Report on an Human Resource Management Essay
The case study discusses the transition from transactional to transformational human resource management in all public institutions of the state of Michigan. Conventionally, HRM in public administration is entrusted with performing a traditional set of transactional tasks, such as recruitment, benefits, and job classification. However, this approach perceives HRM as a cost instead of viewing it as a strategic opportunity.
Therefore, the need has arisen to transform HRM into a value-added service.State HR professionals had to become strategic business partners and change agents within their organizations, playing a consultative role rather than being strictly confined to their traditional work tasks. Value-added nature of HRM has been manifested through ‘helping government agencies decrease operating costs, improve work processes, and facilitate the smooth transition to new technology and other innovations in the workplace’ (Mothersell et al. , 2008, pp. 77-78).Almost all for-profit enterprises have already realized that HR functions should not be limited to human resource planning and labor relations.
HRM is a practice that affects all the functions of an organization and should be attached paramount importance. As Ivancevich (n/d. ) notes, ‘[w]hen an organization is concerned about people, its total philosophy, culture, and orientation reflect it’ (sl. 1-3).
It is also true that for decades HRM was overlooked and barely linked to organizational effectiveness.Current performance was more important than long-term perspective, and the role of HR professionals was traditional and limited. Nowadays, such approach is widely recognized as counterproductive, and HR specialists take an active part in determining the strategic direction of an organization: ‘[t]he HR department must be a proactive, integral part of management and strategic planning (Ivancevich, n/d. , sl.
1-47). For businesses, competition and globalization made strategic HRM a priority. Similarly, a host of causes made the transition to the new HRM paradigm in Michigan necessary.First of all, new policies introduced in the state led to a decrease of tax revenues, on which public administration depends. As Ivancevich (n/d. ) observes, in for-profit sector, organizational downsizing and redesign prompted a concern with HRM accountability.
This seems to be the case in public administration as well: diminishing tax revenues might result in downsizing, therefore HR specialists were inspired to play a more active role. Overall slowdown of economic growth in Michigan was another contributing factor.Strengthening preference for a smaller government bureaucracy has also affected public administration’s composition and responsibilities. At the same time, a general shift from a transactional to a consultative orientation for HR managers within state administration has occurred. All the aforementioned factors can be regarded as external drivers. As concerns internal drivers, introduction of a sophisticated HR information system allowed HR professionals to fulfill their responsibilities more efficiently and move beyond their traditional roles.
The shift from transactional to transformational HRM started with a comprehensive needs assessment in the form of an internal survey of employees and line managers. The survey indicated possible areas for improvement; these areas concerned the ‘development of more consistent processes, communication and collaboration between HR areas, strategic business partnership with line management, employee and management training and career development, and best practice knowledge’ (Mothersell et al. 2008, p. 79).Since the areas in which improvement was necessary were numerous, the State of Michigan Human Resource Training and Development Academy was formed.
Its role was to provide state HR specialists with a sense of strategic direction, organizational alignment, and focus n effectiveness. This new vision was also adopted by the Human Resource Council, hereinafter HRC.The new vision consisted of five elements, namely highly competent diverse workforce (i. e. ttracting highly qualified specialists, offer them career development opportunities, and acknowledge and reward their contribution); leverage value-added technology (implementing adaptable, user-friendly and accessible information systems); customer driven HR services (understanding the needs of customers and responding to them in a timely and adequate manner); HR consultants (providing expert help, accelerating change, and being strategic business partners within Michigan’s public administration organizations); and collaborative HR partners (implementing consisting HR orientation across the state through the partnership of the key institutional players, such as the Offices of Human Resources, Department of Civil Service, and the Office of State Employer).
Moving towards the new vision demanded enhanced skills and reinvented attitude from state HR specialists. Therefore, the Human Resource Training and Development Academy designed a series of trainings to address the most pressing issues facing HR professionals in the turbulent times of change.The series of trainings was designed with a focus on fulfilling five categories of training needs, such as boosting the effectiveness of HRM; increasing technical and subject matter expertise in HR managers; orienting HR employees towards a more consultative role in their organizations; helping them become strategic business partners and change agents; and introduce best HR practices into the HR system. The aforementioned training needs were addressed by a series of two trainings, the first being devoted to technical matters such as traditional HR tasks, whilst the second training was aimed at equipping HR professionals with skills and knowledge necessary to provide more value-added services to their customers.The second training focused on fifteen core competencies that had to be developed before HR specialists could become effective consultants and facilitators of change.
