Module 1: Emerging Perspectives in Human Resource Management
2. Time for Change
3. HR Activities and Organizational Effectiveness
4. Challenges and Myths
5. The Relationships Among HR Activities and an Organization’s Competitive Challenges
6. The Future of Human Resources
Rodney Dangerfield, the comedian, often commented, “I can’t get no respect.” In the past, many HR staff members undoubtedly felt the same way because they were often viewed as nothing more than paper pushers. One of the reasons people saw HR staff this way is that HR departments were unable to measure their effectiveness and show how they contributed to the organization’s overall success. The new emphasis on measurement is essential for American businesses to succeed in the twenty-first century. One study concluded that all HR activities must be (Towers Perrin, 1992):
• responsive to a highly competitive marketplace and global business structures
• closely linked to business strategic plans
• jointly conceived and implemented by line and HR managers
• focused on quality, customer service, productivity, employee involvement, teamwork, and workforce flexibility
The Human Resources Planning Society’s fourth annual report (1999) on the international state of the HR industry reads, “It’s do or die for strategic HR. For decades HR has been talking about what it is and how it works. But worldwide failure to execute has dangerously undermined HR’s chances of ever becoming business players” (Haines, 2005, p. 8).
Rosabeth Moss Canter (in Effron, Gandossy, & Goldsmith, 2003) claims that HR departments often have contradictory roles, such as being a watchdog or the police, rather than meeting employees’ needs. In these instances, the interests of employees and the interests of top management are out of alignment, which in turn creates a host of issues or problems. Furthermore, Canter says, many HR departments tend to be conservative, running the risk of alienating the employees because they fear powerful line managers, whose favor they constantly need.
Canter (2003) goes on to say that HR professionals must decide whether they should be issue advocates or administrators, visionaries or implementers. A number of sources appear to agree that HR professionals should be advocates and visionaries. This is not to say that administration or implementation should be discarded—on the contrary, these things still must be done. The question is, “Who should do them?” Many organizations are beginning to outsource several of the administrative functions, allowing HR professionals to take stronger leadership and business-partner roles.
According to Ulrich and Brockbank (2005), “Twenty years ago HR professionals built staffing, compensation, training, and other programs and policies that focused on employees and kept companies legally compliant. In this last decade, HR professionals have worked to become business partners and to align their work with business strategies” (p. 1). They go on to state that the next step for HR is to master the concept of adding value, and then to connect outside the firm as well as inside in adding that value. They have identified five primary areas in which HR professionals must create value, and these areas are depicted in figure 1.1.
The HR Value Proposition
Source: Ulrich & Brockbank, The HR Value Proposition (2005), p. 10
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II. Time for Change
“To what extent do our HR professionals play employee advocate, human capital developer, functional expert, strategic partner, and leadership roles?” These are just a few of the questions Ulrich and Brockbank raise in their book, The HR Value Proposition (2005, p. 199). They go on to define effective leadership as setting clear goals, being decisive, ensuring communication inside and out, managing change, and defining the HR function in terms of value added for investors, customers, line managers, and employees.
In the last several decades, a plethora of research has demonstrated that HR practices can have a significant effect on corporate performance. For the first time in the history of management, we have reason to accept the human mind as the primary creator of value. We also can demonstrate how the organization’s human capability is a critical factor for corporate vitality and survival.
For example, the results of Towers Perrin’s study (1992) suggests that traditional sources of success, such as speed to market, an emphasis on the attainment of financial goals, and the use of technological enhancements, can still provide competitive leverage; however, effective management of human resources is comparatively more vital. The editors of Human Resources in the 21st Century concur. They claim, “People are now considered an organization’s most valuable asset and the only source of lasting competitive advantage for businesses today. Everything else can be replicated—products, services, infrastructures—but not people” (2003, p. 1). In addition, a growing body of research suggests that the creation of a strong core-values system and culture is the only true competitive edge.
