Human Resource Management

A Concise Introduction

by Ronan Carbery and Christine Cross

Chapter summaries

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Chapter 1

In this chapter we have seen that the term human resource management has increasingly replaced personnel management as the description of choice for the management of people in most organisations. By considering the major characteristics of HRM and looking at who is responsible for it we see where the HRM function should fit into the organisation structure. By understanding the link between business strategy and HRM we can see how HRM adds value to an organisation. The most important thing to recognise is the link between HRM and organisational performance and the extent to which HRM can shape the strategic objectives of the business. Having discussed HRM policies, practices, and strategies in general terms, the remainder of the book looks at specific aspects of the HR function, beginning with employee resourcing.

Chapter 2

In this chapter we have focused on both human resource planning and the recruitment aspect of human resource management. We have examined how human resource planning needs to be aligned with the organisation’s strategy so that the organisation can be assured it will have the right quantity and quality of employees it requires to operate a successful business in the immediate term and future. We set out the stages in human resource planning, describing important terms and concepts such as job analysis, job description, person specification and competency framework. In determining the staffing requirements of the organisation, we then moved our attention to focus on recruitment. We distinguished recruitment from selection. We focused on the methods of recruitment, formal and informal methods, and the attraction of candidates to apply for vacant positions in an organisation. We discussed the recruitment options open to organisations in attracting a pool of candidates to apply for a particular position, and the respective advantages and disadvantages of each method. We noted that more than one method of recruitment is often used by organisations in practice, in order to get the largest number of quality applicants possible. We also highlighted the relevance of a positive employer brand in attracting quality candidates. One of the important aspects in recruitment is the use by employers of the flexible firm model, which we saw has both benefits and limitations. Finally, we identified the role that legislation plays with regard to recruitment (equality legislation) and flexible workers (part-time, fixed-term (temporary) and agency (contract) workers).

This chapter contains the recruitment part of the resourcing function. As you recall from earlier in the chapter, resourcing consists of both recruitment and selection stages. The next chapter continues where we leave this chapter and focuses on Selection [MAKING LINKS: See Chapter 3].

Chapter 3

In this chapter we have covered some of the key issues involved in making the decision about who is the most suitable candidate for the vacant position. The critical role played by the initial shortlisting process cannot be over-emphasised. By ensuring your initial shortlisting criteria are specific to the role and then utilising these same criteria in all the stages of the selection process, you are improving your chance of selecting the most suitable candidate from the applicants. The choice of selection method depends on many factors and the predictive validity of each method should be a factor in choosing the selection method/s. Using more than one method has the effect of increasing the ability to predict successful performance in the role. Ensuring compliance with employment legislation is important in safeguarding against the possibility of a rejected candidate taking a case for discrimination.

Chapter 4

We can see that induction, turnover and retention are inextricably linked. A focused and strategic approach to the management of each area while recognising the linkages between them is vitally important. The process begins with good recruitment and must be followed through with appropriate induction programs which seek to ensure rapid socialisation of new starters while ensuring focused retention policies are in place for high performers. By ensuring all these are in place an organisation reduces its exposure to undesirable turnover effects and ensures that high performing employees are more likely to be engaged and therefore remain productive and happy employees for the longer term.

Chapter 5

In this chapter we have examined the concepts of equality and discrimination in the workplace. We find that inequality is deeply rooted in society and that certain groups of people face greater barriers than others in accessing employment and progression within employment. There are multiple reasons for this which are often interlinked, but we can identify three key explanations: human capital explanations, institutional explanations and socially constructed explanations. In recognition of the disproportionate disadvantages experienced by certain groups, countries across the world have introduced legislation in a bid to counter discrimination and level the playing field with respect to employment. Legislation however varies across countries. This may be due, among other things, to differing circumstances of people in these countries, political ideologies, economic issues, social and cultural attitudes and norms. Broadly speaking, the legislative measures in various countries prohibit discrimination against defined ‘grounds’ which can include sex, race, disability, age and religion. There are some exceptions allowable in all counties whereby employers can discriminate on the identified grounds but in these cases employers have to prove quite robustly that there was objective justification and there was no other option available to them. Organisations are expected to have clear policies and procedures in place to promote equal treatment and to facilitate employees who wish to pursue complaints. The Human Resource function plays a critical role in developing policies and procedures, communicating them, developing and providing relevant training and development, supporting employees and investigating and processing complaints and cases. Organisations themselves can go beyond their legal obligations in promoting equality and inclusion. They may do this from a belief that they have a moral obligation as community ‘citizens’ or because they recognise the business sense of engaging in positive action with respect to equality. There are enduring questions surrounding the success of measures to promote equality and minimise discrimination. For instance, pay gaps between men and women still exist, men rarely avail of family-friendly policies and certain groups still experience serious disadvantages in the labour market, such as young black people in Britain and lone parents in all countries. The next step for governments and organisations is how to move beyond legislative, procedural approaches to equality and find alternative approaches that work. Of course the key question will always remain, unless this is profitable for organizations, will they be interested in pursuing this agenda?

