Susan: Strategic Human Resource


Susan is currently facing some challenges in their human resource function. Some managers do not focus on people development, prompt feedback, and healthy interactions with their employees. Furthermore, there are challenges when it comes to the culture of control amongst various generations in the organization. Through a critical review of emerging trends in human resources in New South Wales and Australia in general, the paper will give some recommendations on how this fashion retailer can address the challenges in its HR function and hence contribute towards prosperity within the organization.

Critical analysis of the HR function

Performance management challenges

Susan fashion retailers have a rather difficult task that they are dealing with. They need to have a performance management system that can directly affect the success of their organization. Currently, key areas and financial results are examined and corporations, as well as personal goals, are created based on the analysis. It is critical to acknowledge that this is already a step in the right direction for the latter company.

It has realized that aligning performance management with personal goals for the individual is not enough and has therefore proceeded to create organizational goals based on performance review. However, much is yet to be done in order to maximize the benefits of a strong performance management system.

Performance management should not focus on financial aspects alone. Although the human and development manager for Susan has not specified exactly what the “key areas” in the company analysis actually involve, it is reasonable to deduce that these areas simply dwell on the internal elements of the organisation. This kind of approach is a traditional one that could be giving Susan’s competitors an advantage over them.

In order for the company to move forward, it needs to embrace the external environment as well in their performance reviews. This was a concept that was first proposed in the early nineteen nineties when Kaplan and Norton wrote (1992) their book on balanced scorecards. Although this literature was considered a revolution in performance management, most organisations have been reluctant to accept such forward looking ideas and the same can be said of Susan fashion retailer. At the end of the day, this organisation exists to satisfy the needs of its stakeholders. Consequently, it ought to have a multiple stakeholder framework against which it can organise its performance management.

Other organisations in the country and surrounding regions are employing the use of success maps. Success maps are important performance review tools that contain interrelationships between performance and goals. For instance, a success map can have employee satisfaction, financial performance, customer satisfaction, supplier chain coordination as components of either goals or performance. Susan has not shown any sign of using such a tool yet this could be ideal for an organisation within the fashion industry. (Bourne et al, 2003)

Target setting within this company’s performance systems may also be dragging it behind. For instance, the company currently has fixed targets for its respective employees. However, it would be better served if it considered comparative targeting. The retail sector in NSW is quite competitive. This firm has not examined what its competitors are doing or even incorporated some of their standards in their own targets.

By utilising external benchmarks, then affected employees are made to be more engaged in the goings on their company and this definitely makes them more productive or more engaged. Once fixed targets are set as is the case currently employees often get demoralised because they are required to achieve certain gaols even when parameters have changed. Susan is used to making targets that last for twelve months. This may not be such a sustainable way to go owing to the fact that a lot can happen in between those twelve months. Having comparative benchmarking is a better method than this fixed approach because it is likely to maintain employee interest even when the retail sector environment becomes uncompetitive. (Bourne et al, 2003)

Training and education

While the latter organisation may be placing a lot of emphasis on recruitment of employees or store managers, little attention has been given to training. There are several avenues that may be employed for store managers and these include attending conferences and workshops on the retail sector in general and the fashion industry in particular. Alternatively, there are human resource conferences that target the HR managers or in store managers who also carry out HR functions.

The company does not possess a mandatory training program or requirement for its managers and this could be the reason why some of them are not operating at their optimum. Furthermore, there is a serious leadership gap within this organisation in some stores. Leadership developmental programs can be introduced in order to improve such individuals. This can be done through a general approach or by targeting specific areas such as diversity at the workplace, communications and many others. (Mc lane, 2004)

There are two major pathways that the company can employ in deciding what needs to be done in terms of training. It could decide to think of training as a critical method of sealing gaps at the personal levels. If this is the path chosen, then the company ought to have instated a curriculum map where guidance will offered to employers on what kinds of training they need to have done so as to meet their underlying needs. Usually, training at such levels entails intermediate and advanced external and internal programs. On the other hand, the company could choose to consider training in terms of the larger organisational knowledge gaps such that programs are made to deal with large scale organisational imperatives. This company has not adopted either of these pathways and this could be the reason why it is yet to grow that particular sector.

Employment relations challenges

As it has been noted by the development and human resource manager of Susan, several issues are cropping up in terms of the employment relations within this organisation. At the root of this problem lies the fact that Susan fashion retailer is having a difficult time determining the priorities that will ensure maximisation of the human resource function within this organisation. In other words, every company usually has its limitations in terms of the kind of resources that it can employ in any of its key functions. Consequently, some choices need to be made on the types of issues that should be given precedence and those that should not.

