Human Resources Research Methods

Introduction

This paper chooses to review an article written by Ehigie and Ehigie (2006) titled “Applying Qualitative Methods in Organizations: A Note for Industrial/Organizational Psychologists” and another article written by Forth, Bewley and Bryson (2006) titled “Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Findings from the 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey”. The paper chooses these two articles in order to examine the research methods on Human resources. Although, numerous scholars have implemented different research methods for better understanding of human resources. The paper chooses to analyse and compare the implementations of qualitative methods on human resources as being analysed by Ehigie and Ehigie (2006) and implementation of quantitative methods on employment issues as being indicated by Forth, Bewley and Bryson (2006).

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According to Forth, Bewley and Bryson, qualitative method deals with a complex, and changing research practice that encompass multi dimensional and pluralistic entities. Qualitative method draws wide range of different tools, procedures and techniques to solve different human resources problems. Increase in qualitative research in recent years on human resources has contributed to the increase in the understanding of human behaviours. On the other hand, Ehigie and Ehigie (2006) point out that application of quantitative method has been used to improve management decision. The application comprises of conducting surveys and interviews to enhance management decision on strategic issues. As Ehigie and Ehigie pointed out “ the present paper therefore examines how qualitative methods like observation, interviews, ethnography, focus group discussion, nominal group technique, Delphi method, and projective techniques can be used by I/O psychologists in organizational studies”(p 621).

Typically, the mathematical model in the quantitative method have long played important role in the management decision, and has become important in the last few decades. However, some scholars argue that quantitative method only deal with manipulation of data, and human being cannot be manipulated by data when the issue of human resources arises.

Although, there are growing number of literatures on both qualitative and quantitative studies on human resources, nevertheless, researches conducted on qualitative approach on human resources are greater in number than researches on quantitative methods because there is little understanding on quantitative methods on human resources.(Ridder , Hoon, 2008).

This research intends to bridge the gap between qualitative and quantitative researches on human resources. Forth, Bewley and Bryson (2006) found out in their research that there is little understanding of quantitative method on employment practice in small and medium-sized organisations. Authors based their data on the survey carried out on private sectors in the UK. From the data, they made comparisons between the practices of small sized and large sized firms on human resources issues.

On the other hand, Ehigie and Ehigie (2006) provided argument on how qualitative method can enhance understanding of workers’ behaviours. Authors argued that the use qualitative methods had facilitated management decisions on human resources because the qualitative research methods had been extended to the organisational practise where many organisations use qualitative methods on employees’ selection, and promotion.

The rest of the paper is organised as follows:

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  • First, this paper examines aims and objectives of the two articles, and the methodology approach of each study.
  • Moreover, the paper provides the rational behind research design of each study.
  • In addition, there will be critical analysis on the extent which the two studies follow the standard good practise.
  • Finally, this study examines the advantages of qualitative and quantitative research designs for the two studies.

For clear understanding of the methodology approaches of the two studies, it is essential to examine the aims and objectives of the two papers.

Aims And Objectives Of The Two Articles

The aims and objectives of an article of Forth, Bewley and Bryson (2006) are to apply the quantitative methods to the employment practice. Authors revealed in their article that there were few quantitative techniques in the human resources practise in the small and middle level organisations, and authors conducted survey in order to determine management of employees in the small and middle level companies. Moreover, authors used quantitative technique to analyse the recruitment, and training in different organisations. To achieve their aims and objectives, they conducted interviews on 2,295 managers, 22451 employees, and 984 union, and non-union representatives. In addition, authors designed Financial Performance Questionnaires, which were completed by 1,070 managers. The objectives of the survey and the questionnaires were to analyse the employment practise in the private sectors as well as to compare employment practices in small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

On the other hand, the aims and objectives of Ehigie and Ehigie (2006) are to investigate the use of qualitative method among industries and organisations. According to authors, the qualitative approach is based on interviews, observations, focus group discussions, and project techniques. Authors specified that these techniques in the qualitative methods could be used to determine employees’ behaviours in an organisation. The observation technique in the qualitative method is a research method where a researcher observes participant in order to understand their behaviours and culture within an organisation. Authors also asserted that

In-dept interview was to access verbal accounts of employees to understand social life of workers. Typically, to determine the opinion of respondents, structured and non-structured interviews techniques could used, and the combination of these two types of interview techniques could be used to gather information through qualitative methods.

