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The growth of an organization is closely related to the development of its human resources. Thus, the understanding of issues related to management and its role in enhancing performance in an organization is very important particularly during the contemporary period where it can be noted that the business environment is dynamic and it is constantly changing hence the need for management to keep pace with these changes in order to ensure that the workers are effectively performing for the betterment of the organization. Against this background, this essay seeks to critically discuss the extent to which high performance work practices (HPWPs) may be successfully implemented in any organization. The essay starts by explaining the concept of HPWP and the body will develop through identification of the measures that can be implemented in order to ensure the improvement of the performance of the employees in line with achieving the overall strategic objectives of the organization.
Basically, it can be noted that there is no universally agreed definition of HPWP but there are three key characteristics that are shared by many advocates of this model. The key attributes of this model are as follows: HPWP seeks to generate performance through the utilization of practices which secure mutual gains for both the employees and employers, employees are treated as valuable assets and this model involves bundling of practices which yield combined benefits that are greater than the sum of their individual parts (McDuffie 1995).
In order to effectively implement HPWP in the workplace, Huselid (1995) identifies three practices that are key attributes and these include the following: comprehensive recruitment and selection procedures, incentive compensation as well as extensive employee involvement and training. Employees form the back bone of every organization hence effective recruitment as well as improving their performance are the major factors that determine success of business during the contemporary period. In most cases, employee recruitment mainly depends on the available human resources tools and their ability to cope with the environment they will be operating in. Thus, recruitment of skilled and qualified employees is a vital strategy for an organization to function successfully with regards to high performance work practices.
For any organization to run viably, there is need to recruit the best talent in the first place as these people would be capable of being developed to become valuable assets to the organization. The success of an organization operating in a competitive market is mainly determined by its ability to recruit skilled people and this is a process which requires careful consideration. Recruitment involves searching for and obtaining qualified job candidates and it gives the organization the opportunity to select the most appropriate persons to fill its job needs (Carrell, R. et al 1995). Effective recruitment often attracts individuals to the organization and also increases the chances of retaining the individuals once they have been hired. Recruitment efforts seek to satisfy the needs of job applicants as well as the needs of managers. Agility is an MNC that operates in 120 countries and recruiting the right people with the required set of skills, experience and behavior is an ongoing challenge, where in addition to ensuring that the candidate has what it takes to perform in a job, we do emphasize on the motivational fit in order to ensure that the selected individual is comfortable with his environment and has what he/she need to perform in the new environment.
Recruiting the right staff is key to implementing a performance related strategy which encompasses retention of those skilled employees. In most cases, such specialist and skilled workers may be in short supply and a company may find it difficult to replace the experienced workers and training of individual employees with more skills in particular jobs. As far as these measures are put in place, the performance of the employees is likely to improve greatly given that there will be more incentives to create a sense of belongingness to the organization by the employees.
In most cases, it can be noted that organizations are run on the basis of various decisions that are made within any particular organization. In practice, decision making is primarily concerned with approving the course of action to be taken in pursuit of certain goals to be achieved and is mainly practiced at the top management level within large organizations (Kleynhans et al 2007). Strategic objectives of the organization are clearly mapped and decision making is mainly influenced by the leadership style which is the way managers ought to lead people in that particular organization. With regards to work organization, employee involvement is a virtue in as far as HPWPs are concerned. Thus, making decisions in the organization requires the effort of the top management but it also has to be borne in mind that the ideas of the other interested stakeholders ought to be taken into consideration. According to Kleynhans et al (2006), management is defined as the process of working with people and resources to achieve organizational goals. In this particular case, managers ought to be good at planning, organizing and making decisions and they should be able to accommodate the views and ideas of the employees so as to be better positioned to implement HPWPs in an organization so that there would be common understanding of the goals and objectives set. At Agility Logistics, and after the merger of 4 major companies back in 2006, we started to communicate the annual strategy through Strategy Maps, where we use graphical illustrations to breakdown the big picture into simple milestones that everyone in the organization can understand. This is an example of being transparent and sharing the vision and organizational plans with the people
The organizational goals should be clearly spelled out and each individual’s role should be clearly defined as well. The people entitled with authority should lead by example. The main advantage of laying out role expectations is that each person would fully know what he is supposed to do and they would cooperate as way of attempting to achieve the organizational goals and objectives. In a setup where the line of authority is clearly defined, there would be less chances of conflict or deliberate attempts to undermine the people with authority since everyone would be expected to follow the guidelines of the rules and regulations of the organization. This can greatly enhance the implementation of HPWPs at work.
