Human resource management (HRM) is the basis of all management activity, and is now often seen as the major factor differentiating between successful and unsuccessful organisations, more important than technology or finance in achieving competitive advantage (Marchington, 2005). This essay will be exploring the individual within the organisation and their development throughout their time with the organisation, including the ongoing process of recruitment, appraisal, training and development. The first task for human resources that would need to be considered is the process of recruitment.
Recruitment and selection is a critical process for organisations. Recruitment refers to “the process of attracting a suitable number of applicants so that from them a choice can be made as to who is the ‘right’ person for the job” (Newell, 2002, p.87). Selection can be defined as the process by which the choice is made, and the ways in which the applicants are assessed and an appointment is made. The comparative performance of these two stages can differ depending on the situation.
It is vital to get recruitment and selection right, as some individuals will be more suited to some jobs and organisations than others.
The process of recruitment and selection “will aim to attract those whom management view as the ‘right’ people for the organisation” (Bratton, 2007, p.247). If the wrong sources and media are used to recruit from, an insufficient number of or unsuitable applications may be generated, and the process will prove to be expensive (Marchington, 2005). Choosing a recruitment method which is cost-effective therefore depends on factors specific to each organisation and to different types of vacancy.
Findings from the 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS, 2004) (Kersley, 2005) show that, although the majority of workplaces treat external and internal applicants equally, one-fifth give preference to internal candidates and one in ten prefer to recruit externally. If an organisation is to maximise its chances of recruiting the best people to the jobs it advertises it must ensure that all subsequent communication with those who express an interest is carried out professionally.
As an opportunity for the organisation to sell itself as an employer to its potential applicant pool, the following are commonly provided: job description, person specification, recruitment brochure, staff handbook, and general information about the organisation (Torrington, 2005). Candidates are invited to apply by forwarding a CV and covering letter, which are used to shortlist candidates for interviews. An example of this is found in graduate recruitment and selection processes in small businesses, where three interviews are conducted, the first interview involving solely the line manager. From this interview, candidates are shortlisted for a second interview, involving a panel of three members. The personnel officer will also become involved at this stage, conducting psychometric tests, which are chosen in accordance with the vacancy (Stewart, 2000). Psychometric tests are associated with an individual’s personality, and include assessments such as hand writing analysis and colour preference theory (Knights, 2007). Recruitment exercises such as problem-solving, in-tray exercises, presentations, and work simulation exercises, may be asked to be undertaken by the candidates in order to assess their individual qualities. The final interview is considered as the ‘contract and salary negotiation’ stage; however the company still retains the option to reject the candidate.
Upon joining the organisation, the candidate will engage in a process of induction and training. Some organisations recognise the value in “encouraging workers to enhance their skills and knowledge, and to foster their creativity and initiative as part of a drive for continuous improvement” (Marchington, 2005). Training invests in and develops human resources, as well as increasing employee commitment, developing the employee as an individual and increasing their skill sets both in general and company specific. This helps the organisation to meet goals, increase productivity, encourage new ideas within the organisational environment, and change management, attitudes, and products. As an example, in comparison to countries such as Germany, Britain invests poorly into training for its employees, which has been proved to limit career progression as there is less awareness for training needs. Training treats behaviour as a problem and solves it through a systematic predetermined path, is short term, skill specific, concentrates on task thinking and focuses on the organisation. On the other hand, development prepares people for work beyond what currently engages them, is long term, develops the individual, concentrates on deep thinking, and develops the whole person as opposed to just in relation to the organisation.
Although individuals may go through the process of training and development, it is difficult to prove productivity, and training may be seen as a cost rather than an investment. “Simply having appropriate skilled individuals does not automatically yield high performance” (Reid, 2004 p.243). However, good staff are retained, there are long term benefits, and a flexible workforce is created. There is a wide range of training methods available, such as; role plays, apprenticeships, in-house training courses, assisted group learning, and education, and they are all analysed in different ways. Employees may be given personal development plans, including their aspirations regarding personal development, keeping track of their achievements, and focusing on learning and development opportunities. This is an ongoing process and has the effect of optimising an individual’s career. Despite the fact that a group of individuals may be given the same training, the way an individual learns during training is influenced by different theories and perspectives.
