Q1. "What are the advantages and disadvantages of the approach used in your organisation's HR strategy?"
The ideal HR strategy approach depends on a combination of firm factors such as culture, headcount, and objectives (Armstrong & Taylor, 2023). For a previous employer, an elderly nursing home and a religious charity, the best descriptor of the relationship between HR and the firm would be ‘integrated/holistic’ (Atkinson et al., 2017). That is to say, HR functions and the firm’s strategic objectives were coordinated, aligned, and all-encompassing. HR recommendations for designing strategy and implementing objectives were of equal value/weight as the stakeholders’. This relationship was of critical strategic value because charitable and religious sentiments guided the stakeholders’ objectives. HR was viewed as a partner in translating it into practicable realities within the UK's legal/regulatory framework. The relationship was symbiotic because although stakeholders were trained medical professionals and involved in the day-to-day care of residents, they relied on HR activities for specific expertise.
The advantage of this approach was a coherent alignment between the employee experience, HR functions, and the firm’s objectives. The dialogue between each sphere of expertise promoted positive engagement and greater flexibility. This was particularly evident from the onset of the pandemic, as it was an existential crisis for the firm. Every aspect of the firm needed to be responsive to updated health and safety procedures (for residents and employees), local authority compliance, and new training/skills. As an external factor, the pandemic required initiative and new priorities, policies, and procedures. This was only successful because of the trust and professional synchronicity between employees, HR, and the firm’s strategic objectives.
However, a particular disadvantage of this approach involved complexity in implementing some strategies. As each sphere of expertise was heavily co-dependent on the other to function, competition or lack of buy-in from another stymied, shelved or delayed strategic realisation. The HR department functioned with a part-time HR Manager and a full-time HR Officer for 120+ employees, not counting residents or separate stakeholder relationships. This required an unusually high level of expertise, knowledge of multiple HR disciplines, and business awareness. It was equally difficult to empirically measure the effectiveness of isolated HR activities due to cost constraints (Armstrong & Taylor, 2023).
- Armstrong, M., & Taylor, S. (2023). Part II: The strategic approach to HRM. Armstrong’s Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice: A guide to the theory and practice of people management (16th ed., pp. 63-84). Kogan Page.
- Atkinson, C., Hall, L., Taylor, S., & Torrington, D. (2017). Strategic human resource management. In Human Resource Management (10th ed., pp. 64-70). Pearson.
Q2. "What are the obstacles to HRM becoming a more prominent strategic partner in an organisation?"
HRM, to be considered a ‘strategic partner’, is to make firm-valued contributions at a leadership level (Reilly, 2012). One way of doing this is to align HRM functions with a firm’s strategic objectives through harmonious insights and recommendations. Intimate knowledge of a firm’s purpose, values, workforce, and operations fosters HRM's ability to design, drive, and implement initiatives conducive to strategy (Reilly, 2012). However, it is not a certainty that HRM will achieve this.
An obstacle could be a firm’s resistance to recognising the HRM function as capable of making strategic contributions over the purely administrative (Reilly, 2012). For HRM initiatives to have strategic impact requires a degree of ‘buy-in’ from key stakeholders at a leadership level. When leadership withholds the necessary support, resources, budget, and analytics due to the perceived lack of value, it will limit HRM's scope to such contributions. Another obstacle could be whether HRM professionals have the strategic/business skills necessary to navigate delivery internally or articulate HRM functions capable of such contributions (Haggerty & Wright, 2010).
- Haggerty, J., & Wright, P. (2010). Strong Situations and Firm Performance: A Proposed Re-Conceptualisation of the Role of the HR Function. In N. Bacon, T. Redman, & S. Snell (Eds.). The SAGE Handbook of Human Resource Management (2nd ed., pp. 2-23). Sage.
- Reilly, P. (2012). The practice of strategy. Strategic HR Review, 11(3), 129-135. https://doi.org/10.1108/14754391211216832