Strategic human resource management (SHRM) is a calculated step towards the administration of the human resource capital of an organization. Making a comparison with technical human resource management, strategic human resource management is viewed as a recent idea, irrespective of its vast improvement in the last couple of decades. Though scholars are yet to agree on a single definition of strategic human resource management, all scholars seem to agree on its function in the survival and success of an organization, which some of the functions have been outlined to include planning and execution of constant policies. The most general human resource management functions are the recruitment of workers, evaluation of the individual performance of the workers, allocation of benefits, etc. The alignment of human resource management functions and the strategy of the business organization enhance the success and efficient functioning of the organization.
In the past century, the development of the ability to think strategically has been the priority of most business leaders. A lot of books have been written and researches embarked upon; this is indicative of the importance of the subject of strategy to business organizations. In the present-day business environment, organizations are always working hard to develop and implement efficient strategic management policies to enhance their organizational growth and remain a force to reckon with in the industry. Strategic human resource management is of great importance to every organization today because of the speedily varying present-day business environment.
The Strategy concepts
The wide arrays of materials on strategic human resource management have not helped in carving out a single definition as to what strategic human resource is. According to Blyton &Turnbull (1992) “strategic management is a systematic approach to position and relate the firm to its environment in a way which will ensure its continued success and makes it secured from surprises”. Boxall & Purcell (2002) differed that “strategic management is basically concerned with setting the organization headline aims; choosing the most suitable goals for such aims and achieving both over time”. Many other scholars of strategic human resource management have given various definitions of the subject, but there has been no agreement on a single definition that covers every aspect of strategic human resource management. Hamel (1998) also added to this debate by saying that “Anyone who claims to be a strategist should be intensely embarrassed by the fact that the strategy industry doesn’t have a theory of strategy creation” (Hamel, 1998, p. 10).
There are several approaches to strategy. It is important that strategists and business leaders, in general, understand or have a good idea of all the approaches that are utilized in strategic planning to enhance their strategic thought process. Whinttington, one of the scholars of strategic human resource management, grouped strategy into four main general approaches. The first generic approach according to Whinttington is classical; the classical approach is a premeditated estimation that is put in place to gain long-term benefit. This approach many scholars argue is not valid; their argument is based on the fact that the approach is not applicable in rapidly changing environments.
The second important approach to strategy is the evolutionary approach. The approach is based on the idea that business organizations don’t rise above the competition by separated calculations, but by a steady battle to stay alive. What the evolutionary approach is trying to preach is that effective strategies are a result of fate or based on natural selection. Some believe the implication of this is that the market is the deciding factor and not the strategic brains of policymakers. Another argument is also stimulated in this regard as others say the approach stresses the battle to live or survive and in another vein contradicts the making of profits; which is the basic aim of establishing a business organization (Blyton &Turnbull, 1992).
The third strategic approach is not far from the evolutionary approach. It is referred to as the processual approach. The approach does not agree with future planning as an effective strategy, and at the same time queries the determination of the profit an organization stands to make to market forces. The approach sees the market as a bundle of confusion and lacks the merit to determine organizational profit maximization. The approach simply believes that strategy is a learning and correction-making process. The approach tends to look at the complex problem of strategy in a very simple way, with the view that the environment is imperfect.
The last strategic approach, which is the systematic approach, adopts the standpoint of a relativist. The systematic approach holds that a business organization has the capability of planning and implementing its plans efficiently. This approach is an optimistic approach that believes in the ability of individuals to take cogent moves. Again, the approach believes that strategies should be sociologically proficient to appreciate the organization’s environment. The implication of this is that there should be no division between economic functions and social factors for an organization to succeed.
The importance of the Knowledge of Different Strategy Approaches
The most important thing about the strategic approaches is that they provide strategists and business leaders with an idea – the motivation behind the organizations’ dream – and the strategies those in authority need to implement. Almost all strategists agree that strategic human resource management has to do with evaluation, making of good choices, execution, and response from the implementation. The implication of this in understanding strategic human resource management is that before any strategy is identified for an organization, it will be important that such an organization already has in existence a well-defined mission statement. The mission statement will then be utilized as a tool in strategizing organizational goals.