However, to compare different methodologies used by authors, it is essential to determine rationality behind research designs of the two studies.

Rationality behind research design of each study compared in the paper

This section provides rationality behind research design of the two studies. Research design deals with turning all research ideas into a project. Typically, it involves overall research strategy, and implementation of research strategy is to achieve research aims and objectives. (Anderson, 2004). Research strategy implemented by Ehigie and Ehigie (2005) is a qualitative analysis in the employment practice, and Forth, Bewley and Bryson (2006) used quantitative method in the analysis of employment practise. Typically, design of quantitative method deals with relationship between an independent variable and dependent variable.

While in qualitative research design, it can be either descriptive or experimental. Descriptive research design deals with use of samples of hundreds people or more, while the experimental research design only uses few people to conduct research. (Hopkins, 2000). It should be noted that the rationality behind research design implemented by Forth, Bewley and Bryson (2006) was to highlight the importance of survey in the employment practise using quantitative methods. Typically, the authors collected data on organisations, and employees to determine the employment practise in these organisations. It should be noted that the rationality behind research design is to determine the employment practise with the size of firms. Size of firm plays important role in the settlement of grievances among workers, and disciplinary procedures or the nature of pension arrangements.

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Moreover, Forth, Bewley and Bryson used rationality of their research design to examine the employment relations in small firms and large firms and to enhance the research design, authors designed a survey to provide large-scale and systematic employment relations in Great Britain and the survey was to examine how employment practise has been changed over time. It should be noted that the survey system covered both private, and public sector, and almost all areas in the industry. To enhance the quality of the survey, authors designed the following interview strategies:

  • Face-to-face interview with management of an organisation for average of two hours.
  • Face-to-face interview with union and non-union employees.
  • Self-completion questionnaire to be completed by financial managers to determine employees’ financial performances. (Forth, Bewley and Bryson, 2006).

All these design strategy was to enhance quality of research design in qualitative method adopted by authors. For instance, Hopkins (2000) argues that a well design research should provide good evidence where there is absence of relationship. This also should determine reliability of measures, procedures and techniques in the overall design process. Thus, Forth, Bewley and Bryson designed the interview and survey techniques to gather information not available from other sources and this add to the uniqueness of research design. In addition, information collected from every respondent adds to the standardization of the measurement of survey. (Owens, 2002).

On the other hand Ehigie and Ehigie (2005) based its rationality on its qualitative design in the application of organisational psychology towards employment practise. Similar to other study that uses quantitative approach, these authors also described interview, observational method, and ethnography as the basis of qualitative method. From authors’ perspectives, rationality behind qualitative method in the employment practise is to conducted indept interview, use of observational method, and ethnography. Authors argued that observation was important in the qualitative methods to determine organisational practise toward human resources issues.

In the observation technique in the qualitative method, research can use video tape, audio tape, or camera equipments to observe employees in the working environment in order to conceptualize relevant personnel issues and this technique is very effective to observe workers. Typically, Ehigie and Ehigie’s argument on the use of interview to collect data was similar with other authors examined. Authors argue that indept interview was the basis of data collection in qualitative method. They based their rationality on the advantages of in-dept interview because in-dept interview involves face-to-face interview to collect detailed information from respondents, and this technique enhances better understanding about respondents. Although, it is only an experienced skilled interviewer who can conduct this type of interview because it involves probing deeper in order to get better understanding of respondents. However, data collected from interview process in quantitative methods is to analyse in numbers in order to achieve desired results. (Ehigie and Ehigie 2005).

While it is essential to establish rationality of research designs on the two studies, however, to make a thorough justification of their research designs, there is need to make critical analysis of how the two studies follow the standard good practise.

