An Evaluative Study Of The Effectiveness Of Human Resource Approaches

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In this section the researcher highlighting various aspects of HRM, by linking with the effective management of knowledge workers. The aspects that ate taken into include: the status and strategy of knowledge management in Accenture, culture of the organization, significant role of knowledge management to achieve best results, challenges faced by the HR managers to manage the knowledge workers, staffing and performance appraisal methods used, training, career management and development employed by Accenture, socialization and the nature of HR throughout the organization.

Human Resource Practices in Accenture:

Human Resource in Accenture is widespread in nature. The nature of HR is understood by considering it as an ongoing, interactive process. They created a work environment in which everyone has been responsible to participate in achieving high performance. The increase in skills and knowledge across the organization helps them to focus on better results rather than on rules and regulations. The organization tries to encourage their employees to bring their best to the organization. Accenture also creates an environment where employees are intrinsically motivated to perform and achieve a high level of job satisfaction. HR in Accenture is also considered to be the application of knowledge, practices, and skills of behavioral sciences. The aim of human resource is thus to apply knowledge obtained to solve important practical problems. "HR interventions in our organization focus on the actual behavior of individuals and groups, try to find solutions to problems facing the organization and develops generalizations about organizational dynamics based on experience," quoted R12 (q: 12, p: 5). The organization achieves its goals through its people at work.

Some of the aspects of Human Resource Practices of Accenture are taken into account such as:

Staffing

Performance Appraisal

Training and Development

Career Management and Development

Grievance Handling

Significance of Socialization

Welfare Initiatives and Compensation System

Human Resource Wheel

Source: Adapted from MindShift.com

Figure 2

Staffing:

An organization has to be proactive in its approach to recruitment. It is the responsibility of the HR department of an organization to foresee the changes in the area of business, technology and labor market and accordingly revamp its policies and procedures. Accenture's recruitment policy is however flexible enough to take care of the needs of the organization. The company attempted to recruit people with the right attitude for particular positions. Accenture is using both internal and external recruitments. HR department in Accenture always ensures that the information about the vacancy reaches to all the prospective candidates of the organization. For this internal search Accenture normally announces the vacancy through the displays on notice boards. For external search, Accenture mostly prefer campus placements and assessment centres. They are recruiting the candidates from top B-Schools, and also those who are having a basic qualification of BTech/BE, MSc, MCS, and MCA, MBA and MTech graduates and diplomats with specific specializations.

According to R12, who is the Assistant HR Manager," the staffing perspective also relates to the way different HR practices are deployed for different categories of workers. They may have different recruitment routes, different job grades, different training opportunities and different psychological contracts. The staffing components of this perspective are based on managing the overall balance between different inputs" (q: 12, p: 3). Accenture is recruiting not for a specific job but rather for a certain kind of person who could adapt to a range of opportunities and create opportunities.

"The company also hired in-house head hunters who were completely devoted to the process of hiring talented people. This reduced the cycle time involved during the entire hiring procedure, which in turn attracted potential candidates", stated R4 (q: 4, p: 3). Accenture also linked the corporate web-site to the sites that are more likely to be visited by a maximum number of potential candidates. This increased the number of hits by job-seekers to their web-site. This in turn, helped them to attract passive job-seekers. The company devised several programmes for recruitment for various positions. Its recruitment programmes also had a social angel. I.e. to serve the community in which it operated.

In terms of selection process, there is a need for a conception of what constitutes "effective performance" for knowledge work. In terms of selection methods, Accenture uses intelligence tests, aptitude tests, achievement tests, personality tests, interest tests and selection interviews. R12, responded that," further, when considering which selection methods are appropriate for hiring knowledge workers, it is important to bear in mind candidate perception and elaborate procedures may serve to discourage the most desirable candidates" (q: 12, p: 3). One respondent cited that, "Accenture's interview model was a structured one that consisted of a specific set of questions which evaluate the candidates' capabilities".

