Human Resource Management Can Be Improved by Asking These Key Questions

Topic(s): selection, talent management
Publication: Harvard Business Review
Article: HR for Neophytes
Authors: P. Cappelli
Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

When people think of human resources, they usually think of those pesky reminders that flood their inbox nagging them to fill out paperwork, or perhaps they think of performance appraisals. Many employees see HR as ‘the fuzzy side’ of the business. To most of us, it’s the department that deals with people-related issues no one else wants to get involved in and that everyone else pretends are not there. Of late HR has a gotten a pretty bad rep, but as line managers increasingly begin to take on traditional human resource management and development tasks, they might find that there is more to human resource management than meets the eye.


The current article (Cappelli, 2013) suggests a few key questions that anyone in talent management (whether a line manager or HR professional) should be thinking about:

What are our talent needs? 

What kinds of human resource metrics does our organization keep? How can those be used to determine key trends and inform important decisions? 

How should we meet our talent needs? 

There are three options: build, buy, or borrow. Each vacant position can either be filled by someone you have a) developed from within b) hired from outside the company or c) by a temporary or contracted employee. Striking the optimal balance of external hires and internal promotions is key to filling vacant positions with the right people and keeping within budget.

How can we do a better job of hiring? 

Remember that hiring is a two-part process. You want to recruit and attract the right talent, and then you want to make the right selection or hiring decisions.

How can we develop internal talent? 

How are you investing in your employees? Are you giving your prospective leaders stretch assignments that force them to advance? Do you encourage your employees to take advantage of tuition reimbursement opportunities, so they gain knowledge and build skills after work hours? In short, are you making every effort to put the “develop” in human resource development?

How can we manage employee career paths? 

Are there opportunities for internal mobility within your company? Do employees know when they’re likely to be promoted? Do they know what their next job title will be? When there’s no clear path to promotion, job satisfaction suffers and turnover becomes more likely. 


Are you finding it hard to come up with concrete answers to these seemingly simple questions? Many do. Upon closer examination, HR performs more complex functions than it is given credit for.


Click here and here for additional information about the future of human resource management in organizations.