How human resource department structures work

Firstly, no matter how a human resource department structures its work, practitioners in all roles will require a more diverse range of competencies to meet current and emerging organization challenges (Dr. Stephen 2003). Human resource practitioners must always equip with appropriate and relevant industry-specific knowledge and experience. They must provide appropriate advice, feedback and development resources to business judgement, which assist to make well-reasoned decisions during crises. Human resource practitioners with professional expertise will be able to keep abreast of the changes in the rapidly evolving business environments. Besides, they also encourage acquiring more special skills such as knowledge in financial accounting and corporate finance, risk management and internal control and strategic management. (Bursa Malaysia 2010)

Secondly, strategic is another skills and attributes needed to be a successful human resources practitioners in today’s ever-changing dynamic world. They need to link human resources to the strategic management process. ‘Therefore they should provide strategic insight and direction by promoting innovation, conceptualizing key trends, evaluating strategic decisions, and continually challenging the organization to sharpen its culture, vision and values’ (Bursa Malaysia 2010). They also need to learn to see situations from an organization-wide perspective and contribute constructively to the strategic management of the organization. ‘Besides, they need to support the changes energetically by developing a compelling vision and value proposition for their whole organization, aligning the focus of their efforts on more strategic outcomes, re-negotiating their roles and relationships with operational leaders within organizations; and committing to major, immediate competency development.’ (Dr. Stephen 2003)

Thirdly, the effectiveness of the human resource department depends largely on the leadership skills of each individual practitioner. Leadership is a key ingredient for managerial success for organizations large and small. Effective leadership results in high-performing organization and ineffective leadership can cripple an organization. ‘Therefore, effective leadership is imperative for human resources practitioner who understands and has the ability to inspire high performing talent’ (Bursa Malaysia 2010). ‘Leadership responsibilities include creating a culture of ethical business conduct and commitment to compliance, maintaining a work environment that encourages employees to raise concerns, and promptly addressing employee compliance concerns.’ (Barnes & Noble 2004)

Fourthly, individual practitioner should provide guidance to company leaders about what is right or wrong for the business, employees, and the community, and most importantly, to act in ethical practices and policies. ‘Recent events (e.g., accounting fraud, product and service problems, inconsistent compliance with business policies and practices, liabilities, etc.) have made best-in-class practices a critical premium. While HR has traditionally been the guardian of compliance and employee support requirements, it has increasingly become involved in providing advice and support for values, practices and policies that sustain ethical and legal business practices as well as applying an understanding of key legal precedents, policies, and practices to protect the interests of the organization and individual employees.’ (Dr. Stephen 2003)

Finally, human resources practitioners also need to focus on customer responsiveness is another skills needed to be a successful human resources practitioners in today’s ever-changing dynamic world. Bear in mind, no business can exist without customers. ‘They must take the lead in organizational quality or process customer interventions that produce customer value and respond to customers’ needs in a manner that provides added value and generates significant customer satisfaction’ (Dr. Stephen 2003). For example, human resource practitioners must make sense that every good quality system is based on its well documentation of process and standard operating procedures. Human resource practitioners well documented manufacturing process not only effective catalysts to drive quality performance improvement but also to improve organizational results. It is an impact on organization bottom line due to it leads to repeat business, customer loyalty, and increased profitability.

Question 2

Managers are responsible for acquiring, developing, protecting, and utilizing the resources that an organization needs to be efficient and effective. One of the most important resources in all organizations is human resources – the people involved in the production and distribution of goods and services (Gareth et al. 2002). Human resources include all the managers of an organization; all managers are human resources (HR) manager. The function of managing an organization’s human resources is shared between heads of departments and HR specialists.

The major components of human resource management: recruitment and selection, training and development, performance appraisal, pay and benefits, and labor relations. Indeed, all managers and HR specialists play as a significant role for the human resource management (HRM) which to attract and retain employees and to ensure that employees always perform at a high level and contribute to the accomplishment of organizational goals. (Gareth et al. 2002)

HRM involves considerable change in the role of line managers. As for the first of an HRM system, HR specialists and line managers use recruitment and selection to hire new employees who have the expertise, abilities, and experiences so that they can place the right person on the right job which help an organization to achieve its goals. For example, an IT company has the goal of the remaining the premier accounting software in the Malaysia. To achieve this goals, project department manager need to hire the best software programmers. HR specialists are responsible for the first interview and test rigorously the candidates and then to provide the excellent recommendations to project manager for second interview in order the highly qualified and the best candidates can be hired. This careful attention to selection has contributed to the company’s competitive advantage. (Gareth et al. 2002)

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After recruiting and selecting employees, HR specialists and all managers must use the second component of HRM system, training and development, to ensure that organizational employees develop skills and abilities so that they can perform their jobs effectively in the present and the future. Therefore all managers are expected to coach and guide their subordinates’ periodically. Besides, training and development is an ongoing process to ensure their subordinates are keep up-to-date with changes in the goals, strategies, product, technology, industry environment, or customer needs and desires. For example, provide newly hired software programmers on-the-job training from the small team that includes experienced employees who act as adviser. Afterward, the new software programmers not only can learn about the skills of developing computer systems but also responsive to customers’ programming needs. (Gareth et al. 2002)

