Briefly describe the major features you would expect to find in an HR function which has adopted the ‘Ulrich model’ as the basis for its structure. Explain the thinking behind this approach to the organization of an HR function. In what types of organization do you think it works best and why?
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Features of HR function; Ulrich Model
For an organization to be successful, human resource professionals are required to be more concerned with the deliverables of their roles rather than doing their duties better (Price,2007, p.35). Therefore, they should have a clear understanding of how their roles contribute to value creation within their respective organizations. Ulrich’s model stipulates four roles that constitute the core functions of human resource managers in contemporary organizations (Beardwell & Clydon, 2007, p.32). According to this model, human resource managers should be the organization’s change agent. Secondly, they should be administrative experts within the organization. Thirdly, human resource managers should act as employee champions and strategic partners.
Currently, the business environment is characterized by a high rate of globalization and technological innovation (Redman & Wilkinson, 2009, p.45). Bohlander and Snell (2010, p.12), assert that organizations are required to change their operations to remain competitive. As a change agent, human resource managers are required to facilitate the implementation of change. However, managing change is a challenge amongst human resource managers.
To be successful in implementing change, managers need to develop an organizational culture that is responsive to change. One of the ways through which they can attain this is by envisioning possible future changes and communicating the perceived change to the employees in various departments (Kernis & Goldman, 2006, 290). This means that the human resource manager should be a positive advocate in communicating the interned change within the organization (Marchinton & Wilkinson, 2003, p. 129).
In most cases, employees resist change because they are required to abandon how they are used to undertaking tasks. According to Bohlander and Snell (2010, p.12), the success of change within an organization is dependent on how the human resource manager addresses the human factors. To be successful, the human resource manager should address various issues raised by the employees as a result of implementing change.
In their operation, organizations in different economic sectors ‘compete through people.’ Therefore, the success of organizations is dependent on the effectiveness with which they manage human capital. Developing a strong human capital is one of the key human resource objectives in which organizations consider attaining competitiveness.
Human capital refers to the economic value added to an organization by the employees arising from the skills, knowledge, and employees’ capabilities (Khilji & Wang, 2006, p.1188). To ensure that the employees add value to the organization, human resource managers have to ensure that they undertake comprehensive staffing. For change to be effective, human resource managers have to ensure that they develop comprehensive employee training and development to enhance their staffing process (Swart, Kinnie & Purcell, 2003, p.53). Also, the human resource manager must effectively communicate within the organization is necessary. This will enable the employees to understand how the change is expected to affect them thus minimizing chances of resistance.
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According to Ulrich’s model, human resource managers are charged with the responsibility of undertaking a wide range of administrative roles. Most of these roles are related to people management. The core objective of possessing administrative skills is to ensure the human resource department to be efficient. The resultant effect is that the organization will minimize the cost of operation and reduce cycle time while at the same time ensure that effectiveness and quality are maintained.
To attain this, it is paramount for human resource managers to possess different skills in human resources (Macky & Boxall, 2007, p.1160). For example, to have an effective human capital, human resource managers should conduct comprehensive recruitment. In the recruitment process, the manager should consider both the internal and external sources of human resources. This will increase the probability of the firm hiring employees who will add to the firm’s performance through improved productivity (Simmons, 2003, p.129). Similarly, human resource managers will be required to conduct employee appraisal to determine the employee’s performance. All non-performing employees should be dismissed from the firm.
Upon hiring the employees, human resource managers are required to ensure that the employees are satisfied (Armstrong, 2009, p.45). To achieve this, HR managers should develop a comprehensive reward system that integrates both monetary and non-monetary financial rewards. Some of the non-monetary rewards which human resource managers should consider integrating include recognizing employees who portray exemplary performance.
Secondly, the human resource manager should conduct employee appraisal to determine the employees to promote. Also, the human resource manager should integrate a health program aimed at benefiting the employees. Regarding monetary compensation, employees’ salaries and wages should be linked to their performance. By developing a comprehensive reward system, the employees will be satisfied leading to an improvement in their productivity (Yukl & Lepsinger, 2005, p.361).
In addition to the positive reward, human managers should also formulate to guide the employees. These rules are in line with the human resource objective of entrenching good work ethics. The human resource manager should develop policies that define the respective punishment n the event of failing to adhere to the set rules. This will aid in entrenching good ethics amongst the employees to avoid punishment. The human resource manager must possess effective monitoring capability to optimize the benefits.