Although these findings are intriguing, they are not new. Much of what is now being said can be traced to the quality movement, which officially began in the 1970s. Some organizations made great strides by developing and implementing quality-improvement concepts, but others failed. How can we explain these differences?
The organizations that were successful learned an important lesson—financial goals and objectives, speed to market, and technological enhancements were not enough.
• They understood the cause-and-effect relationships of both internal and external factors. For example, rather than operating in a linear fashion and focusing on short-term results, successful organizations learned how to connect the dots to ensure their ultimate success. They understood the dynamic interrelationships of external factors such as environment, competitors, customers, and shareholders, and their impact in shaping the organization’s future vision and mission.
• They also recognized the need to integrate and connect the internal factors of vision, mission, core values, and actions or activities. In addition, they made the critical connection that their most important asset—their human capabilities—would to a large extent determine how they fared in the marketplace.
• Finally, and possibly the most important lesson learned from the quality movement, is that although many organizations had a “quality champion,” everyone in the organization was responsible for quality.
Likewise, the lesson needed now is that all managers must be responsible for many of the HR functions that were formerly relegated to the HR Department. HR’s new role should be one of ensuring that coaches, mentors, and educational opportunities are available to individual managers. The primary change, however, is HR’s shift to business partner and leader. Following is a brief discussion of the types of transitions needed.
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III. HR Activities and Organizational Effectiveness
There is no question that the overall perception of the HR department’s roles and responsibilities is changing dramatically. More and more organizations are beginning to understand why it is necessary for the HR department to be present at the table and to have them take part in planning the overall business strategy. For example, a 1997 SHRM & Aon Consulting survey shows which HR activities contribute the most to organizational effectiveness. These are depicted in Table 1.1:
Contributions of HR Activities to Organizational Effectiveness
A Greater Contribution A Lesser Contribution
Leading organizational change initiatives Dealing with individual employee issues
Working with operating management Dealing with HR compliance/legal issues
Business strategy development Administering HR programs
HR strategy development Developing HR staff
What this suggests is the need for HR professionals to shift from primarily “doing activities” to taking a more holistic approach that adds value to what the organization must do to be successful. This requires the HR professional to stop operating in a linear, operational mode, engaging in discrete “activities,” and to start functioning in a strategic, integrative mode to become a business partner and leader. In other words, the HR professional should ask questions such as these:
• How are we contributing to the organization’s overall growth and effectiveness?
• Are we doing the right things?
• What should we do differently?
• Do we have the right competencies for now and in the future?
• How do we know?
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IV. Challenges and Myths
Dave Ulrich (1997), one of the leading champions for HR, outlined eight challenges facing today’s business world:
2. value chain for business competitiveness and HR services
3. profitability through cost and growth
4. capability focus
5. change, change, and change some more
6. effective use of technology
7. attracting, retaining, and measuring competence and intellectual capital
8. turnaround is not transformation
We will discuss these and other challenges in more depth in subsequent modules.
In the same publication, Ulrich (1997) outlined myths that keep HR from being considered a profession:
Myths That Keep HR from Being a Profession
Old Myths New Realities
People go into HR because they like people. HR departments are not designed to provide corporate therapy or as social or health-and-happiness retreats. HR professionals must create the practices that make employees more competitive, not more comfortable.
Anyone can do HR. HR activities are based on theory and research. HR professionals must master both theory and practice.
HR deals with the soft side of a business and therefore is not accountable. The impact of HR practices on business results can and must be measured. HR professionals must learn how to translate their work into financial performance.
HR focuses on costs, which must be controlled. HR practices must create value by increasing the intellectual capital within the firm. HR professionals must add value, not reduce costs.
HR’s job is to be the policy police and the health-and-happiness patrol. The HR function does not own compliance—managers do. HR practices do not exist to make employees happy, but to help them become committed. HR professionals must help managers commit employees and administer policies.
