Human resource strategy

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Critically evaluate the role of senior managers in developing an organization's overall Human Resource Strategy:

Senior managers play a pivotal role in developing an organization's overall Human Resource (HR) strategy.

Before starting the development of Human Resource (HR) Strategy, the managers need to realize Human Resource Management (HRM) activities and their integration to each other and the HR cycle as because of the strategy is designed to perform those activities efficiently to achieve a set of predetermined objectives. HRM activities and HR cycle are shown in the following diagram with their relationship to each other.

In developing overall Human Resource strategy in an organization there are three steps:

Human resource planning in an organisation:

To establish effective human resource strategy in an organization the senior managers need to plan Human Resource, which must be consistently aligned with the organizational framework.

Investigation and analysis

The managers need to investigate and analyze current situation and of internal and external trends of the organization as the first step of planning HR. The managers should mainly focus on the following key issues:

  • Identify which works need to be done
  • Selecting the approach of performing those works effectively and efficiently to achieve the organization's objectives
  • Identify the skills and experience the organization will need
  • Identify the internal and external factors affect the supply and quality of labor, the demand for labor, and the likely people gap


Senior managers need to forecast beforehand to develop HR strategy where they will:

  • Predict the likely demand for labor
  • Predict the likely level of labor supply
  • Considering both those levels in relation to the numbers of staff and also to the skills and experience that are needed.

Based on those predictions, organizations can assess whether the required numbers of people, with the relevant competencies, are likely to be available. If not, then the organization must carefully identify where the skill gaps are likely to occur and decide what it is going to do about those.

Planning and resourching:

The Human Resource Strategy Cycle in an organization:

Senior managers need to start-up with human resource cycle as depicted by the Michigan School's 'matching model' of four generic process can be graphically presented by Harvard framework as shown below:

The senior managers needs to plan the four generic process of Human Resource cycle in organization where. The components of this process are:

  • Selection: matching people to jobs
  • Appraisal of performance
  • Rewards: emphasizing the real importance of pay and other forms of immediate and long-term compensation in achieving results
  • Development of skilled individuals

According to the Harvard Framework the senior managers must develop two aspects of strategic vision.

  1. Employees must be involved in and developed by the organization; and
  2. HRM policies must be developed to achieve those goals.

The approach of senior managers emphasizes the importance of two elements as:

  • Line managers in ensuring that competitive strategy and HR policies are aligned
  • HR managers in setting policies that fit well with the organization's overall aims.

Figure: The Harvard Framework

In the first instance, senior managers will carefully identify the fundamental issues, which are important to develop an organization's Human Resource Strategy. These may involve:

  • Workforce plan
  • Skills plan
  • Equity plan
  • Economic plan
  • Motivation and fairness planning
  • Pay levels design, retaining and motivating employees
  • Planning employment issues, which impact, on staff recruitment, retention, motivation etc.
  • Designing a framework of performance management issues
  • Planning career strategy

An efficiently designed HR strategy will make it substantially easier for the organization to achieve its goals. Thus the senior managers must have to be cautious about the impact of HR strategy on greater environment of overall organization.

A strategic human resource planning model

There is no single approach to developing a Human Resources Strategy. The specific approach will vary from one organization to another. Even so, an excellent approach towards an HR Strategic Management System is evident in the model presented below. This approach identifies six specific steps for senior managers in developing an HR Strategy:

Planning Steps:

1. Setting the strategic direction

2. Designing the Human Resource Management System

3. Planning the total workforce

Execution Steps:

4. Generating the required human resources

5. Investing in human resource development and performance

6. Assessing and sustaining organisational competence and performance

Analysis: Implementation and control

Using the process model discussed earlier, the managers need to design specific components of the HR Strategic Plan as described below.

Setting the strategic direction

Through this process managers focus on aligning human resource policies to support the accomplishment of the Company's mission, vision, goals and strategies.

In this regards the following actions are recommended for the senior managers:

  • Perform external scanning evaluating its impact on the organizational objective
  • Identify organizational vision, goal, mission, objective and principles for guidance
  • Identify strategies

Designing the Human Resource Management System

In this stage managers focus on the selection, design and alignment of HRM plans, policies and practices. Managers will particularly need HRM policies and practices to support strategic organizational objectives.

For the managers a good approach in developing appropriate HR strategy is to identify the appropriate HRM practices which support the organization's strategic intent as it relates to recruitment, training, career planning and reward management.

In this regards senior managers are recommended to:

  • Identify appropriate human resource plans, policies and practices needed to support organizational objectives
  • Identify relevant human resource best practices
  • Conduct an employment systems review

Planning the total workforce

Managers need to determine future business requirements, especially those relating to manpower requirements, represents one of the most challenging tasks facing HR managers.

