Published 21 Sep 2017

In their article entitled What is HR Good For, Anyway? published in the July/August 2003 issue of Across the Board, Edward Lawler and Mike OMalley argued that human resources is unique among other departments or divisions of the organization because of its ability to provide “expert opinion on human behavior”. Moreover, Lawler and OMalley identified the role of human resources as one that “tactfully challenge and refocus baseless conceptualizations of behavior, regardless of the status of the speaker and the seeming conviction behind his words”.

This specific function of human resources is what makes it distinct and important part of the business. Despite the common misconceptions about the function of human resources, I personally agree with OMalley and Lawler’s claim.

Hawthorne Studies, the study that started all the other studies in human resources, found out that contrary to popular belief, employees are not motivated solely by money. Instead, employee performance is directly linked to their behavior and attitude (Dickson, 1973). Moreover, Lindner (1998) claims that effective managers need to understand what motivates employees within the context of the roles they perform.

Therefore, in order to maximize the capability of the employees, it is important to employ human resources practitioners, usually those that have strong background in psychology and have the capability to carefully assess employee behavior and the organizational factors that affects the behavior.

Although organizational decision makers tend to ignore the true value of having professional experts on human behavior as OMalley and Lawler discussed, human resource management is a compelling function that should not be left behind to those who are not able to appreciate and understand the unique personalities and behavior or every employee.

However, because of the less appreciation of the true value of the human resources division among organizations, even some HR practitioners themselves, in their desire to be included among the top executives of the organizations, has altered their own perception of their function. Instead of focusing on their specialty, which is assessing human behavior, and asserting their contributions in the success of the organization in which they are affiliated, they resorted to quantifying what they do, instead of qualifying the importance of carefully assessing the quality of how they should handle the human resources of the organizations, that is the employees of the organization.

HR’s functionality and effectiveness, in its truest sense cannot be measured through quantitative metrics. Human resource is dealing with unique personalities and unique behavior which makes this function hard to quantify. Creating a standardized metrics based on generally agreed characteristics and policies will yield to limited results and biased opinion (Lawler and OMalley, 2003). It will only measure some superficial aspects of human resources and not the very core of the human resources feature of which the measurement is specifically in the first place. Such metrics will not do justice to the exceptional role that HR has in the organization.

Instead, HR practitioners evaluate itself by looking into its effectiveness in assessing human behavior and how well does it respond to this behavior. HR should focus into the human factor of the organization and establishing the proper motivational factors that would prompt the employees to perform well. Besides, human resources should act as a catalyst between the goals of the company and the individual goals of the employees. As much as it contributes to the company’s success, it is also human resources’ role to determine the personal goals of the employees and help them achieve these goals.

With the intangible value and contribution of human resources in the over all productivity of the organization, an effective human resources should not limit itself with the measurable metrics which is not its main concern. Human resource practitioner should be more focused on their role as a strategic partner of the organization, one that contributes directly to employee productivity through providing powerful basis on how to properly manage people by conducting careful examination of the individuality and uniqueness of the employees.


  • Dickson, W. J. (1973). Hawthorne experiments. In C. Heyel (ed.). The encyclopedia of management, 2nd ed. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
  • Lawler, Edward & OMalley, Mike (2003). What is HR Good For, Anyway?. Across the Board, Jul/Aug2003, Vol. 40. USA: The Conference Board, Inc.
  • Lindner, James R. (1998). Understanding employee motivation. Journal of Extension Vol. 36. Piketon, Ohio: The Ohio State University.
  • Vroom, V. H. (1964). Work and motivation. New York: Wiley.
  • Hofmeister, J. (2005). Global and Local Balance in Human Resources Leadership. The Future of Human Resource Management. Virginia: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • LOsey, M., Meisinger, S., & Ulrich D. (2005) The Future of Human Resource Management: 64 Thought Leaders Explore the Critical HR Issues of Today and Tomorrow. USA: Society for Human Resource Management.
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