All entries for June 2009

June 07, 2009

Human Resource Management Lesson 8 Exercise

1.- With reference to your own business experience, critically evaluate the idea that there is a business case for family friendly working practices.

In my experience I am and I have been in corporations where there are implemented in high degree the family friendly working practices, IBM is a example where there are a lot of programs to promote this practices, like IT facilities to work from home, flexible timetable, part-time options, sabbatical year, agreements with nurseries etc… But I have also known another kind of jobs and another sectors where the use of these kind of practices is quite complex. Obviously in the most of the occidental countries there are some directives and laws focused to guarantee a minimum of policies (i.e. parental leave), in this sense and depending of the degree of socialization of these countries can help to the workers with different weight (i.e. in the Nordic countries the social helps are higher than in other European countries as Spain) but in my opinion the governments has the responsibility to encourage such practices for companies seeking to implement it.

Some of the main arguments found in the policy statements of different countries (UK, Spain, etc..) are focused to explain that the performance of employees who have difficulty balancing the demands of work and family show symptoms of demotivation hence decreases in theirs productivity. There are other important benefits to the organization like for example the financial performance, labour productivity, and decrease of days of absence. With this picture to address such a business case could be a good plan to increase the benefits of the company although not always is possible to get it.

Currently the companies where have been implemented these practices has a common characteristics like are: it are in large organisations, mainly in public sector, lower degrees of competition, existence of trade unions, larger proportions of women, etc. All these common characteristics can be seen as negative points because looks like that not all companies are ready to implement these practices, although there are some research (Harris and Foster, 2005 p.9) that demonstrate that small firms could operate in highly informal and flexible way.

Using these kind of practices give a lot of benefits for employer and for the employee but each company should analyze what types of benefits they want to reach and make a profile of options about the family friendly working practices in order to fit it with theirs needs, for example if one company wants to reduce the labour turnover can implement practices like job-share, flexi-time or working at or from home.

As conclusion I would like to express my opinion about this issue, because as employee this topic affect directly to my own life. I think that the implementation of these practices some times can be a trick because the companies offer a several opportunities to use some of these practices, but at the moment that someone uses some of them can have some difficulties to promotion. Another situation that I have experimented is that before to work in companies with these practices I had a personal life, but after with the use of these practices is complicate to separate the job and the family and now the job is another member of the family.

References

Marchington, M. and Wilkinson, A. (2008), 'Human Resource Management at Work' (4th edn), London: CIPD.

Helen Newell (2009), Human Resources Management Study Notes, Warwick Business School.

Flexibility Web Site.

Family-friendly employment: who's doing what and why: http://www.flexibility.co.uk/issues/WLB/rowntree1.htm


Human Resource Management Lesson 7 Exercise

1.- What implicit expectations do you and the employees you manage/work with have of your employer?

My expectation and the expectations of the majority of my peers and the people that is managed by me in my current project are the following:

  • Reward, Some of the main expectation for me and for a lot of people of my environment is to have a fair reward to the contribution of each one. But don’t only refer to the money; refer to rewards that include recognition.
  • Career Plan, although somebody can consider it as rewards, I think that it isn’t because create a career plan for the employees is beneficial for both employer and employees.
  • Knowledge, maintain the level of knowledge is essential to “no manual” jobs, because is the force and value of the organization.
  • Visibility, I think that is very important to know why things occur inside of the company. A lot of decisions about my daily work could be easier to understand with more information.
  • Satisfaction with the job because it fits perfectly with the expectative, for example to have a non-routine work and satisfaction for a job well done. These characteristics are very complicated to reach but in my opinion is the base of the performance of the employees.

In conclusion, my expectation is that the employer complies with the psychological contract and I try to have enough value in the market in order to be able of defending the contract even try to getting better. In these sense this kind of contract is more relational than transactional contract (Rousseau and Parkes 1993, Marchington and Wilkinson 2005, p.34).

2.- Analyse how and why these expectations might be different from the implicit expectations in another organisation with which you are familiar.

I am going to refer to the expectation in companies that operate in different sectors and jobs with nature of Service Shop process against the nature of the process of my current job that is Professional Services. (Slack et al. ,p. 108). These kinds of contracts are more transactional than relational

In jobs with nature of Service Shop, the expectations are similar for those related with the rewards and some about the career plan but understanding only as progression in responsibility and rewards. There are additional expectations as are: job security and fixed working hours. In conclusion this kind of contract is more transactional than relational.

3.- How convincing do you find the idea of the psychological contract as a theoretical framework for understanding the employment relationship?