The development of a workforce plan is a critical step for managers.Workforce planning is a systematic process of identifying the workforce competencies required to meet the company's strategic goals and for developing the strategies to meet these requirements. It is a methodical process that provides managers with a framework for making human resource decisions based on the organization's mission, strategic plan, budgetary resources, and a set of desired workforce competencies.

In this regards senior managers are recommended to do the folloeing:

  • Determining appropriate structure to support objectives
  • Designing key activities
  • Developing workforce planning
  • Compiling a workforce framework and identify designated groups and current competencies for workforce

Generating the required human resources

In this process senior managers focus on recruit and hire of people, classify them, train them and assign employees on the basis of strategic plan.

It requires a comprehensive workplace skills planning which will identify appropriate training priorities based on the organizational requirements within the context of present and future.

In this regards senior managers are recommended to do the followings:

  • Evaluating recruitment practices and selection procedure in respect of strategic objectives
  • Developing and implementing comprehensive workplace skills planning thorough training necessity analysis
  • Implementing leadership strategy
  • Adopting occupational techniques and categorizing the group classification

Investing in human resource development and performance

Through development responses managers will aim to increase business skills, the application of business skills and the behavioral elements to an organization's effective performance. In many ways, the Skills Development legislation has required managers to re-engineer their developmental methods and practices.

Through reward strategies managers aim to align the performance of the organization with the way it rewards its people, providing the necessary incentives and motivation to staff. Its components can be a combination of base pay, bonuses, profit sharing, share options, and a range of appropriate benefits, usually based on market or competitor norms and the organisation's ability to pay.

In this regards senior managers are recommended to do the following:

Determine the appropriate policies, procedures and practices in respect of

  • Designing career path
  • Initiating performance appraisals through relevant analysis
  • Framework of employee development and training
  • Planning reward management
  • Designing promotional activities and classifying job assignment with prudent assignment planning

Assessing and sustaining organizational competence and performance

Finally, few managers effectively measure how well their different inputs affect performance. In particular, no measures may be in place for quantifying the contribution people make to organizational outcomes or, more important, for estimating how changes in policies and practices, systems, or processes will affect that contribution.

In this regards senior managers are recommended to:

  • Evaluating organizational culture
  • Implementing succession plan
  • Evaluating strategy for human resource through quantitative measures
  • Revising and adapting Human Resource strategies

Making the HR Strategy integral to the organization

The senior managers also should make sure that the strategies of Human Resource are integrated with overall organizational goals. To achieve these goals, the senior managers should:

  • Discuss with all stakeholders about the nature of the strategies;
  • Focus on benefits derived from the strategies;
  • Ensuring real commitment to the strategies at the all levels of organization;
  • Giving feedback on the implementation of the plan;
  • They should involve HR strategy as part of induction process.

Position of a Line Manager in an organisational Hierarchy:

The barriers which may prevent line-managers becoming more involved in HR Planning & Management :

There are mainly two barriers to most line managers supporting the HRP and HRM as:

  • Heavy workloads and
  • Short-term job pressures

In a study on line managers survey 96% line managers accepted Heavy workload and 87% recognized Time pressure as principal barriers which prevent them from involving with HRP and HRM.

Other barriers to line manager are:

Human Resource Planning and Management (HRP&M) is a difficult process

Line Managers (LM) are designated and assigned for operational activities and performance appraisal through practices of already designed and managed activities HR activities. HR planning and Management is a technical approach where HR manager is specialized with the knowledge and skills to perform the HRP and HRM activities. But the line managers may not have this skills and knowledge. So they most of the times are reluctant to be involved with the process.

In this regard, senior managers should design the roles and responsibilities of a line manager very carefully where there are scopes of being involved with HRP and HRM. As a mandatory process top managers may include special training session to enrich them with HR ideologies and management practices so that the line managers without HR background may learn about the technical approaches involved in the HRP and HRM.

Lack of desire

The fact that LMs are not always sufficiently willing to take on HR responsibilities or that their motivation to do so is lacking highlights a lack of personal incentives for using HR practices (McGovern 1999; Harris et al. 2002). So lack of desire for any reason including lack of incentives, workload, time constraint is one of the barriers that prevent them to be involved with HRP and HRM.

Institutional incentives can persuade LMs to give HR activities serious consideration (McGovern 1999; Whittaker/Marchington 2003). So adapting such a business policy where line managers are motivated enough to prioritise HR roles or by making HR responsibilities an integral part of LMs' own performance appraisals, their job descriptions may improve their attitude towards being invloved with HRP/HRM.

Lack of capacity

LMs need time to learn and implement HRP/M successfully. Because HR tasks are generally devolved to LMs without reducing their other duties (Brewster/Larsen 2000) lack of their capacity to deal with challenges involved in HRP/M. This implies, lack of capacity is another constrain hindering Line Managers taking part in HRP/M.