In order to fully implement HPWPs in a work organization, it is imperative to put measures in place that are meant to ensure that the employees get appropriate training. Basically, employee training is job related learning that is provided by the employers for their employees and the aim is improvement of the employees’ skills, knowledge and attitude so that they can perform their duties according to the set standards (Swanepoel et al 1998). More often than not, successful training begins with the needs assessment to determine which employees need to be trained and what they need to be trained to do. This training needs analysis often leads to the formulation of a set of objectives which clearly state the purpose of the training and the competencies required of the trainees once they have completed the training program. Swanepoel et al (1998) posit to the effect that needs analysis of training requires time, money and expertise and it can be noted that training that undertaken without a careful analysis of the requirements is likely to be ineffective and to reduce the motivation of the employees. Thus, in order to fully implement HPWPs at work place, there is a need to take into consideration these factors.
On the other hand, employee development is a broad term which relates to training, education and other intentional or unintentional learning which refers to general growth through learning (Kleynhans et al 2007). Employee development can take place through training and the main purpose of offering development initiatives to the employees is to improve their performance which can also lead to the growth of the organization. One advantage of offering training and development skills to the employees is that they would have hands on experience with the operations of the organization. It is expected that through learning and development, both the organization and the employees will immensely benefit given that the employees’ skills in particular will be improved which in turn means an improvement of their performance which is beneficial to the organization as a whole.
It can be noted that training and development are mainly concerned with human resources development (HRD) for the betterment of the organization as well as the employees as well. Basically, “HRD can be defined as a learning experience organized mainly by the employer, usually within a specified period of time, to bring about the possibility of performance improvement and or personal growth (Nadler & Nadler 1989: as cited in Swanepoel et al 1998). Thus, organizations must perceive and respond to changes in their environments and learn from their experiences to come up with effective strategies that can ensure that human resources development is in compliance with change which is very effective with regards to the implementation of HPWPs at workplace.
The importance of HRD as the means of ensuring that organizations maintain their competitiveness in the ever changing environment cannot be overemphasized. Thus, the main focus of HRD is learning and its principal aim is to attain the objectives of both the organization and the individual and this often takes place over a certain period of time. As noted above, the main aim of HRD is the possibility of performance improvement or personal growth which is beneficial to the organization as well as the individual employees within the organization. HRD specifically focuses on satisfying the needs of the employer and the employee so as to ensure that there is personal growth as well as organizational growth.
It is imperative that HRD should be tailored in such a manner that it fits the organization’s strategy and structure with the aim of improving the performance of the employees who do not meet the required standards of performance. HRD is also meant to prepare the employees for future positions. This will be meant to help the employee to make better decisions and increases job satisfaction which in turn is expected to benefit the organization. HRD is also concerned with improving interpersonal skills and to make the organization a better place to work. All these factors are very important components of implementing high performance work related practices for the benefit of both the employees and the organization as a whole.
On the job training and development can be in the form of coaching and mentoring which are all very important in motivating the employees to have a positive feeling towards their work. Mentoring is an important support tool that an organization can use to help young inexperienced employees to develop a better understanding of the work through the guidance of an older, more experienced employee or mentor (Jackson and Schuler 2000). On the other hand, Kay and Hinds (2005) define mentoring as “a relationship between two parties who are not connected within a line management structure, in which one party (a mentor) guides the other (the mentee) through a period of change towards an agreed objective.” It is about giving help and support in a non-threatening way, in a manner that the recipient will appreciate and value and that will empower them to move forward with confidence towards what they want to achieve in the workplace. This process is also concerned with creating an informal environment in which one person can feel encouraged to discuss their needs and circumstances openly and in confidence with another person who is in a position to be of positive help to them.
