Strategic Human Resource Management: Perceptions among North Carolina County Social Service Professionals

Article excerpt

The performance of organizations is the focus of intensive research efforts. How well an organization performs its mission and accomplishes its goals of program service delivery is the measure of all things. Administrative capacity is a major component of this performance. Administrative capacity, which is, a resource-based view of an organization, focuses on factors that are actually within the power of the organization to change. Improving administrative capacity and, especially, improving those aspects of capacity that deal with human capital, offer the most promise for peak performance.

Combining human resource practices with a focus on the achievement of organizational goals and objectives can have a substantial effect on the ultimate success of the organization. Resource-based theory posits that competitive advantage and the implementation of plans is highly dependent upon an organization's basic inputs, including its human capital (Wernerfelt, 1984; Barney, 1991; Boxall, 1996). Research on strategic human resource management (SHRM) offers empirical support that this relationship enhances productivity (Fitz-Enz, 1994; Delery and Doty, 1996; Ulrich, 1997).

This study examines the perception of strategic human resources practices (e.g., internal career ladders, formal training systems, results-oriented performance appraisal, employment security, employee voice/participation, broadly defined jobs, and performance-based compensation) held among North Carolina county social services professionals. It delineates the extent to which strategic human resource practices are found to exist in ordinary public organizations. Secondarily, the study examines the relationships among SHRM perceptions and demographic characteristics (such as county population, age, education, ethnic status, gender, and supervisory status) and outcome assessments of how well welfare reform is achieving its goals (change in unemployment and a welfare reform report card).

Strategic Planning and Personnel Practices

The modern public service is built on knowledge and expertise. Public service does not lend itself to a temporary workforce. Knowledge isn't gained overnight. It's earned the old fashion way--by hard work. Professional workers must be sought out and guaranteed an environment in which their careers can be nurtured and flourish.

For motivation and incentives to work, they first must be tied to a goal. An organization must employ needs assessment and human resource development strategies in pursuit of its vision or mission. Needs assessment (of where an organization wants to go) and human resources development (of those who are to get it there) focus on the specific organizational and individual needs whose satisfaction will lead to enhanced productivity. The vision and path for fulfilling these tasks are derived from strategic planning and put into practical perspective through the use of macro-tools such as Total Quality Management (at the group-level) and Management by Objectives (at the individual-level).

Strategic planning is rational analysis (Nutt and Backoff, 1992; Klingner, 1993; Perry, 1993; Berry, 1994; Mintzberg, 1994; Ledvinka, 1995; Bryson, 1996) that takes "what is" and develops ideas of "what should be" along with plans for "how to get there." By using a realistic organizational strategy focused on what the future should look like, strategic planning provides the "road map" for fulfilling that future.

Through environmental scanning, strategic planning sizes-up the existing organization's capabilities and real world in which it exists. The planning process explores alternatives--both in terms of visions involved and the courses of action necessary to accomplish them. Finally, strategic planning helps an organization settle on one choice of direction and mesh it with the appropriate objectives and action plans. Strategic planning should also incorporate the human resources necessary for accomplishing goals (Mesch, Perry, and Wise, 1995; Perry and Mesch, 1997). …