Performance appraisal and feedback are the third component of HRM activities that shared among the line managers and HR specialists. Performance appraisal can provide all managers and HR specialists with the important information they need to make a good human resources decision such as how to train, motivate, promote and reward the organizational employees as well as help all managers to determine which employees should conduct for training and development and in what areas. Besides, the performance feedback from performance appraisal encourages high levels of employee motivation and performance. For instance, good performers know their efforts are appreciated and the poor performers know their drawbacks needed for improvement. From here, we can figure out that all managers should evaluate their subordinates’ performance with insight into their strengths and weaknesses and the areas in which they need to concentrate in the future. (Gareth et al. 2002)

For the fourth HRM component, line managers have the rights to decide the pay and benefits to employees on the basis of performance appraisals. If the organization rewarding the good performance employees with wage rises, bonuses, allowances, welfare and etc, this will lead to the most important human resources – people are motivated to continue their high levels of contribution and support to the organization. If the job is linked to the individual or tem performance, good performance employee is willing to stay with the organization and thereby line managers and HR specialists can save time and cost to solve the problem such as high turnover rate. Besides, all managers also make sense which benefit package such as health insurance, flexible working hours, dental insurance and etc is best suit to their subordinates. (Gareth et al. 2002)

Finally, labor relations are HRM component that all managers engage in to develop and maintain good working relationships with labor unions that may represent their employees’ interest. For example, managers who have more power might take steps that will benefits some of the shareholders or stakeholders and hurting another such employee, who may have increased risk of injuries as result of speed up a production line and who receive no over time (OT) claim or pay for the extra work they are performing. Therefore, all managers must engage in this HRM component in order to establish a safe working environment and fair labor practices in their offices and plants. (Gareth et al. 2002)

Question 3

Instrumental approach

Instrumental approach is often referred to as the ‘hard’ version of HRM. This approach draws upon the rational-outcome model of strategic management to view HRM as something which is driven by and derived directly from corporate, divisional or business-level strategy and geared almost exclusively to enhancing competitive advantage. (Commonwealth of Learning 2003)

HRM is concerned with the integration of human resource issues into business planning. All decisions about the acquisition, processing and management of human resources must, like any other organizational input, be tailored to increase or restore competitive advantage. (Commonwealth of Learning 2003)

Employees are viewed as a passive factor of production, an expense, which can be easily replaced and are thus seen as a mere resource in achieving towards the ends of organization. (The Nsu Resource 2010)

Humanistic approach

Humanistic approach emphasize on the so-called softer aspects of HRM such as organizational culture and employee commitment. This approach emphasizes the reciprocal nature of the relationship between strategic management and HRM and the latter’s role in ensuring that competitive advantage is achieved through people but not necessarily at their expense. (Commonwealth of Learning 2003)

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From this perspective, humanistic approach contrast with instrumental approach as stresses active employee participation and gains employee commitment, adaptability and contribution of their skills to achievement of organizational goals. Employees are valued as assets. (The Nsu Resource 2010)

The differences between instrumental approach and humanistic approach in terms of cultural perceptions are illustrated at the Figure 1. (Anne and Ruysseveldt 2004)

Figure 1: Instrumentalism and Humanism in the management of people

As for my opinion, the humanistic approach is better than instrumental approach due to the following reasons: Firstly, instrumental approach tends to be overly rationalistic. As strategy is assumed to be formulated in advance of action, it leads to a conceptualization in which HRM is cast purely in a reactive, implementation list role. The theory seems to ask too little of HRM. Secondly, this theory encourages a narrowness of focus. One of the early contributions to this approach concentrated on four generic functions: selection, reward, appraisal and development, which ignored the welfare, equal opportunities, employee involvement and industrial relations. Finally, there is the claim of excessive unitarism. The framework describes an approach where what top management considers best for the organization will automatically be best for the workforce. (Commonwealth of Learning 2003)

In considering the distinctive of the humanistic approach, indeed HRM involves all management decisions and actions that affect the nature of the relationship between the organization and its employees and its human resources. General management makes important decisions daily that affect this relationship. This leads to a “map of HRM territory” and “the core of which Beer et al. refer to as the “four Cs”: (i) Competence of employees: High competence creates a positive attitude towards learning and development; (ii) Commitment of employees: High commitment means that employees will be motivated to “hear, understand, and respond” to management’s communication relating to the organization of work; (iii) Congruence between the goals of employees and those of the organization: Higher congruence is a reflection of policies and practices which bring about a higher coincidence of interests among management, shareholders and workers; and (iv) Cost-effectiveness of HRM practices: This means that the organization’s human resource costs – wages, benefits and indirect costs such as strikes, turnover and grievances have been kept equal to or less than those of competitors. (Commonwealth of Learning 2003)

In a nutshell, “there can be no standard or universal ‘theory’ or ‘method’ of HRM but rather a need for analytical knowledge of basic principles and how these can be adapted and developed innovatively to meet a range of individual, organizational and societal outcomes.” (Beer et al. 1984)

Question 4 (a)

One of the main source of conflict between the supervisors and the HR department at ZBS is HR department has taken away many of supervisors’ management rights. ‘Eventually human resources include all the members of an organization, ranging from top managers to entry-level employees’ (Gareth et al. 2002) Effective HRM should given more autonomy to all managers to make personnel decisions such as hiring, appraising, and compensating subordinates in order to fully utilize their human resources to gain a competitive advantage.