These core competencies included Analytical Skills, Building Partnerships, Business System Thinking, Dispute Resolution Skills, Customer Service Orientation, Continuous Learning, Effective Communication, Facilitation Skills, Flexibility and Adaptability, Initiative, Innovation and Creativity, Integrity and Ethical Behavior, Negotiating and Marketing Skills, Subject Matter Expertise, and Understanding State Government Environment. Outside transformational leadership team was invited to help to design and carry out the training in question.As concerns the actual content of the training, it consisted of three sessions: the first session was devoted to learning how to be a strategic business partner; the second session dealt with change management; and the third session addressed the issue of service improvement. Training participants were formed into four departmental teams consisting of four members. Teams were left intact for the entire duration of the training.
Four departmental teams and a team from either the Department of Civil Service or the Office of the State Employer composed a cohort. The advantages of intact teams and cohorts include collective learning, networking with colleagues from other state agencies, and sharing experience among group members and entire cohort alike.The outcomes of the training have clearly indicated that ‘acquiring, reinforcing, and applying knowledge across project teams resulted in significant knowledge transfer to the work site’ (Mothersell et al. , 2008, p. 83).
A typical training session consisted of an introduction of a broad theoretical concept followed by a process and skill building exercises and completed with review and reinforcement of the acquired skills and knowledge. The focus has been on ‘partnering skills, change management skills, consulting skills, and process improvement skills’ (Mothersell et al. , 2008, p. 82). In addition to that, teams were required to work collaboratively on a change project of relevance to their organization, chosen in collaboration with HR professionals’ superiors.
It is important to differentiate, however, between the development of a change project in close consultations with upper management and merely fulfilling tasks assigned from above. The process of selection and justification change projects can be regarded as the first step towards becoming change agents and strategic business partners. The projects fell into one of the six categories, such as ‘developing common practices, HR process improvement, centralized HR services, HR information systems, surveys, training and development, and HR focus and alignment’ (Mothersell et al. , 2008, p. 85). As the last category indicates, change projects had to be aligned with the strategic direction of the respective organization.
Theoretical concepts learned during the training session had to be applied to group projects.The first session (the one that focused on the transformation of HR specialists into strategic business partners) covered the importance of balanced scorecard and introduced the concept of five alignments, including strategic alignment (positioning the organization within the external environment and effective goal-setting with a view to motivate and inspire employees); horizontal alignment (synchronization of all functions in order to ensure that they all operate in accord instead of overlapping or contradicting each other); vertical alignment (defining roles an responsibilities at every level of the organization and distributing tasks accordingly); process management alignment (understanding the role of processes in moving towards designated goals by focusing on quality and adaptability); and subordinate development alignment (committing to continuous learning and organizational effectiveness).The second session (the one that focused on change management) and the third session (the one that focused on service improvement) familiarized participants with a six-step model of change in individual, group, and organizational context. The model consisted of the following steps: scouting and gaining entry; contracting and engagement; data collection and shared discovery; joint diagnosis of content and process; planning and value-adding implementation, and learning and continuous improvement. In addition, the third session focused on diffusion of knowledge gained by training participants in their organizations.
Having presented the context and content of the state HR professionals’ transition to the new transformational role, this paper will discuss strengths and weaknesses of the transition. First of all, one of the main strengths of the transition is associated with the fact that it started with a comprehensive needs assessment.It was followed by setting clear training objectives. Mager (2000) suggests that an effective training objective should meet three basic criteria, namely behavior, condition and standard.
All these elements were present in training objectives as presented in the case study. Generally, the needs assessment complied with the classical six-step model suggested by Sparhawk (1999) and consisting of the following elements: identifying the situation signaling the necessity of needs assessment; gathering raw data; modeling ideal state of performance; describing the Status Quo; investigating the causes for the gap; and designing appropriate training program aimed at eliminating the gap.The fact that the training has been conducted in teams and cohorts is associated with knowledge transfer and networking among state HR specialists. Their social capital has increased dramatically.
Social capital, in turn, has been proven to increase organizational effectiveness (Cohen & Prusak, 2001). Furthermore, the training encouraged knowledge sharing; Lisa Haneberg (2007), one of the leading experts in the areas of management and leadership, suggest that in order to be successful, specialists should share their perspective and be open. Together with diffusion, knowledge haring made the training more cost-effective, providing for spread of knowledge within and between public administration organizations.Another strength of the training design has to do with the fact that it focused on developing the so-called ‘open skills,’ i.
e. it was ‘based on principles rather than hard and fast steps to be taken in all situations’ (Mothersell et al. , 2008, p. 85). Open skills translate into greater flexibility and adaptability of HR managers empowering them to become real agents of change with their organizations.