The design of line managers responsibilities should apply variability approach where there should be enough room for them to act with HRP/M. they are usually given a short-term target to be achieved and their time is appropriately aligned with other responsibilities. So there should be alternative choices for them to be involved e.g. if a line manager is getting involved with HR practices, their other jobs are shared with other managers i.e. compromise with their workload or extra facilities may attract them to get involved with HRP/M.

Lack of competencies

There is a need for HR-related competencies for successful HRP/M implementation. LMs lack specialist knowledge and skills in terms of labor law, HR strategy, HR technology etc. So this lacking may prevent them from getting involved with HRP/M.

Through a comprehensive training program this barrier can be overcome. There are specific legal requirements and practices and it is evident that many organizations arrange HR training program for Line Managers.

Lack of support

There is a need for support from HR managers for successful HRP/M implementation. If HR specialists are unable or unwilling to provide clear and proactive support, LMs will lack sufficient HR skills (Gennard/Kelly 1997; Renwick 2000) and proper encouragement to plan and manage the workforce effectively. So this barrier may also prevent the line managers to take part at HR activities.

In these circumstances, senior managers have make sure that the HR managers properly cooperate with Line managers. Senior managers can design a certain set of alternatives that the line managers may follow including IT enabled automatic systems in case of HR managers' limitations including inability, unavailability or unwillingness where they will be appreciated instead of being criticized.

Lack of policy and procedures

There is a need for a clear overall HR policy and accompanying procedures to coordinate which practices LMs should use and the way they should take part in HRP/M. This may prevent line managers to take part in HRP/M.

In this case senior managers can consult with LMs about the devolution of their responsibilities and design an agreed set of terms and condition for line mangers which will specify their roles and mechanisms they will be willing to be involved in the process of HRP/M.

Role and opinion conflict

The conflict of roles, responsibilities and opinion may hinder LMs to get involved with HRP/M. Because In this case taking part in the HRP/M by a line manager is monitored and authorised by HR Manager.

In this case, senior managers need to improve information sharing between the managers and top-level management may involve to assure and recognize LMs involvement.

Rapid Change

Rapid change business policy, economic environment and technology also may prevent the Line Managers from getting involved in HRP/M. Because the changes have impact on HR planning and Management practices.

Arranging the frequent employee forum discussion or meeting about the changes so that there should not be any ambiguity or conflict about the changes took place in HR practices due to the above changes.

The legal framework

There are some legal bindings in HR practices which may de-motivate LMs to take part in HRP/M. This may arise from labour and mercantile law relating to nature of business, demographic issues and managerial roles.

This is the fact of limitation of knowledge where only the way to overcome this is arranging proper training sessions for LMs about the implications and consequences.

In addition to above measures to overcome those barriers, the following steps are recommended to get line managers involved in HRP&M:

Employment security

Pfeffer considers that this is the essential HR outcome. People cannot be expected to offer their ideas, commitment and hard work unless they have job security. Realising that job security for life is not a realistic aim, Pfeffer goes on to describe the benefits of offering internal job transfers rather than sacking people during a period of organisational change.

Extensive training, learning and development

The aim is to encourage learning that benefits both the individual and the organisation. There are thus implications for the amount of training provided, the types of training, and the ways in which that training facilitates wider employee development.

Employee involvement and information sharing

By openly sharing information on performance, financial matters, and so on, organisations may show that they trust their employees and may also encourage them to focus on ways of improving future performance. Many modern approaches to teamworking encourage open discussion of current practice and planning ways of creating improvement. This discussion and planning can only be effective if people have the relevant information.

Pay and performance-related rewards

There are two key issues relating to rewards. First, high-level employees can be retained by giving higher-than-average rewards. Second, rewards should reflect different levels of contribution particularly successful individuals, teams or departments should be rewarded for their efforts.


Again based on Japanese production companies, some organisations have tried to make their workplaces more egalitarian, for example through the use of uniforms, shared canteens, harmonisation of working conditions e.g. paid holidays, extensions to share ownership and so on.

Risks inherent in line-managers becoming more involved in HRP&M

An extensive body of literature suggests that giving a major role and influence to LMs in HRM can be problematic (Kirkpatrick et al. 1992; McGovern et al. 1997; Renwick 2003; Maxwell and

Watson 2006), and even counter-productive (Thornhill and Saunders 1998).

