Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

What Do Social Processes Mean for Quality of Human Resource Practice?

Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

What Do Social Processes Mean for Quality of Human Resource Practice?

Article excerpt


Well implemented human resource practice (HRP) is linked to increased performance (Huselid, 1995; Kuvaas, 2007), innovation (Ceylan, 2013), physical and psychological well-being for managers and employees, and a decrease in turnover rate and absenteeism (Huselid, 1995; Buhai et al., 2008; Søndergård Kristensen, 2010). Hence, HRP is important for company performance, and managers can make a difference by using their skills and personal competences (Fisher & Gonzalez, 2013). In Nordic countries like Denmark where the minimum salary is high, it is especially important to optimize company performance during periods of economic growth as well as during economic crisis. However, as the Human Resource Management literature (HRM-literature) mainly focuses on HRP-outcomes (productivity, turnover, financial performance) (Kuvaas, 2007), little is known about the implementation of HRP and which processes actually lead to implementation success or failure for firms (Buller & McEvoy, 2012). Implementation is here defined as the process from the management decision about a HR-initiative to how the HR-initiative is actually realized by the employees (Rotstein, 1994). One review concludes "that it is premature to assume that HRM initiatives will inevitably result in performance gains" (Wall & Wood, 2005:454). Moreover, there can be different reasons why organizations adopt or reject HRP (Subramony, 2006). Huselid shows that although employee skills, employee motivation, and organizational structures are positively related to productivity and corporate financial performance, they are negatively related to turnover (Huselid, 1995). Moreover, a recent review identifies firm-specific human capital and social capital as necessary to achieve and sustain organizational performance (Buller & McEvoy, 2012). Finally, the "firm's social capital" is a relevant approach in Nordic work life research, especially within the Danish research of work environmental on labor market (Kristensen et al., 2008). However, the purpose of this paper is to provide a detailed analysis of social processes in HRP and not an analysis of the overall concept of social capital.

HRP is embedded in a social context on the macro and meso level. This can include the financial situation, national laws, and company politics regarding working conditions (Nielsen, 1992; Pedersen et al., 2012). On the micro level, social relations and interactions between managers, employees, and the firm have a significant impact on HR-performance (Fisher & Gonzalez, 2013). Hence, the quality of HRP can be defined as a social process that is linked to company performance.

Recent debates regarding the evaluation of HRP emphasize context, the personal characteristics of key actors, and the interpersonal relations between key actors are crucial for the output of organizational-level workplace interventions (Egan et al., 2009; Pedersen et al., 2012; Nielsen & Randall, 2013). However, with few exceptions [e.g., Emery & Thorsrud, 1976; Gustavsen & Hunnius, 1981; Gustavsen, 1990, 2011; Hasle & Sørensen, 2013 (see below)], most Nordic HRP literature and evaluation studies focus on effects and ignore the social processes involved (Krogstrup, 2011; Saksvik et al., 2013).

The questions are: how to establish quality in HRP in changing work organization? And what do we mean with social process between employee and manager?

On the basis of studies within the coal industry, the Tavistock School (Trist & Bramforth, 1951) argues that it is possible to organize productive working group illuminated by cooperation and interpersonal help and spontaneous support between the workers. Groups with a high level of communication and cooperation were able to decide within "relative autonomy" in doing the jobs and who should do the jobs (Gustavsen, 1990:70). Bergman (1995) describes how the members of production teams within Swedish high technology process industries are developing both their independent competence and norms in a cooperative way to manage "insecurities in the labor processes. …

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