Performance Appraisal:

The survey shows that Accenture is employing a 360 degree performance appraisal system. This system of appraisal helps individual employees to identify their competency gaps and training needs, with the help of their supervisors. This involves a continuous interaction between the boss and their teams, to have a continuous review of the targets to be attained. The company has given employees freedom to estimate and determine certain targets. Accenture normally rewarding employees based on the performances and for the job. R12 urge that," while performance pay may sound in tune with the achievement orientation of knowledge-age work, it can be difficult to implement in the context of the intangible nature of knowledge work and in situations where there is extensive interdependency. Moreover, knowledge work usually needs to be measured over a longer timescale than was the case with production work" (q: 12, p: 4). Accenture conducts reviews periodically, of all management staff, during which it got a fair picture of their performance, attitudes, and eligibility for promotion. Managers at each level will review the functioning of employees up to two levels below them. Accenture also uses an online appraisal system which helps it to cover all its employees.

Training and Development:

Training and developmental team as part of the HRD is a key partner in Accenture's growth and success and is instrumental in designing and delivering a host of high quality developmental initiatives across the organization.

The study reflects that Accenture is offering a wide array of programs to employees focused on leadership and development aspects. They are divided into two levels. The entry level programs for fresh recruits and the experienced level programs were offered to employees with work experience. In addition, the company offering a sensitive training program to enhance the behavior of each individual. Respondents gave a general idea about these programs. Every respondent have a similar opinion about these programs. They commented that these programs are a high quality learning program which enables them to concentrate on their own specialized area of knowledge instead going for a general training. Entry level leadership programs are aimed at developing individuals for leadership positions. These programs involved grooming employees across various locations and functions with the aim of developing them for top positions by the end of the program. The company also offered paid internships to students to gain practical experience.

Two major programs are offered under experienced level leadership program. They were experienced commercial leadership program (ECLP) and the human resources leadership program (HRLP). These programs were offered to executives with 2-5 years of experience. ECLP was meant for high potential individuals. The program combined four six-monthly rotational assignments combined with intensive course work. HRLP prepared candidates to take up various roles in the human resource functions of the company. It consisted of a two year program with three eight month rotational assignments. The program groomed participants through two HR assignments and one cross-functional role in finance, operations or business development. It helps the candidates to expand their knowledge base through extensive contact with peers and also helped them to build a professional network.

The management developmental programs are anchored on Accenture's competency and business framework, for its employees. Every new entrant is given management induction training to facilitate a smooth entry into the organization. The firm has assessment centres and other competency building initiatives to improve the managerial effectiveness. "Sensitive training is a very effective tool in changing employee behaviour in Accenture as it provides some benefits such as; it enhances a chance to learn more about employee's weaknesses and emotions. Also they gain insights into how the other members of the group perceive them and how they have to amend their behavior to be more effective," says R12 (q: 12, p: 4).

Career Management and Development:

Accenture believes that managing careers is a two-way responsibility, i.e., both with the organization and the individual. R7 responded that," Accenture offering employees a challenging, dynamic and diverse work environment that promotes and encourages professional achievement" (q: 7, p: 4). Managing career in Accenture is a means of continuously working towards creating new job opportunities and helping them to grow within the organization. R9 points out that, "It is the job of HR managers who have to constantly worry about finding career enhancement areas and techniques to keep up the morale of employees" (q: 9, p:4).

Accenture tried to maintain a balance between promoting people from within and recruiting from outside for higher positions. The company provided all employees an equal chance to grow either horizontally or laterally to the extent that their skill-sets carried them in the organization. By giving more importance to its own employees for management positions, Accenture ensured that its corporate culture was passed on to successive generation of employees. It reviewed promoting from within as a significant toll for selecting and retaining employees. In fact growth opportunities along the corporate ladder were considered main motivating factors for Accenture employees to stay in the company.

Management development is a key component of Accenture's efforts to prepare its employees to successfully handle new challenges. Accenture conducts executive development programs for its employees through which employees tackle new business problems and share their knowledge with customers, colleagues through enhanced performance. The range of development methods Accenture adopted includes; senior management seminars, joint workshops, and collaborative working on special problem-solving task force. R5 quoted that, "beyond learning through constructive controversy, a related developmental opportunity especially relevant to knowledge workers is the learning through action process. The role of HR from this perceptive would be to lend support for the creative ways in which knowledge-intensive work group operates" (q: 5, p: 4).