The concept of psychological contract is really recent, Herriot, Carole and Pemberton in 1995, Guest in 1998 and Denise Rousseau in 2001 are some examples that showed interest in the psychological contracts following the original studies of Argyris in 1960 but currently this concept is a highly followed in organizations. In my opinion these kinds of definitions or studies appear as result of analysis of the real life, and step to step the cycle continues because the new managers and employees are aware of these analyses and they provoke the evolution of the behaviour of employees and employers.

I think that this concept is a framework that could be very useful to understand the employment relationship, it can help us to know how think each side of the psychological contract. Meet the expectation and obligations of each side are important to feel satisfaction and job security. Nonetheless the expectations of each side can change depending of the personal situations (ages, kind of job, etc...) or stages of life (Hall, 1976), in this sense the ability to tackle challenges and the timing to do the things can change along the time, being a cause of break the relation and the psychological contract.

References

Marchington, M. and Wilkinson, A. (2008), 'Human Resource Management at Work' (4th edn), London: CIPD.

Helen Newell (2009), Human Resources Management Study Notes, Warwick Business School.

Corbett, M. (2007) Organisational Behaviour Lessons Notes, Warwick Business School. 2007


Human Resource Management Lesson 6 Exercise

1.- Thinking about an organisation that you know well, evaluate the extent to which it conforms with the LO model.

There are several definitions of Learning Organizations (LO) and some of them try to summarize the nature of LO in a shorts words, I like the definitions of Peter Senge (1990: 3):

“…organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.”

This definition looks like that speaks about subjective issues but there are some aspects that indicate if a organization has LO or not. I going to base my analysis on my personal experience in the company that I have spoken before, Lucent. As is a American Company has got several points similar to IBM then it will be interesting to compare both.

To analyse how Lucent fits into an LO model I'll focus my analysis on the approach of the work of Senge (1990), Argyris and Schon (1996), Argyris (1991), and Schon (1983), analysing the following five aspects: Personal mastery, Mental models, Building shared vision, Team learning, Systems thinking.

  • Personal mastery: In my experience the degree of personal commitment was high and one of the main reasons was because I was younger than the median of my department. I think that the commitment is related with the opportunity to promote and the positions of Lucent were quite frozen.
  • Mental models: This point was developed moderately in Lucent because frequently there were pictures with different messages in the meetings rooms in order to learn a specific culture.
  • Building shared vision: This characteristic was very well implemented in the company because the managers towards periodical meetings with the team and there was a lot of corporative meetings in order to go in the same direction.

  • Team learning: Some of the more important things in the company is to share the knowledge, in Lucent some times the departments was very independents and individualistic.
  • Systems thinking: Act as a system is complicated, and understood all the relations between departments too, but in Lucent was very well defined the goals of each, although with the problems of a big company.

As summary the degree of LO in Lucent was good because was a big company but this opinions have been done comparing with IBM in order to have one point of reference.

Five characteristics of Senge for Lucent


2.- What changes would need to take place within the organisation to make it a learning organisation?

Some of the main problems that I have identify is the lack of involvement of the human resources department, because the main weak point is the personal mastery and the team learning and these was due to the lack of a individual career plan and the lack in the incentives to the manager and employees in order to satisfy the sharing knowledge.

3.- To what extent do you think these changes are a) feasible and b) desirable?

I think these changes are desirable because against of a traditional organization LO offers several benefits for example: maintaining levels of innovation and remaining competitive, being better placed to respond to external pressures, etc …About if it is feasible I only see possible to make a plan of incentives or programs to increase the team learning.

Speaking about the developing the career plans to increase the motivation of employees, in my opinion I think that is not feasible because there are a lot of barriers. Surely will be more feasible that the involve of the human resource department increases in the promoting the LO culture because until this moment the learning issues was delegated in lines of business and I think that with the involve of the HR department a lot of efforts can be dedicated to the develop a real carrier plans that help to increase the motivation and commitment of the employees.

References

Marchington, M. and Wilkinson, A. (2008), 'Human Resource Management at Work' (4th edn), London: CIPD.

Helen Newell (2009), Human Resources Management Study Notes, Warwick Business School.

Web Site: ‘peter senge and the learning organization’, http://www.infed.org/thinkers/senge.htm

Wikipedia, ‘Learning organization‘, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_organization


Human Resource Management Lesson 5 Exercise

1.- To what extent do you think that the employment relationship is necessarily based on conflict between employers and employees who have competing interests?

