The evolving profile of human resource professionals in India.

AuthorSrimannarayana, M.
PositionReport - Statistical data

This study identifies the evolving profile of HR professionals in terms of their background and role and functions in the industry. Unlike in the past, HR professionals entered into the profession through direct recruitment and are qualified in the field. Their employment conditions are at par with other professional groups. Responsive to employees they integrate talent management initiatives with business strategies. They believe that performance management, training and development, staffing, compensation and workforce planning are the most critical areas that contribute to the business strategy. Employees ' perception and support for HR initiatives, availability of budget, CEO's perception and support and availability of headcount for HR activities limit their effectiveness.


The contribution of Human Resource Management (HRM) to the overall achievement of organizational objectives in the present day dynamic business world is increasingly acknowledged (Guest, 1997). The type of support HRM extends was examined in various studies (Pfeffer, 1994; Delaney & Huselid, 1996; Huselid & Becker, 1997; Ulrich, 1998; Harel & Tzafrir; 1999, Jackson, Hitt & DeNisi, 2004; Ulrich & Brockbank, 2005). HR professionals attempt to ensure that line managers acquire the competencies required to perform successfully their HR responsibilities. HR professionals in high-performing firms function as credible activists. They understand the global business context. They create, audit and orchestrate an effective and strong organization. They develop their organizations' capability for change and then translate that capacity into effective change processes and structures. They innovate and integrate HR practices around a few critical business issues. Effective HR professionals ensure that desired business results are clearly and precisely prioritized. They apply technology not only to basic HR work, but also to help people stay connected with one another and increase HR's role in the management of information (Ulrich, Younger, Brockbank & Ulrich, 2013). All the above are generic qualities of HR professionals that influence the role of HR in general. It is argued that there are certain nation specific factors that determine the HRM practices and the role of HR (Easterby-Smith Mailna & Yuan. 1995; Sparrow, 1995; Sparrow & Hiltrop, 1994; Hofstede, 1993). The present study examines the evolving profile, role and functions of HR professionals in India.

HRM in India

The origins of human resource function in India go back to the 1920s when it was a concern for labor welfare in factories (Budhwar, 2009). In India personnel management has been of comparatively late growth, and has only developed on a wider scale since Independence. Government legislation has played a vital role in the evolution of personnel management/HRM in India. The business acumen, economic conditions, and social set up have also contributed in shaping personnel practices (Balasubramanian, 1995). The cotton textile industry in Bombay and the jute industry in Bengal had started to employ labor welfare officers before, and during the Second World War. The interaction of government policy and the initiative of the leading employers' associations in the textile industries brought about the rapid development of personnel management in India just before and during the War. It was the problems and the discontent which arose with the old system of recruitment through jobbers that led the Royal Commission on Labor (1931) to advocate the appointment of labor officers. These officers worked as industrial relations officers and their functions included handling grievances and prevention of disputes (IIPM, 1962).

The provision for appointment of welfare officers in factories under the Factories Act, 1948 has contributed to the growth of the institution of welfare officers in India. Welfare officers were appointed in factories to look after health, welfare and safety of workers. With further industrialization, the personnel officer emerged around 1960s (Kudchedkar, 1979). The evolution of personnel management in India was broadly classified into five phases (Venkata Ratnam & Srivastava, 1991). The beginning phase was 1920s to 1930s. During this period the status of the department was predominantly clerical and the activities were confined to statutory welfare, and paternalistic welfare programs. During the second stage (1940s to 1960s), the personnel profession struggled for recognition, emphasizing on introducing techniques. In the third stage from 1970s to 1980s the profession made attempts to impress with sophistication, emphasizing on regularity conformance, and imposing standards on other functions. The period of 1990s was a promising phase of personnel profession in India with a philosophical outlook, emphasizing on human values, and productivity through people. The liberalization of the Indian economy has created the pressure on Indian HR function to become more creative and innovative (Budhwar. 2000). The period 2000 onwards is one of rationalization in which the outlook is strategic with emphasis on organizational performance (Budhwar, 2009). Over a period of time the role of personnel/ HR has been elevated from clerical to administrative, administrative to managerial, managerial to executive, and executive to strategic partner (Venkata Ratnam & Srivastava, 1991; Budhwar, 2009).


This is an exploratory study aimed at drawing a profile of Indian HR professionals in terms of their age, gender, present role, professional qualifications, mode of entry into HR profession, career and membership in professional bodies, and their organizations' characteristics. It attempts to find out the roles and functions performed by the HR professionals in their respective organizations. A questionnaire was prepared covering all the aspects mentioned above. The first part of the questionnaire consisted of items relating to organizations which HR professionals represent. The second part consisted of items on critical HRM areas, HR function and HR's role replicating from the study of Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM, 2008). The third part consisted of questions related to their employment conditions. A five-item scale was used to measure career satisfaction (Lounsbury, Gibson, Steel, Sundstrom, and Loveland, 2004). The last part of the questionnaire covered questions relating to the respondents' demographic factors. The questionnaire was distributed among 500 HR professionals across India using convenience random sampling method. Out of these, 124 usable responses were received. The information given by these respondents formed the basis for analysis. The information was analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively using frequency distribution, percentages and mean scores.

Demographic Characteristics

As indicated in Table 1, nearly half of the respondents were females which indicate by and large equal participation of men and women in the HR profession in India. Their average age is calculated at 33.8 years. Nearly two-thirds of HR professionals were HR generalists and the remaining were HR specialists in the areas such as staffing, learning and development, compensation, employee relations and organizational development. They had different designations such as business partner, officer, consultant, executive, assistant manager, deputy manager, manager, senior manager, chief manager; assistant general manager...

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