Promoting Employee Service Behaviour: The Role of Perceptions of Human Resource Management Practices and Service Culture

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Abstract

In this study we shed light on the relationship between satisfaction with human resource management (HRM) practices and employee performance. We examined the proposition that employee perceptions of HRM practices predict their behaviour toward customers. Previous writers have based such hypotheses on theory formulated at the level of individual employees, but have used analyses at organizational or aggregate levels. We therefore sought to demonstrate individual-level relationships between employee perceptions and service behaviour. We also sought to contrast the role of satisfaction with HRM practices with that of employees ' perceptions of how service-oriented their organization's culture was, based on the position of marketing theorists that a service culture is fundamental to promoting service behaviour. Our study of airline service employees showed that service culture had a direct effect on self-reported service behaviour, and that HRM practice perceptions had both a direct effect on self-reported service behaviour and an indirect effect through service culture. Specifically, satisfaction with leadership and with work demands were the strongest predictors of service behaviour. Service culture did not moderate the relationship between perceptions of HRM practices and service behaviour Discussion focused on alternative explanations for the relationship between organizational practices and service behaviour and on the implications for organizations wishing to promote service behaviour.

Supporters of the role of the human resource management function in organizations have long held that effective human resource management (HRM) practices are key to the competitiveness and effectiveness of firms. Indeed, strategic human resource management has been advocated as the way to achieve and ensure such relevance (e.g., Devanna, Fombrun, & Tichy, 1984; Schuler & MacMillan, 1984; Tichy,1983). Kydd and Oppenheim (1990) pointed out that the link between HRM and strategy tends to be either proactive, where human resource planning is part of the formulation of strategy, or reactive, where strategy drives human resource policies. More recently, the debate has been taken up as to whether HRM practices need to be linked to strategy, or can add value on their own (Delery & Doty, 1996). Advocates of the universalistic perspective hold that the relationship between HRM practices and dependent measures of organizational effectiveness is consistent across organizations. Pfeffer (1995), for example, claimed that the empirical support for alternative contingencies is weak, and so a best practices perspective should be favoured. At the same time, others (e.g., Arthur, 1994; Cattaneo & Templer, 1988) have proposed that researchers should investigate the likelihood that the effectiveness of a set of practices may depend on firm strategy.

In this paper we examine and test the relationship between HRM practices and service behaviour and the complementary role of a service-oriented organizational culture, in an organization for which service is an espoused strategy. Our objectives are to evaluate the relative contribution to employee service behaviour of employee perceptions of how they are treated as a result of HRM practices, and of the degree to which their organization emphasizes customer service.

Relating HRM Practices to Employee Behaviour

The HRM literature consistently argues that HRM practices have an impact on employee behaviour and hence on organizational effectiveness. It has been argued that HRM practices affect performance (Heneman, Schwab, Fossum, & Dyer, 1989), productivity (Schuler, 1981), organizational effectiveness (Milkovich, Glueck, Barth, & McShane, 1988), and profits (Scarpello & Ledvinko, 1988), among other things. Schuler and Huber (1990) proposed that productivity is the purpose for and criteria of HRM functions and activities such as personnel planning and job analysis, recruitment and selection, performance appraisal and compensation, training, and improving health and safety, enforcing employee rights, and union-management relationships. …