When an organization makes the decision to take an individual on as a part of staff, effectively they are making a human capital investment in that individual (Lepak & Snell, 1999). Where the organization pays for the training of, insuring of, and salary to that individual they in turn are expected to perform the tasks within their job description efficiently and accurately thus allowing the organization to function successfully and more importantly profitably. However, when a human element is involved, there is always a degree of risk present. In the case of developing the potential of employees to maximize their value within the company there are many factors which must be addressed in the overall assessment of their potential and potential value relative to the risk at which they place the company (Abowd, & Kramarz, 2003).
The factors influencing employee performance and there by the performance of an organization as a whole are many and complex. Variables originating both from within and without the organization will ultimately impact employee performance. For the purposes of this paper however, only those factors which are within the control of the organization will be discussed. An effective analogy to business and the way they function is to think of them as a living organism with all of the independent systems working jointly to affect a positive outcome. Though often time's independent systems are specialized and disparate, they must still find common ground through which they can interact successfully. The management staff effectively performs the function of the central nervous system organizing the activity, response, and interaction of the other systems each of which perform a specific task within the overall directive of the organization. The management is responsible not only for organization wide success, but also for the relative efficacy of each individual employee (Bowen & Lawler, 1992).
Management is generally divided into levels each ascending level having simultaneously a greater sense of objectivity as well as an increased burden to adhere to the organizations overall goals and directives (Simons, 1991). Though they are more directly concerned with the overall objectives of the organization, they must balance those objectives with the individual and often disparate needs of different departments. The successively lower levels of management interact more closely with individual departments and even personnel, yet they are still ultimately responsible to senior management and tasked with maximizing the efficacy of their personnel and department for the purposes of efficiently and accurately achieving their departmental goals which in turn further the goals of the organization. Within this system, it is not difficult for the goals and needs of individual employees to be overlooked especially in the context of a larger organization. However, when the needs of individual employees are not met then they are less effective workers and in turn departmental and organization wide goals may suffer (Bretz, et al., 1992).
Of the many challenges facing management personnel, the individual development of employees so as to maximize their efficacy in their position is perhaps the most challenging and ongoing aspect of the management field (Patterson, et al., 1997). In this paper four empirically significant problems will be addressed through review of relevant literature. These concerns will then be assessed in the context of a child welfare organization. Though a generic understanding of issues facing management is useful, understanding the challenges of motivating and training employees is most effective when discussed contextually.
Areas of Specific Focus:
The first challenge lies in successfully identifying individuals with significant potential during the interview and hiring process. A number of factors are in play in this instance. For the company to invest time and money in an employee they must be certain that not only will the individual be able to competently and efficiently accomplish the tasks set before them, but also that they will remain with the company relatively long-term (depending on the position) (Delaney & Husleid, 1996). Staff turnover is one of the largest single expenses facing any company in that not only do they lose money from the loss of an individual performing an essential function but also the time and money spent hiring a temporary replacement and then interviewing selecting and training a replacement (Abowd, & Kramarz, 2003). It is in the best interests of a company to utilize effective measures for assessing potential candidates. These measures often include not only the standard background checks, but also assessments of personality mental health and integrity (Rosse, et al., 1998). All of which contribute to whether or not an individual will be able to work effectively and consistently in the role which they are applying for.
The second challenge is implementing effective training methods which will be specialized enough to give employees a sense of individual value and identity yet broad enough to be applicable across a large group. Training is a necessary part of job performance (Collins & Clark, 2003). When new strategies or protocols are implemented the personnel affected by the change must be taught to perform their various jobs within the context of this new task. However as with any learning situation individual learning style must be considered, yet in the context of a large organization it is impossible to individualize training programs. It falls to the managerial staff to determine what the most effective approach to train as many people as possible while spending the least amount of time and money doing so (Husleid, et al., 1997).
The third challenge is the decision regarding which management strategy will be most effective within a group of diverse individuals. Though a manager is the member of staff ostensibly in charge of the employees' personality types and ability to work well as part of a team are important factors in the relative efficacy of management strategy. Current research indicates that human resource management is one of the most cost saving functions of management and is therefore extremely valuable not only in terms of perpetuating the success of the company but also in the ability of employees to grow and develop within the company (Husleid, 1995). Though undoubtedly the management is tiered such that lower level managers have comparatively little power and control over important decisions, an effective efficient and consistent management infra structure in which senior level management is at least aware of individual employees is often the most effective (Lengnick- Hall & Lengnick- Hall, 1988).
The fourth challenge is in the continued motivation of the workforce. Studies show that when a workforce is unmotivated the rate of absenteeism increases at an inverse proportional rate to their efficiency (Reason, 2000). Needless to say a company whose employees spend more time absent than present and performing their roles will not do well. It is left to managerial staff to not only keep their staff motivated but also to challenge them to outperform the specific goals set for them by higher level management or indeed the company itself. Employees who feel undervalued or who have become bored with their roles within a company will actually begin costing the company money rather than assisting in the generation of profit (Jackson, 1995). Keeping the positions interesting and challenging is an integral aspect of managerial positions. Implicit in this motivational role though is the additional necessity for managers to be able to resolve conflicts within their departments. This entails a thorough knowledge of mediation techniques as well as an ability to quickly assess a situation assert authority and make decisions quickly and effectively (Brett, 2001). Employees who feel threatened much like those who feel undervalued will not perform well or could even bring suit against the company for not stepping in to protect them.
The practice of hiring new personnel is a decision fraught with risk for the organization. While it is important to determine whether or not an individual is qualified for a specific position and that they are physically and psychologically fit to fill that position, they must also be careful not to violate that individual's right to privacy. Also important is cognizance of potentially discriminatory practices which might unlawfully inhibit a qualified individual from filling an open position (Holzer, et al., 2002). The strict laws regarding hiring practices and discrimination force employers to comply with basic standards of equality and privacy, however there is still a great deal of potential for infringement of both the rights of the applicant and the rights of the employer (Bretz, et al., 1992).
Previously, the criteria for selecting new employees from a pool of applicants were the simple determination of which of them best fit the parameters of a specific job (Bowen, et al., 1991). In such instances whole individuals were hired based on a single ability or skill all other factors deemed irrelevant. In the process of hiring say a new accounts payable person or a new receivables clerk their overall ability to fit in with the organization and the existing staff was not addressed, simply the only factor for consideration was whether…