Chapter 6

We can see from this chapter that diverse workplaces now exist and within these, the effective management of this diversity is very important. Organisations engage in diversity management for a number of reasons, such as 'it is the right thing to do', 'it makes business sense to do so' and 'we must comply with the law'. Organisations can also take a proactive, active or reactive approach to diversity management. The majority of organisations recognise that it is beneficial to manage diversity so that both their businesses and their employees reap the benefits. Implementing a diversity management programme is not easy, but it is worthwhile.

Chapter 7

The search for the perfect or infallible performance appraisal or management system goes on – and will continue to do so. However given the merit associated with the practice (as noted in Table 7.1 in this chapter), there is good reason to continue this search. The range of obstacles to the effective operation of performance management in practice and how they might be overcome is detailed in the Performance Management Review Process section. The application of those characteristics associated with successful systems (set down in Table 7.2 in this chapter) should help in this process. Of course the key determining factor of a system’s success is the capacity (and preparedness) of individual managers or reviewers to apply appropriate interpersonal skills, serving to build and maintain manager-employee trust levels and to translate this into a motivational work environment. In brief, the real ‘acid test’ of the good performance management manager is whether, as a result of interactions with their staff – especially the periodic review meeting – staff leave more motivated than they arrived! In acknowledgement of this reality, the Performance Management Review Process and Feedback sections offer a host of practical guidelines for reviewers and reviewees, enabling them to get the best from their periodic interactions under the performance management system. Given that the necessary skill-set associated with such interactions does not come naturally to all players in the process it is notable that there is a correlation between the provision of appropriate training and successful systems.

Of course the priority and consequent resources that the system is accorded by the organisation is also of considerable importance. In an environment of rapid change the system should not become distorted or fall into disuse over time. The extent to which parties manage, monitor and modify it as required is also a key consideration. Even in the case of on-going organisational stability, checks may be required to ensure that managers have not become complacent about their people or performance management duties.

Despite extensive consultation and training, and the cultivation of a supportive attitude amongst participants, many practical problems will continue to surface. The ability to anticipate, prepare for and deal with such problems via on-going monitoring and evaluation constitutes a key ingredient in the attainment of the successful system. And yet the practical reality is that effective or successful performance management entails ‘informal’ performance management, with on-going feedback and discussion proceeding on a continuous basis as quite simply ‘the way we do things around here’. The importance of this mindset is particularly pronounced in an uncertain or hostile economic environment, where underperformance cannot be tolerated and effective coaching (and mentoring) enables staff to adapt to on-going changes and to rise to the range of challenges (and opportunities) now confronting them. Allied to the range of progressive human resource management practices outlined in this text, performance management can make an immense contribution to this process.

Chapter 8

While all HR policies are important, reward management can greatly influence the employment relationship. All parts of the reward package must be fairly and consistently applied. Pay can be compared both by employees within an organisation and with the package offered by competitors. Therefore, large employers in particular expend considerable resources to ensure that their pay structure is internally consistent and externally competitive. Organisations choose from a wide array of financial elements. While all reward packages include base pay and statutory benefits, organisations differentiate their reward package using performance-related pay and benefits. Employers who use a total reward approach also include non-financial elements in an effort to capture all of the aspects of the employment relationship that are valued by their employees. Recognition, job security, career development and work-life balance policies are presented with financial rewards to capture the total worth of the employment relationship. Labour costs are a significant proportion of total costs for many industries. Reward management must always balance the need to attract, retain and motivate employees with the requirement to control labour costs.

