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The design and implementation of sets of ‘strategic’ human resource practices continues to lack coherence and consistency Essay

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Strategic human resource management and the concept of fit

Strategic human resource management largely deals with how human resource needs can be strategically managed in an organisation in order to improve work output. It is a rather new approach and concept towards the management of human resource in comparison to technical human resource management (Fey & Bjorkman, 2001).

In addition, the basic function of strategic human resource management lies within the designation and implementation of quite a number of managerial policies within an organisation with a broad objective of ensuring that the available human resource management significantly contributes to the productivity of an organisation.

When business strategy is combined with the human resource management function, strategic human resource management would reflect a relatively resilient plan of not only utilizing human resource to the optimum but also driving an organisation towards a competitive edge. Nonetheless, a thorough understanding of strategic human resource management would not be complete unless the right application of the concept of fit is correctly applied.

The concept of fit is primarily the process of melding the human resource function within the strategic goals of an organisation (Wei & Lau, 2005). There are quite a number of conceptual illustrations that have demonstrated that the design and implementation of sets of strategic human resource practices may not be coherent at all owing to the fact that the concept of ‘fit’ has not been understood well.

Realistically, the concept of fit and the strategic human resource management lays much emphasis in improving the capacity of a firm in responding to the external factors especially those related to the hiring and utilization of human resource. This paper attempts to explore the concept of fit and how this conceptual framework can be integrated well in strategic human resource management in a firm.

To begin with, it is vital to explore the two types of fit as expounded in most strategic human resource literatures. As already mentioned, the concept of fit mainly helps in the process of utilizing human resource so that the goals and objectives of an organisation can be achieved.

Indeed, this is a fundamental characteristic in strategic human resource management. This implies that an organisation may not achieve its set goals in human resource practices unless the concept of fit is not only understood well but also applied to the letter.

Two major types of fit can be applied in strategic human resource practices. Firstly, the horizontal fit is the compatibility and equality in pattern of various human resource management practices (Wei & Lau, 2005). On the other hand, a vertical fit applies when human resource practices are aligned alongside with the process of strategic management of firm.

In other words, a vertical fit would imply some form of crucial step taken by the human resource function in order to attain the goals and objectives of an organisation. It is attained by initiating certain practices that are congruent with human resource needs of a firm.

When the right application of these resources is put in place, a horizontal fit is attained. As can be noted, strategic human resource practices may lack the right design and implementation if the two types of fit are not understood well due to the narrow distinction between them.

One of the main factors that have contributed to the little understanding of the concept of fit is the fact that the theoretical background of the concept has not been explored to the letter. If a firm has to remain competitive, it implies that the deployment of human resource management within the confines of fit concept is paramount.

When human resource practices are well arranged in a firm, it is highly likely that a firm will experience a positive impact in growth and profitability since human resource is the major driver in the performance of an organisation. Hence, implementation of both types of fit is vital.

Some scholars in the field of human resource development argue that the linkage between human resource practices and business strategy alongside the application of the fit concept is relatively weak when compared to the relationship that exist within the human resource practices being exercised within an organisation (Bowen & Ostroff, 2004).

There are quite a number of human resource practices worth noting when human resource management is being considered under the concept of fit. For instance, the ability of an organization to attract and retain employees of high standards is paramount. Besides, the very employees ought to be placed in positions and working criteria that are appropriate as possible.

Moreover, capacity building and training of employees so that they can deliver as per the expectations of a firm cannot be ignored at all. These ideals may never be implemented in a coherent manner if the concept of fit has not been understood to the letter. Hence, the human resource management practices in place within a firm should be systematic (Chan, Shaffer & Snape, 2004).

The effectiveness of any human resource management may be lowered substantially if each of the individual human resource practices is not given due attention. For instance, an employee who is intrinsically excellent cannot deliver to the expectations of a firm due to inadequate training. Besides, an employee will only be effective if the training background has compatibility with the needs of the organisation.

On the same note, the concept of fit; whether of vertical or horizontal type would demand that employees be motivated over and above being trained so that they can feel to be part of the organisation.

Employees who are not motivated, be it intrinsically or extrinsically, will perform below their natural potential. As a result, the desire to have strategic human resource management within a firm may just be a mirage and wishful thinking since the concept of fit has not been implemented in the right way.

There are motivational theories which when well employed, will result into upward mobility in organizational growth and performance. for example, employees can be motivated through a well defined process of setting goals for the organisation. Studies have revealed that people tend to be motivated to work when there are certain goals to be achieved after a given period of time.

This type of motivation is well explained by Locke’s goal setting theory (Osterman, 2000). At this point, it is undisputed that a firm can attain its short, medium and long term goals once they have been set. Nevertheless, it implies that employees will only be motivated when they are part and parcel of goal setting.

Moreover, each group member within an organisation should be made to visualize the importance of the goals being set. In most cases, employees will not inject an additional effort if they have no clear idea on how the set goals are going to beneficial, not just to the organisation, they should also derive quantifiable benefits upon achieving the goals.

A firm should work on myriad of projects that require employees who are motivated, resilient and competent enough. Goal setting as a way of motivating employees comes with its own cost if it is to be successful.

