A critical aspect of human resource management is that how employees are managed in an institution contributes to its growth and success. Studies in human resource management show that there are a myriad of human resource practices that enhance employee performance. The practices are popularly known as high-performance working practices (Baird 2002).
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The core argument for these practices is that an organisation can attain sustainable growth by upholding a culture that promotes employee empowerment. There is no single procedure that supports high performance in the organisation; instead, it comes as a result of a combination of different practices. This paper will focus on high-performance working practices and their relationship to organisational performance, employee wellbeing and competitive advantage.
High-performance working practices are established under three concepts, which are mostly known as ‘bundles’ of practices. The three concepts are “human resource practices, high employee involvement practices and reward and commitment practices” (Boxall & Purcell 2008, p. 74). Employee participation is significant to organisational growth.
An organisation that does not invest in employee growth and development is doomed. Therefore, one of the conceptual frameworks of high-performance working practices is employee involvement. Institutions come up with a high-performance working system that promotes employee empowerment. The system establishes self-guided teams, which can make decisions on matters affecting the organisation.
This encourages creativity and commitment among the employees, therefore, enhancing efficiency (Boxall & Purcell 2008). Besides, the concept of high employee involvement encourages information sharing within the company and breaks bureaucracy. Therefore, an organisation can make quick and timely decisions without having to follow a long chain of command.
The second framework under which high-performance working (HPW) practices are established is human resource practices. Under this framework, HPW practices are set up in a comportment that encourages employee mentoring. The growth of any company depends on employee creativity and innovation (Boxall 2003).
As a result, high-performance working practices promote research and development within the organisation and heavily invest in employee development. Human resource practices involve employee appraisal and recruitment processes.
The concept of employee practice insists on the use of modern recruitment methods. The hiring process ought to be conducted in such a way that the organization hires the best staff (Boxall 2003). What’s more, an organisation requires having an employee appraisal strategy that retains and motivates employees.
Employee reward and promotion encourage commitment. Every employee feels honoured and secure whenever his or her contribution is acknowledged. Further, giving financial rewards to employees makes them work extra hard to achieve organisational objectives (Connolly & McGing 2007).
High-performance working practices brought the idea that proper reward and commitment practices are indispensable factors that lead to corporate growth. The human resource managers are supposed to establish flexible working conditions and to encourage job rotation as methods of employee development.
Components of high-performance working practices
High-performance working practices comprise of a number of components, which work together for the success of an organisation. Some of the components include communication, performance management, guaranteed policy hoard and engagement.
Employees’ contribution may be unproductive, no matter the commitment if it does not rhyme with organisational goals (Connolly & McGing 2007). Therefore, one of the primary components of high-performance working practices is performance management. The management guarantees that employees’ input is aligned with organisational goals and values.
Companies furnish employees with corporate vision, mission and objectives prior to assigning them different tasks. Additionally, human resource managers work closely with line managers to make sure that employees work towards achieving the stipulated targets and values. Performance management, as one of the components of high-performance working practices, guarantees that employees work together for the benefit of the company (Connolly & McGing 2007).
Moreover, the system paves room for clarity of expectations, therefore allowing employees to work in areas that seem not to go with the company’s expectations. Organisational projects are mostly implemented in stages. The stages give a company the opportunity to pause and evaluate whether the projects are going as per the expectations. That is the role of performance management as a constituent of high-performance working practices.
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Updating employees on what is happening in an organisation is vital for performance, empowerment and commitment. Besides, it avoids chances of misdirected energy since it assures that all energy is directed towards organisational goals (Bacon & Blyton 2006).
Bacon and Blyton assert “Communication as an essential feature of high-performance working practices is a crucial asset when it comes to change implementation” (2006, p. 224). Organisations are encouraged to hold staff briefings and to publish posters and newsletters as a way of communicating with employees. It eliminates cases of redundancy because employees identify and fill the gaps created due to changes in job descriptions.
According to Bacon and Blyton (2006), complexities in workplaces make it hard for human resource and line managers to engage their employees fully. Engagement is another component of high-performance working practices. It is the duty of human resource managers to sit with employees and understand their interests so as to come up with a work environment that meets these interests.
In so doing, the managers would encourage commitment to the employees since they would not only be pursuing organisational goals but also meeting their interests. Companies achieve brand enhancement by investing in employee training and development. Unless the employees have clear knowledge of the brand they are developing or marketing, it is hard for them to make substantial sales.
Datta, Guthrie and Wright allege, “One of the primary components of high-performance working practices is ensuring policies stack up” (2005, p. 137). This can be achieved by investing in employee training and development. Employee training equips staff with requisite skills for handling upcoming responsibilities. It saves a company the cost of hiring new staff whenever there are changes in job specifications.