Despite the facts that the training focused on open skills, it has achieved measurable results, and a thorough review of the training’s effectiveness has been conducted after its completion. Participants reported changes in mindset through realization of the importance of being aligned and becoming a problem-solving consultant.They also realized that HR professionals have to work directly with customers and understood the crucial role of HR for organizational effectiveness. Acceptance and enthusiasm were widespread. HR professionals were eager to get involved in organizational change and probably lead such change.
It was also well-planned to accompany training with strategic changes in the Human Resource Council, which committed itself to gathering and disseminating best practices, fostering sharing of knowledge and expertise, and implementing the project for HR optimization. The project involved creating a single point of reference for all state employees for getting answers on HR related questions and up-to-date information about HR issues.Although the change was hard to carry out for the reason that line managers had been used to one-to-one contacts with their HR specialists, an effective strategy to manage resistance to change was employed. This strategy focused on engaging HR professionals in the design and implementation of the project, organizing informational and career planning sessions for employees affected by the change, promising to give HR managers priority for work in the service center, and offering support and training to HR departments in the times of transformation. The resistance has been successfully overcome, and savings from the HR optimization have reached $24 million in five years.
The transformation of HR specialists into strategic business partners and change agents reflects many principles of strategic HRM as contrasted with traditional HRM, as presented by Ivancevich (n/d). The training made HR specialists lead, inspire, and understand their colleagues and customers; it stimulated them to transform the culture of their organizations into open, participative, and empowering; and it oriented them towards an improved understanding and use of human assets. The emphasis on becoming strategic business partners and improved communication with managers is also in line with the most innovative HR practices: Ivancevich (n/d. ) draws attention to the fact that HR specialists should work closely with managers, since ‘[w]ithout managerial participation, there are likely to be major human resource problems’ (sl.
1-17).However, the design of the training has a considerable limitation: it was carried out during governorship change, therefore five teams could not present their final projects for the reason that their initiatives supported by their upper management at the beginning of the training were discontinued after the change of strategic orientation of their public administration organization. Better timing would have ensured equal learning opportunities for all teams and prevented wasting effort on projects that were no longer relevant at the end of the training.This limitation was in part compensated by the fact that larger departments pursued multiple projects, resulting in twenty nine completed projects given that the number of departmental team was nineteen. Participants of the training have also realized that it would be a good strategy to involve those affected by their decisions.
Unfortunately, this has not been the focus of the training, since the participants have arrived at such a conclusion by themselves.One of the primary concerns for the Human Resource Manager is to create conditions for the individuals to function in teams, effectively and with high level of satisfaction. However, little attention has been paid to employee empowerment and teamwork. Another area that was barely touched upon is conflict and dispute resolution.
As Ivancevich (n/d. ) points out, HR specialists might be in conflict with line managers, since they often have different perspectives on the employee decision-making powers, labor relations, strategic planning, and employee recognition and compensation. More attention to this issue might have made the training more efficient and complete.Drawing an overall conclusion from the case study, it is necessary to note that the change has been prompted by an adoption of a sophisticated information management system. It is true that the effectiveness of HRM is directly linked to the type of information management system used in the organization.
For example, Microsoft uses a communication-driven decision support system of its own design (Microsoft Office Groove) to manage human resources. It allows colleagues from different departments to work on a shared task without face-to-face meetings. A shared electronic workspace and easy access to shared documents should be at the center of the system’s concept.The functions of this program include document collaboration tools, threaded discussions, meeting tool, calendar tool, custom forms to collect information from all project members, presence awareness, alerts to give notice when files and information change, and workspace chat (Microsoft, 2008).
As a result, Microsoft is able to attract, retain, and manage very talented and diverse workforce to the company’s advantage. Speaking of retention, training has become a successful tool for both retaining and attracting competent specialists. In fact, it has been proved that the availability of training is one of the voting issues when employees choose their future place of work (Turban & Greening, 1997) and an important factor in employee retention (Paul & Anantharaman, 2003). Apart from that, training is reported to dramatically increase labor productivity (Bartel, 1991).Another IT company, Cincom, has been neglecting training for staff and management, up to the moment when they faced serous problems with productivity and labor relations. The company has initiated a series of trainings for HR managers, which allowed them to recruit and retain more qualified HR specialists.
Better HRM immediately translated into increased productivity and higher employee satisfaction. Therefore, the initiative introduced in Michigan was timely and effective. Training of HR specialists and encouraging them to become strategic business partners and change agents will enhance the quality of public service delivery across the state.