HR is full of fads. HR practices have evolved over time. HR professionals must see their current work as part of an evolutionary chain and explain their work with less jargon and more authority.
HR is staffed by nice people. HR practices have evolved over time. HR professionals must see their current work as part of an evolutionary chain and explain their work with less jargon and more authority.
HR is HR’s job. HR work is important to line managers, as are finance, strategy, and other business domains. HR professionals should join with managers in championing HR issues.
Source: Ulrich (1997), p. 18.
Ulrich (1997) goes on to proclaim that if businesses are to remain competitive, major changes must occur between line managers and HR professionals. He says the two groups must work together collaboratively to create new organizational capabilities.
• Line managers must understand how organizational capability relates to competitiveness and then devote more time and energy to the process of designing and developing the organization’s capabilities to ensure a competitive organization.
• HR professionals, on the other hand, must integrate HR issues into the strategic direction of the organization and articulate why HR matters in business terms, starting with business value. They must also discuss the relationships among HR activities and the organization’s competitive challenges.
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V. The Relationships Among HR Activities and an Organization’s Competitive Challenges
As you can see in figure 1.2 below, the relationships among HR activities and an organization’s competitive challenges are nonlinear; they are quite complex. Thus, an in-depth understanding of not only real, but also potential interactions is essential. Through education and training, HR professionals can change the perception of their value to the organization by helping management and employees understand these relationships.
HR professionals can also help identify competencies that both management and employees need and make recommendations to ensure success. The ultimate success or failure of an organization will depend to a great extent on how well management and employees understand and manage the various factors shown in figure 1.2. We now believe that HR professionals can play a major role in making this happen. A brief discussion of these relationships follows. In subsequent modules, we will provide more detail about how HR can lead the organization relative to these factors and their relationships.
Relationships Related to Outcomes
External Factors: Customers, Competitors, Environment, and Shareholders
One of the latest trends is the notion of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Smart managers have learned how to identify individual customer wants, needs, and expectations (WNEs). They also have learned how to differentiate between their high-value customers (those who contribute to 80 percent of the organization’s revenue) and their low-value customers (those who contribute significantly less) and then concentrate on the high-value ones.
Some of the questions that every manager should ask are, “Who are our competitors?” “How are they different from us?” “What is their market share?” and “What should we do differently to make us more competitive?”
About the only thing we can all agree on lately is that the environment is constantly changing. Gone are the days when things changed slowly and we had a relatively stable economy. One of the most significant contributors to this turmoil is the incredible technological advances that have occurred over the last several decades. These advances have facilitated the globalization of the marketplace, due in part to factors like increasing terrorism and dramatically changing demographics.
Shareholders are demanding more and more from organizations. Instead of focusing on short-term profits, however, shareholders should be informed about the ramifications of this shortsightedness and understand how a long-term, integrated perspective will produce better results.
In summary, HR professionals can play an important role in helping management and employees learn how these variables affect the bottom line. HR can provide or facilitate training and education activities and conduct assessments to identify the types of things that are needed to ensure that these internal factors are appropriately aligned.
Internal Factors: Vision, Mission, Goals and Objectives, Core Values, Actions or Activities, and Human Capability
It has often been said that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. High-performing organizations should have a clear picture of what they are trying to create together. They must be clear about their basic purpose, goals, and objectives and have a common set of core values. They also must understand the relationships they must have to achieve that vision. HR professionals can play a crucial role in helping their organization define these things and then ensure that they are clearly understood and implemented throughout the organization.
An organization’s mission can best be described as what it does—its products and services. In our rapidly changing environment, the organization must constantly evaluate its current mission to determine the extent to which it is relevant and viable. In other words, has technology made some things obsolete? Have other circumstances in the environment rendered the mission unattainable? Does the organization have the right people with the right skills to help it achieve its mission? HR professionals can help the organization answer these and other questions and then help fill any existing gaps.