Guaranteeing policies stack up, as a component of high-performance working practices helps to assess organisational performance to make sure that activities match with the company’s values. It works as a link between all the other components. An organisation ought to insist on justice and impartiality when implementing all these components in order to achieve the overall objectives.
High-performance working practices enhance the competitive advantage of business by improving performance. One of the ways through which a business improves performance is by investing in its people. The HPW practices nurture a committed working team through empowerment and employee training and development (Ulrich 1997).
Consequently, the business enjoys a workforce that is not only committed to its goals, but also has the requisite skills to accomplish the goals. Ultimately, the practices enhance service delivery and make the business to stand out relative to competitors. High-performance working practices encourage a company to go beyond the conventional approach of assigning various tasks to employees.
The practices advocate redefinition of job responsibility and establishment of accreditation procedures. The two methods enhance organisational efficiency because they promote job rotation and spell out lucid leadership practices.
In the past, organisation performance was measured based on the profit made by an organisation. Today, organisation performance is measured in terms of the ability to maintain and increase customer base as well as to enhance service delivery. Besides, it involves the capability of an organization to recruit and retain competent staff.
High-performance work practices improve organisational performance by helping an organisation to nurture an engaged workforce. The practices lay down proper managerial procedures, which boost employee attitudes and increase their productivity. The practices guarantee that employers meet their commitment to meeting employees’ desires.
In return, this reinforces “employees’ sense of fairness and trust in the organisation and generates a positive psychological contract between employer and employee” (Datta, Guthrie & Wright 2005, p. 140). There is nothing fulfilling like a cordial relationship between employers and workers.
High-performance working practices promote employee wellbeing since employers carry out regular assessment of the employee stance. The assessments give a picture of what workers think about the company. Information gathered is used to restructure the business to suit employee feelings (Ulrich 1997). Besides, high-performance working practices pave way for employers to establish a growth and rewarding scheme that meets employee needs.
In many cases, employee wellbeing does not entail paying them handsomely. Instead, it involves giving workers an opportunity to develop their skills while at workplace. Moreover, it means giving the incentives like paid holidays and maternal or paternal leave. All these aspects are reflected in high-performance working practices.
Case for high-performance working practices
One of the companies that embraced high-performance working practice as a strategy to improve its productivity is New Zealand Post. Deregulation of the postal market and the arrival of internet made it hard for the company to dominate the market (Arrowsmith 2001). The company lost many of its clients to competitors while others started using the internet to send their emails.
New Zealand had to create a high-performance working culture to rescue itself. The company gave frontline leaders the powers to make decisions on matters that affected their areas of specialization. Nevertheless, some of the leaders were not willing to implement the new changes. Besides, some managers felt like the company did not recognize their leadership.
The company embarked on a ‘GOAL’ initiative after realizing that frontline leaders were unproductive. The action entailed “reviewing job descriptions, objectives and measures; recruiting to the new roles and inducting successful applicants; providing close on-the-ground support to incumbents for their first six months, plus 8 workshops for group and team leaders” (Arrowsmith 2001, p. 23).
The short-term objective of the ‘GOAL’ initiative was to assist New Zealand Post to reestablish itself in the postal industry. Besides, the company aimed at using the strategy to recruit qualified employees and train the existing ones. On the other hand, the company had a long-term objective of using the ‘GOAL’ initiative to nurture employee engagement and to improve productivity.
One of the potential barriers to this initiative was financial constraints. The initiative cut across a number of departments and required a lot of money to implement. Another possible barrier was employee resistance. It is normal for people to oppose changes especially after being in an organisation for a long time.
Arrowsmith, J 2001, ‘Delivering high performance in New Zealand Post: the role of HR as a strategic partner’, New Zealand Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 19-34.
Bacon, N & Blyton, P 2006, ‘Union co-operation in a context of job insecurity: negotiated outcomes from teamworking’, British Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 215–237.
Baird, M 2002, ‘Changes, dangers, choice and voice: understanding what high commitment management means for employees and unions’, The Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 44, no. 3, pp. 359–375.
Boxall, P & Purcell, J 2008, Strategy and Human Resource Management, Palgrave, London.
Boxall, P 2003, ‘HR strategy and competitive advantage in the service sector’, Human Resource Management Journal, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 5-20.
Connolly, P & McGing, G 2007, ‘High-performance work practices and competitive advantage in the Irish hospitality sector’, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 201–210.
Datta, D, Guthrie, J & Wright, P2005, ‘Human resource management and labor productivity: Does industry matter’, Academy of Management Journal, vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 135-145.
Ulrich, D 1997, Human Resource Champions: The Next Agenda for Adding Value and Delivering Results, Harvard Business School Press, Boston.