In my opinion the relationship between them should be mutual agreement in which both parties have something to offer although the conflicts always appear when there are relations between two or more parties. It’s very complicated to find an equilibrium point where all parties win, in fact these conflict are minimized only in organization where there are only one party as are the associations of employees (cooperatives).

In a conventional organization each party try to increase its benefits, from the point of view of employees they want to find employment security, quality, motivation, satisfaction, and certain level of reward. From the point of view of employments the aspect more important is the performance which one is a function of motivation and ability according to the Vroom studies (1964). But these aspects aren’t the only because are influenced by the external context (political, economics …) and by the internal aspects (employee capabilities and needs, levels of rewards or benefits …) in several ways.

The state of the economy and the markets modifies the rates of unemployed hence decrease the feeling about the employment security and after the motivation and performance decreases. With these circumstances the employment tries to find solutions complying with legal aspects and with the approval of the trade unions. This argument can be a cycle infinitely and each step is a situation of conflict between parties.

I think that would be good avoid the conflicts but it would be in a imaginary world where every variable would be constant. In a real world is usually to have conflicts where the fighting and bargaining power of each side are focused to increase their own interest. If we see the classification or topologies of conflicts in inter-group relation that are: fight, game and debate (see Wilson. 1999, p 178), the best is to move towards the game or debate topologies and avoid the fight.

2.- What factors influence the extent to which the employment relationship is harmonious or conflictual?

There are several factors that influence in the relationship and the most important in my opinion can be grouped in internal factors and external factors, theses groups can be analyzed at individual level or group level.

As external factors the most important are the status of the economy and legal-political situation, the power of the trade unions and the type of sectors where the company operate. As internal factors some of the most notable are the influence of employee relation decisions, employment security and flexibility, level of benefits that the company hope to reach, grade of commitment of employees and alignment with the company goals.

Depending of the style of management (Purcell, 1986) of each organization the relationship can be more harmonious or conflictual, if the style is consultative the relation will be intensive but in harmony, in opposite will be with traditional style because the degree of relation is low this situation leads to more ups and downs in the relationship even interventions with the trade unions.

References

Marchington, M. and Wilkinson, A. (2008), 'Human Resource Management at Work' (4th edn), London: CIPD.

Helen Newell (2009), Human Resources Management Study Notes, Warwick Business School.

Corbett, M. (2007) Organisational Behaviour Lessons Notes, Warwick Business School. 2007

Robert H. Rosenfeld & David C. Wilson (1999), ‘Managing Organizations’ (2nd edn), Mc Graw Hill

Vroom, V.H., and P. Yetton (1973) Leadership and Decision Making, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh.

Purcell, J. (1986), "Employee Relations Autonomy Within a Corporate Culture", Personnel Management, February.


Human Resource Management Lesson 4 Exercise

1.- Thinking about organisations you are familiar with (it must not be IBM), what mechanisms and procedures have different organisations used for employee involvement and to give employees voice?

The organization that I have chosen to these questions is Lucent Technologies again. I was working in it for almost four years in IT department and I know several initiatives that were launched in order to change the way of doing the things using the new technologies and process optimization. The process which one I am going to speak was called in Lucent as Order Management System (OMS). With this process Lucent tried to increase the productivity, the customer satisfaction, decrease the time to market and minimize the storage capacity.

The initiative started from the CEO and top management of every LoBs (lines of business) involved. The implementation was carry on from the IT department and this department was the leader of the initiative. Lucent is an international company, but this initiative was undertaken only in the region of Europe ( EMEA -Europe Middle East and Africa). Although the solution is at EMEA level and each country should be consistent with the decision taken, there are some degree of independence related with the local aspects as are the issues related with the human resources and sales.

The implementation of the process was done with the use of the ERP of SAP v3 and the success of the new process depended on the acceptance of the employees about the configuration of the ERP for them. Linking with the style of management (based in Purcell, 1986) described in the previous lessons, we can see that the common style used was a consultative or constitutional (depending of department) and is a company where the opinion of employees is much important.

The IT department established several actions to gain the employee involvement, that following the structure described by Marchington and Wilkinson (2008, p.405) can be classified as task-centered and direct. These actions are the following:

  • Task participation and teamworking

The first step adopted was to create a several groups in each country composed by IT members and business members. These groups were divided again, following the different phases of the project as was the phases of business requirement, develop and deployment.

  • Downward communication

Each week the responsible of the project introduced the news in a common repository with the progress of project and one email was sent to the responsible of each department. Each manager and its expert users could use the repository to make their own comment about the progress achieved and expressing theirs needs.