In this case, the company has been selecting its priorities in employment relations through a reactive approach rather than a proactive one. Most management in the retail stores across the nation normally determine their priorities through the use of institution or crisis management. As stated by Batson, communication is a key challenge within this company and this could mostly have been brought about by the fact that superiors often wait for situations to occur before they can brief their subordinates.

The latter company has not worked on its feedback system in that little feedback is given to employees thus necessitating the need for a formal performance review system. If foreseeable issues can be determined and addressed by both managers and employees, then this company can go a long way in boosting its employment relations. (Smit, 2006)

Talent management has always been considered a critical aspect of any human resource function. In this case study, progression has not been given a lot of focus yet it is a sure way of ensuring that the human resource talent within the organisation is properly harnessed. It would have been wise for the latter company to have a set time frame in which progressions can be done especially those ones that entail college or university hires. There has been no discussion of succession planning in this company and it may be imperative to look for other ways in which such goals can be properly achieved. Properly staffing the positions prevalent in the company can contribute towards greater output in this respective organisation.

Periodic discussions of positions among store managers are not instated here and analysis of staffing actions has also not been done properly in the latter institution. Other companies in the Australian context often take their time to start with internal members for staffing functions. They often circulate positions available in the company within their local intranets and when no individual is available within to fill them, then they may opt to look outside for them. The same approach can also be adopted by Susan as this would be a great opportunity to improve their system and also that of their members.

Personal development

Currently, Robyn Batson has stated that there are some challenges in the development of the concerned individuals within this organisation. In other words, there may be a need to accept the benefits that can be brought about by continuous innovation and learning. The branch managers have not been informed about this as some of them are quite task based in that they merely look at stocks coming in and the money they are receiving. Balanced scorecard literature indicate that for companies to move ahead, they need to place less emphasis on cost reduction and more on innovation and learning. This need not be based on the individual alone; it needs to be seen as an organisational endeavour that everyone can take part in. (Nadler, 1994)

As it has been stated by Batson, the retail chain is currently struggling with members of the younger generation who frequently keep looking for opportunities elsewhere. If the latter group are not handled properly, then the company could have to deal with a high staff turnover and this may minimise its staffing functions. Members of this generation have not been given opportunities for growth in the company. A number of organisations in New South Wales are adopting such an approach as they often give room for self study initiatives or educational programs. This approach can work for ordinary employees and those in managerial positions. The company has not collaborated with institutions that can offer relevant certification programs especially for young members and this is seriously sidelining them.


Susan should move away from a traditional approach to performance management where the focus is internal. It needs to create success maps and then test those respective success maps by gathering information on its recent performances and then compare it with what it had set out in the success maps. By empirically testing the success maps, the company will have an insightful way of running its operations. Furthermore, it will give the organisation a multidimensional perspective to things. For instance, the company can link employee changes with consumer satisfaction and also link consumer satisfaction with increases in revenue as the case maybe.

The best bet that this company has in attaining success through its performance management system is by totally redefining it. Integration of its goals and its business improvement parameters needs to be embraced so as to have sustainable or long term performance management.

The company needs to have comparative targets in all its retail sectors. Those managers who focus on sales alone need to be advised against doing so because there is so much more to the organisation than just its financial side. Employees can be more productive once they are aware that the expectation of the company towards them is not so rigid and that this can be altered once certain dynamics in the external or internal arena has been introduced. (Bourne et al, 2003)

Managers at Susan should move away from the task based focus. They need to examine simple methods in which they can develop resources and process capabilities that can contribute towards more learning and innovation at the fashion retailer. The managers found in all retail stores of the organisation need to be informed that they contribute towards large scale organisational goals and one way of achieving this is through sound HR strategies. A people based approach rather than a task based one can be an important way of inculcating a culture of learning and development in the company and hence continual growth therein.

Personal development and planning should be improved. Susan needs to set development plans for each and every member of the organisation but it needs to do so under the context of the larger organisational goals and objectives. The firm also needs to ensure that those plans are not done by superiors alone. Involvement of all affected stakeholders can go a long way in making this company a force to reckon with in the fashion industry. A lot of attention should be given to the timeliness of the feedbacks because the latter can be ineffective if they are done at an inappropriate time i.e. when it is too late to complete what the company had set out to do.

This feedback systems need to be arranged and communicated to very member of the organisation. At their own discretion, managers need to select a time of the week that they can dedicate towards such endeavours. For instance, they can arrange for formal discussions with different members when development plans can be made. If some managers worry about time constraints and the interruptions that such changes can make in continuous operations, then they could make such meetings last for a short time and select different days for different categories of employees.

