Topic/Factors Within Which Human Resources Management Exits

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Contemporary Human Resources Management practices recognise the significance of the following four environmental factors within which human resources management exists: change, interdependence, economy-society link, people-productivity-quality balance and desire for meaningful work by the workforce. We shall take you through each of these factors.

2.1 Change

Change factors determine the nature of work and the workforce, role played by the government and role-played by the executive management in the employment related management. For instance, introduction of modern technology may dictate that an organisation venture into automation and robotics which will in turn dictate that the organisation should embark on a retrenchment exercise. In the past an organisation could afford to hire or promote people who do not have the necessary qualifications, skills or experience on the understanding that with time they will get used to the job and eventually be able to function. How long it took those people before they started adding value to the organisation was not very important. In any case those who could do the job would do it for those who could not and the organisation still survived. Why? In those days there was no competition, there was less need for innovation and creativity, so even the most “stupid” employee would catch-up with the “intelligent” ones.

Flexi working hours, flexible shifts, and flexible working arrangements become more common each day as a way of strategizing organisational manpower utilisation. With the need to minimise costs and maximise output in organisations, it is now important that each organisation maximises utilisation of its labour forces. For instance, in future it may not be cost effective to hire cleaners to work eight hours a day when in actual fact their effective time or the time that they add value to the organisation is about two hours a day, that is, one hour of office cleaning in the morning and one hour of office cleaning in the afternoon.

The question becomes who is responsible for making the money that pays them for the other six hours they spend doing “nothing?” If they were to be hired for the only two hours per day that they are required, wouldn’t it minimise costs for the organisation such that if that organisation is manufacturing a certain product, it could then reduce the selling price of the product by the total amount that would have been spent on each cleaner for the six hours of doing “nothing” and still make the same profit as a way of beating their competitors? This could be our input towards the overall organisational objective of minimising costs as contemporary human resources practitioners. This issue will be discussed further when we link organisational and human resources strategies.

Similarly, government’s involvement in employment relations is gradually increasing particularly to safeguard the interest of the workforce. Such involvement is by way of formulation and enforcement of statutes and directives such as the Employment Act, Workman’s Compensation Act, Employment of Non-Citizens Act, Factories Act, Public Service Act and others. As contemporary human resources practitioners you need to have all these statutes. If you don’t have them you may purchase them from the Government Printers at a reasonable price. The government also continues to introduce stringent measures in its attempt to guard against abuse of the workforce by organisations. Such measures include restrictions on employment of children, setting of minimum wages and setting of maximum working hours. The accelerated rate of the unionisation process also called for a new perspective in the approach towards human resources management.

With the heavy impact all these change factors have on the business efforts of any organisation, it therefore becomes inevitable for any corporate executive to isolate human resources management functions from change.

To apply the knowledge you have learnt so far, go over this activity.

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Get a copy of the Employment Act. Which Sections of the Act will make it difficult for an organisation, which has hired an employee who is not strategically suitable for the organisation to dismiss such an employee? Memorise the relevant sections for future reference.

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Sections 17 – 23 of the Employment Act provides conditions for termination of employment and such conditions are restrictive on the part of the employer than the employee.

Now do you realise the importance of planning how you recruit and utilise your human resources to avoid hiring unproductive people who the organisation may later find stuck with simply because their stay in the organisation once they have joined is protected by the law? Also think of how much your organisation might have to pay in compensation during retrenchment, which may be due to getting rid of employees who are a misfit to the organisation due to poor human resources management planning.

2.2 Interdependence

Organisations have had to accept the reality that they operate as a system, that is, an organisation consists of sub-system (departments/section/units) and that any single sub-system has little influence over the overall system (organisation). This, therefore, calls for a joint effort by all departments if at all the organisation has to survive the stiff global market or if it has to be globally competitive. Existence of such a competitive scenario calls for every organisation to combine all its resources, strength and focus towards achieving a common goal. For example, an organisation with a strong marketing strategy but with limited supply capacity may find that it has made a lot of customers to develop interest in their product through the strong marketing campaigns but cannot supply enough of the product for the customers due to low or poor supply capacity. Now that the customers have developed interest in the product and cannot get it on time from the organisation they will not wait, but look for the same or similar product from other organisations. This would simply mean that the organisation’s marketing campaign, and indeed the organisations marketing effort would have been put to waste as it would have only benefited other organisations supplying the same or similar product. There is therefore, an interdependence of the parts of systems, be they economic or social. It is therefore important for the human resources functions to be strategised in consideration of the existence of such interdependence.

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From the list below, tick the actions that need to be done in order for an organisation in a similar situation to the example given above to avoid its marketing strategy benefiting other organisation instead of it benefiting. Put a cross against those actions that are not necessary and a tick against those necessary.

  • Employ more junior marketing staff
  • Retrench the current Marketing Manager
  • Promote or reward the current Marketing Manager
  • Restructure the production/supplies department
  • Consider hiring more production/supplies staff
  • Match the marketing strategy with production/supplies strategy
  • Increase the selling price of the product
  • Stop marketing campaigns
  • Close-up business

Write to other organisations not to take your customers List the reasons for ticking or crossing each action. If you are not sure ask a friend for his/her opinion.

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  • X Employ more junior marketing staff
  • X Retrench the current Marketing Manager
  • X Promote or reward the current Marketing Manager
  • √ Restructure the production/supplies department
  • √ Consider hiring more production/supplies staff
  • √ Match the marketing strategy with production/supplies strategy
  • X Increase the selling price of the product
  • X Stop-marketing campaigns
  • X Close-up business
  • X Write to other organisations not to take your customers