It is easy to see how the nature of the work that employees are required to perform will lead to the acceptance of a particular view of learning. A distinction is usually made between ‘associative learning’ (behaviourism) and ‘cognitive learning’ (Bratton, 2007). The behaviourist approach to learning proposes that “learning is the process by which a particular stimulus, repeatedly associated with, or conditioned by, desirable or understandable experiences, comes to evoke a particular response” (Beardwell, 2007, p. 273). This conditioning comes in two forms; classical and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning occurs when a stimulus leads to an automatic response, for example, Pavlov demonstrated that dogs could be conditioned to salivate at the sound of a bell rung before food is presented. Operant conditioning takes place after a desired response, which is then reinforced, or rewarded, to increase the probability of the repetition of the same response when the stimulus recurs, as shown by Skinner. In this way, the employee’s behaviour can be modified and also be shaped to conform to the organisation. Cognitive learning theory offers a more complex understanding of learning, proposing that what is learned is not an association of stimulus with response, but of stimulus with stimulus. The learner, or employee, develops expectations that stimuli are linked, which results in a cognitive ‘map’ or latent learning. This theory also recognises the role in learning of the observation and imitation of the behaviour of others; this could be seen through an organisation giving an employee a mentor or buddy to work alongside. Similarly to the ongoing process of employee development is performance management and appraisal, which ensures that a person’s overall capabilities and potential are appraised.
Appraisal can be defined as “a process that provides an analysis of a person’s overall capabilities and potential, allowing informed decisions to be made for particular purposes” (Bratton, 2007, p.284). A vital part of the process is assessment, whereby data on an individual’s past and current work performance and behaviour are collected and reviewed. There are also a variety of other declared purposes and benefits of appraisal, including setting goals and targets, discipline, selecting people for promotion, improving motivation and morale, planning remedial actions, and so on (Bratton, 2007). The list of potential purposes for appraisal has led to the view that appraisal is something of a ‘panacea’ in organisations (Taylor, 1998). Although there are a number of benefits of appraisal, there is always the situation when a manager has to provide feedback to employees that may demotivate them. The study that highlighted this was carried out by Meyer et al. (1965) at the General Electric Company, and this showed criticism had a negative effect on performance. Line managers usually have the most contact with employees, and so are the best people to carry out the process of appraisal. However, companies such as the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) also ask their employees to evaluate their own performance, as they feel that this is highly beneficial for personal appraisal and development. An organisation selects the method of appraisal according to the individuals, and the method they feel is the most effective. The evaluation process can also include peer, group, comparison, critical incident, graphic rating, grading, or a combination of one or more appraisal methods (Mondy, 1996).
The process of appraisal uses behaviourally-anchored rating scales, and focuses on behaviour and what the individual does or is expected to do. Although this is a useful tool for management, it is difficult to measure and is considered as costly and time consuming. A development action programme can give an individual self-control of performance, as a maintenance action programme can identify and rectify deviation (Cummings, 1973). An example of this is performance training at the Disney Institute in Florida, where employees are encouraged to have self-control over their performance and share their ideas, which contributed to a collaborative culture within the Institute (Bratton, 2007). Ultimately, the process of an appraisal will affect different individuals in different ways. For example, if management feel the individual has performed well within their role and presents a number of skills and abilities, they are likely to receive a pay rise and may be considered for promotion within the organisation as well as a number of other rewards. Whereas if the individual is not performing as they should be, they may be inclined to review the individuals position within the company and be put through a disciplinary procedure.
Evidentially individual differences have a great effect on Human Resource Management procedures such as recruitment, appraisal, training and development. Although employees are the main reason for the individual methods and variations of HR processes, management may also be an influential factor. For example, Kurt Lewin’s Leadership styles, including ‘Autocratic’, ‘Participative’, and ‘Laissez Faire’, may influence a number of HR processes, as individual differences in managerial styles are present. It is also apparent that HR is an ongoing process, as employees are regularly recruited, assessed in the way they perform, and given training to develop as an individual along with the organisation as a whole. These processes are linked, have an effect on each other, and are all needed in order for an organisation to be successful.