It is said that there are many ways which one can use to skin a cat. Using this analogy, it can be said that there are several approaches that can be adopted to make a business a success. Boxall and Purcell in their book ‘Strategy and Human Resource Management’ argue that the foundations of a successful business must be laid on the dual facets of strategic business planning and sufficient investment made in the workforce. Does this strategy work? It shall be examined in the essay whether their opinion can be considered valid or not (Boxall and Purcell, 2008).
Competition in the world of business today has become stiffer than ever before. Those who offer their products on the market are faced with the constant challenge of being innovative and fresh, offering franchise that is of quality while at the same time affordable. Business corporations grab at any opportunity that presents itself that will ensure they stay ahead in the constant rat race.
What does it take to make a business work? This is the question that Boxall and Purcell (2008) try to answer. The idea they put forward is that with the right balance of strategizing together with proper harnessing of the potential of the work force in a business organization, the foundation is laid down for success.
The recommendation that Boxall and Purcell (2008) give is sound because a good business corporation must have a solid team, which calls for first-rate human resource management and this team must have a set and unanimous objective or mission with a explicit plan of how the set objective will be achieved, hence a strategy. There are several other factors that one must consider when trying to set up a successful business, but proper human resource management coupled with a solid strategy is the framework upon which it shall be built.
Why human resource management is essential for the success of a business
Human resource management, according to Robert Mathis and John Jackson (2006), is the system in a business corporation which sees to the needs of the workforce in the corporation, while at the same time ensuring that their capabilities are fully utilized and that the workers get adequate compensation for the labor they provide.
The relationship between an employer and an employee has been evolving say Robert Mathis and John Jackson (2006); from the hostile and suspicious interaction of the two in earlier times, when they adopted a different approach. In the current times the employee is no longer seen as a readily dispensable asset whose input is of no major value. It is quite the contrary in fact; the employee has become the business corporations most valued asset.
Torrington and Hall (1987) stipulate that if there is to be a good working relationship between employer and employee, then the first step is to compose a set of rule that will govern their relationship. This is normally referred to as the code of ethics. The code of ethics at the workplace determines how an employer relates with his employees, but it also covers employee to employee relations.
The code of ethics at the work place provides a guideline for employee behavior because there are people from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds who come to work together and have to get along and work together. There then must be set a standard with which all will identify. The code of ethics at work may cover language to be used by employees (no cursing), the dress code, and employees addressing the employer and each other with respect, treating other cultures and religions deferentially, corporate social responsibility and disciplinary measures to be taken if the codes are broken (Kotter & Heskett, 1992).
The workplace identity can evolve to become a workplace culture, which is referred to as corporate culture (Kotter & Heskett, 1992). Kotter and Heskett (1992) explain that the corporate culture the employees in a business have pretty much determines its fate. This is very much in agreement with the opinions that Boxall and Parcell put across about employees. Kotter and Heskett (1992) say that a corporate culture is inculcated and if the employees are inculcated with the culture of hard work, acting as a team and self discipline, and then there will be greater productivity. If on the other hand employees develop a work culture of sloppiness and dissidence they will not be performing at their optimum and the employer will be cheated out of labor.
Human Resource Management (HRM) is meant to find a middle ground where a balance can be struck between harnessing employee resources and then using these resources to advance the companies strategies.
Human Resource Alignment is the attempt made at capitalizing on human output to achieve the set objectives that the business corporation may have, and to drive it towards attaining its vision while upholding its code of ethics and business values.
Business strategy and the competitive advantage
A business strategy refers to a series of practically planned procedures that are laid down so as to help a business achieve its objectives. These strategies are prepared after a survey has been made to see either what the business needs to do so that it can stimulate growth or what segment of the market has been left unattended to and the business can capitalize on. The strategies formulated will then depend on the business environment as it has been comprehended and the challenges the business may be facing at the time. For a business that has already been established, strategies made tend to revolve already existing issues.
On the other hand, according to Professor Michael E. Porter (1997), competitive strategies are planned practical steps that must be followed so as to give a business and advantage over other business in the same line of production. Competitive strategies will concern the business with other businesses in its environment by focusing on pricing, location, product quality and diversity.
Different strategies that businesses can employ
As had earlier been said, there are indeed many ways to skin a cat; there are a variety of strategies that a business can use so as to build its market share. A business can use some strategies in combination. What is important is that adequate research be done o ensure that the adopted strategy or strategies are what will work best for the business in capturing that market share (Randal & Jackson, 1987).
A common business strategy is that of the business corporation being involved in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), where the corporation gives back to the community or society within which it is based in one way or another. This can be in monetary form to local charities or trust funds, or just goodwill such as standing up strongly for an issue such as environmental conservation. CSR builds the corporation’s reputation and instills confidence in clients that the business is not only out to make profit. It is up to the business corporation to research and find out what type of CSR is most suited to its immediate community (Boxall & Purcell, 2008).
Customer care is the new buzz word. It is not sufficient to bag a client; you must give him/her reason to keep coming back to you over and over again. This has led to customer pampering in a bid to retain customers in the face of competition. Businesses now offer package deals such as warranties on goods bought for a given duration of time or free servicing of machinery for a given period. Customer care also entails dealing diligently with customer enquiries and issues because the customer is the new boss. A business can adopt this strategy more so if it is in the service industry, say hospitality and tourism because there are ample opportunities for customers to be spoilt rotten, and keep them coming back for more (Boxall & Purcell, 2008).
Marketing has never been more crucial than it is now. Product placement is almost as vital as the quality of the product itself. A business corporation will be called upon to constantly advertise its products through the mass media so that they can be seen. A business corporation can go for an all out aggressive marketing campaign when launching a new product (Boxall & Purcell, 2008).
