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Human Resource Management
Coleman Patterson, Ph.D.
When I introduce
Human Resource Management (HRM) topics to my introductory business and leadership classes,
I have them perform a simple group project. They
break into groups and are told that they will work as management consultants for a
fictitious client interested in starting a business.
As consultants, they are to design the jobs required for the organization,
write job descriptions for a variety of positions, describe where they would go to find
potential employees, and a host of other required tasks that would need to be addressed
before the company could begin operations. They
are later told that these tasks make up the HRM functions of their fictitious companies. To introduce HRM topics and functions in this
work, I will draw upon the same example that we work through in class.
given to the students in my class is to have them design the HRM plan for a company that
produces paper airplanes. The paper airplane
company, they are told, will specialize in hand-made, designer airplanes made from a
specialty paper. The owner of the company
plans to build a factory, hire 20 people with a total payroll of $600,000 (excluding
benefits and taxes), and perform all production processes on siteby hand. They are also told that the owner plans to locate
the plant in Abilene, Texasa town of 120,000 people, with a median income of
$20,000, located on a major highway two hours from a major metropolitan area. The questions they are to answer during the course
of the exercise include:
What jobs are necessary for the organization to
effectively meet its mission? Define the
jobs and write job descriptions.
What are the knowledge/skills/abilities required to
perform the various jobs?
Where would you go to find a pool of potential
Draw out an organizational chart showing the
reporting relationships among positions within the firm.
Also include the salaries, wages, and benefits of the various positions
throughout the organization.
How would you select people to hire from the pool of
applicants? What types of tests and screening
mechanisms would you use to identify acceptable candidates?
What steps would you take to teach the employees
their jobs, the rules, expectations, and culture of the company?
How would you evaluate employee performance? What criteria are required for promotions and
oppositely, terminations? (reliability and validity, multiple sources and measurement
What steps would you take to ensure a safe and
comfortable working environment? (safety,
are required within the organization?
with Adam Smiths observation of the organized pin-making factory, tremendous gains
in productivity arise when work is divided into subsets of tasks that when combined in
total, yield the completed whole. The
important thing under Smiths system is to have every job needed by the organization
filled by someone who becomes an expert at the job. The
HRM functions of an organization include logically defining the jobs within an
organization so that someone covers all duties and functions needed within the
organization, some positions will be more specialized than others and some positions will
be devoted to coordinating the work of others. The
coordinating jobs are the management jobsthat is, those jobs described in Smiths
pin-making factory as communicating with and integrating the work of the employees and
helping control the pace of the work among workers in relation to the goals set by the
organization. The number of jobs required
within an organization, the degree of specialization within and across jobs, and the
number of positions devoted to management roles will vary across firms depending on a host
of task, organizational, and worker characteristics.
The formal task
of writing down the responsibility of each position is known as the job description. Anyone who has skimmed the Help Wanted
section of a newspaper has mostly likely read a job description. In a job description, the specific duties and
responsibilities expected of the person filling the position are defined. In total, all of the job descriptions for all of
the positions within an organization should cover all of the tasks needed for the
organization to effectively fulfill its mission. Unnecessary
or redundant jobs need to be eliminated or controlled.
Application to Higher
universities, being complex organizations, require effective analysis of jobs and
descriptions of the responsibilities of their workers.
An analysis of a schools job descriptions should show that all of the
required tasks and duties needed to provide an effective educational environment for
students through its faculty and staff functions are performed by one or more positionsfrom
recruitment and registration, to student life and residence life, to the staffing of
computer labs and science labs.
Care must be
taken to ensure that workers do the jobs required of their position, but not only the jobs
required of the position. Part of the reason
that bureaucracy has a bad reputation is because it emphasizes rationality and
job responsibilities too literally. Thats
not my job and let him take care of it can be poisonous words within
organizations when tasks and things need to be done.
In baseball, players have their own unique roles to play on the team, but
when exceptions arise, the player in the best position to make the play, regardless of his
particular specialization, needs to step up and do it.
