Human Resource Officers' Opinions of Their Own Companies and "The Big Three": A Qualitative Study Profiling Businesses in a Southeastern City

Article excerpt


Human resource officers of major employers in a southeastern city were asked about the strengths and weaknesses of their respective companies. Topics covered in these interviews included employee composition and behaviors, recruitment and selection, performance appraisals, compensation, communication, empowerment, reward systems, training, and leadership. Results showed that many employers have trouble with employee absenteeism, promptness to work, and turnover. Data from the interviews, and ways of helping or strengthening companies that may share these same problems are presented. In addition, qualitative research that can provide alternate opportunities in the organization development field regarding finding strengths and weaknesses in companies and organizations was also discussed.


Industrial/organizational psychology constantly explores how to improve organizations through such topics as efficiency in the workplace, selection, placement, and psychological concerns such as motivation, job satisfaction, and leadership (Jewell & Siegall, 1990). Many research designs are quantitative in nature, with statistical tests usually revealing significant results. However, another way to study organizations is to directly query a member of the organization on what works and what does not work in his or her respective company. This study differs from other organizational improvement studies in that it uses a qualitative approach to discovering factors for organizational improvement and success. Qualitative methods are best used for exploring research questions where little information is known on the topic or when the researcher wants to focus on content to shape understanding of the phenomena studied (Creswell, 1994). Hence, a qualitative study is applicable for this type of setting.

Working with the Chamber of Commerce in a particular southeastern city, the researcher's main role was to explore the strengths and weaknesses of major employers in that area. Noted for its business, industry, and tourism, the city is fast expanding in the southeast and is becoming a recognizable city in the country and the world. With the revitalization of different parts of the city, the need to plan for future growth, new recruitment and development programs, and a continuing need for economic development, issues that help or hinder businesses needs to be known. What concerns are companies sharing? Could those be fixed? Are there ways for improving businesses and dealing with employees? Are there fears that are not well known that need to be in the conscious minds of organizations?

Qualitative research lends itself to answer these types of questions for it focuses on understanding the participants' meaning of events and understanding the particular context within which participants act (Maxwell, 1998). Moreover, qualitative research methods allow researchers to "get close" to the phenomenon, understand depth and detail, with data being pure descriptions of people, activities, and interactions (Sechrest & Sidani, 1995). Since this research attempts to personally ask opinions of a company's representative and because relatively few have conducted qualitative research concerning the concerns of a company's representative, qualitative research may be more appropriate in determining the strengths and weaknesses companies share, and of offering ways for improvement.

This type of research may also contribute to the field of organization development. For instance, Gottlieb (2001) described what the literature has noted about organization development and a practitioner's role. For instance, organization development prides itself on helping organizations discover issues and problems and uncovering helpful strategies. This is a key feature of the present article. Also, a practitioner should help clients understand their own views and specific problems of their organization, so as to have a better functioning organization. …