an HRIS consists of a database, which contains one or more files in which the data relevant to the system are maintained, and a database management system, which provides the means by which users of the system access and utilize these data. The HRIS thus contains tools that allow users to input new data and edit existing data; in addition, such programs provide users with the opportunity to select from an array of predefined reports that may either be printed or displayed on a monitor. Reports may address any of a number of different HRM issues (e.g., succession planning, compensation planning, equal employment opportunity monitoring). HRISs also generally include tools by which users or system administrators may generate ad hoc reports and select specific cases or subsets of cases for display.

In order to understand the types of applications available to HRIS users, it is best to consider the evolving nature of human resource information systems applications. The HRM field lagged behind a number of other functional areas of management in the utilization of computer applications, but beginning in the late 1980s extensive use of sophisticated applications began to appear. Prior to that time, manual record systems often dominated in personnel or human resource departments. Computer applications used in the field were generally limited to basic record keeping and payroll management systems. Virtually all such systems were based on mainframe computers and required extensive support from information systems professionals. Thus, human resource managers had little opportunity to design sophisticated reports and computer-based analytical tools to aid in managerial decision making. In general, uses of computers in HRM fell into the category of electronic data processing applications, which generally involve the automation of relatively routine tasks (e.g., calculating pay and printing checks).

A number of trends seem to have contributed to a growing reliance on computers as information-processing and decision-aiding tools in HRM. The emergence of the human resource management field (versus personnel administration) gave the human resource function greater credibility within the managerial hierarchy, necessitating more sophisticated use of information, especially as it related to the strategic management function. Firms have experienced increased competitive pressures that have translated into greater cost containment demands from upper management, leading to greater automation of the record-keeping function in the HRM field. The ready availability of microcomputers and relatively user friendly software means, that to an increasing extent, human resource managers are no longer dependent on information system professionals to develop and implement applications (which might be assigned a lower priority than other management functions). Many HRM departments in larger organizations have also developed internal information system capabilities, so that HRIS units have been established.

Another important factor has been the development of numerous HRIS products by external vendors. There are several full-featured, human resource-dedicated database management systems available, both for mainframe and micro platforms. Perhaps the best known of these is PeopleSoft, although numerous other such products exist. Many of these utilize client-server architectures, where databases reside on a central server and are accessed from individual workstations, connected to a network, via local client applications. There is also a trend toward enterprise-wide applications that integrate information system applications for various managerial functions (e.g., marketing, finance, human resources), which facilitates communication across functional areas, economizes on information system development at the enterprise level, and allows firms to collate information from multiple sources to facilitate strategic planning at the business unit and corporate levels. Examples of commonly used integrated systems that include HRIS modules are SAP and Oracle.

Specialized applications, intended to supplement HRISs, are also widely available. These include modules to aid in such areas as succession planning, benefits administration, applicant tracking, job evaluation, employee performance evaluation, grievance handling, and labor relations. These products, coupled with declining costs of computer systems (especially microcomputer systems) and the increasing user-friendliness of computer applications, have meant that the use of HRISs is increasingly attractive to practitioners.

As a result of the rapid change in computer and software technology, HRIS-related products are constantly upgrading and changing. Advanced Personnel Systems, a California-based HRIS consulting firm, markets a fairly up-to-date database listing a wide-range of HRISs and supplementary programs—along with descriptions of the capabilities of these systems—to guide managers in selecting appropriate products. There are also several conferences and shows held annually around the United States that are dedicated to advances in HRM-related information technology applications, including HRISs. HRIS vendors often demonstrate products at such shows. Leading practitioner-oriented magazines, such as HRMagazine (published by the Society of Human Resource Management), review new products and carry articles highlighting changes in the field. And not surprisingly, a number of web sites document HRIS resources on the Internet. A comprehensive listing of major HRIS sites can be obtained through the “Software and Technology” section of Workindex.com , a comprehensive index of Internet resources related to human resource management.

Perhaps the most significant development in the HRIS area currently is the growing use of organizational intranets as a means of managing many aspects of a firm’s HRIS. An intranet is an internal network that makes use of World Wide Web technology (browsers, servers, etc.) to gather and disseminate information within the firm. Intranets may be linked to the external Internet, but are usually secured in a variety of ways so that only authorized users can access the information on the internal components. While it is quite easy to generate static extracts of HRIS data tables, queries, forms, and reports for posting on an intranet, it is also quite feasible to establish live links between an intranet and a firm’s HRIS. This allows real-time collection and display of information. Thus employees can complete forms online that enroll them in benefits programs, allow them to bid on job openings, let them submit suggestions, and facilitate filing of various claims. In addition, intranet displays can be tailored to the needs of specific users. The user may check on the current status of his or her fringe benefits, vacation time, training program enrollment, or pension fund. Intranets obviously require extensive security measures to prevent inappropriate changing or accessing of data. The issues seem to have been addressed, however, and HRIS products are increasingly emphasizing their functionality in intranet environments.

Another variant is the extranet. Again, relying on World Wide Web technology, such systems allow organizations to interact with clients in a secure environment that mimics the Internet. Thus a health insurance company might establish an extranet that links to the intranets of its major clients. Employees in client organizations can then connect to the insurance vendor’s extranet from within the employer’s intranet environment in order to check on the status of their policies, obtain coverage information, file claims, and follow-up on outstanding claims.

All indications are that HRISs will continue to play an increasingly important role in the HRM field. An important driving factor is that HRISs facilitate process reengineering in the HRM area, thus promoting greater efficiency. Functions that once were carried out manually and in many steps can often be largely automated. And the business firm’s continuing demand for information to facilitate planning and strategy formulation will necessitate further reliance on HRISs. Finally, the linking of HRISs to organizational intranets is apt to gain in popularity as a relatively inexpensive and appealing means of gathering and distributing human resource information.

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