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Human Resource Strategy for Change

Human Resource Strategy for Change.

            Human resources is a term used to describe a combination of all administrative personnel functions and resource planning systems in an organisation (Burke 2002:2-5).  In economics, the term ‘human resources’ is generally interpreted as a labour or manpower while in business organisations, it mainly refers to the individuals or people working within a particular organisation.  Modern economic studies emphasise that, employees are not just resources or commodities to be used by the organisation but rather, they are creative beings who often make valuable contribution to...

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... the organisations they work for. 

            The Human Resource function of an organisation mainly deals with hiring, training, developing and rewarding employees.  The main objective of the HR function is to utilize the available human capital in the best way possible, in order to maximise their contribution to the organisation at minimum cost (Burrnes 2006: 23-30).  This process of maximising the contribution of manpower resources in an organisation is known as Human Resource Management.

Human Resource Management.

            The main strategic goal of HRM is to attract, develop and retain those employees who are competent enough and who are likely to make significant contribution towards assisting the organisation to reach its long term goals.  Four major roles of the HRM function includes administration, employee advocate, strategic business partner and an agent of change (Hayes 2007: 45).  Based on these four roles, HRM is an integral part of every management responsibility though many organisations prefer to establish a specific department so as to ensure maximum benefits.  At Warbings Office Systems, a small company which deals with the supply of office-based products in UK, the HR department consists off a full-time HR manager and an assistant.  This helps to highly strengthens the functions of the HR department in propelling the organisation towards effective organisational changes.

QUESTION ONE.

Part A.  Nature of the changes that are being introduced at Warbings.

            Change within organisations today is simply inevitable (Mullins 2002: 41-45).  Most organisations are initiating numerous changes in order to improve their chances of survival in the highly competitive local and international markets.  To absorb this change, Warbings Office System has had to look for ways in which to implement successful business strategies for change.  The company’s management team has discovered that, one of the best ways to improve its productivity in the organisation is by ensuring that, they hire and retain the right people who are capable of delivering in accordance with the long term business strategy.  For  this reason, a Human Resource Management Strategy for change is highly essential in this organisation.

Human Resource Management Strategy.

            A good HR strategy is mainly founded on an effective organisational strategy.  The same way a business organisation requires a marketing or an IT strategy to succeed, it is also very important for every organisation to develop a human resource strategy which will implement changes in accordance with the already existing business strategies.  The process of developing a HRM strategy is primarily considered to be the responsibility of the HR manager though the contribution of other senior managers within the organisation is also important.

            In developing a HR strategy, the HR manager should first identify the right people needed to propel the business towards its long term business strategies.  Secondly, the type of programs which are best suited for the process of hiring, developing and retaining the right employees should also be well defined.

            There are four key dimensions in an organisation which must be addressed in the process of developing an effective HR strategy.  These four dimensions include; organisation structure, organisational culture, skills and potential contribution of the employees and finally, human resource systems.  More often than not, most HR managers tend to focus on one or two of these four dimensions when developing strategies for managing their employees.  The nature of changes at Warbings Office Systems can be analysed in reference to this four dimensions.  An effective HR strategy consists of various inputs which must be well understood by both the core functions as well as the support functions.  The map below shows various inputs of a HR strategy.

Organisation structure.

            Every organisation has a structure or a system under which people work and relate with each other professionally.  An organisation structure comprises various issues such as hierarchy, levels of responsibility and the relationship between the core business and support functions of the organisation.  In developing a HRM strategy, two main issues are likely to arise with reference to the organisation structure.  For one, it is important to consider whether the structure is in accordance with the organisation’s rules of best practice.  Secondly, the structure alignment with the proposed HRM strategy and the long term business objectives must also be considered.

            There are two main types of organisations namely; formal and informal organisations.  In a formal organisation, there exists an intentional structure which distributes the roles and duties amongst all employees in an organised manner.  On the other hand, an informal organisation lacks an organised system of roles distribution and most activities are coordinated in an unconscious way so long as they meet a joint purpose.  Both types of organisations have either a tall or a flat type of organisation structure.

The effect of an organisation structure.

            A tall or hierarchical organisation structure has a narrow span of employee control which ensures a consistent decision making process.  Though this type of structure is usually strong on control, it is likely to act as a major barrier to open and rapid communication between the line functions within the organisation hence slowing the process of change.  Moreover, a hierarchy structure discourages innovation and has a low risk-taking capacity.  This type of structure is mainly aimed at fulfilling the needs of the organisation with little consideration on the employees.  Since a HRM strategy is mostly people-focused, it is less likely to fit comfortably in this type of organisation structure unless a balance is struck between fulfilling the needs of the organisation as well as those of the employees.