Goals and Objectives
All organizations have goals and objectives, but what differentiates the truly successful ones from others is that they have learned to define viable goals and objectives. Viable is the operative word here. Quite often, one group will create overall organizational goals and objectives while individual departments are creating their own goals and objectives, and the two could be at cross-purposes. For example, the chief financial officer (CFO) may identify an overall goal of reducing costs to provide more profit to shareholders. On the other hand, the production manager may have a different perspective, thinking that buying more modern equipment will increase efficiency and effectiveness, ultimately creating more profit. These two managers quite possibly could end up in a major conflict concerning their individual goals and objectives. HR professionals should be cognizant of these potential discrepancies and help educate managers and employees about their individual actions and how they can create win-win situations.
The core values area represents another way in which HR professionals can help their organization. The organization must define the values they believe are important to their success. These values, often called core values, should then be articulated throughout the organization and built into every action or activity. It is not enough to say, for example, that customer satisfaction is a core value. The organization must also know how this value is implemented on a daily, ongoing basis. Individual managers and supervisors must be able to translate core values into operational terms and then determine the extent to which everyone throughout the organization is focused on customer satisfaction. HR professionals can be instrumental in helping to make this a reality.
Actions or Activities
Many organizations can identify and clearly articulate their vision, mission, goals and objectives, and core values. It is at this juncture, however, that things may begin to fall apart simply because no one is paying attention to the linkages among the relationships, behaviors, and outcomes. For example, one of the primary criticisms of the quality movement was that while management espoused certain core values, they often did not follow those values in practice. One of the most frequently cited examples of this is the “disconnect” between the “quality first” core value and the actions and activities in which management and employees engage. Many organizations adopted this core value, but employees were often heard making comments such as this:
Quality first? You’ve got to be kidding! It depends on what day of the month it is. If it’s toward the first of the month, management pays more attention. If it’s toward the end of the month, we are rushed and told to just get it out the door!
In these instances, HR professionals can play a vital role in helping identify such discrepancies and work with management and employees to eliminate or at least minimize them in the future.
Human Capability: Management and Employees
Management: An organization’s management should have the appropriate competencies commensurate with their roles and responsibilities. These competencies include, at minimum, management and supervisory skills, people skills, change-management skills, measurement skills, and technical skills related to their area of expertise. HR professionals must evaluate the organization’s needs, assess the extent to which these competencies are adequate, identify gaps, provide recommendations on how to fill the gaps, evaluate the extent to which the gaps have been filled, and then determine the overall effectiveness of the organization and its employees.
Employees: One of the most critical roles that HR professionals can fill is helping their organization determine their human capabilities and the strengths needed to achieve their mission. This means moving away from traditional job descriptions and shifting their focus to the specific knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes the individual employees must have to deliver the product or service to the customer. Employees also need continual training and career-development opportunities, rewards and recognition commensurate with their contributions to the organization, and above all, fair and respectful treatment. Managers and supervisors must do all of these things in an effective and efficient manner. One of the primary keys to competitive advantage is the effectiveness with which line management performs HRM functions with the tools, data, and processes that HRM specialists provide (Bernadin, 2003, p. 4).
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VI. The Future of Human Resources
Although it is unclear exactly where the HR field is headed, Christensen (2006, pp. 255–260) has suggested the following:
• Management will continue to emphasize the need to pay attention to the organization of human issues.
• HR leaders will become increasingly strategic and increasingly effective business leaders.
• The administrative components will become separated from HR.
• Employee relationships and workforce planning will become a new focus of attention.
• The field will learn how to measure its performance.
• There will be a renewed emphasis on human life principles such as respect, honesty, humility, forgiveness, excellence, and service.
• HR will be a great field in which to work.
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In many organizations, HR staff appear to be standing in front of a maze of “administrivia” with the door closed behind it, as suggested by the graphic on the right. If they continue to engage only in these types of activities, they run the danger of losing more and more credibility and, quite possibly, their jobs. As mentioned earlier, these activities must be done, but the organization may be better served by outsourcing them, freeing the HR professional to engage in leadership and business-partner roles.