Effective implementation of HPWPs can also be attributed to knowledge creation as well as sharing. Basically, “organizational knowledge creation is the process of making available and amplifying knowledge created by individuals as well as crystallizing and connecting it with an organization’s knowledge system,”( Nonaka, Krogh and Voelpel 2006). Research has shown that knowledge creation, retention, sharing and management is an essential tool for an organization as we gradually move towards a knowledge economy (Nonaka 2007). The global learning team at Agility implemented a knowledge management system based on an internal network, where anyone can share lessons learned, best practices, success stories in addition to have a specific blog area for the management team. This initiative allowed us to come closer and have a better focus on our deliverables, as this system maintains consistent and updated information, having said that categorizing the information for easy access is a must. During the current period, it can be noted that the business environment is constantly changing and knowledge creation is a virtue whereby the human resources management in particular will take a leading role in spearheading the initiative to influence the individuals in the organization to come up with new ideas that can be crystallized as well as connected with the organization’s knowledge system.
Having created the requisite knowledge, then the process of knowledge management will attempt to maintain the same knowledge to meet the needs of the organization. For instance, Nonaka 2001 argues that making personal knowledge available to others is the basic tenet of the knowledge creating company. This will allow others to learn which promotes management of knowledge that has been created with a particular organization. Knowledge creation is a source of long term solution for organizations to gain competitive advantage in an economy that is characterized by uncertainty and ever changing environment (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995; von Krogh et al. 2000).
The companies which are quick to create new knowledge in response to the changes obtaining on the ground have a competitive advantage over those which are slow to respond to these changes. In essence, creating new knowledge is about re-creating the company and the individuals to meet a particular vision or ideal. Knowledge creation is not a specialized event but it is treated as a preserve for every worker. This is not limited to a particular department since the notion of the knowledge creating company posits to the effect that every employee has a role to play as far as this concept is concerned in an organization which enhances the implementation of HPWPs at workplace.
There are certain organizational and HRM issues involved in implementing high performance work related practices and these include motivational and cultural dimensions. It can be noted that change in an organization is inevitable and is often necessitated by various internal and external factors and this initiative often affects the operations of the company in many ways. Thus, organizations have to ensure their survival and growth within the ever changing environment through performance enhancement in order for them to survive and grow in this dynamic environment, a purposeful management is needed which is commonly known as strategic management (Rossouw 2003). This is seen as a gap that an organization wants to bridge and this gap is located between the current situation and the envisaged situation in an organization. Organizations exist to fulfill certain needs in society hence the need for top management to formulate strategic goals and objectives which the total organization would seek to achieve with the aim of improving the performance of their employees.
Focus in an organization would be on resources, capabilities, and distinctive competencies of the organization as a whole and on the ways of achieving success as a total organization over the long term within the context of changing and competitive environments (Johnson and Scholes 2002). Essentially, in a working organization, there is need to balance and integrate the organizations external environment and its internal competencies and resources so as to be better positioned to fulfill the expectations of the employees. Virtually, improving employee performance in an organization is concerned with steering the organization in particular a direction using mainly two methods which are strategy formulation and implementation.
Formulation is concerned with scanning the environment as well as defining the mission and vision while the implementation stage is concerned with creating the necessary architecture including the structures and establishing a culture in which all role players actually work towards the overall mission accomplishment (Swanepoel et al 2003). Motivation of the employees involved is very important in order to influence the effort of the workers towards the mobilization of resources to accomplish the mission. Throughout the process, it is important to continuously monitor and evaluate the extent to which the strategic decisions match or fit the changing situations as well as the extent to which they are being implemented. It can be noted that any of these strategies related to the working organization have different HRM related implications.
From the above argument, it can thus be noted that strategic human resource management (SHRM) is concerned with the human resources, HRM systems and functions (Swanapoel 2003). Aspects related to human resource management affect all facets of the organizational strategy formulation. Be it business or corporate strategy, it cannot be formulated without incorporating the relevant human resource related issues. It is common knowledge that the human resources form the backbone of every organization since they are responsible for determining its effectiveness. In order for them to be effective in their performance, they must be given incentives which will motivate them to put maximum effort in their day to day operations. If the employees are not happy, it can be difficult for them to support it. Thus, a performance based strategy that does not have the support of the people who are intended to play major roles is likely to face challenges in its implementation which can result in poor performance contrary to what would be anticipated in the first place. Motivation is very important in this case.