The importance of feedback needs to be made quite clear to all managers within the organisation irrespective of their personalities or their leadership style since such managers are likely to alter their behaviour once they are aware that this is what the company requires of them. Such expectations on personal development should also be communicated when the company carries out training of its store managers. (Towers, 2008).

Development planning for individuals needs to undergo five major steps as the concerned individuals carry them out. First, a vision or mission statement needs to be identified by both the human resource representative as well as the employee undergoing development. This needs to be followed by an identification of the professional roles that an individual longs to carry out as well as the personal ones that person has set for himself. Thereafter, due attention should be given to identification of the business needs for such an organisation. This is because people cannot expect to develop individually. Their growth must occur within the larger organisation context.

The fourth step in carrying out a personal development plan will be making an inventory analysis of all the competencies that will be needed within the organisation. To this end, utmost consideration can then be given to those priorities that will fully benefit the concerned company. Lastly, an action plan can then be created so that employees can fully understand what it expected of them and then carry them out as promptly as possible. (Ulrich, 2007)

In order to correct inefficiencies in leadership, Susan should have a mandatory program for all its store managers such that critical areas in management and human resource can be addressed and improved. It also needs to offer training opportunities to its members through certification programs or by allowing self study initiatives. It should be noted that training and development programs can go a long way in making members of the younger generation more loyal to the concerned company and they also contribute towards lower staff turnover. To achieve this, training budgets must be stretched by the retailer.

Staffing within the company needs to be improved by first implementing a critical HR analysis of actions. This can be done by instating an annual meeting of all the HR management personnel. This meeting should involve a review of talents and positions and how those vacancies were filled. Furthermore, the organisation should ensure that in-house mobility is given precedence so as to minimise staff turnover and also to make the respective company very successful in the future. Although this may not be done predictability since it may all depend on the number of positions available within the firm. Recruitment strategies can be an ample resource for the company to grow together with its personnel. (Wilkinson, 2008)

Training should be such that it involves the business aspect rather than the personal aspect alone. The company needs to carry out an analysis of the knowledge gaps prevalent within its human resource structures and then create training programs that are designed to meet those prevailing gaps. More often than not, this can be achieved through mandatory programs. (Mc lane, 2006)

The respective company CEO has placed a lot of emphasis on engaging with employees and ensuring that they feel as though are indeed part of the organisation. This has been done relatively well by her. However, other superiors also need to be taken on board. In other words, they need to also understand that their duties do not simply entail stock movement and completion of sales. They need to be made aware of wider organisational goals. Since doing so would necessitate a deep level of communication, then a lot of attention should be placed on how this can be achieved. The company needs to take its store managers through communication courses.

At the end of the day, such individuals have messages that they would likely to convey and once this is not done properly then repercussions will follow. Generation X and Generation Y differ in their expectations from their companies. However, if their superiors take the time to understand and engage with them then this can contribute towards greater productivity and hence success.

Generally speaking, Susan can borrow from what other firms in the Australian context are doing with regard to developing their own HR development models. The company needs to focus on four key areas that can serve as a platform for success in the recent as well as the distant future. First it needs to focus on winning. Here, the organisation should be aware of other players in the fashion retail industry and set strategies that continuously guarantee the company breakthrough results through its human resource function. This implies that having the drive to achieve and having stakeholder insights can contribute towards such achievement.

Secondly, the organisation should mobilise its human resources. It can carry this out by instating teamwork, flexibility and speed. This needs to involve having straight talk between its subordinates and its employees. It should also entail a high degree of team leadership so as to ensure that the right thing is done in the right manner. However, after mobilisation has been done, members need to be engaged in the process through momentum sustenance. Here, training, coaching and personal dedication are all critical in making this work. Lastly, the company should inculcate a culture of having passion for the retail fashion industry by offering employees opportunities to learn more about it. (Karen, 2006)


The retail industry has tremendous opportunities for Susan if it can leverage its human resource functions. Problems have been identified in its performance management system, its personal development planning, its training and education as well as its employment relations. Ways in which the company can mitigate such inefficiencies include instating compulsory training programs, teaching communication skills, developing leadership, recruiting from within, engaging employees in the personal development plan and changing their performance management system into a modern one. The latter approach should involve less financial targeting and incorporate all major stakeholders of the corporation.


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Karen, L. (2006). Rhetoric & reality in HRM. London: Palgrave.

Wilkinson, P. (2008). Recruitment practices. Journal of Personnel review 7(8), 34.

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