What are the best strategies for Human Relations Management (HRM) and Human Relations professionals (HRPs) to improve the performance of their employees? There are several important strategies that relate to that question, and they are reviewed in this paper.
The impact of Human Resource Management (HRM) on organizations is the subject of a peer-reviewed article in the International Journal of Human Resource Management (Dyer, et al., 1995). Dyer poses the questions at the outset as to whether several human resource strategies -- called "internally consistent bundles of human resource practices" -- actually make a contribution to organizational effectiveness. "Maybe" they do, Dyer responds to his own question. The background he alludes to shows that: a) in terms of labor productivity, bundles do show more effectiveness than single HR components; b) not all bundles are equally helpful, but some "configuration" of bundles do lower employee turnover and boost the quality of the product; c) because the bundles that Dyer writes about do not all perform similarly, it makes it tough to devise a strategy based on bundles; and d) there is no "convincing evidence" that the bundles that work best for one organization are effective just because of the strategy employed, or organizational context (Dyer, 656).
So, given these uncertainties as to why certain strategic human resource management (SHRM) tactics work well (as a bundle) in one context and not in the next, it cries out for deeper investigation. Dyer (p. 656) explains that two possible explanation are the "intense global competition" and the search by alert organizations for sources that will provide a "sustainable competitive advantage." Why bundle HR strategies? For one, Dyer (657) points out that since the performance of employees is based both on "ability and motivation," it makes good sense to devise strategies and practices that enhance both ability and motivation. And secondly, by employing several ways of contributing to the development of skills (like on-the-job training) and offering incentives (non-monetary rewards) through bundling is known to maximize employee performance. That having been pointed out, Dyer (661) makes clear that not all bundles are "created equal" and moreover, organizations have to find their own best bundle match depending on their work environment and organizational structure.
A more recent scholarly piece suggests that research into the dynamics of human resource management (HRM) brings out the fact that human resource professionals (HRPs) can play a far greater role in making their organization a success. That greater role entails creating policies and systems that are "…aligned" with the "values, goals and mission" of their organization (Caldwell, et al., 2011, p. 171). That may sound like an obvious goal, but Caldwell goes a step further, suggesting that the HRPs should raise the standards of their organizations by creating "implicit ethical duties" (171). Basically the authors are saying that human resource professionals need to adopt "an ethical stewardship framework" in order to help their organizations develop "transformational leaders" that can meet today's global competition head on with not just an outstanding product or service, but with values that satisfy the needs of employees and hence, make the organization more productive (171).
Caldwell (172) points out that in the past HRPs have not been given adequate training in order to design and set in motion "systems and policies" that seamlessly interlock with the mission and goals of their organizations. But, Caldwell asserts (172) that there is empirical evidence that when HRM systems are in high gear, they indeed have a "significant positive impact on overall financial performance" and they reduce turnover at the same time. "Strategically crafted HRM systems" -- that embrace ethical standards as well -- can produce "enormous economic returns" (Caldwell, 172).
Much of what Caldwell and colleagues have crafted in this scholarly piece is based not just on previously instituted HRM strategies, but also on the "post-Enron era" need for: a) the creation of "trust cultures" that look out for the best interest of stakeholders; b) ethical stewardship that honors the values of society, of employees and of stakeholders; c) a policy that treats employees as "owners and partners" rather than as subservient workers; and d) ethical stewards that help transform their organizations into "human and humane communities" that embrace "inclusion, shared partnership, empowerment and leadership trustworthiness" (174).
A piece in the journal Human Resource Management (Lopez-Cabrales, 2009, p. 485) shares ideas along the same lines as the Dyer article; that is, a company can enjoy higher profit levels, can achieve impressive gains in employee knowledge, and can devise effective, innovative capabilities -- all through creative human resource management practices. There are no hidden secrets in the concept of innovating, and it is not rocket science to say that an organization needs to innovate to stay competitive and productive. But Lopez-Cabrales breaks innovation down to three separate meanings, all of which are mutually compatible.
One, the authors explain that innovation is a "discrete element" that helps drive the development of programs, services, and products (engineers, designers, and others come up with creative ideas and those become the substance that makes the company's offerings attractive). Secondly, innovation is simply a "process" -- or a "stage" -- within the larger developmental strategy that produces goods and services. And number three, innovation can be described as "an organizational capability" (i.e., a given company has a knack for innovativeness, coming up with new products and services through its innovative capabilities) (Lopez-Cabrales, 486).
Taken as a singular concept, innovation is the driver behind new and attractive products, and the companies that innovate in their marketing strategies as well tend to be ahead of the competition. The salient point is that HRM practices must be designed to give the company's best creative employees the knowledge required in order to innovate (Lopez-Cabrales, 488).
The concept of "green" has taken on a popularity that few could have predicted just ten years ago -- and it doesn't always specifically allude to organic food or reducing one's carbon footprint. To wit, authors Muster and Schrader explain that "Green HRM" can live up to its "full potential" if employees are seen as consumers and producers, and are treated professionally by taking into account their private environmental values and their workplace conditions (Muster, 2011, p. 140). What the authors stress in this piece is that Green HRM policies that only focus on an individuals' role in the workplace "are insufficient" (141). A more "holistic" approach to HRM is emphasized by Muster, which means companies embracing Green HRM should be aware of employees' patterns in their everyday lives and with that knowledge, Green HRM should tap into the collective and individual capabilities "to bring about green behavior" (142).
When Green HR policies are in place, and workers are respected for their personal, off-hours cultural / ecological values, an environmental corporate culture can be formed, Muster writes on page 143. Within that culture, an increase in motivation and communication -- both linked to green policies that are instituted by Green HRM -- can be predicted and expected (143). The bottom line for Muster (143) is that Green HRM could fail to reach its full potential if the focus is only on employees in their role as workers, and not on their environmental values in private life.
Olivier Herrback and colleagues explain in the journal Human Resource Management that they have come to two conclusions vis-a-vis HRM practices. One is, when high quality training opportunities are presented to employees, "most favorable outcomes" can be expected (Herrback, 2009, p. 895). That is, good quality training can bring a level of commitment to the organization that Herrback alludes to as "higher effective" and "high-sacrifice" levels of commitment (895). Moreover, competent company training also tends to lead to a "lower lack of alternatives" (in other words, employees are not seeking job alternatives because they are so well prepared and comfortable through training they wish to remain on their current jobs). The second conclusion this article reaches is that by assigning "older workers to new roles" (possibly a coach or a mentor) does not have positive results that might be expected (895).
The results in Herrback's first conclusion are not surprising at all, especially for those that have studied the relationship of training and preparation and job competency and job satisfaction. But the second conclusion (older people unable to adapt to new assignments) is a bit of a surprise. Still, Herrback points out (897) that companies' HRM departments can get the most out of older people by recognizing: a) if their needs are being met their commitment is usually strong; b) if their skills are respected, and if they are respected by co-workers (that may be younger), they are more productive; and c) when they are given "continuing education" opportunities, they are more motivated, committed, and indeed happier on the job.
Another article in Personal Management applies cognitive-social theory to Green HRM; it centers on the "initiation and maintenance of green HRM behaviors" (Zoogah, 2011, p. 117). Those "green behaviors" that need…