Likewise, within a college or university, when a task needs to be completed
and the person filling that role is not available, other members of the school must be
willing and able to step up and perform the task. This
might involve something as simple as picking up trash on the way in from the parking lot
to something like greeting campus visitors and directing them to an appropriate office. Sports teams succeed when players develop
expertise in their roles, when they effectively play their positions, and when they work
together in pursuit of team goalswhich sometimes mean stepping outside of a
pre-defined role to do what is best for the team. The
same holds true for any organizationincluding colleges and universities.
the knowledge/skills/abilities required to perform the various jobs?
write job descriptions for several positions in their paper airplane company, I have the
class pause briefly to analyze one position included in practically every fictitious paper
airplane businessthe paper folders. Since
the company makes hand-made airplanes, every student group will identify a position in
their companies that includes folding the paper into airplanes. I would typically ask several groups to read their
job descriptions to the other groups to see how similar and dissimilar their descriptions
were. The next part of the exercise involves
having the groups read what they identified as the required skills and abilities that
applicants should possess to apply for the job.
knowledge, skills, and abilities for a position is known, in HRM terms, as the job
specification. You have probably also seen
examples of this when looking at job announcements. They
are included with the job title and description and typically read something like candidates
for this position must possess a high school degree and one year of experience. For the paper folder position, the groups will
invariably, mention things like this job requires applicants to have two hands and
ten fingers. With these ideas exposed
to the class, I tell them that requiring applicants to have two hands and ten fingers
could expose their companies to charges of discrimination.
Job discrimination, at
its core, is the exclusion of a group or class of people for a reason other than their
ability to perform a job. Discrimination
provides special privilege to one group at the expense of another. In its most basic form, discrimination involves
the purposeful or blatant exclusion of someone based on sex, race, age, religion, or some
other characteristic. Job discrimination can
also occur in a more seemingly innocent manner when an organization uses a criterion for
selection that is not related to a candidates ability to perform a job.
candidates who apply for the paper folder position to have two hands or ten fingers
excludes some people from the pool of applicants who may have lost hands or fingers in an
accident, or who might have been born without a full complement. In recent years, the national broadcast news media
has featured stories about people who, when losing arms to accidents, became adept at
using their feet for things that almost everyone else would use their hands. Writing, getting dressed, brushing teeth and hair,
eating with utensils, working on computers, and driving automobiles are just a few of the
regular tasks they performed with their feet. They
could also probably learn to fold paper into airplanes better than some two-handed and
ten-fingered people if provided the opportunity.
specification, written to include a seemingly innocent non task-related qualification,
might exclude a group of people for consideration for the position and hence, be
discriminatory. Must be able to fold
paper in pre-determined and precise patterns at a specified rate would be a better,
more inclusive, and task-related way of writing the job specification.
would you go to find a pool of potential employees?
Once jobs are
defined, people must be found to fill them. Ideally,
companies will have a pool of qualified applicants from which they can select the best
candidates for serious consideration. As with
any decision, it is always preferred to have many options available rather than being
limited to a few. There are a variety of
places that companies can look for quality people.
Sources. For existing firms, one of the
best places to look for job candidates is inside the organization. One of the advantages of hiring and promoting
internally is that candidates are familiar with the company; its goals and mission, its
culture, and its people. In the same vain,
the company knows the person and what he is capable of.
The advantages of hiring internally, however, can also be disadvantages. Personality conflicts, perceived political
alliances within the company, perceived lack of objectivity, and old grievances can
sometimes arise when internal candidates are promoted.
Hiring candidates from outside the organization might help relieve many of
these issues. Sometimes bringing in new blood
from the outside can also bring with it new ideas, new perspectives, and help breath new
life into organizations.
Advertisements. The help wanted
section of a newspaper is a popular place for job seekers to begin a search processand
one that should not be overlooked. Many
newspapers divide their classifieds sections into a variety of specialized categories such
as general, construction/trade, professional, education, and health care. A well-placed job advertisement in local,
regional, or national newspapers could attract interested candidates who are looking for a
specific type of job. The particular
newspapers and the specialized category within the classifieds section where the ad is to
be placed should be chosen with consideration for the type of position and the audience
being targeted. When searching for
applicants for most professional and administrative positions, print ads in professional
publications will be more efficient and yield more effective results than print ads in
publications that apply to wider and more diverse audiences.
Many print publications also have companion web-based job
advertisements. Some simply redisplay the ads
that appear in their publications and become updated when the printed version is printed;
others might accept and display job advertisements on their websites between print
publication dateswhich keeps the web-based advertisements more current than the
printed edition. Other job placement
companies ignore print publications all together and exist solely in the virtual world. As with newspapers and magazines, web-based job
search sites either specialize in advertisements for a particular industry or they cater
to many industries and job types and allow seekers to specify an industry when performing
Employment Agencies. One way to streamline the efficiency of an
applicant search is to hire another firm (i.e., one that specializes in attracting and
screening applicants according to the principles of division of labor) to do it. Public and private employment agencies work to
build applicant pools to fill jobs in client organizations.