            A flat structure on the other hand empowers the employees since there is a high span of control.  However, this structure often raises major concerns over the quality and consistency of the decisions made regarding change implementation and management within the organisation.  The speed of decision making in a flat structure is relatively fast since it encourages open communication in all levels of management.  Moreover, this structure addresses the needs of the employees as well as those of the organisation.

Organisation structure at Warbings Office Systems.

            At Warbings Office System, the organisation structure is hierarchical in nature though not all HR issues are handled within that structure.  Traditionally, management issues in the company are handled by the management team but outside this hierarchical system, there exists various cross organisation sub-committees which work together to create a more cohesive approach to the whole process of implementing change within the organisation.  These cross-organisation teams have helped to foster team spirit and promote a healthy working relationship among the employees.  However, the company faces a major challenge of communication between the major company divisions due to a narrow span of control.

            Flatter structures in the company are advantageous though they are likely to pose new challenges for the management team due to the inability to predict mistakes and inaccuracies in the changes strategies.  In this case, it is important for the HR function to promote staff training within the organisation in order to ensure that there is a clear distinction of roles and responsibilities assigned to each employee in the process of developing a HR strategy for change.

Organisational culture.

            Another factor which needs to be considered in the process of developing an effective HR strategy is the organisation culture.  An organisational culture refers to the attitudes, values, beliefs and customs of an organisation.  It can be defined as a wholesome collection of those values and beliefs which are shared by people in an organisation.  An organisation culture dictates the behaviour and attitudes of both employers and employees in a given organisation hence influencing the way they relate with each other and with the rest of the outside community.

            Human values, attitudes and habits which have been shaped by the organisation culture are factors which must be put into consideration before implementing any change in the organisation.  According to Stone, HR managers who play the role of change agents in an organisation are often responsible for the process of implementing new policies and programs for organisational change.  However, such policies which call for a change in the organisational culture tend to be highly sensitive and they hence require sensitive and culturally diverse means of implementation.

            Good policies for HR strategic changes in any organisation are those which fit comfortably in the organisation’s culture and long term business objectives.  Before implementing any HR strategies for change, it is important to first analyse the organisational culture and climate in order to make sure that the established HR policies are in line with the core values of the organisation.

Effects of organisational culture.

            An organisational culture has the potential of speeding up or slowing down organisational changes in an organisation.  For instance, the attitudes and beliefs held by employees at Warbings Office Systems in regard to electronic communication is acting as a barrier towards changes aimed at improving communication as most employees tend to see it as necessary evil which eases communication between the company and its customers but at the same time, reduces face-to-face communication among the employees.  There are many factors which define an organisation culture in the company.  These includes; hierarchical structure of the organisation, assertiveness, functional orientation, institutional values and personality issues, just to name a few.  Each of these factors confer a different impact on the development of a HR strategy for change.

            The difference between organisations with successful HR strategies and those without is mainly based on their ability to modify their policies to fit in the organisational culture.  The importance of cultural diversity should not be assumed in organisational culture considering the fact that most employees come from different cultural backgrounds.  Change in organisational behaviour and culture should be done in stages evaluating the impact of those changes on the employees.

Part B: CEO’s approach to change management

Leadership, power and politics in organisational change.

            It is human nature to resist change which makes it very challenging for any organisation to implement any changes.  However, many organisations have managed to overcome this challenges by adopting new models of leadership.  Effective leaders are versatile and dynamic and this allows them to easily modify their leadership styles depending on the situation.  The type of leadership style exercised in a particular organisation determines the rate at which changes in that particular organisation can be realised.

            An organisation whose top management exercises an autocratic type of leadership is likely to experience more difficulties when trying to change than one with a democratic type of leadership.  Change acts as the ultimate test for any leader in an organisation.  There are many models of leadership which can be used to analyse the type of leadership style practised by the CEO of Warbings Office Systems.

Functional leadership model.

            A functional leadership model conceives the whole concept of leadership, not as a person, but as a set of behaviours which helps the organisation to achieve a certain goal.  Three major characteristics of a leadership function are centred around strategic tasks, individual and team work.  These three areas of leadership function are derived from Adair’s leadership model which has been successfully used in defining leadership in the British military.  Functional leadership model lays more emphasis on how the organisation is led than on who is leading it.