  • Upward problem solving

In order to talk about the comments received and to solve the problems found, had meetings every two/three months in different Europe city. The goal of these meetings was to refine the business requirements of the new system (OMS) with the knowledge of the end users of each country and configure the next steps of project.

2.- How effective were each of these voice mechanisms in a) giving employees an effective voice at work and b) adding value to the organisation?

If we see the actions taken looks like very good options to involve all employees and to have a solution with the convenience of all parts involved in the process. But in fact the project suffered a lot of troubles and even one change of name in order to recover the confidence of the employees participating.

Some of the main troubles was that the employees had a lot of mechanism to give specifications, comments and feedback, but their feeling was that nobody had asked opinion to them before choose the tool (the ERP of SAP) and this situation created barriers and opposition from the beginning.

The introduction of the new system was planned to add value to the company in one year after implementation, but in fact was needed several years more because the adaptation of some groups of end users was more complicated due to they showed apathy in the learning.

3.- Account for any variation in effectiveness of different mechanisms.

At the beginning was very complicated to gain employee involvement and commitment, and it was necessary to develop another intermediate system in order to decrease the time to adopt the system in the entire EMEA region.

References

Marchington, M. and Wilkinson, A. (2008), 'Human Resource Management at Work' (4th edn), London: CIPD.

Helen Newell (2009), Human Resources Management Study Notes, Warwick Business School.

Purcell, J. (1986), "Employee Relations Autonomy Within a Corporate Culture", Personnel Management, February.


June 06, 2009

Human Resource Management Lesson 3 Exercise

1.- Reflecting on your own experience as an employee and as a manager, to what extent do you think pay motivates or demotivates employees, why?

Thinking about my experience in several international companies and the knowledge in a familiar little company, there are several factors that have influence in the motivation of employees. Depending of the social-economical situation, the age and family situation, there are other factors different to the pay that can change along the time depending of the change of these situations. Following the Pyramid of needs (Maslow, 1943), to satisfy each stage more incentives that the money are necessary.

Maslow


Figure.1. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

The first years in work life, when one is young, single and without family the money factor is not the main. The teamwork, improve the knowledge and good environment in the work are aspect important to satisfy needs, obviously always that the physiological needs are covered.

The things change when increase the familiar and job responsibilities because is need to satisfy several factors as are the familiar needs, in this case the increase of money help to satisfy the basic needs and for several years is motivating, but after if there aren’t another factors, the activity can fall into the monotony and pay is not enough to motivate.

Other way to explain the factors that can motivate to someone is through a Process Theory that define the motivation as a rational cognitive process occurring within the individual, and one of those theories is the Vroom's Expectancy Theory based three aspect like are the expectancy to get very good awards if you work harder; the valence is the importance for each one to have expectancy and this aspect is personal, social and cultural, because there are some social factors that force to increase the importance of to have expectations; the last aspect of the theory is the instrumentality is the belief that if you work to generate some output, part of this output has something for you, and in this sense could be exist the satisfaction to create something and the possibility to receive awards for it.

In my opinion the remuneration is not demotivating, but in several situations of the working life is not enough. There are a lot of systems to motivate and some examples are to take education (i.e. MBA) or to establish a career plan with stages of certification.

2.- Thinking about pay systems that you have experienced, which have been the most effective? Why?

My first job in the family company was a ‘manual’ job where the pay system was hourly rate. But in the rest of my jobs, after finish my university studies, I started to have a ‘non-manual’ job with performance-related pay (PRP) system. In the different jobs with PRP system that I have got the appraisal systems have been different even in the same company but in different periods of time the appraisal systems have been different.

The common factor in all the appraisal systems is that in all of them the percentage of pay related to the own work is low and the rest of the percentages depending the result of the company, division and the own group. I think that the period in which one I have got more motivation was when the degree of personal percentage was higher and when the goals were clearly defined. I think that the best method is when everybody knows the rules of game and the goals are complicated but reachable. I can say this because in some of my jobs the agreement was made directly with my manager and the conditions of it were very fuzzy and nobody else was participant in the agreement. Now in IBM, the situation is different because the conditions of the agreement and the string of approvals are right, but in this case the failure is in the mechanisms to get the measures of evaluation the conditions of the agreement.

References

Marchington, M. and Wilkinson, A. (2008), 'Human Resource Management at Work' (4th edn), London: CIPD.

Helen Newell (2009), Human Resources Management Study Notes, Warwick Business School.

Corbett, M. (2007) Organisational Behaviour Lessons Notes, Warwick Business School. 2007

Vroom, V.H., and P. Yetton (1973) Leadership and Decision Making, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh.