Employment agencies that habitually send unqualified or unacceptable
candidates to client organizations will loose the respect and business of their clients. Without respect, business, and support from client
organizations, employment agencies will eventually go out of business. It is in the best interest of employment agencies
to identify and recommend only the best applicants to client organizationswhich puts
the goals and interests of the two parties in direct alignment.
As with companies that specialize in job advertisement services,
employment agencies can also specialize in particular industries and job types or can take
on a more generalist strategy. Some
employment agencies, for example, specialize in searches for executive positions while
others work with temporary placements (hiring temporary employees through an employment
agency can be a great low-risk strategy for identifying successful full-time employees
when employment agencies allow client companies to hire the temps).
Associations. When looking to hire a
plumber, one shouldnt go to a gathering of medical professionals. Likewise, a prospective computer programmer would
probably not be found at a professional gathering of dairy farmers. Most industries have trade associations and
professional conferences that meet on a regular basis.
In many cases, meetings and conferences associated with professional
associations occur to update professionals in the fields about happenings and advances in
their fields. Frequently, the professional
associations support one or more types of employment services; such as print publications,
web-based employment postings, and job fairs at professional meetings.
Application to Higher
universities, especially for the wide variety of staff positions, must be careful to
determine the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities needed by candidates for a
position. If a particular requirement cannot
hold up in court as a valid predictor of job performance the school may not want to
include it in the job specification.
innocent-seeming form of job discrimination might arise when looking for candidates. If a school chooses to advertise position searches
in a limited number of places to a limited audience, it might receive applications from a
very limited pool of candidates. When the only diversity found on a faculty is young white
guys versus old white guys, bald white guys versus full-haired white guys, fat white guys
versus thin white guys, an institution might need to expand its search methods to other
places for a more diverse pool of potential hires. Advertising
jobs in new publications and in different venues might increase the representation of a
more diverse pool of job applicants and eventually a more diverse faculty.
The Civil Rights
Act protects people from discrimination based on age, sex, race, national origin, veteran
status, and religion. Public institutions and others are not permitted to exclude people
from consideration for employment on those factors. In
some cases, institutions are permitted to discriminate on one or more of those protected
dimensions if the characteristic(s) are bona fide requirements of the
organization. Church-related schools, for
example, are allowed to discriminate on the religion dimension if the school can show that
religion is central to what the school is and what it stands for.
As already mentioned in
preceding sections, one of the distinguishing features of colleges and universities is the
great diversity of professionals in faculty ranks. With
so many specialized professionals from so many academic fields, locating quality
applicants could be a difficult endeavor without once again tapping into the powers of
division of labor. Professional associations
of academic disciplines should be tapped to find applicants with very specific and narrow
completing the paper airplane factory assignment also have to draw an organizational chart
for their company. An organizational chart is
a pictorial representation of the jobs and reporting relationships within a firm. It shows how jobs and necessary work functions are
spread throughout the organization. From an
HRM perspective, the organizational chart is interesting because it defines how the duties
and tasks are divided across the organization, shows all of the jobs in the firm, and
defines the management positions from the top to the bottom of the organization.
concepts of organizational chart with required job duties and required knowledge, skills,
and abilities for each position, another HRM topic then emergespay and compensation
across jobs within a company. Compensation,
which includes salary or hourly wages and benefits, should be attached to the value of the
position. If specialized knowledge, skills,
and abilities are required to perform a job, the remuneration for the person filling the
position should be greater than for a person filling a position that does not require
specialized training. The comptroller (i.e.,
the head accountant) of a company, because of the extensive training and experience
required for the position and because of the vital nature of the position, would merit a
significantly higher compensation package than that of a janitor or cleaning person. Likewise top managers in a company typically
receive more compensation than middle managers or first level managers because of more
demands and requirements needed to gain and hold the position.
value of positions within a firm, across jobs of various levels on the organization chart,
and the compensation attached to them is known as the wage and salary structure
of the organization. Salaries must be
competitive with the industry and appropriate for the area in which the company is
located. One would expect salaries and wages
for positions in a corporation with an office in Los Angles to be higher than for the same
positions of the corporations office in Tallahassee.
If the compensation were the same for positions in the two locations, the
employee with the job in Tallahassee would receive more compensation, in relative terms,
due to substantial differences in housing and living expenses. So not only should an organization strive for
equity in compensation within its own walls amongst jobs of similar and different
requirements and responsibilities, but also be equitable with respect to compensation in
the local geographic area.
you select people to hire from the pool of applicants?