Ulrich’s model stipulates that human resource managers should have a comprehensive understanding of the employee’s needs (Ulrich, 2009, p.35). As an employee champion, human resource managers should improve the employees’ commitment (Banfield & Kay, 2008, p.47). One of the ways through which they can achieve this is by developing a strong link with the employees (Bowen & Ostroff, 2004, p.103). Human resource managers should formulate different programs such as open forums that allow the employees to express their concerns. The level of the employees’ contribution to the organization increases more than expected since they develop a perception that the management team is giving them a fair hearing. The resultant effect is that they add value to the organizations hence enhancing its performance.
For an organization to succeed, the Ulrich model postulates that all the human resource functions must be in line with the organization’s strategies, practices, and processes. Therefore, human resource managers should participate in the execution of a business strategy (Banfeild & Kay, 2008, p. 47).
Firms which are experiencing a rapid transformation as a result of the dynamic nature of the business environment such as a high rate of globalization increase in competition and technological change should consider integrating the Ulrich model in their human resource functions (Torrington, Hall & Taylor, 2008, p.34; Kanter, 2003, p.56). This will enable these organizations to deal with the changes occurring within the business environment (Cooke, 2006, p.211).
Also, multinationals should incorporate this model to develop a standardized process in areas such as organizational staffing, reward systems, and learning and development (Hope, Farndale, & Truss, 2005, p.24). To achieve this, human resource managers of such firms need to consider developing centers of excellence (Ulrich & Brockbank, 2005, p.75). The centers of excellence will play a significant role in formulating solutions to the various challenges identified by human resource operations and business partners (Ulrich & Brockbank, 2005, p. 43).
You have been asked to advise a growing organization that employs 75 people in office-based roles but which has no specialist, dedicated HR function. Managers are particularly keen to know how they can best evaluate the effectiveness of their HR activities and initiatives. Despite limited funds being available the organization manages to provide some form of formal training and development opportunities for everyone each year, gives everyone an annual performance appraisal, and seeks to involve staff through a consultative forum that all attend at least once a year. What advice would you give? Justify your answer.
Evaluating the HR function
According to Armstrong (2009, p.66), it is the human resource within an organization that creates value by directing their effort towards the attainment of the organization’s mission, vision, and goals. The HR assists by formulating and implementing the necessary strategic plans which are inline with predetermined values (Storey, Wright & Ulrich, 2009, p.32). The HR function plays a significant role in the process of creating value within an organization by ensuring that the organization has the right human capital( Bratton & Gold, 2007, p.34). To achieve this, the HR function is committed to ensuring that the employees are motivated and committed to their duties and that they have the necessary skills (Meyer & Smith, 2000, p.320).
Armstrong (2009, p.66) asserts that it is important to assess the contribution of human resource function to determine whether it is effective about technical and strategic levels. There are various ways through which managers can evaluate the effectiveness of their HR activities and initiatives. Evaluating the effectiveness of the HR activities and initiatives is an important consideration especially for growing organizations. This arises from the fact that the success of the organization is dependent on the quality of human resource practices and policies (Sims, 2007, p.5).
Human resource audits
According to Durai (n.d, p.566), HR audits are aimed at determining whether an organization is complying with the set organizational goals, policies, and plans. Also, HR audit is directed towards various human resource functions such as employee staffing, compensation, employee motivation, training and development, safety and health, communication, and industrial relations (Boxall, Purcell & Wright, 2007, p.23).
It also helps at establishing whether an organization is adhering to the statutory provisions and regulations without any deviation (Delmotte, 2008, p.34). Also, the HR audit aids in evaluating the efficiency of stipulated HR policies and practices. Therefore, to be effective in conducting an HR audit, the HR managers have to integrate numerous issues. These relate to legal compliance, employee relations, training and development activities, the validity of employee recruitment and selection, compensation and other benefits, job description, termination, health, and safety (Pynes, 2009, p.44).
To be effective in the benchmarking process, it is important to integrate the concept of benchmarking. This entails setting a level at which the management compares the actual performance with the expected performance. Alternatively, an organization can use the performance of another organization within the same industry to compare its performance. According to Durai (n.d, p. 266), benchmarking aids in identifying deviations.
