Academic journal article Management Revue

Does Alignment Elicit Competency-Based HRM? A Systematic Review

Academic journal article Management Revue

Does Alignment Elicit Competency-Based HRM? A Systematic Review

Article excerpt


Competency-based HRM (CHRM) has become a part of human resource management since the 1990s (Athey & Orth, 1999; Mulder & Collins, 2007) and entails the use of competency models as the foundation of multiple HRM practices, such as recruitment, selection, training and development, appraisal and remuneration (e.g., Sparrow, 2002). Management consultants advocate CHRM as an important way to address future HR challenges, such as diversity, aging, and knowledge management (Dubois et al., 2004; Spencer & Spencer, 1993). They argue that CHRM would address the call of the Harvard model of HRM for more vertical and internal alignment in HRM practice (Beer et al., 1984). Moreover, the desired consistency and coherence resulting from these types of alignment are supposed to increase employee and organizational performance (Sparrow, 2002). Given this presumed link with performance and the fact that CHRM is expected to gain importance in the future, HRM practitioners have called for further academic work to inform their future CHRM practices (e.g., Nunes et al., 2007; Op de Beeck & Hondeghem, 2009).

However, CHRM is not a universal panacea and blindly adopting it is no guarantee for success. Although management consultants and HRM practitioners are often committed to using CHRM, research indicates that individual and organizational performance is not assured (e.g., Capaldo et al., 2006; Van der Meer & Toonen, 2005, Horton 2000). This finding mirrors the gap between intended and implemented HRM that has recently been stressed in the broader HRM literature (Decramer et al., 2012; Wright & Nishii, 2007; Boxall et al., 2011). This gap is problematic since poor implementation is not only a recipe for a failing CHRM but may even result in a damaged HRM reputation and employee resentment for future HRM initiatives (cfr. Reichers et al., 1997). Building on the process model of HRM (Nishii & Wright, 2008), we argue that this failure to reap the potential benefits of CHRM often roots in the way CHRM is implemented and perceived by employees. Accordingly, our study focuses on the CHRM process elements which induce effectiveness. The question that we address pertains to the process in which CHRM can be effective. We conducted a systematic review of articles that zooms in on this process.

The specific contribution of this paper lies in developing a comprehensive process model of CHRM which sheds a light on the determinants of process effectiveness. To this end, (1) we build on the theoretical framework regarding intended, implemented and perceived HRM in the process model of HRM (Nishii & Wright, 2008), and (2) we provide a systematic review on the process in which CHRM can be effective. This systematic review enabled us to discover two types of alignment in addition to vertical alignment and internal alignment. These types of alignments can be regarded as essential process effectiveness indicators of CHRM.

Competencies, competency-based HRM and the process model of HRM

In this section, we clarify the boundaries of competencies and CHRM, and provide the theoretical framework for our study. As competency is a multifaceted concept, it is important to define and delineated the concept, and to specify its meaning within the context of this study.

Competency differs in meaning at the organizational level and the individual level. At the organizational level, strategic management scholars are concerned with 'core competencies'. Both in the resource based view (Barney, 1991) and in theory on core competence management (Prahalad & Hamel, 1990), competencies are conceptualized as the collective learning, skills and technologies that can provide the organization with a competitive advantage. Budding on core competence theory and resource based view theory (Barney, 1991), Wright et al. (1994) proposed that an organization's human resources can form a core competence, and thus generate a sustained competitive advantage, if they are valuable, rare, inimitable and non-substitutable. …

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