Once a pool of
applicants has been created for a position, there must be a way to select some individuals
to pursue further and others to exclude from additional consideration. The criteria used to identify applicants who are
interesting from those who are not of interest must be valid and accurate. It could be just as bad for an organization to
release a potential superstar from considerationto go to a competitoras to
include someone who turns out to later be a dud performer.
When a jury in a court case finds a defendant guilty, we desire
that they reached the correct verdict. We
want to see guilty people punished and innocent people set free. Sometimes, however, our judicial system makes
mistakes and punishes the innocent and releases the guilty.
The court system in the United States is based upon various degrees of proof
for various types of crimes. For the most
serious crimes, juries must conclude guilt beyond a reasonable doubtthe evidence
must be so overwhelming that jurists conclude with near certainty that defendant committed
the crime. If the prosecution cannot make
that burden of proof, the jury must acquit the defendant.
Despite the high burdens of proof, supported by a variety of evidence
presented in the trial, mistaken conclusions sometimes are reached and bad verdicts handed
out. The goal of our court system is to
minimize the number of incorrect verdicts.
The process of
selecting employees from a pool of job applicants involves similar principles of making
good judgments about a candidates potential with a company and minimizing bad
judgments. When a good candidate applies for
a position, the selection instruments used by the company should indicate that the
candidate is good. When a bad candidate
applies for a position, the selection tools used by the company should indicate that the
candidate is a bad fit for the company. Cases
where bad candidates are hired or good candidates turned away should be minimized.
It would be hard
to imagine that court cases would consistently yield correct verdicts if they relied on
only one piece of evidence. Rather, to foster
certainty in the minds of the jurists, attorneys present multiple pieces of evidence that
when put together and viewed in whole, give a more complete picture of events and,
hopefully, a better picture of realitywhich will allow the jury to make a correct
decision about guilt or innocence. In other
words, the more evidence available to the jury that all points to the same conclusion, the
more certain the jury will be in its finding.
When trying to
determine the goodness of a job candidate for a position within a company, multiple
selection tools should be used. These tools,
or instruments, should help build a comprehensive portrait of a candidates
knowledge, skills, abilities, and how well the person would perform in a new organization. Selection instruments, when used
individually, do not provide a sufficient picture of a candidates ability, but when
used in concert, they can provide a good picture of a candidates quality. Some of the more common instruments include:
· Application Forms provide basic contact information, work history, educational
background, special skills and training or certifications, and contact information for
references. In many respects, information
gained from an application form is similar to the information found on a resume.
· Interviews can be
conducted in a group or individually, face-to-face or over the telephone, and can be
structured with a specific set of questions or unstructured and more free flowing. Interviews allow employers the chance to ask
specific job-related questions of candidates as well as allowing candidates to ask
questions of the employer.
· Personality Tests are administered to candidates in some instances for certain
types of jobs. Personality type, the ability
to think creatively, leadership and teamwork skills and aptitudes, and a host of
assessments can be given.
· Work Samples give an indication of ability and past
performance. Artists, architects, media
positions, and others in occupations that require producing or performing things allow for
a collection of past work. For other
occupations, workers might create portfolios of their work activities and experiences. Portfolios might include news stories, creative
endeavors, publications, and evaluations.
· Simulations provide a good way to see how a candidate
would perform in the job. In technical
positions, like computer programming, accounting, and engineering, sample work problems
can be administered to potential employees. Bus
drivers, technicians, repair people can actually perform sample tasks as part of the
selection process. Prospective faculty
members can deliver lectures to a class of students.
· References permit an employer to hear from others who
know the candidate to comment on his/her character, ability, motivation, people skills,
and past performance. Employers can
communicate with a candidates references over the phone or through e-mail. Some companies require candidates to submit
letters of reference. References should
provide the potential employer with insight into the candidates personal
characteristics and professional qualifications.
· Background Investigations are routinely carried out on
candidates applying for jobs in security positions, jobs that handle money, and those that
provide personal care to children and adults.
The important thing to remember about selection instruments is
that they must be valid predictors of work performance.
If they are not valid, meaning that they dont effectively predict good
candidates from bad candidates, they could end up being discriminatorythey could
exclude a group of people for some reason other than their ability to perform on the job. Great care must be taken when choosing and using
steps would you take to teach the employees their jobs, the rules, expectations, and
culture of the company?
employees are hired and become actual employees, they need to be taught the specifics of
their jobs and the ways of the organization. HRM
professionals refer to these concepts as training and socialization.