Grievance Handling:

"Accenture put in place "whistle blower" policies to allow employees to complain about suspected malpractices", pointed out by R19, Business Development Manager (q: 19. p: 6). The company encourages employees to write about their problems to either the immediate superior or to the superior's superior to raise the issue in the organization. Accenture has left a door open for those who wish to remain anonymous by allowing for emails to be sent to a specific ID that can be used by all the whistle blowers. The company's grievance Redressal cell addresses all complaints thus been filed. R19 says, "These policies have been built into existing conduct frameworks, which is called the Code of conduct and Integrity Manual" (q: 19, p: 6). The employees can also approach his manager with his grievance verbally. He quoted, "Accenture has a recognized grievance handling committee which consists of two representatives from the management and one representative from the department in which the concerned employee works" (q: 19, p: 6). Accenture's grievance procedure is acceptable by both the management and employees. Also employees have a thorough knowledge of the procedure.

Significance of Socialization:

Socialization process is based on certain general assumptions, which relates to the effect of external factors on socialization and at the same time, the influence of socialization on other aspects of the organization. The overall understanding of the socialization play to achieve best result is shown here in the Tables.

Frequency Table

Significant:

Assumptions:

Extremely

Good

Average

Somewhat

Least

Influence of employee performance

23

2

0

1

0

Influence on organizational stability

18

3

4

0

1

Handling new employees anxiety

13

5

2

2

4

Role of co-workers

9

7

4

5

1

Work environment

13

7

0

4

2

Table 1

Percentage Table

Significant:

Assumptions:

Extremely

Good

Average

Somewhat

Least

Influence of employee performance

88%

8%

0

4%

0

Influence on organizational stability

69%

12%

15%

0

4%

Handling new employees anxiety

50%

19%

8%

8%

15%

Role of co-workers

35%

27%

15%

19%

4%

Work environment

50%

27%

0

15%

8%

Table 2

Chart 1

The survey shows that the socialization has a greater influence on performance of the employees. It helps the employees of Accenture to perform their tasks more effectively and efficiently. It becomes a significant factor in directing the employees' actual job performance. It also ensures that a new employee fits well into Accenture or not. Employees seem to be loyal and committed to the organization as the organization's philosophy and culture remain consistent over a period of time. Employee performance and organizational stability are valued by all managers of Accenture. This makes the role of socialization very crucial in Accenture. Handling new employees' anxiety seems to be bit difficult in the company. They experience stress and tend to feel lonely and isolated. But Accenture try to give special attention to the new employee to help to reduce the anxiety and put him at ease in his new work environment. In the process of socialization at Accenture, involvement of co-workers is only 35%. This is because they are not willing to convey the job responsibilities and the role expectations to the new employee.

Welfare Initiatives and Compensation System:

To secure the role of employees in Accenture, they launched a program called Management flexibility. The aim was to balance the employees' professional and personal lives, without negatively affecting customer service or the company's financials. In spite of this the company avoided unnecessary meetings and formal procedures. The emphasis was given more to work being done properly rather than the number of hours worked. The company also launched several welfare programs, particularly aimed at working mothers, like childcare centres, conducting seminars on issues like how to become better parents so on. The company counselled and assisted employees on personal matters, which were otherwise neglected due to their hectic daily routine.

Accenture also implemented an employee stock option plan and offered options for up to 10 per cent of its subscribed equity for its employees. The company has also employee benefit scheme which offers a long-term investment. These benefits are not linked to the performance. Accenture's benefit scheme includes: paid holiday to the employees and his family, employee insurance, maternity leave, educational allowance for employees' children and also offering other assistances. R14 points out that, "Accenture is providing an array of benefits to our employees so that they can successfully meet their responsibilities on their personal and career front. The benefits serve to motivate them and acknowledge their efforts. All of this adds to much more than just monetary gain" (q: 14, p: 4).

