If what is learned in an important college or university course is not put to use in some pragmatic way -- or understood in the larger social context -- then that learning may be viewed as meaningless time spent. No doubt there is a percentage of students that are simply going through the process of education, working for a degree that will open doors and lead, hopefully, to the good life. But for many others, learning -- in this case about human resources, management, employee / employer dynamics, and ethical considerations therein -- means being stimulated to grasp the links to the world that are discovered through serious attention to course work.
The salient questions to be answered in this paper are, which aspects of HRM work best together to perform the function of achieving organizational goals -- and are any more important than the others? The roles of EEO / Affirmative Action, HR planning, recruitment and selection, and employee and labor relations need to work together and are more important than the others. Those three aspects have implications for personal growth and they have social and political relevance outside of the workplace and beyond the purview of HR and company dynamics.
Thesis: The concept of human resource management -- as a philosophy or policy -- has an application to nearly everything an individual becomes involved with whether in school or in a career. The values and ethical approaches that apply in HRM should mirror the values and ethical consideration in one's personal life and in society at large. Moreover the individual that finishes a significant course in human resources should be aware -- and have a solid understanding of -- the greater application of those principles in the political / social world outside the educational environment.
EEO and Affirmative Action
In their article in the Journal of Business Ethics, Prue Burns and Jan Schapper assert that support for affirmative action (AA) has "…been largely snuffed out or beaten into retreat…" (Burns, 2008, p. 369). The opponents of AA have pretty much "won the battle" albeit they have won it on "dubious ethical grounds" the authors continue (369). Burns points to the new euphemism that supplants affirmative action -- "managing diversity" -- which is nothing more than a situation in which "…diversity is corralled into a sanitized space where the issues of power, disadvantage and inequality are cleaved from any context that might provide them…" with any traction (370).
Meanwhile, in this course students understand why proponents of AA argue that giving a select small number of minorities (immigrants, people of color, and in some cases women) a chance in a university or at a workplace that otherwise would be unavailable to them is a fair American policy. We have also reviewed closely the reasons why opponents have fought (successfully) to block AA from becoming a policy in many states. This course has delved into federal civil rights laws, including fairness rules and EEO (equal employment opportunity), but there is more to the issue of justice and fairness than lectures and readings that cover AA / EEO.
In the American milieu of government, politics and education today there are injustices that go well beyond affirmative action. For example, in Tucson, Arizona, on January 12, 2012, students filed into Mr. Rene Martinez's room 306 and took their seats, expecting to learn more in their Mexican-American studies class. But there was no teaching that day in room 306, no class work assigned, in fact there was to be no class at all -- it had been cancelled. Mr. Martinez explained that the Tucson school board had given in to the state superintendent of public instruction's mandate that no classes "primarily designed for a particular ethnic group" can be taught in Arizona (Ceasar, 2012, p. AA5).
The reason for the cancelled class is that in Arizona a tough immigration law (SB 1070) went into effect in 2010 that prohibits the teaching of courses that frame historical events in "racial terms" (i.e., no classes can seem to advocate special knowledge for Latinos). That particular legislation does more than just prohibit students from learning about their cultural heritage. It gives the police "…broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally," according to a story in the New York Times (Archibold, 2010). The law, according to President Barack Obama, threatens to "…undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe" (Archibold, p. 1). The Arizona law makes it a crime to fail to carry immigration papers. Other states, notably South Carolina, Alabama, and George, all Southern states, have passed similar hard-line anti-immigrant legislation.
No matter what justification is used to defend the law, opponents see it as racist and unconstitutional. The courts are going to have to weigh in on the constitutional legality of these harsh laws being enacted in conservative states. Clearly it underscores the polarization in the U.S. regarding the rights of immigrants, and it is in direct response to undocumented immigrants coming into Arizona and other border states from Mexico, and the suspicion that immigrants are getting health care and educational opportunities they are not entitled to.
What does the anti-immigration movement have to do with HRM? Reflecting on the rules at play in terms of hiring and policies reflecting fairness and justice in the workplace, it is too bad those rules don't apply to governments and states. In my personal life I have Latino neighbors who have moved in to houses that already have immigrant families living in them. The Mexican-Americans here are no different than Caucasians in the way they care about their families, about education, and jobs. Indeed the Mexican men work hard as gardeners, tree-trimmers, cooks and wait staff in local eateries, and I don't ask them if they have legal status; to me they are neighbors, they drive cars, spend money on groceries and contribute to the economy.
What I see is racism in our country, directed at people of color; I see hatred, smears, and far right wing rhetoric like that of GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum, who recently called for "mass deportations and opposition to any leniency" (Rosen, 2012). Santorum came within 8 votes in Iowa of defeating Romney, so it appears that spewing hate and bigotry gets votes. That's troubling, and it is far too common on talk radio and cable TV news shows. Where I work, every employee of course has to be in the county legally to be hired, but on the other hand all workers have the same rights under federal law, and the HR department acts very quickly when there is any sign of discrimination, or of harassment in any form against anyone (women, minorities, and people with disabilities).
Human Resources Planning, Recruitment and Selection
I believe based on an article published in Insights into a Changing World Journal -- and others -- that the Human Resources Recruitment and Selection policies of companies will be challenged very soon to design innovative strategies in order to be in a position to select the very best candidates from a flood of applicants unlike any in recent years. As the baby boomers begin to retire in droves, and the economy gets back on track in the U.S. -- and all indications are that it certainly will be back within a year or so -- there will be open positions that need to be filled quickly, according to Mary Vielhaber and Richaurd Camp.
There will be pressure to hire new employees. Lots of pressure. But will companies' HR departments have done the planning and recruitment necessary to make sure to hire the very best, most qualified candidates? Managers that don't define their performance expectations ahead of the recruiting and hiring phase are cheating their companies of the chance to bring the best of the best on board, Vielhaber explains (Vielhaber, et al., 2010, p. 40). The HR professional's role is to "make the case for using performance expectations for multiple purposes: hiring, developing, appraising and planning," Vielhaber explains (40). HR managers need to partner with hiring managers to define "performance expectations" for each key position.
But ask several HR professionals to define a "competency" and several definitions will be forthcoming, Vielhaber continues. And what is the message that HR and hiring people are giving to candidates when the interview process is ongoing? Yes the HR person gathers information about the candidate, but the candidate is, at the same time, "gathering data about the values and standards of the organization," Vielhaber explains. And if the message isn't clearly expressed through the hiring process, based on the competencies the company intends to have met, the wrong person is likely to be hired, costing the company valuable time and resources.
I worked a summer job for several years in a hotel on the waterfront -- I worked in the bar / restaurant…