If HR professionals can master the maze, as suggested by the figure to the left, they will be in a better position to find ways of adding value to what they do, gaining more credibility in the process. For example, they can identify the activities that can now be done more efficiently and effectively through technology and/or outsourcing, allowing them to concentrate on value-added activities.
When HR professionals have mastered the “administrivia” maze, they will get more respect and credibility. They can share their new-found enlightenment with others in the organization, and together they can craft and adopt new roles, responsibilities, tools, techniques, and strategies to boost the organization’s success. In effect, they will have found the “light,” as suggested by the final graphic on the right. The light will help them negotiate the maze and add real value to the organization.
In subsequent modules, we will explore ways to craft the new HRM practices; strategic HRM competencies, roles, and responsibilities; HRM measurement and metrics; IT’s impact; and finally, the creation and management of HRM transformations.
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Bernadin, H.J. (2003). Human resource management. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Christensen, Ralph. (2006). Roadmap to strategic HR. New York: AMACOM.
Effron, M., Gandossy, R., & Goldsmith, M. (Eds.). (2003). Human resources in the 21st century. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Haines, S.G. (2005). Creating the people edge through strategic human resource management (4th ed.). San Diego, CA: Centre for Strategic Management.
Towers Perrin. (1992). Priorities for competitive advantage, a 21st century vision: A worldwide human resources study. In H.J. Bernadin, Human resource management (pp. 3, 573). New York: McGraw-Hill. (An IBM study conducted by Towers Perrin.)
Ulrich, D. (1997). Human resource champions. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Ulrich, D., & Brockbank, W. (2005). The HR value proposition. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
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Part 1 of 2
Using the SHRM case study (an organization named PAC) provided, students will apply their knowledge about business and the function of Human Resources. In addition the use of a common business tool, a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) assessment is used to assess both the HR domains and the role the HR functions (bolded) is performing in the organization.
Complete the SWOT Assessment based on the PAC case study (attached).
HR Domains and Roles Strength, Weakness, Opportunity or Threat? Comments/Description on Your Finding of the Strength, Weakness, Opportunity or Threat
Human resource development and succession planning
Risk management, safety and security
Talent acquisition (i.e., staffing)
Total rewards (i.e., compensation and benefits)
Employee and labor relations
Culture and change champion
HR innovators and integrators
Proponents in HR and organizational technology
Part 2: I would like the same writer to also do the PowerPoint.
Part 2 will consist of producing a PowerPoint Presentation based on the PAC case study. It is anticipated that the presentation will be approximately seven to ten slides, written in bullet points with additional notes included in the notes section of the presentation, demonstrating good academic writing style. In text citations and references will be presented in APA format and are in addition to the approximately seven to ten slides. At least one scholarly source is to be included on the reference page along with corresponding in text citations in the content of the presentation.
1. Title Page (Title of the paper, Your Name, Course Number, University, Professor’s Name & Date)
2. Introduction and Purpose of the Presentation (what the paper is intended to achieve)
3. Summary of Organization’s Capabilities and Requisite Employee Competencies (what is PAC in business to do and what competencies or knowledge, skills or abilities are needed of the employees in the entire organization in order to sustain success?) Attached Module #1 gives examples of capabilities and competencies.
4. Challenges the Organization Needs to Address (There are many in this study, find at least three that you think are key issues)
5. Summary of the Findings of the SWOT Assessment for the HR functions (using the following chart, HR Functions are bolded in the chart and highlighted in the case study)
6. Summary or Conclusions/Findings (Based on the challenges you identified and the SWOT, what are your findings? Go back to your purpose statement for the paper and reiterate what you have achieved)
7. Reference Page (do not use bullet points, do not number the references, list alphabetically the sources you cited in the presentation and only those)
I’ve already prepared the PowerPoint layout, please see attached. Please follow the outline above for reference.
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