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By setting benchmarks, human resource managers can determine whether the firm’s HR activities and initiatives are contributing towards an improvement in the organization’s performance hence increasing its probability of attaining the organizational objectives (Francis & Keegan, 2006, p. 231). Additionally, by identifying the possible deviations, the HR manager can formulate strategies to collect the deviations hence increasing the probability of attaining the organizational objectives.
Employee satisfaction measures
These measures are mainly used to determine the employees’ level of satisfaction arising from HR initiatives and activities. One of the ways through which HR managers can achieve this is by conducting employee surveys (Jackson & Mathis, 2008, p.89). The HR can utilize employee survey to analyze specific issues within the organization (James, Frank & Theodore, 2002, p. 287).
For example, the survey can also be used to determine the employees’ needs and preferences. There are various ways through which the manager can determine the effectiveness of the HR activities and initiatives. For example, questionnaires can be issued to the employees to evaluate whether the performance appraisal system instituted is effective. The questionnaire can also be used to establish whether the employees are satisfied with the benefits program instituted within the firm’s reward system.
Alternatively, the human resource manager can also evaluate the effectiveness of HR activities and initiatives by conducting attitude surveys. The survey is used to establish the employees’ feelings and beliefs regarding their jobs and the entire organization. For example, HR can evaluate how the employees feel about organizational practices and policies, their co-workers, and supervisors (Whitener, 2001, p. 34). The HR manager should request the employees to respond to the questionnaires candidly. Therefore, the employees should not hide if they have a negative aspect regarding the HR initiatives and activities but should rather communicate them freely (Rogelberg, Luong, Sedeburg &Cristol, 2000, p. 284). This will aid in the survey giving the correct employee level of satisfaction.
The HR scorecard
According to Armstrong (2006, p. 68), a scorecard emphasizes a wide range of issues. These include the HR competencies, HR practices, HR systems, and HR deliverables. Regarding HR competencies, the scorecard evaluates issues such as administrative expertise, the effectiveness in which the strategies are being executed, and change agency and employee advocacy. The HR practices evaluated relate to communication within the organization, work design, employee selection and development, and the reward system.
On the other hand, the HR systems relate to organization alignment, differentiation, and integration while the deliverables include the employees’ mindset, technical knowledge, and employees’ behaviors (Pattanayak, 2005, p. 376). The HR scorecard is an important element in evaluating the link between the organization, the workforce, the laid down strategies, and the organization’s performance (Bohlander & Snell, 2010, p. 721).
Some of the performance data that can be evaluated relate to financial and operational performance (Andersen, Cooper & Zhu, 2007, p.169). Also, the scorecard can be used to evaluate perceptual data by conducting opinion surveys, focus groups, and attitude and exit interviews.
In their operation, organizations can link their human resource management practices to market value. Human resource managers can evaluate a wide range of HR activities and initiatives quantitatively. For example, about evaluating the employees’ productivity, the HR manager can evaluate different issues such as the added value per employee, sales value per employee, and the profit contribution per employee. Additionally, the manager can also analyze the value added by the employees in comparison to every $ of employment cost.
Another quantitative criterion that HR can consider relates to employee behavior (Wright & Niishi, 2006, p.34). This can be determined by evaluating the employee’s turnover rates, retention, and absenteeism, accidents, grievances, and disputes. For example, according to Watson Wyatt, there are four main groups of HR practices that can be associated with a 30% increment in the shareholder’s value creation as outlined below. This forms the human capital index (Armstrong, 2006, p.454).
Percentage impact on shareholders/market value
- Communication integrity 7.1%
- Employee recruitment and retention 7.9%
- Reward and accountability 16.5%
- Mutually respective and flexible workforce 9%
By integrating quantitative criteria, the management team of the firm can gain insight into whether its HR initiatives such as employee training and development are successful (Wilkinson, Bacon & Redman, 2010, p.34). Additionally, by analyzing the rate of employee turnover and absenteeism, the managers will be able to determine the effectiveness of some of its systems such as the reward system (Guthrie, 2001, p.180).
Read the article entitled ‘Front-line managers as agents in the HRM-performance causal chain: theory, analysis and evidence’ by John Purcell and Sue Hutchinson. You should then write a summary setting out the main conclusions that the authors reach in the article and state how convincing you find these to be and why.