Nature of Knowledge Workers and Its Implications in HR:

Knowledge Workers: An HR Paradigm

Source: Adapted from the Journal of Knowledge Management

Figure 3

Many respondents reported that the current status of knowledge management is at the Growing Stage. Respondents commented in different ways regarding how this stage affects the overall of business. According to one respondent who is the Deputy Manager of operations department, R15, he urged that, "the growing stage of knowledge management helps us to bring out rich information that has been grewn rapidly. Also it allows the business to grow in an increased volume. Knowledge management enhanced the quality of our staff and it makes us to pay more attention to put up the organization culture in a better way than before" (q: 15, p: 1)

A discussion was carried out to discover that how much time is taken by the employees to gain relevant knowledge. The study shows that for some employees to acquire knowledge in Accenture, it will take only a few days. R15 quoted that," for acquiring knowledge very fastly employees have to understand themselves and also need to improve relationship with others. For that we are providing a sensitivity training to change individual behavior. In this session they are encouraged to be deep in thought to assess their own behaviour and performance. At the same time, we openly discuss the behavior of each employee. It enables the individuals to give their group members feedback and also try to understand with the group members. It also fosters each individuals a greater openness, improve their listening skills and also conflict resolution skills" (q: 15, p: 1). R3 also supported on this statement. He reports that," developing creativity among knowledge workers shows their capable management practices. Even though these workers are educated and trained, it does not mean that they know everything and are specialized always. Workers should accommodate themselves to the changes in modern dynamic world. Knowledge will become outdated when it does not cope-up with the fast changing world" (q: 3, p: 1). This statement reflects that the knowledge work requires continuous innovation and learning. Freedom has also been given to knowledge workers in decision making and in planning their work. It facilitates the organization to make their workers more productive and efficient. According to R15, "a knowledge organization can be described as one whose competitive advantages depend on the abilities of its workers; at a fundamental level, we must mention information technology skills, a high level of education, a general knowledge in logistics, fluency in other languages and cognitive and emotional abilities" (q: 15, p: 1).

Accenture is practicing transfer of knowledge and best practices strategy for managing knowledge. It facilitates the organization to be more innovative and creative. Accenture's strategy of high growth with low risk has made its knowledge very valuable. it maintains its low-risk growth model through innovative methods. Firstly it focused on providing services to top-rated corporations. Secondly it uses creative knowledge management throughout its operations. With this Accenture has been able to provide a better customer service to its clients and be more innovative. Thirdly it focuses on sharedness of knowledge. According to R21, Human Resource Executive, "sharedness is affected to a great extent by the time of orientation the employees receive when they join the organization. New employees have to be made aware of the core values of the organization in order for them to hold the shared values of others in the organization. An induction program is therefore arranged for all new employees to educate them about the organizational values, norms and relevant knowledge required for them. Once new employees are made aware of the core knowledge of the organization, it becomes easier for them to adjust and adapt according to the changes whenever it happens" (q: 21, p: 2). Accenture also promotes innovation and creativity among its employees. Accenture aims at fostering innovation- the key element of its continued market leadership. It focuses on creativity and diversity, and the benefits that acquire from them.

Accenture's organizational culture encourages innovation and risk taking. The culture at Accenture incorporates a belief in value creation through knowledge sharing and employee participation. Accenture is offering an opportunity to each individual to meet new people and make relationship with each other. R8 mentioned that, "Organizational cultures and value systems were shown to be important in shaping the way in which and the extent to which organizations were able to utilize knowledge and deliver innovation with regard to services and processes" (q: 8, p: 2). The study shows that the culture of Accenture is generally influenced by the values, beliefs, principles and peculiarities. According to R21, he summarized the most important values as the 'Basic-Beliefs'," excellence in everything we do, superior customer service and respect for the individual. These Basic-Beliefs were very successful and helped us to achieve a phenomenal growth. These Basic-Beliefs were based on sound management principles and also has been the standard norms of our organization. This helps us in the effective transfer of knowledge, and makes it clear to all employees 'how we do things'" (q: 21, p: 2).

The study also leads to find out the significance of Knowledge management in achieving best results with respect to Accenture in various factors. The overall view of how knowledge management supports and encourages the organization in any knowledge activities are depicted in the below Tables.