            At Warbings Office Systems, many changes have occurred as a result of the leadership style and it can thus be said that, the leadership style used by the CEO and top management team in the company is highly functional.  Some leadership styles which might be appropriate for Warbings Office Systems plans for change include collaborative, consultative, directive and coercive styles.

Situational leadership model.

            A situational leader is one who is able to adopt different styles of leadership depending on the situation at hand.  The situational leadership model was developed in the late 1960s and it helps leaders to analyse the situation they are dealing with in order to come up with the most suitable leadership style for that particular situation.  Warbings CEO is a situational leader since he has different ways of dealing with the matters concerning customer care and service delivery.

Motivation and reward management.

            An effective performance reward system is an essential part of a successful HRM strategy for change.  A reward system for motivating employees may involve a pay-for-performance system or a system for giving incentives to the best performing employees.  A reward system cultivates a positive attitude in the workforce and maintains it hence improving the company’s overall productivity.  The major focus of an effective employee reward system should be towards a positive reinforcement of the employees’ attitude and behaviour at the work place.

            The management team of Warbings Office Systems has several systems for rewarding and motivating the employees.  Merit plans are the most common ways of rewarding the best performing employees in the company.  Employees in this company are paid depending on their job rankings which are based on their responsibilities and overall contribution to the organisation.  Most of the workers in the company are highly motivated though there is a relatively high level of turnover of technical staff most of whom are highly competitive in the employment market.

QUESTION 2.

HR strategies for Warbings.

            The importance of a HR strategy in organisational change is highly evident since like a business plan, it helps to direct and formulate policies for maximum utilisation of manpower resources.  A HR strategy mainly deals with hiring, training, promoting and firing employees in an organisation as well as outlining projects which are due for completion and performance appraisal for the employees  in various organisation projects.

            Most HR strategies last for around five years and they often require to be evaluated after a period of about six months or an year.  Regular evaluation helps to ensure that the implemented HR strategies are still in line with the organisation’s long term strategies and organisational culture.  Moreover, constant evaluation of HR strategies helps the company to keep in tune with the current market demands and make the necessary adjustment.

            There are several HR issues which need to be addressed by HR strategies at Warbings Office Systems.  The effectiveness of a HR strategy is often measured depending on how effective it is in solving issues related to the manpower resources in the organisation.  Some human resource issues which need to be addressed at Warbings Office Systems include; counselling the employees on various issues such as career development, employment management, administrative policies and finally, training the employees.

            An effective HR strategy should be critical especially when the employment market has few qualified people to employ.  In such a case, the HR department needs to come up with effective strategies for attracting, motivating and retaining the ideal people who have the potential of helping the company to achieve its long term goals.  It is important to understand the value proposition of the employees, what motivates them and how the organisation can deliver to the individual value proposition of each employee.

A good HR strategy for Warbings should focus on five major factors.  These includes;

Aligning the strategy with the organisation’s mission and long term objectives.
Empowering employees to live within the proper organisational values, beliefs and customs.
Promoting high performance through an emphasis on individual capabilities and a performance reward system
Identifying and developing certain talent groups and individuals within the organisation.
Encouraging all team members to support programs and policies which call for overall organisational change and development with individual employee growth.
In addition, the company should utilise certain business and financial indicators which can help to measure its strategy effectiveness.  Moreover, there should be a clear link between organisational changes meant to improve business performance and those aimed at improving people’s activities.  In this case, individual values of the employees should also be properly aligned with those of the organisation.

            To deliver an effective HR strategy, the company’s HR strategy management must define the exact strategy for change with clarity, commitment, determination and consistency.  The management should also provide a plan showing clarity to support the strategy and a firm infrastructure to anchor it.

Recommendations for Warbings Office Systems.

            To implement an effective HR strategy which will support significant organisational changes, it is advisable for the HR function and the management team to;

Evaluate the organisation culture.

Implement a succession planning to ensure that the company  has qualified future leaders. Evaluate its HR strategy using certain measures such as a balance scorecard .

Adapt and implement the HR strategy for overall organisation change.

A good HR strategy for the company should be based on the following model.
A HR strategic planning model.

(Source: A Strategic Human Resource Management System for the 21st Century.  Naval Personnel Task Force,  September 2000).

Conclusion.

            Change in organisations today is inevitable.  To enhance change, a HR strategy for change must be developed and implemented with the long term business objectives in mind.  The development of a HR strategy is a two way process which requires the total participation of both the core and support functions of business in the organisation.  Warbings Office Systems has implemented many changes with the aim of improving the competitiveness in the market place.  However, there is still room for more changes and if a good HR strategy is adapted the company is likely to realise high levels of productivity in the near future.
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