HRM'S HOLY GRAIL
Oct 08 - 21, 2007
The development of HRM as a body of management thought in the 1980s can be linked to a conjunction of socio-economic factors- in particular , globalization, restructuring of industrial sector, fresh attitudes of the work force and the rise of renewed confidence in the power of managers to manage. These initiatives were seen as representing a break from the bureaucratic control and pointed towards greater participation and commitment of work force and rewarding them equitably for their contributions. Today human resource management is recognized as a discipline having a direct effect on the productivity, quality, effectiveness and job satisfaction of employees. The emphasis is upon developing an understanding of HRM in terms of "content" and "form", the former being constituted by the policy levers and "tools" of contemporary personnel practice, and later by the way in which these "unit ideas" can be combined to meet the strategic intentions within the environmental/organizational constraints faced by specific organizations in particular situations.
Human Resource Management in Pakistan is summed up by Sabeen Jamil in the Economic Business Review (EBR) section of DAWN in 2007 that "HRM is a fad in quandary in Pakistan". She argues in her article that most of the organizations have tried to rejuvenate organizations by instituting an HR department based on the philosophical myopia of the western system; but all the nicer benefits accompanying HR are missing. Neither the job satisfaction nor the level of commitment amongst the employees has improved by the replacement of personnel department by HR. She further illustrates that the major weakness of poor quality of manpower still persists.
This article will examine the possibilities of how HR can be made meaningful in our environment.
Firstly there is a deficiency of qualified HR people in our industries; resultantly these slots are being filled in by employees having little technical know- how of HR functions. A preliminary survey carried out found that even in multi nationals there is a dearth of HR talent. HR is a specialized function requiring specialized personnel. A few courses in this function do not qualify an employee as a specialist. An HR person must have sufficient line experience; he/she must understand the human psyche required for a particular job. This may not be possible if an HR specialist cannot visualize the job itself. A safer bet would be to induct a person in HR department from within the organization rather than a raw person with HR majors but deficient of experience. An HR person must himself have excellent interpersonal skills to interact with the employees to understand their group and individual needs. An introvert person is unlikely to develop as a HR specialist.
Secondly the roles performed by HR specialists as high lighted in HRM text books include, Administrative expert, Employee champion, Technical expert and a Change agent. There is a need to revise this sequence in the reverse order. Basically HR specialists are responsible for fulfilling two needs; it should offer the promises of a solution to the problems of labor management, and at the same time provide the employers or management with the opportunity to revitalize their flagging fortunes. HR managers tread a tight rope walk balancing the needs of both these categories.
Organizations that have realigned their operational strategies by focusing attention to the needs of their employees have eventually reaped profits and provided satisfaction to their customers as well as employees. The most distinguishing feature of a learning organization is that the work place must remain a venue for growth for the employees. John Doyle VP personnel of Hewlett Packard concludes, "Men and women want to do a creative job, and if they are provided with the proper environment, they will do so". HR specialist need to change the culture of the organizations by understanding the work expectations and attitudes of the new work force. Rampart Job mobility nowadays in the middle management is due to this reason since that opportunity of growth is amiss in the Pakistani firms.
Maintaining a nourishing environment for the employees as practiced by some leading firms of US are; PepsiCo has earned a reputation as a highly competitive environment which encourages individualism and people oriented work place. Another step taken by firms is to eliminate the difference between workers, managers and owners. Some Japanese influenced companies like Suzuki Motors and Indus Motors are practicing these credos in spirit by increasing informal contact between workers and management through similar uniforms, common cafeteria facilities and equitable profit sharing formulas.
HR planning in these turbulent times is another issue which requires accuracy. Business forecasts effect manpower planning. Many options like flexible work schedule, job sharing, outsourcing and contractual employment are not given weight age. Resultantly either the workers are under-worked or subjected to layoffs. In a country where there is high unemployment, consideration of these options would add flexibility and control costs. New ideals about work have emerged today; educated professionals desire development and autonomy for engagement and retention. The bulk of the lower order workforce remains tied to obsolete skills requiring upgrades and better facilities. The wage gap between the different levels of management is staggering and requires courageous initiatives.