Abraham Maslow Web Site:

http://www.abraham-maslow.com/m_motivation/Hierarchy_of_Needs.asp


Human Resource Management Lesson 2 Exercise

1.- Reflecting on your own work experience, and with reference to the theoretical models discussed in Lesson 1, how would you characterise the role of the HR function in an organisation that you are familiar with?

I am familiar with one company where I was working for four years since 1996 to 2000. The company was Lucent Technologies Inc. (it was bought by Alcatel in 2006) and I worked in its IT department in Spain.


Lucent_Logo


Figure.1. Lucent Technologies Logo from 1996 when it born after spun off from AT&T..


Lucent was a very large company originated by AT&T division, and after several years of very good results, in 1999 Lucent began its decay. Several events related with the labour situation of the employee happened in this period and in order to understand the HR function we are going to review the external and internal context of the company. In relation with the external context the main characteristics are the following:

·        Political and Economic context: In 1996 the conservative party won the elections and did several important changes in the political and economic aspect of the country. The rates of unemployment, with almost 25%, decreased quickly and Spain joined in the UE due to the success results.

  • Legal context: In this period the government faced to the reformation law to free up the labour market in order to facilitate the employment although against the right of the employees, in opinion of Unions.
  • Labour Markets: Its was a period of a very high economic growth, with high inflation rates and where one of the better competitive advantage of the country, that was the low salaries, changed because the salaries started to be not as competitive as before in relation with other countries of East of Europe. During this period Spain lost its competitive advantage (cheap labour market) and started a transformation that until today is needed.
  • Business Sector: The industry sector of telecommunications showed a very big explosion in 1996 to 2001 with the mass use of internet. But in the sector of the internet infrastructure, the crisis appeared some year before, and at the end of 1998 the sales decreased because all customers already had expended a lot of money in hardware to communications and came the time to develop business applications. Lucent started several changes to reduce cost through optimisation of its process and des-invest in some countries as Spain and other mature European countries.
  • Location: Using the model of culture of Fons Trompenaars (1993) the dimensions that best fits with the Spanish culture can be Particularistic, Collectivistic, Emotional and Ascriptive. In case of Lucent is a world wide company but important to know these characteristic in order to understand the behaviour of the managers and no managers employees in Spain.

In relation with the internal context the main characteristics are the following:

  • Management style: The style of management in Lucent is very different of the most of the Spanish companies, in Spain is known as typical American management style. Attending the Purcell's classification (1986) the management style can be classified as collectivistic and in the middle between consultative and constitutional depending of the department because almost the middle of the workers in Spain worked at the production plant. It’s important to remark that in the production department unions were very powerful in this sector.


Management Style


Figure.2. Big picture of booking of school books process.


  • Internal structure: The internal structure was different to the production workers and for the office workers. For the fist the structure was a vertically, but for the rest of them was a matrix structure. Although the general structure was multi-divisional or M-Form structure where each division or department had high degree of independence.

One of the main functions of the HR Manager was managing the Payroll Systems, and due to the new reorganization of the processes and the intention of use outsourcing of some departments several actions was taken in order to negotiate the different conditions with the employees and unions. To complete all the actions by the HR Manager were needed the support of CEO, and this happened because the HR Manager was changed by the CEO before undertaken the reorganization. Following the typology of the HR functions described by Storey (1992) this kind of HR model we can be classified as Change-Makers.

2.- Why do you think HR played this role in the organisation?

With the new external factors and mainly with the factor of economic situation in the Sector, the strategy of the company changed and Lucent started a hard change process. This process started making outsourcing of several departments as was the Quality department, IT and some production areas, even some functionality in the HR department changed and for make it was needed to have the commitment of the HR manager in order to implement difficult decisions and negotiations.


Typology of HR functions

Figure.3. Typology of HR functions.

3.- What are the strengths and weaknesses of this role in the context of the organisation?

The main strengths of the role were to implement the decision of the CEO with ‘Iron hand’ in order to reduce its main production cost. The labour of HR Manager should address the constraints correctly, as are the Spanish law, union force, the directive company at world wide level without reduce the productivity of the departments not involved in the changes.

The main weaknesses in the management of the HR manager was the ability to maintain the employee morale and productivity during the negotiation process in order to maintain the same knowledge and people after outsourcing.


References

Marchington, M. and Wilkinson, A. (2008), 'Human Resource Management at Work' (4th edn), London: CIPD.

Helen Newell (2009), Human Resources Management Study Notes, Warwick Business School.


Purcell, J. (1986), "Employee Relations Autonomy Within a Corporate Culture", Personnel Management, February.


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