Motivation is the enthusiasm employees have for their jobs and the factors which influence how hard they may try to do the job. An employee must be encouraged, persuaded or inspired to do the job (Kleynhans et al 2006). There are various factors which can motivate the employees to do their best in their work and the most notable motivator to the employee is financial reward. On the other hand, a reward can be simply defined as a token of appreciation which is in the form of a financial reward for outstanding performance in particular circumstances by the employees. With reference to motivation of individuals, content theories of motivation are more applicable which focus on both the internal and external factors which motivate an individual. They are typically concerned with determining the specific needs that motivate people (Carell 1995). The strength of content theories of motivation is each individual knows what he wants hence, he is likely to be motivated if those needs have been satisfied. One advantage of giving incentives to the individuals is that they are likely to be motivated once they get what they need hence they will put optimum performance in their operations at work.
Teamwork in an organization is very important in as far as implementation of HPWPs is concerned at work place. According to Carrell, R. et al (1995), a team is a group of people working together towards the attainment of one goal. In any organization, there are employees who are supposed to work together towards the attainment of one goal. In a team, all the members are expected to fully cooperate as a way of maximizing their effort towards the attainment of the goals of the organization. In most cases, the overall success of the team depends on functions of each member where there are likely chances of attaining great results if there is proper cooperation and there are less likely chances of conflict when people in an organization are working as a team.
According to Stamatis (2001), the concept of team is based on the philosophy of participation. The participation philosophy is based on the notion that, “the vast majority of people can make significant contributions to business and both human and social endeavors if they are provided the opportunity, knowledge, support and reinforcement t do so,” Stamatis (2001:199). In an organization, members of a team are expected to participate in their tasks so as to increase the chances of success. This is a requisite in as far as successful implementation of HPWPs is concerned at workplace.
The issue of culture is also very important in a working organization. It is also very important to take into consideration the structure of the culture of all employees involved in the operations of the organization as a way of trying not to violate the values of those people involved. The strategy to be employed ought to be accommodative to a diverse range of cultures since this is one very important aspect that determines the success of an organization in view of the need to observe and respect the cultural values of different employees who hail from different areas. There are specific values and norms that define how some people in the society behave hence the need to carefully take into consideration these as a way of creating a mutual relationship between the organization and the stakeholders involved in the day to day operations of the organization.
There is also need for performance management so as to effectively implement HPWs in any given organization. According to Carrel et al (1995), research has shown that the number one desire of HR executives is to design performance management systems to achieve business goals. Having outlined the desired objectives and goals of the organization, it then becomes the role of the management to decide what the organization wants to achieve and then they also need to coordinate the resources of the organization in such a way that it will be better positioned to achieve the set goals. This is where strategies play an important role. In order to monitor performance of an organization, there would be need for that organization’s management to closely monitor the ongoing process. At PWC Logistics (Currently Agility Logistics) performance management was a matter of formalities where it was part of the annual bonus allocation practice and there was no structured process, when the company started to expand and grow by acquisitions, there was an immediate need to implement a system that captures the goals and validates them end of the year against the achievement. The greatest challenge in performance management systems is not launching the software or designing the forms, it is mainly educating everyone of the importance of setting specific, measurable and time bound goals and ensuring an alignment with the individual, departmental and strategic goals.
Performance management therefore, is the process of total quality management (TQM) programs using all of the tools including performance appraisal to ensure achievement of performance goals (Carrell, R. et al 1995). Thus, tools such as job design, leadership and training should all be regarded as part of a comprehensive approach to performance.
Over and above, it can be noted that the growth of an organization is closely related to the development of its human resources. Thus, the understanding of issues related to management and its role in enhancing performance in an organization is very important particularly during the contemporary period where it can be noted that the business environment is dynamic and it is constantly changing hence the need for management to keep pace with these changes in order to ensure that the workers are effectively performing for the betterment of the organization. However, it can be noted that there is no universally agreed definition of HPWP but a closer analysis of the model shows that the above discussed factors can lead to successful implementation of high performance work practices at workplace.
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