Second, the HR department ranks applicants based on test scores or other formal criteria (e.g. years of experience). Often the people they pick do not fit well in the department and/or do not get along with the supervisor and co-workers. Besides, HR department takes so long to process the paperwork to hire new employees that the unit loses good candidates to competitors. Since the supervisor is the person who familiar with the daily operations, and they hope can engage in the candidates selection for the recruitment in order to hire new employees who have the expertise, abilities, and experiences so that they can place the right person on the right job.

Third, excellent performers are leaving because the HR department will not approve pay raise exceeding a fixed limit for the job title held, even when a person is able to perform duties beyond those specified in the job description. Supervisors might think that if the organization rewarding the good performance employees with wage rises, bonuses, allowances, welfare and etc, this will lead to the most important human resources – people are motivated to continue their high levels of contribution and support to the organization.

Fourth, much of the training required of employees is not focused on the job itself. These ‘canned’ programmes waste valuable employee time and provide few benefits to the company. Supervisors considered that HR department has failed to ensure that organizational employees develop skills and abilities in order they can perform their jobs effectively in the present and the future.

Fifth, behavior of supervisor is another main source of conflict due to they are afraid to be truthful in their performance ratings for fear of being investigated by the HR department. ‘Behavior is very important issue that line managers would require when dealing with the development the environment and culture.’ (Sunny Gillingham 2010)

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Lastly, attitude survey data are broken down by department. The HR department then scrutinizes departments with low scores. Some supervisors feel that the attitude survey has become a popularity contest that penalizes mangers who are willing to make necessary (but unpopular) decisions.

Question 4 (b)

As for my opinions, manager should be given more autonomy to all managers to make personnel decisions such as hiring, appraising, and compensating subordinates in order to fully utilize their human resources to gain a competitive advantage.

Since the managers are the person who familiar with their daily operations, and they should engage in the candidates selection for the recruitment in order to hire new employees who have the expertise, abilities, and experiences so that they can place the right person on the right job. HRM activities – recruitment and selection should be shared among the head of departments and HR manager. For the case of ZBS, HR manager can responsible for the first interview and test rigorously the candidates and then to provide the excellent recommendations to department manager for second interview in order the highly qualified and the best candidates can be hired. This careful attention to selection has contributed to the company’s competitive advantage. (Gareth et al. 2002)

Next, managers should have the rights to decide the pay and benefits to employees on the basis of performance appraisals. For the case of ZBS, if the HR manager approve for rewarding the good performance employees with wage rises, bonuses, allowances, welfare and etc, this will lead to the most important human resources – people are motivated to continue their high levels of contribution and support to the organization. If the job is linked to the individual or tem performance, good performance employee is willing to stay with the organization.

Third, training and development is an ongoing process to ensure employees are keep up-to-date with changes in the goals, strategies, product, technology, industry environment, or customer needs and desires. Due to managers at ZBS are close with their subordinates, they can evaluate their performance with insight into their strengths and weaknesses and the areas in which they need to concentrate in the future and to make a good human resources decision such as how to train, motivate, promote and reward the organizational employees as well as help all managers to determine which employees should conduct for training and development and in what areas.

The potential drawbacks in granting the managers the above-mentioned authority as they would have an intense workload in which can affect the overall contribution of the line manager like not meeting certain tasks (Sunny Gillingham 2010). This will lead to increase managers’ stress levels and may lose some control over the quality of goods and services (productivity level).They also need to seek advice from HR managers especially when dealing with personnel matters. Line managers are better to focus on the external influences towards operational performances such as the changes in goals, technology, customer expectations/satisfactions and new innovation in order to increase competitive advantage, and higher profitability.

Second, it would take time for line managers to build certain HR skills and carry out HR tasks due to them not having the required specialist skills that an HR manager would be trained and developed for HRM. Besides, managers must also have some of the skills to change employee’s attitudes or improve skills (Sunny Gillingham 2010). Therefore company might need to prepare a training and development budget for all managers. Importantly, ZSB’s top management believes that their strong HR Department with a highly qualified staff can do a better job of handling most personnel matters than line supervisors or managers. It is also convinced that a good HR department can keep line managers from inadvertently costly legal problems and negative publicity.

Third, the managers would not intend to believe in the role of HRM due to the fact of their management styles. Hence, the managers would be inefficient in a HR role due to their attitude as line managers believe in having or playing an independent role and are hard to persuade in accepting advice or recommendations which are provided by HR managers (Mullins, 2007). The need for a good set of HR skills in managing people is the ability of having good communication skills in order to communicate to all levels of the workforce, especially when passing on strategic objectives for employees to undertake in their roles. For example if an employee of ZBS had a personal problem then the line manager must be able to help them on a personal level. (Sunny Gillingham 2010)

Question 4 (c)


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