Critical analysis of how the two studies follow the standard good practise

This section provides critical analysis on whether two groups of authors follow the standard practise. It should be noted that the two different articles adopt qualitative and qualitative methods in their approach. Ehigie and Ehigie (2005) based their analysis on different qualitative techniques, such as in-dept interviews, observation, focus group, and nominal group technique. Other qualitative techniques used by authors are Delphi method, and projective techniques. Trochim, Donnelly, best describes rationality of qualitative methods, (2007) who argues that standard practise in the qualitative analysis should follow the standard procedures. Authors point out that in the qualitative methods, there should be in-dept interviews, which can be one-to-one interview or group interviews. Typically, video recording, audio recording and stenography can enhance interview process. Authors also argue that written document is also an essential tool in data collection in qualitative method. Participant observation, direct observation, unstructured interview and case studies are the effective tools to collect data. Although, authors point out that other methods such as ethnography, phenomenology, and field research have added advantages in the qualitative methods. (Trochim, Donnelly, 2007).

Ehigie and Ehigie follow all the standard good practise of qualitative method described. For example, authors discussed observational method, ethnography, the in-depth interview, the focus group, and the nominal group technique in their article. While all the qualitative techniques discussed by authors are relevant to qualitative methods, authors do not discuss case study as an effective tool to collect data in qualitative methods. According to Trochim, Donnelly, (2007) case studies are effective tool for intensive study of a specific individual in order to get deeper understanding on the subject.

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However, the article written by Forth, Bewley and Bryson (2006) centred on quantitative method. Typically, quantitative method relies heavily on test, rating scales, questionnaires, and statistical technique to arrive at reliable conclusion. The best description of quantitative methods is asserted by Jones (1997) who stated that “quantitative research design allows flexibility in the treatment of data, in terms of comparative analyses, statistical analyses, and repeatability of data collection in order to verify reliability”.Typically, quantitative method deals with logic numbers, and convergent reasoning. In the empirical quantitative technique, research can be conducted with use of survey, and questionnaire, and the results of survey and questionnaire can put in statistical test through T-test to draw inferences about the sample population and rationality of the study. It should be noted that qualities of a research depends on its reliability, confirmability, and transferability. The ability to satisfy all these conditions depend on a method a researcher conducts critical analysis on a study. Using T-test enhances the degree of confidence on a study. (Davies, 2000), ( Davies, 2007).

Forth, Bewley and Bryson (2006) used quantitative technique to enhance reliability of data collected. This shows from the statements of Forth, Bewley and Bryson “there is little quantitative data on the employment practices of small and medium-sized firms (SMEs), despite the fact that 94 per cent of all private sector firms in the UK have less than 250 employees. This study uses the nationally representative 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS 2004) to describe employment practices in private sector workplaces belonging to SMEs. As both managers and employees were surveyed within workplaces, this report is able to compare employees’ views of the employment relationship with those of their managers. It also makes comparisons between the practices of SMEs and those of larger firms”. (p x). To draw quantitative method on the employment practise, authors conducted survey on 2,295 managers, and 984 union and non-union employees. From the results from data collected, authors arrived at results using series of quantitative methods such as statistical graphs such as bar chart, histogram, and tables. However, authors did not conduct data analysis through T-test. In quantitative method, running data on T-test provides more integrity on data collected.

Typically, both studies use human judgement to determine the results of the studies, because qualitative method has advantage of arriving at final decision of employment issues. However, it is essential to examine the advantages of qualitative and quantitative research design. Next section examines the advantages of qualitative and quantitative methods in research design on the two studies.

Advantages of qualitative and quantitative methods in research design of the two studies

Qualitative and quantitative research design provides several advantages to the two studies. The advantages are discussed below:

Quality of research depends on the validity of the research, and it is through research quality that a validity of a research can be determined. Quantitative research bases its validity on internal validity, external validity, reliability, and objectivity, and quantitative research provides all these advantages on research. Typically, Forth, Bewley and Bryson (2006) conducted their qualitative analysis on the sample population and they carried out series of statistical result to enhance the results of the sample population.

