Academic journal article Management Dynamics

The Strategic Partnership Role of Senior Human Resource Managers in South African Organisations

Academic journal article Management Dynamics

The Strategic Partnership Role of Senior Human Resource Managers in South African Organisations

Article excerpt


Strategic Human Resource management plays an increasingly important role in strategic business management and organisational effectiveness. The goal of this study was to analyse the strategic partnership role of senior Human Resource managers in South African organisations. A theoretical model of the strategic partnership process was also developed and partially validated. The results indicate that professional competencies could explain significant variance in strategic partnership. A positive relationship was found between business-related competencies and strategic partnership. A positive relationship was also found between strategic role motivation as well as strategic role opportunities and strategic partnership.


Human Resource (HR) and knowledge management are emerging as the key competitive assets of organisations. HR managers, by virtue of their knowledge of human performance, are well positioned to offer future competitive advantages and to exercise strategic leadership (Bowen and Ostroff, 2004, Lawler and Mohrman, 2003, Holbeche, 2003, Rothwell, Prescott and Taylor, 1998). This paradigm shift concerning the value of human resources would therefore create opportunities for the HR function to develop a more strategic role.

The performance of an organisation within the present complex business environment is dependent upon its ability to adapt to the changing environment. It is imperative that proper integration between an organisation's business and HR strategies is achieved to enhance the organisation's adaptability (Gomez-Mejia, Balkin and Cardy, 2003; Engelbrecht, Erasmus and Sivasubramaniam, 1999a; 1999b). Firstly, the emphasis on strategic integration results in the need for organisational and HR management structures and systems to be designed to support or "fit" the organisation's strategy. Secondly, human resources should be managed in a way that enhances commitment to the organisation and its objectives and goals. Lastly, by achieving strategic fit, there will be real benefits for the organisation with regard to critical performance outputs. Organisations that formulate strategies that systematically consider HR and business strategies will, in the long run, perform better than organisations that manage human resources primarily as a means to solve competitive strategy issues (Chakravarthy and Lorange, 2001; Fulmer, 1995). HR managers should exert transformational and strategic leadership in the organisation if the benefits of strategic fit postulated by these researchers are to be realised in South African organisations.

Globalisation has forced South African organisations that wish to do business and survive in a global market, to consider human resources as a strategic tool for the achievement of organisational goals. In South Africa, organisations are struggling with strategic issues that typically face a developing economy, such as low levels of productivity, a shortage of professional and highly skilled employees, management of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, management of workforce diversity, implementation of affirmative action programmes, organisational transformation, and the need for social responsibility projects (Mostert and Engelbrecht, 2005; Swanepoel, Erasmus, Van Wyk and Schenk, 2003). For South African organisations to become effective and competitive global players, HR management should proactively fulfil a strategic role hi meeting these strategic business issues and challenges.


Strategic partnership between line managers and HR managers to ensure HR effectiveness has been the subject of much discussion over the last number of years, internationally as well as in the South African work context. Although considerable literature is available about HR management as a strategic partner, very little empirical research has been done on this subject. No studies that have empirically tested strategic role motivation and strategic role opportunity in the strategic human resources field could be found, and particularly no study of strategic partnership of HR managers in South Africa. …

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