Keys to Manage Human Resources – Rules of Thumb: Part 1

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By Guido Stein, Ángel Cervantes and Marta Cuadrado

This article, which is in two parts, aims to acquaint readers with the main personnel management policies found in enterprises. It is intended not to be exhaustive but to serve as a reference for managers in charge of their own teams, regardless of their position or department. It was not written specifically for human resources experts, although they too may find this direct academic approach – reinforced by daily practice – rather useful.

People are not robots, which is to say that they cannot be automated. Therefore, two people may respond differently to the same order, incentive, or external cause. This incontrovertible reality makes management more exciting but much more difficult. Policies, which are nothing but decision-making rules integrated more or less successfully after being applied in practice, take this reality into account in the case of personnel management. Meanwhile, they contribute to the company’s smooth operation by trying to impose order where subjectivity and freedom reign. Their use does not ensure effectiveness, but their absence is a sure sign of chaos. Companies can live with some chaos, although they do not have to: management’s job is to manage or avoid it as much as possible. In addition, sound policies help us avoid many mistakes.

The line between arbitrariness (deciding and doing things differently each time out of personal desire) and discretion (deciding and doing things differently because the circumstances so require) is drawn between a person who relies on objective criteria and one who does not. Nepotism is arbitrary, while proper leadership is discretionary. Uncertainty is part of the human experience, and applying rules will not dilute much of what surrounds us. But our surroundings are better managed when we do resort to rules. Human resources policies based on a healthy dose of common sense will provide more fairness than frustration, which is what ultimately matters when people are the priority.

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