On the other hand, the advantages of qualitative research in research design add to credibility, transferability, dependability, and conformability of research. All these criteria are the advantages of qualitative research design. (Trochim, Donnelly, 2007).

The article of Ehigie and Ehigie (2005) is able to provide all these criteria because the authors follow most of the qualitative research design, which makes the research dependable, and transferable.

Conclusion

This paper compares two methodological approaches on human resources. The study reveals that both quantitative and qualitative research designs can enhance research reliability, while both methods have advantages in arriving at reliable results, nevertheless combining the two methods enhance reliability of the results.

As Bryman, Bell (2007) have argued, mixed methods of quantitative and qualitative methods illuminate research process and mixed methods have become visible and desirable in the overall quality of a study. It is essential to realise that it is human being who makes final decision on all issues and despite data collection through quantitative method, this method still needs the support of qualitative method to arrive at decision. Study of human resources needs management decision to deal with human resources problems in small, middle, and large organisations. While there are numerous advantages with the use of quantitative method on the study of employment practise, nevertheless, combining quantitative and qualitative research methods produces best management decision on employment practise.

Typically, Human resources are the backbone of any organisation. The quality of human resources reflects the quality of services, and products produced by an organisation. Small, medium and large organisations need to enhance the performances of their management teams in order to enhance organisational images. Dynamic changes in competitive business environment make human resources to be very critical in the success of an organisation. (Sekhar, 2007, Trochim, Cornuejols 1998, Donnelly, 2007). The importance of human resources for the survival of an organisation makes Lawler (2009) to refer human resources as human capital, and it is through human capital that an organisation operates.

Basically, human resources department is the most important of all departments in medium and large organisations. Human resources direct all the key functions of an organisation. The components of human resources asserted by Anderson (2004) shows that human resources can be described as strategic resources for an organisation to achieve competitive advantages, and achieving an organisational strategy is based on the quality of human resources. The importance that human resources contribute to organisational development make different researchers to agree that development of right talents should be the right priority of an organisation. Importance of human resources to the development of an organisation has enhanced the increase in the qualitative and quantitative research studies on human resources. In the field of human resources, several scholars have taken the critical looks on the methodological approaches of human resources.

This paper enhances greater understandings of managers, scholars, government, and individual on quantitative and qualitative research designs on employment practise.

References

Anderson, V. (2004) Research Methods in Human Resource Management: London: CIPD.

Brett Davies, M. (2007) Doing a Successful Research Project Using Qualitative or Quantitative Methods. Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan.

Bryman, A. and Bell, E. (2007, 2nd edition) Business Research Methods. Oxford: OUP.

Davies, R, (2000), Qualitative and Quantitative Market Research, Market Research Graffiti.

Cornuejols, (1998) G, Trick, M, Quantitative Methods for the Management Sciences 45-760 Course Notes,

Ehigie, B, O, Ehigie, R, I, (2005), Applying Qualitative Methods in Organizations: A Note for Industrial/Organizational Psychologists, The Qualitative Report, 10 ( 3), pp 621-638.

Forth, J, Bewley, H, Bryson, A, (2006) , Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Findings from the 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey, John Economic and Social Research Council Advisory.

Hopkins, W, G, (2000), Quantitative research design, Sportscience 4(1).

Jones, I, (1997), Mixing Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Sports Fan Research, The Qualitative Report, 3,( 4).

Lawler, E, E, (2009), Make Human Capital a Source of Competitive Advantage, Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc.

Owens, L, K, ( 2002), INTRODUCTION TO SURVEY RESEARCH DESIGN, Survey Research Laboratory.

.Ridder , H, Hoon, C, (2008), Qualitative Methods in Research.

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Sekhar, C, S, F, (2007), Human Resource Planning Practices: A Comparative Study of Public and Private Sector, Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc.

Trochim, W, Donnelly, J, P, (2007), The Research Methods Knowledge Base, 3e, Atomic Dog Publishing, USA.

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