Firstly, there are five core principles which human resource management should bear in mind for this theory to be fruitful: the set goals should be clear, challenging, demonstrate high level of task complexity, have a feedback system and also demonstrate commitment (Boxall & Purcell, 2011).

The congruency of a variety of human resource measures adopted by a firm largely depends on how the vertical fir has been applied. The strategies being pursued by an organisation should be well outlined under the vertical fit. It is against this backdrop that a firm may run into demand for creating a human resource platform that is consistent with its goals and objectives (Lado & Wilson, 1994).

Hence, the attainment of either the horizontal or vertical fit requires strict adherence to certain factors. These factors are also known as determinants of fit and are helpful in boosting the performance of a firm.

Therefore, the performance of a firm especially in line with strategic management of human resource is dependent on these determinants.

First, there are factors that lie within the human resource functions namely the policy governing human resource development within a firm, the various options adopted by a firm when deploying human resource as well as budget allocation for human resource department in addition to investment plan adopted by the firm.

It is vital to note that each of these human resource function factors significantly contribute to the overall fitness of a firm. For example, investment plan or budgetary allocation determines how well a firm will run financially. Any slight interference with the investment plan or budgetary needs of a firm will grossly affect the overall performance.

The second cluster of the determinants of fit fall under personal factors. It is commonplace for organizations to emphasize other factors that may improve profitability of a firm while at the same time underestimate or completely ignore the relevance of personal factors. One of such factors is the capability of human resource managers to affectively run the affairs of deploying workers. Ability and talent vary from one human resource manager to another.

There are common elements which all managers will often posses. However, unique capabilities such as talent is a preserve of the few successful organizations frequently seek to not only hire experts from formal training, they also emphasize the need for talent consideration as part and parcel of improving human resource development.

In addition to the abilities portrayed by both top and intermediate managers, employees in the lower levels in a firm should be considered when building a strong workforce. An organisation should make use of skills, knowledge and competences of its employees to the optimum. Finally, there are firm level factors that significantly contribute to both vertical and horizontal fit.

The nature of strategy adopted by a firm is crucial. A well enhanced business strategy will enable a business organisation to have the right direction and be able to know whether the business life is in the right path. In addition, values and cultures embraced by a firm are vital in accelerating growth and is an important component in strategic human resource management.

Corporate culture refers to a belief system, a set of attitude that can be shared as well as normalities that are transmitted among the members of an organisation (Wei, 2006). Through the corporate culture, the acceptable conduct of employees is outlined.

When an organizational culture is clear, every member is aware of their roles and responsibilities in addition to what they anticipate from the company. Hence, through the corporate culture, the image of the company can be visualized

Change management within an organisation is also pertinent as part and parcel of both horizontal and vertical fit. This organizational component is a direct determinant of performance and unless it is strategically handled by human resource managers, business failure will be inevitable.

Organisational change and management is a momentous practice that cannot be eluded by managers at any level of an organisational hierarchy. Although change may be resisted at the point of initiation, it is imperative to note that proper assessment of the changes being effected should be done so that optimum benefits are derived.

Besides, the sentiments of the group being targeted by a given change should be noted keenly so that the very change is not substantially resisted to an extent that it fails to meet its goals.

Organisational change has two important elements worth considering. The first important aspect is the organisational change management that is concerned with drawing people closer to the organisation in terms of their hearty commitment towards achieving the mission and vision of the organisation (Bjorkman & Fan, 2002).

On the other hand, organisational design aims at restructuring the entire workforce within an organisation. This requires thorough engagement of human resource experts with the right knowledge.

Although the relative importance of organisational change management is sometimes not given the seriousness it deserves, its impact on performance is enormous bearing in mind that the very change can be effected in all areas of operation such as in health and safety.

References

Bjorkman, I., & Fan, X. (2002). Human resource management and the performance of western firms in China. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 13(6): 853-864.

Bowen, D.E., & Ostroff, C. (2004). Understanding HRM-firm performance linkages: The role of the ‘strength’ of the HRM system. Academy of Management Review, 29 (2), 203-221.

Boxall, P & Purcell, J. (2011). Strategy and Human Resource Management (3rd ed.), London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Chan, L.L.M., Shaffer, M.A., & Snape, E. (2004). In search of sustained competitive advantage: The impact of organizational culture, competitive strategy and human resource management practices on firm performance. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 15(1): 17-35.

Fey, C.F., & Bjorkman, I. (2001). The effect of human resource management practices on MNC subsidiary performance in Russia. Journal of International Business Studies, 32(1): 59-75.

Lado, A.A., & Wilson, M.C. (1994). Human resource systems and sustained competitive advantage: a competency-based perspective. Academy of Management Review, 19(4): 699-727.

Osterman, P (2000). Work reorganization in an era of restructuring: trends in diffusion and impacts on employee welfare. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 53(2): 179-196.

Wei, L. (2006). Strategic Human Resource Management: Determinants of Fit, Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 14(2): 49-60.

Wei, L.Q., & Lau, C.M. (2005). Market orientation, HRM importance and HRM competency: Determinants of SHRM in Chinese firms. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 16(10): 1901-1918.

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