Training. Training involves learning new knowledge, skills,
and abilities. One can be trained to perform
a new task or a new way of doing an old task. Knowledge
learned can be learned for the first time or learned as improvements or enhancements to
things already known. New hires might have to
learn new tasks to perform their jobs and/or learn new organizational-specific processes
and procedures for knowledge and skills that they already possess.
occur in the workplace through formal employee training programs or through mentor
programs. On-the-job sources of training
should provide employees with direct and relevant experiences that they can take and apply
to their jobs. Off-the-job training might
include training courses hosted by professional associations or colleges and universities. Some companies pay for employees to pursue
additional off-the-job training and educationother times the employees take it on
themselves as a way of making themselves more marketable within their organizations and
attractive to outside companies.
Socialization. Socialization refers to the process of becoming a
part of a society or social group. Language,
histories, stories, rituals, customs, norms, and cultures, as we tend to think of them,
differentiate national societies. The things
that make societies different, when studied on an organization-scale, also apply to
companies. Newcomers to organizations must
learn the ways of the organization or risk making a host of cultural mistakes.
Organizations that dont socialize new members into the
ways of the organization risk losing their distinguishing characteristics. When a known, shared history is not taught to
newcomers, it will be just a matter of time until an organizations culture changesto
something unknown. In some cases, the
extinction of a culture might be desired, in other cases it might want to be preserved. When cultures are ineffective or destructive, a
change is warranted. When cultures are
effective and in alignment with the goals and mission of the organization, it would want
to be preserved.
can occur in tandem with training, but most often occurs in the break rooms, in informal
conversations with colleagues, and in early interactions with superiors and coworkers. Learning the companys lingo and stories,
defining the meaning of a fair days work, figuring out how to address and talk to
superiors and coworkers, knowing when to attend company events, determining how much play
is allowed in the workplace, learning whether it is okay to accept personal phone calls at
work, and finding out what the real dress code is for the company are all parts of an
employees socialization process.
you evaluate employee performance? What
criteria are required for promotions and oppositely, terminations? (reliability and
validity, multiple sources and measurement error)
At its core,
performance is the attainment of goals or completing what is supposed be accomplished. A performer within an organization is
someone who consistently meets or exceeds his or her work expectations. At the root of performance are two independent
dimensionsability and willingness. In
order to perform, one must be able to complete an assigned task AND must be willing to
complete the task. If either the want
to or able to dimensions are absent, performance will not occur. For example, no matter how willing I am to dunk a
basketball, I am not able to, therefore I cannot. Also,
although I am able to sing the national anthem in front of a large crowd of people, I have
absolutely zero desire to do so and therefore will not do it. Problems with a persons performance should
be investigated to determine whether ability or willingness is the cause. Appropriate solutions should be derived to remedy
The study of the want to dimension of performance
has its home in the realm of motivation and organizational behavior. A persons want to dimension may
change if doing so fulfills an important need in ones life. For example, I would probably sing in front of a
large group if the prize for doing so were desirable enough to override my
embarrassment. Additional discussion of these
concepts from a motivation perspective can be found in other sections of this book.
The concepts and
study of the able to dimension of the performance equation resides in the
realm of human resource management. Candidates
should be selected, hired, and promoted based on their ability to perform a job. Training, both on-job and off-job, concerns
improving an employees ability to perform effectively for the organization. Thus far in this chapter, the concepts of
selection and training have already been presented so attention will now be given to
evaluation and two of its outcomespromotion and termination.
refers to the assessment of an employees performance within the organization. As with selection, the goal of the process is to
correctly identify the performance of the employee (i.e., how well did the employee do
what was expected of him or her in the organization?).
The instruments used to measure and determine performance must be validaccurate
and consistent. Reliance on one or a small
number of measures can lead to inaccurate assessmentsgood or bad. As with evidence in a court-case, the more
evidence that all points to a common conclusion is the best for determining whether the
person on trial did it or didnt do it. Likewise, the more evidence that an evaluator has
about an employees performance, the better the conclusion will likely be and the
more confident the evaluator will be about the assessment.
Many of the same
tools used to assess applicant performance and ability can and should be used when
evaluating existing employees. A description
of duties, responsibilities, and accomplishments; interviews or written evaluations with
the candidate, subordinates, superiors, and coworkers; submission and examples of current
work; and letters or testimonials of reference should all be used to build a complete and
accurate picture of an employees performance.
Promotion. When the results of the evaluation system show
that the employee is doing well at a job, the organization might desire to reward the
Termination. *retrain, reassign, release (cause/no-cause, due
To Be Continued...
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