Highlights of the Human Resource Planning Society's 2002 State-of-The Art & Practice Study: Managing Strategic, Cultural and HRM Alignment to Maximize Customer Satisfaction and Retention *. (Research Update)

By Wright, Patrick M.; Snell, Scott A. | Human Resource Planning, June 2002 | Go to article overview

Highlights of the Human Resource Planning Society's 2002 State-of-The Art & Practice Study: Managing Strategic, Cultural and HRM Alignment to Maximize Customer Satisfaction and Retention *. (Research Update)


Wright, Patrick M., Snell, Scott A., Human Resource Planning


Miles H. Overholt, Riverton Management Consulting; Elena Granell, Institute for Higher Studies in Administration (IESA)

The Human Resource Planning Society's 2002 State-of-the-Art and Practice (SOTA/P) Study examined the HR practices and policies of 14 U.S.-based customer-focused companies. The companies were selected based on their membership in the American Customer Satisfaction index and the willingness of their HR executive to participate.

Participating companies' HR executives were asked to identify their companies' general business strategies, the specific customer-focused strategies, and the HR practices and policies that supported these strategies. HR executives also discussed their programs that supported a customer-focused strategy, shared innovations they have introduced to their companies, and identified the major issues that fostered or discouraged a customer-focused employee behavior.

The 2002 SOTA/P study/ findings and implications clearly indicated that building a customer-focused organizational culture, with aligned HR strategies and practices, is the key to successful strategy implementation. More specifically, customer-focused companies need to:

1. Invest in employee skill development, executive succession, and leadership development.

2. Redesign performance and reward practices to support business priorities.

3. Encourage ownership and risk.

4. Incorporate technology for developing and planning general business and HR strategy.

Elsewhere in this issue of the Journal, Jim Walker provides an excellent overview of the different types of organizational research, and the kind of information and knowledge a practitioner can expect from each. He states that exploratory studies "help frame the questions that must be asked to learn about effective [management] approaches." Consistent with this definition, this year's SOTA/P study explores how HR executives support and implement their companies' customer-focused strategies.

Since the ground-breaking work of Bob Eichinger and Dave Ulrich in 1995, each SOTA/P study has become an integral aspect of providing leading-edge thought to the HR community. SOTA/P, initially scanning the environment broadly for emerging HR trends, has evolved over the years into targeting specific issues of concern (Eichinger and Ulrich, 1996; Caimano, et al., 1998; Wright, Dyer and Takla, 1999; Wright and Dyer, 2000; Black, et al., 2001). SOTA/P 2002 continues this trend by examining how HR policies and practices support corporations' efforts to satisfy their customers. Specifically, this SOTA/P examined how U.S. companies with high customer satisfaction rankings align their employees' behavior with the company strategies through their HR policies and practices.

SCOPE

We made several basic assumptions at the beginning of the study. First, SOTA/P 2002 examined only customer-focused companies that participate in publicly published customer satisfaction indices. Companies that participate in customer satisfaction indices are clearly sufficiently interested in pursuing customer-focused strategies to obtain (usually at a considerable fee) independent feedback from an outside source.

Second, customer-focused organizations have a set of behaviors that distinguishes them from other companies. These behaviors are discussed later in this article.

Third, HR functions and departments are not the focus of this study. Rather, this study focuses on the systems, policies, programs, and structures that affect employees. More specifically, this study explores the relationship among customer-focused strategies, customer-focused employee policies, programs, and procedures, and specific measurable outcomes.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PARTICIPATING COMPANIES

Our participating companies were diverse. Although they are all large companies, they have a significant range in size by sales volume, number of employees, and earnings per share. …

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