What to consider when making up a business strategy
A business strategy has to be ‘doable’ that is feasible in the sense that it should be a strategy that can be implemented within a reasonable time plan and at reasonable expense. If the strategy is being implanted by an already established business, then it should not over-tax the workforce and other resources to the point that it halts other projects which are meant to be running concurrently with it. When a business corporation starts out on a business strategy, even the most thorough market research though it improves the chances of it, does not guarantee success. It is therefore necessary to have periodical evaluations, once the project has taken off the ground, to determine if the business strategy is feasible or not (Manzini & Gridley, 1986).
Strategic planning; getting your vision off the ground
Until a plan is put into action, it remains nothing more than words on paper (or a power point presentation). The leader of the team has to make his team believe in his vision with as much passion as he does. Once the vision has been shared, it is no longer his alone but the team’s and should be thought of in this terms. If the vision were his, then he would not need the team to help see it through. There are steps that the team leader or manager has to do to make the other members of his team feel as if they are the ones who own the vision.
One, there must be clear and effective communications between him as the team leader and his subordinates. All the team members should know exactly what their role is as part of the team because this will help in the delegation of duties when it is called fro, and every individual will be held accountable if a specific part of the plan goes awry. A way in which the manager or team leader can encourage communication is by being approachable to his team. The team leader should take time to listen to ideas that are presented by members without ridicule and impatience because this fosters confidence in the team members who do at times strike gold (McNamara, 1997).
It is important that the team be aware and has faith that the project they are working on has been endorsed by the higher powers. If the vision they have is shared by those with the say so, the team members will be more inclined to give 100 percent to the project because there will be no room to doubt that there plan might be rejected in the end. It will also boost the confident that they have in the manager as the team leader (Manzini & Gridley, 1986).
The team leader has to constantly drive home to team members what is the importance of the plan to the team. He has to keep them focused and charged. It falls upon the team leader to keep up the enthusiasm of team members all through the project, especially when things are not going according to plan or when it might appear as though it might not carry through and members begin to doubt the authenticity of the project (McNamara, 1997).
There must be periodical evaluation of the strategies employed to ensure that they remained aligned with the original vision and plan and to ensure that the projected time schedule is being observed. Analysis carried out when implementing strategies also help in the re-evaluation of earlier plans that might have been made and have to be altered because of circumstance (Reading, 2004).
Best fit or best practice?
A business cannot be run on a ‘one size fits all’ formula. All businesses are unique, being operated under a special set of circumstances that fluctuate. One of a business’ strong points should be its adaptability to change. All practices applied in a given situation within a business should be formulated to apply to that particular solution because there are no similar set of circumstances that are exactly the same and call for a similar response. These means that though there are the general guidelines on what to do under certain circumstances, the manger or person in charge has to weigh the options, consult, analyze and then using all information gathered and the fundamental guidelines in business, come up with the most appropriate strategy to tackle that particular problem. It is more practical to apply a best practice approach.
An argument against fundamental premises being sound human resource managements coupled with a sound business strategy
In my opinion, Boxall and Purcell (2008) were completely right to say that the building block for a successful business practice is investing in the workforce by making them competitive, informed and enthusiastic to achieve a vision and ensuring that there is a business strategy that can help achieve this vision. HRM and business strategies basically cover all the aspects of what a business is; the ‘abstract’ aspect of business is can be classified under the business strategies, the planning, analyzing and forecasting that goes into making a business work and the ‘human’ aspect that comes under HRM and entails the interpersonal relations between team members and their leader as well as the drive, focus and ambition that is shown by the team in implementing strategy.
Boxall and Purcell (2008) move away from the old tradition which rather downplayed the role of the employees in the success of a business. The employee was almost put on the same level as part of the ‘mechanics’ in the business. The HRM department was one that handled employee complaints, salaries, terminations and hiring’s. However the role of HRM has now expanded to include team building, the teaching of skills, talent management and general employee well being. It has adopted a more wholesome approach which in turn has led to employees who are happier and more well informed thus giving more output.
Before a house is put up, there must be a blueprint for it that will guide its construction. A sound blueprint, under the supervision of a master builder will most likely lead to a sound house. A business pretty much works the same way, with a sound business strategy and the right attitudes, approach and team of ‘builders’ to work on it, it is a formula for success.
However, these are not exclusively the factors that are to be considered in the running of a business. They may be the two governing principles but there are other factors that determine whether a business will succeed or not such as financial management, marketing, advertising and market penetration, product quality and competition. But if a business has the firm foundation of, they shall find themselves a big cut above the rest.
Boxall, PF, & Purcell J., (2008). Strategy and human resource management. 2nd ed, Palgrave Basingstoke: Macmillan
Kotter P, Heskett J. L. (1992) Corporate Culture and Performance. Maxwell Macmillan International,
Manzini, A, O., Gridley, J, O (1986). Integrating Human Resources and Strategic Business Planning. MA: AMACOM
Mathis, R, L., & Jackson H L (2006). Human Resource Management. New York: South-Western.
McNamara, C. (1997). Field guide to Leadership and Supervision in Business. LLC: Authenticity consulting.
Michael E. Porter, (1997). Competitive strategy. MCB UP LTD
Schuler R., &. Jackson, S, E (1987). Linking competitive strategies with Human Resource Management Practices. New York: New York University Press.
Reading, C. (2004). Strategic business planning: a Dynamic System for Improving Performance & Competitive Advantage. New York: Kogan Page Publishers
Ulrich, D. (1996). Human Resource Champions. The next agenda for adding value and delivering results. Boston: Harvard Business School