At last the entry of women professionals in work force is permanent. Organizations need to realize that the western work cultural values can not be implemented in to-to in Pakistani work environment. Our societal imperatives need to be well integrated in the HR policies notables being flex-timings, health care and maternity leaves. On the other hand women folks too have to display a behavior reflecting self-confidence, independence and stability in tenure.
Within the job analysis function, job descriptions are too monotonous lacking in variety of tasks, job identity, job significance, autonomy and direct feedback. These dimensions are the soul of a job but are unfortunately either ignored or not comprehended by job analysts. HR staff needs to be trained in designing the job description sheets. It should not be left to novices. Another drawback noticed is that the job incumbents are not consulted while the sheets are being formalized. An MBO approach is suggested while formulating the job descriptions.
Assessment in the recruitment process deals with a series of choices. The importance of job specification is mostly ignored by recruiters. It is in fact a comprehensive analysis of specification backed by relevant tests which assures selection of potential candidate. Paper pencil tests related to personality are ignored resulting in a mismatch between the job and the candidate.
The connection between training and development must be regarded as highly interactive phase, each facilitating the other. Employer need to recognize that training is not a luxury, but a necessity. The old myth that employees will leave the organization on becoming more qualified need to be corrected. It should be the hallmark of the firm rather than an ad hoc operational issue. It should be viewed as an important employee motivator contributing to recruitment and retention opportunity. A willingness to regard the practice of poaching the skilled labor of others as the chief response to skill pressures should be discouraged and instead policies and business systems brought in vogue which are flexible enough to accommodate investment in people, with agreed budgets subject to regular evaluation. It is about time that employers understand the benefits of investing in human resource; then only respective work force will emerge as the cutting edge of competitive advantage.
Advanced countries have well realized that their employees come out of educational institutions. In 2000 only, the US business spent $ 30 billion to retrain employees coming from public schools alternately, now the US corporations support education through funding to improve the quality of students rather than retrain them again at company expense. Bechtel, Shell Oil Co and IBM sent their technical staff to work with students at their adopted schools. For a start teachers could be invited to the training forums of corporations to remain current on new technologies.
Compensation package send messages to an employee, not only about access to material welfare, but also about the level of recognition for work contributions made, about behavior which is valued by the employer, and about the organization's attitude to individual performance and achievement. Internal equity is more of a sore point amongst employees rather than external equity. Performance related pay (PRP) is avoided by organizations for fear of disturbing the status quo. Successful companies allow pay ranges to be wide enough (35% or greater) to allow for significant base-pay differences among employees on the same job. Management is also able to validate and reliably measure individual differences in job performance. This task is of the HR department to institute such kind of reports which makes the differential in performance evident.
One of the functions which require attention in this era of information technology is to adapt all manual documentation related to HR to computer based soft wares. Presently the firms are implementing HRIS through in-house development since the patented soft wares are too expensive. This indigenous effort needs to be streamlined in a professional setting and Pakistani soft ware houses need to be tried out to develop the HR related soft wares. It is seen that most of the time, HR departments are too immersed in the documentation phase and lose sight of areas which have a more potent effect on the effectiveness of organizations like reviewing appraisal management or training of employees.
HR is likely to remain a fad in quandary unless HR specialists take cognizance of these challenges. Intense net working amongst HR brethrens should pave way for mutual learning and cooperation. The industrial Seths must recognize the mutual benefits of investing in the human capital. Work must be developed to be meaningful to the employee. HRM's Holy Grail need to be written in our own language to suit the expectations of all stake holders.
The writer is Director of College of Management Sciences at PAF-Karachi Institute of Economics and Technology, Karachi.