Chapter 9

Learning and development has emerged as a significant strategic issue within organisations. One of the reasons for this is the increased recognition that people are an important source of sustained competitive advantage. Skills and competencies enable an organisation to be more flexible and to meet strategic challenges. Organisations should implement best practice L&D strategies to maximise business performance. This chapter provides an introduction to L&D in organisations and the emphasis is focused on the need for a strategic approach where L&D activities contribute to the achievement of organisational strategic objectives. Key L&D activities include the identification of L&D needs, the formulation of learning objectives and outcomes, the selection of appropriate L&D strategies, the delivery of these strategies and the evaluation of the effectiveness of L&D strategies and interventions.

Chapter 10

This chapter highlights the importance of individuals taking responsibility for their own careers. This brings with it significant responsibilities. Careers no longer follow a traditional career model, but instead individuals are expected to be self-directed and to pursue careers that are increasingly fragmented, non-linear and which involve numerous career changes. Employees will find themselves becoming less competitive unless they are open-minded and make career choices that reflect their personal values and career trajectories. They may have to finance some of their development, and participate in more career development activities outside of work.

Chapter 11

This chapter demonstrates the often overlooked importance for HR practitioners to understand the significance of ensuring health, safety and wellbeing of all employees. Developing an organisational culture that truly believes in the value of safe working behaviours is particularly important. If we take the time and effort to understand why accidents occur and document the causes and factors contributing to accidents, we can lessen the likelihood of future occurrences. By understanding the effect of ergonomic and job design characteristics, we can make work both safer and more enjoyable. Organisations have both a moral obligation and economic incentive to provide a safe place of work.

Chapter 12

This chapter has explained that the employment relationship is a very complex one and consequently a range of institutions have developed around it. There is no one dominant or best type of employment relations system or set of practices. Instead, a range of employment relations practices have emerged. Given the complexity of the employment relationship, conflict is inevitable and can take various forms. Many organisations have procedures to prevent conflict from escalating but if problems cannot be addressed within the workplace, a variety of state bodies have been created in each country to offer independent assistance as an alternative to cases being processed through civil courts. Many companies have instituted direct forms of communication and employee voice to share information, deal with conflict and include employees in decision making, though the extent of this varies hugely. Some companies negotiate with trade unions, others have NER, while others have both or none. The choices companies make may depend on internal factors like employer attitudes to employment relations, the size and type of organisation and external factors like the law.

Chapter 13

This chapter has provided a brief introduction to the field of international human resource management (IHRM). The first section addressed issues such as the definition of IHRM and how IHRM differs to domestic HRM. The second section of the chapter addressed some of the main debates within the field of IHRM. Firstly it looked at the impact of globalisation on HRM and in particular it focused on the convergence versus divergence debate within the IHRM literature. Secondly this section looked at the transfer of HRM practices within MNCs, addressing the key debate of whether MNCs employ standardised practices across their foreign subsidiaries or whether foreign subsidiaries adopt practices similar to those in local companies. The third and final section of the chapter explored one of the main features of IHRM – namely the management of employees on international assignments. In doing so, this section went through the various aspects of managing employees on international assignments from the initial stages of recruitment and selection, preparation and adjustment, to compensation and performance management, and then finally to repatriation. This section also dealt with issues around expatriation failure and the growth in alternative forms of international assignments.

Chapter 14

In this chapter, we have explored some of the HRM issues that come under the CSR umbrella. We also looked at why CSR has become such an important business issue and we examined some of the ethical and financial reasons why firms choose to engage in CSR. However, as we saw, CSR is not universally acclaimed. While many critics of CSR share the social and environmental aims of its advocates, they have significant doubts these aims can be achieved through a purely voluntarist approach. Relying on consumers, employees, investors and civil society organisations to change corporate behaviour is not an effective way of addressing the social and environmental issues of our time. In particular, they highlight the inevitable tension between making profit and addressing these issues, and their argument is that profits will trump CSR. For critics, it is the job of government to set the standards society expects, not corporations. Given the reluctance of governments to increase regulation, CSR will continue to be a mainstream business issue that most large businesses need to integrate into their corporate strategy.