Frequency Table

Significant:

Factors:

Extremely

Good

Average

Somewhat

Least

Improving Competitive Advantage

21

4

1

0

0

Improving Customer Focus

23

1

2

0

0

Innovations

25

1

0

0

0

Employee Development

15

0

5

3

3

Improving Organizational Performance

12

3

6

4

1

Revenue Growth

17

5

0

4

0

Better Decision-Making

10

3

9

2

2

Faster Response to Key Business Issues

6

4

10

2

4

Improving Quality and Delivery

11

7

4

0

4

Table 3

Percentage Table

Significant:

Factors:

Extremely

Good

Average

Somewhat

Least

Improving Competitive Advantage

81%

15%

4%

0

0

Improving Customer Focus

88%

4%

8%

0

0

Innovations

96%

4%

0

0

0

Employee Development

57%

0

19%

12%

12%

Improving Organizational Performance

46%

12%

23%

15%

4%

Revenue Growth

66%

19%

0

15%

0

Better Decision-Making

38%

12%

34%

8%

8%

Faster Response to Key Business Issues

24%

15%

38%

8%

15%

Improving Quality and Delivery

42%

28%

15%

0

15%

Table 4

Chart 2

A knowledge worker in Accenture satisfies the customers by producing a good quality of services. The factors shown in the above chart has an indirect relationship with knowledge workers performance. Accenture always created an environment where knowledge workers feel free to work. When there is greater flexibility and autonomy, it increases the productivity of workers as it motivates them to work. Thereby it increases the quality and the speedily delivery of services to the clients. R21 cited that, "Knowledge workers are the assets of our organization" (q: 21, p: 2). This study reflects that the knowledge plays a significant role within the organization. Knowledge management helps Accenture to improve their performance by enhancing their productivity, quality, and customer service. In addition, it kindles the creative instincts of the workers and encourages them to develop innovative solutions to existing problems.

Knowledge workers play a dominant role in increasing the efficiency of Accenture. It is difficult to measure their productivity and it is a great challenge to manage them. The main hurdles faced by the Accenture for managing knowledge workers involve the lack of ability to retain the employees. Even though Accenture is trying to come up with efficient management techniques and practices, they are not able to retain their employees. "As knowledge workers have become the asset to wealth creation, their productivity should be improved in order to get better performance from them. Accenture is utilizing effective management tools but they are not paying proper attention to manage this vital workforce", noted R19, Business Development Manager (q: 19, p: 3). In the company, due to increasing specification and differentiation of tasks, the nature of the tasks performed differs greatly from one work group to another. Thus, the time and goal orientations will also differ from group to group. For this reason, HR department has to pay more attention to determine the knowledge that need to be managed and ensure to make it available. The members of Accenture hold some values and beliefs. Instead of changing those beliefs, HR has to hinder them by becoming more productive. It is a major challenge for the organization to obstruct those values and beliefs. "For hinder these beliefs Accenture should have to re-educate the employees so that they give up old norms and adopt new ones", cited R1 (q: 1, p: 3). It is also important to implement right mix of HR practices that influence knowledge management. "Knowledge workers also tend to deliver work that is not very creative and they often have difficulty in identifying the broader meaning of situations with which they are deal with. They may even make totally wrong decisions on a danger level of performance. This matter becomes even more complicated for the company. At this moment HR has to make decision according to the directive focus of the company by giving a vital importance to the much-admired proficiency of the professionals" advocated R14 (q: 14, p: 3). To increase the productivity of labor force is a difficult task and toughest challenge of HR in organization. "Accenture adopted various motivation strategies to encourage the knowledge workers to improve their capacity of producing more", remarked R24 (q: 24, p: 3). Yet another challenge in managing knowledge workers is the difficulty in measuring the output of knowledge workers as their work involves knowledge component which is invisible. Measuring the output of manual labor is east comparatively as it is a visible thing. But knowledge is intangible and knowledge workers use their brain for their output. In this context measuring knowledge workers performance has become another challenge. At the same time it is uncontrollable too according Accenture. "Knowledge workers should be themselves self-motivated and self-controlled. It is a challenge for HR to create a workplace environment where knowledge workers become self-controlled and self-motivated", quoted R2 (q: 2, p: 3). From the above discussions regarding the challenges faced by Accenture for knowledge management, it is very clear that managing knowledge workers in a fast globalized and technically advanced world has become a key issue for organizational success.

A further discussion of this study has been carried out in Chapter: 5.

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