Summary and main conclusions
Frontline managers include all lower-level managers or first-level managers. They have direct contact with the employees. In case of an issue, employees report to the first-line managers. Frontline managers undertake a wide range of tasks such as people management, monitoring work processes, measuring operational performance, providing technical expertise, and managing operational costs.
Role of frontline managers in implementing HR practices
Apart from contributing to the formulation of human resource practices, the article argues that frontline managers play the most significant role in the implementation of the practices (Arnold & Rhoades, 2001, p.23). Purcell, Kinnie, Hutchinson, Rayton, and Swart (2003, p.63) posits that HR managers propose the policies and practices but the frontline managers dispose of them. According to Guest (2001, p.52), the success of HR practices is determined by the effectiveness with which the frontline managers have developed ownership of the formulated strategies. Armstrong (2006, p.97) further asserts that if human resource managers and the frontline managers’ actions are not inclined towards the same direction, then the probability of HR practices failing is very high (Guest, 1997, p.263).
This is in line with the findings of Purcell and Hutchinson (2007, p.3; Ramsay, Scholarios & Harley, 2000, p.512) who assert that an organization cannot attain high performance just because it has comprehensive HR policies and practices. However, the performance is determined by the effectiveness with which the HR policies and practices are implemented (Renwick & McNeil, 2002, p.412).
Leadership behaviors and people management
One of the most effective ways through which a firm can improve on its performance is by ensuring that there is effective leadership within the firm (Shancok & Eisenberger, 2006, p.34). Improving the leadership within an organization can significantly improve the employees’ level of satisfaction hence adding value to the organization. Additionally, leadership can also enhance the employees’ level of commitment in executing their duties (Harney & Jordan, 2008, p.280).
Some of the leadership behaviors that should be portrayed by managers include inspiring and motivating the employees (Purcell & Kinnie, 2007, p. 533). Employee motivation can influence teamwork in the organization culminating inefficiency in the organization’s performance (Yukl, 2008, p.709).
Leadership is an important element in ensuring that employees are motivated. Also, effective leadership can significantly influence the employees’ attitudes towards various issues such as their attitude towards the organization and also their job (Niishi, Lepak & Schneider, 2008, p.507).
Because the frontline managers have direct contact with the employees, they can understand the employees in a better way compared to the HR managers (Whittaker & Marchington, 2003, p.247). This makes them develop effective people management strategies thus increasing their ability to deal with major issues (Yukl, Gordon, & Taber, 2002, p.15). For example, they can be able to determine the extent to which the employees are satisfied.
This increases their ability to develop organizational commitment (Nehles & Looise, 2006). Also, the contact developed between the first-line managers and the employees determines whether the employees will be satisfied. It also determines whether their productivity and performance will be improved through employee development. As a result, the employees’ perception of the HR practices is determined by how the frontline managers communicate them to the employees in executing their supervisory role (Sanders, Dorenbosch & Reuver, 2008, p. 412).
In executing their human resource duties such as employee selection, appraisal, and communication, frontline managers have managed to develop leadership skills which enable them to have a significant influence on the employees’ behavior and attitudes (Maxwell & Watson, 2006, p.45). This increases their ability to give the employees direction (Rafferty & Griffin, 2006, p.38). Frontline managers provide employees with a sense of direction. The frontline managers enable the employees to understand what they are expected to achieve in their day to day activities. According to Reilly, Tamkin, and Broughton (2007), frontline managers direct their attention towards steps that promote the organization’s success.
According to Purcell and Hutchinson (2007, p.3), the success of HR practices is dependent on the quality of leadership within an organization. Frontline managers attain this by developing an appropriate organizational climate (Gould, 2007, p. 1647). For example, they can develop a sense of collaboration amongst the employees. This means that conflict amongst the employees is eliminated (Larsen & Brewster, 2003, p.228). The resultant effect is that an organization can create synergy and a unique working experience.
To be an effective leader, managers are expected to walk the talk. This means that they should be the organization’s role models. In undertaking their duties, employees are significantly influenced by the leadership behavior portrayed by frontline managers. If the HR practices developed are not effective, their success will be determined by how the frontline managers implement them. Similarly, a firm may have effective HR practices.
However, if the frontline managers possess inefficient leadership skills and behaviors, then the HR practices will fail. This illustrates the importance of frontline managers in the success of human resource practices. However, for frontline managers to be effective, human resource managers need to understand the frontline managers. Also, they should support the frontline managers in improving people management.
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