The Boundaryless Organization: Implications for Job Analysis, Recruitment, and Selection

By Nelson, Jodi Barnes | Human Resource Planning, December 1997 | Go to article overview

The Boundaryless Organization: Implications for Job Analysis, Recruitment, and Selection


Nelson, Jodi Barnes, Human Resource Planning


Reengineering, restructuring, even rethinking approaches to organizational design have proliferated in recent management literature (Keidel, 1994). Purported to underlie hundreds of these and other innovative approaches is a fundamental paradigmatic shift called the boundaryless organization. A boundaryless organization is one that focuses on permeating all internal and external boundaries (e.g., those between functions, the organization and its suppliers, even between nations) with free movement of ideas, information, decisions, talent, rewards, and action (Ashkenas et al., 1995).

At the same time, cogent arguments have been made to bury our long-standing conceptualization of the job and, instead, to recognize a post-job society where the norm of payrolled, full-time employees performing narrow duties in particular departments is history (Bridges, 1994). In fact, "work" has been described as undergoing such a fundamental transformation that we must necessarily question and perhaps replace the body of knowledge underlying the psychology of work behavior (Howard, 1995). This literature advocates radical departures from the ways in which we view what are organizations' most important tasks; where, when, and how work is done; and who decides these issues.

While organizational design and strategic management solutions have been proposed for the boundaryless organization (e.g., Ashkenas et. al, 1995; Davis, 1995), relatively little has been discussed in terms of the human resource practices and processes to best support it. In other words, how specific human resources practices "fit" or become consonant with boundaryless organizational principles is not clear.

One reason for the lack of clarity surrounding human resources' role in the context of the boundaryless organization is due to the field's traditional dependence on the job as the fundamental unit of the organization. Indeed, job analysis provides the basis for virtually all human resource functions (i.e., recruitment, selection, compensation, training); thus, much of human resource technology is grounded in the notion of individuals holding jobs (Lawler, 1994). However, viewing the job as the fundamental organizational unit has been criticized as outmoded and ineffective (Bridges, 1994; Lawler, 1994). This apparent conflict between the idea of jobs being the central focus of human resources and recent literature proposing that the job is no longer a useful way to organize and manage work is the motivation behind this research.

The purpose of this paper is to examine implications of the boundaryless paradigm for three areas of human resources: job analysis, recruitment, and selection. Due to its centrality to both recruitment and selection, job analysis will be examined first. Two major approaches to job analysis will be evaluated based on boundaryless principles. Recruitment and selection practices will then be similarly evaluated.

The intended goal of this paper is to challenge human resource practitioners and researchers to view job analysis, recruitment, and selection as boundaryless functions. Specifically, it will be argued that one major job analysis method, as well as some existing recruitment and selection practices, can benefit the boundaryless organization. Because one of human resource management's strategic roles is to find the best potential match between the organization and the individual, the importance of organizational culture, and person-organization value congruence in particular, is discussed. Finally, general propositions for both practitioners and researchers are provided.

The Boundaryless Paradigm

Underlying the rise of various forms of "new organization" to which have been ascribed the terms virtual organization, empowered organization, high-performing work teams, and process reengineered organization is "a single, deeper paradigm shift that we call the emergence of the boundaryless organization," (p. …

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