The Concept of Fit
The concept of fit that is currently been researched is anchored on a model that has its origin in Darwin’s theory of evolution. Cuizon, (2009) in one of his write-ups utilized the concept of natural selection in throwing light on alterations in social organizations. His proposal emphasized that the nature of the organization must fit their environmental factors if they are to stay alive (Mintzberg et al, 1998). The study of Fit is very vital in almost all branches of management. The extensive research in the area of strategic human resource management is indicative of the importance of the topic in this area of management.
The similarity or ‘fit’ between human resource practices and organizational strategy, has been a point of importance in studies on strategic human resources management. It is common sense to melding the human resource activities into the organizational strategy. Strategic human resource management highlights the building of the organization’s ability to react to the external environment via an effective utilization of human capital. Since organizational strategy is an indication of the organization’s response to outside alterations, an effective and efficient human capital that is well-matched with the organizational strategy will be an inducement to the actualization of the organizational goals.
Types of Fit
As a basic trait of strategic human resource management, fits is an indication of the use of human resources to enhance the actualization of organizational goals. According to Legge (2005) fit is “… the pattern of planned human resource deployments and activities intended to enable the firm to achieve its goal”. Researchers on this subject suggest that two different types of fit exist: the horizontal fit, which is the similarity existing between human resource management practices. The second type of fit is the vertical fit, which has to do with the alignment of the organizational strategies with human resource management activities (Cuizon, 2009). The vertical fit is seen as an important tool that can be utilized in the achievements of organizational objectives through the deliberate alignment of human resource practices and the organizational goals (Brightman et al, 1999).
Limitations of the Fits Model
Fit as an ideal has been researched from various angles in the area of strategic management. For instance, schools of thought basing their studies on the makeup of strategy, try to identify strategic actions that will be utilized in aligning an organizational strategy with environmental elements (French, 2009). In another vein, those that base their findings on the process of building an organization’s strategy, see organizational strategy as a means of aligning an establishment and ecological factors continuingly (Segal-Horn, 1998).
Irrespective of the importance of Fit as a topic in different management fields, the studies on fits model in strategic human resource management is still weak. Mintzberg (1990) thinks that just in the contingency theories alone the model has more than three conceptual definitions between the nature of n organization and their various environmental factors and every one of these meanings of what the concept implies changes the real essence of the intent of the whole concept. After a few years (Mabey et al, 1998) also stated that the model is unclear since there is no correlation between the theoretical and the practical formulation which is the only base on which the theory can effectively be tested. One other great limitation of the model is that most of the studies on the fit model are centered on organizational performance as the only outcome of the model. Salaman (1992) added that though the performance of an organization is important it shouldn’t be the only result of fit as a model.
The two basic and most recognizable shortcomings of the model are the inability of researchers to measure the theories that are anchored on fit to enhance their evaluation of the model and subsequent testing of the findings using statistical methods. The second of which is organizational performance as the only outcome of strategic fit (Blyton &Turnbull, 1992).
In the face of numerous approaches to strategy, it will be thus reasonable to merge individual approaches to make the strategic practice easy to comprehend. Meanwhile, before the unification of these approaches’ strategists need to identify those theories that are likely to make an impact in their unique circumstances and apply them to enhance the growth and survival of their respective business organizations. The management of business organizations needs to note that strategy will not guarantee the success of their organization, what will determine whether an organization will thrive or not is the ability of the organization to utilize human resources efficiently in executing organizational strategies.
The fits model has been researched from various angles in the area of strategic management. For instance, schools of thought basing their studies on the makeup of strategy or the form of the strategy, try to identify strategic actions or activities that will be utilized in aligning an organizational strategy with environmental elements. In another vein, those that base their findings on the process of building an organization’s strategy, see organizational strategy as a means of aligning an establishment and ecological factors continuingly. Thus, from the above analysis of the various aspects of strategic human resource management, it can be deduced that every organization that will survive the ever-increasing competitive business environment must align its human resource capital with its organizational goals.
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