Reservations against assigning strong power to Line managers (LMs) in HRP&M challenge their capacity to take on new roles parallel to their current workload, as well as their motivation to care about employees. Moreover, a well-known criticism concerns the gap between what is said and what is practiced. Some researchers even suspect that the trend towards greater delegation of responsibilities to LMs often derives from companies' desires to cut structural costs as well as to companies' desires to free themselves from some responsibilities. Indeed, due to contradictions that are found in HR practices some responsibilities regarding HRP&M are difficult to assume. In this perspective, it is negatively reflected that the company's will is to disengage from specialized services rather than a true redefinition of roles. Thus, the claim that 'if HRP&M is to be taken seriously, personnel managers must give it away' can be misleading. As implementing ambitious HR practices is likely to be easier for qualified HR specialists than for LMs, the role of the former is too critical to be given away too quickly. LMs 'need well designed HR practices to use in their management activities'.

It is up to HRM specialists to put in place systems that create a favourable 'climate' and enable employees and managers to know what is expected from them. The role

of the HR specialists is all the more significant than that of the HR function should be viewed as a critical resource for the company: for example, the expertise necessary for the identification and use of accurate work systems can be thought of as a competitive advantage. In other words, we believe that HR specialists still have a major role to play. This role may be displayed in different ways according to organizational culture.

In this context tested hypotheses is that the organizational performance is weak for companies in which decisions regarding major HRP&M policies are influence more by LMs than by HR specialists.

Line managers are assigned with a critical set operational responsibilities which involves day to day operation with a short-term target. Achieving this short-term target is a basis of overall organisational goals. So if line managers get involved more in HR practices, there is a risk of overall failure to achieve organisational goal due to negative impact on operational succcess.

Despite the positive impact may resulted from Line managers involvement in HRP&M, recent research has shown that delegating HRP&M responsibility carries a number of challenges and risks of line management involvement in HRP&M and there are certain complications. Research provides mixed results about the implications of devolution and the competence of line managers in HRP&M work more generally. It has been confirmed that workloads of line managers may marginalize their efforts in developing employees and they may not be able to pay sufficient attention to employee development. Performance criteria and reward systems are more likely to consider business results, than a longer term people development role. The responsibility for HRP&M is not very often included among line manager's performance objectives. Also, it might be difficult for line managers to play two opposing roles of assessor and coach.

Moreover, line managers are not specialists in HR practices and may lack confidence, knowledge and organizational support to assume the responsibility for HRP&M. Senior managers must be highly supportive in HRP&M role of line managers and an incentive

system should be developed to motivate them. Furthermore, acting as a HRP&M facilitator demands a coaching management style, as opposed to a directive management style. Lack of coaching skills and insufficient line management motivation for this role is reinforced by findings that the least popular HRP&M delivery mechanisms include coaching and mentoring. This may be due to the large commitment of time and resources needed.

In respect of Employment law the work of Human Resource functions is increasingly controlled by the requirements of the law. There is an extensive risk of avoiding laws that relate to employment, for example laws on health and safety, on diversity and equality, on employment rights, on rights to strike and so on.

The state and the law perform three primary roles in relation to employment as:

A restrictive role

The state provides a set of rules which limit is what is, and is not, allowed in industrial relations. For example the state defines in what situation workers can go on strike and also defines what management can and cannot do in those situations.

A regulatory role

This defines the basic rights of all workers. This began with rights for relatively safe working for those employed in mines but has expanded to cover everyone in the workplace. It now also covers many aspects of employment, for example legislation on unfair dismissal means that organisations have to keep careful records on performance, disciplinary procedures and grievances.

An auxiliary role

Many government bodies give advice, for example on health and safety or equal opportunities, that goes beyond the strict statement of the law.

As a result of above employment law being involved in HRP&M, excessive involvement of Line manager may result to several conflicts as described below.

Conflict with line managers

The focus of many line managers will be towards achieving their own, and their team's, targets. This may lead to the manager ignoring guidelines and legislation on working hours, bullying, safety and other issues.

Those working in an HR role need to focus on the long-term needs of the organisation: good employee/management relations; working within the legislation, and so on. These long-term needs are of greater importance than achieving a team's short-term targets.

Employment and conflicting priorities

Managers have a primary aim of adding value to their organisation. By LMs short-term benefit may be gained by sacking employees during periods of low activity. In the long term, however, this is likely to adversely affect staff morale and will also incur costs when new recruits must be found in the future.

Freedom and control

Conflict may occur between managers' wishes to exert freedom in how they run their teams and the strategic need of organisations to exert control and work for at least some degree of consistency. As an example think of policies towards overtime. Line managers may want freedom to use overtime as they think suitable resulting inter-team conflict or problems when employees move between teams.

Disputes and grievances

The ambiguous nature of HR work is perhaps most clear when disputes occur between employees and management. This may involve a grievance by an individual Line Manager (LM); it may involve a major dispute such as a strike.

Technological developments might assist the process of facilitating greater line-manager involvement in HRP&M:


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