The Black Box Links Between the Human Resource Management and Organizational Performance

Black box

A Black box is an intermediate process, system, or item that has input and output characteristics. In the management of an organization, a black box can be defined as the system or management step that is utilized to produce an output. The output depends on how the black box is used whether appropriately or not utilized properly. Boxall and Purcell state that firms that need quality management of their human resources, need to think about the black box that comes in between the human resource management and the performance of the organization (2008: 224).

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What is this black box that links the Human Resource Manager and the performance of the organization? Human resource management entails a lot. It involves the leadership styles a human resource manager has, the evolving technology which in every company/organization differs in deployment, the different aspects in marketing operations, finance, and other human resource management operations, and the most important one, management of employees. It is shown in most studies that the performance of an organization depends on the employee management of the company (Gardener et, al., 2001: 4). The black box between human resource management and Organizational Performance is therefore the management of the employees.

Human resource management

Human resource management is the management of the valued assets of the organization through coherent and well-organized step-by-step approaches. The most valued assets in an organization are the employees and other people working to meet the targets of the organization hence the success of the organization. Human resource management has various activities. Human resource management has certain features, these are; administration of personnel, management of employees or manpower, management of the industry, and personnel management.

A human resource manager decides on what number, type, and quality of staffing requirements in an organization he/she manages, decide on whether to get employees to do the staffing work or to higher contractors, recruits, and trains the employees he/she thinks are best for the company or organization, ensures that the management and personnel practices are according to the regulation standards and ensures high performance of the employees.

Other roles of a human resource manager are such as, management of the approach the manager uses on employee benefits and their compensations, the employee records, and policies of personnel. This role of the human resource manager requires the manager to inform the employees on the personnel policies that conform to the regulations.

Organizational Performance

The performance of an organization is the outcome of the various works of organizational management. It is the measure of the output obtained as compared to the targets the organization had set to meet. Performance can be negative or positive depending on the results obtained from the measure. The negative performance of the organization is when the organizational results give a negative output to the intended output while positive performance means the organization has met the targets and is probably doing better than that.

The work processes that determine organizational performance include the corporate culture and image of the organization, the work process, the policies, the teamwork in interaction and communication, the environment available for the support of creativity and innovation, and organizational loyalty. Organizational performance can also be influenced by human factors, either positively or negatively.

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The performance of an organization depends on the approach given to it. There are two ways in which the performance of an organization can be managed, the internal approach and the external approach. The internal approach entails approaching the performance of an organization from the cultural perspective, while the external approach involves considering the brand of the organization.

Organization’s internal culture

The internal culture of an organization involves the practices of the organization leaders, the employees, and the rules guiding the employees at work. These organizational values include attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions. Others are such as the manner in which the employees dress, the manner in which the resource manager communicates with the organizational members, how the organization trains the employees, the manner in which complaints are forwarded to the leaders, and the type of culture generally.

The external Brand of the organization is driven by the views the customers have regarding the organization and the perception of the organization from the outside world too. The organizational performance based on this approach involves the relationship with the organization or company or the products and services. It is though important to recognize that human resource management is the key to good performance in high-ranking organizations.

Black Box’ Links Between a Firm’s Human Resource Strategy and its Performance

It has been shown that the performance of the organization is dependent on the employees of that organization among other important values. The person responsible for the management of the employees is the human resource manager. It is appropriate for a human resource manager to select an appropriate model for the management of the organization or company. Companies are set up for different purposes and have different structures. Management of an organization requires a manager to know the structure and culture of an organization. A human resource manager has therefore to know the cultures of an organization, the structure, and the model appropriate for managing the organization including the employees, to ensure good performance of the company or organization (Johnson et al.2001:3).

There are several models of performance that a human resource manager can use to manage and ensure his roles are performed to perfection. The structure, culture, and the organizational staff dictate the kind of model a human resource manager should use. In this discussion, uncovering the black box will be shown using the fundamental model of performance. This model shows that the performance of an organization requires the integration of ability, motivation, and opportunity (Boxall and Purcell 2003: 20).

Fundamental Performance Model

This model indicates that the role of a human resource manager is to ensure the people have the ability to perform, they are motivated, and given the opportunity to perform. According to Purcell, good performance of an organization needs the people of the organization to have the ability to perform the duties, which means have to have the skills required in the various departments of the organization to ensure the organizational targets are met, they have to be motivated, a role left to the human resource manager, and they have to be given the opportunity to exercise the various skill that they have. This is referred to as the AMO (2003: 5).

This model of enhancing performance requires policies to be implemented. It is the response of the employees to these policies that determine the performance of the organization. Response to the policies entails employees using discretionary behavior. Discretionary behavior is the degree of choice a person has on how to do the job or task assigned, when to do it, and at what speed. People have discretion that helps them do their jobs at a given speed of choice and ensures it is done.

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This kind of behavior is very important in the relationship between the human resource manager and the employee. The employer is not able to measure the innovative and productive behavior and even the employee effort put in the job, the employer must rely on the employee for appropriate steps to ensure that there is a good performance in the long run.

As indicated in Purcell’s description in unlocking the black box, the employee is the one that handles the routine jobs and therefore knows what steps he/she needs to make sure that the job is done. The discretion behavior allows the employee to conduct his/her routine tasks however much complex the tasks may be (2003). The human resource manager should be ready to appreciate this employee’s effort since there is a danger in not doing so.

Employees can lose discretion behavior and instead develop a bad attitude towards work so that no work is done efficiently. This is turned to the productivity of the organization hence reducing the performance of the company. Managing the workforce, showing some concern to the employees, and recognizing their importance is a major factor in the performance of the organization. Whatever the organization may try to with all the important assets, it all lies in the employees’ discretion behavior for output.

How the Job Performance is improved

Organizations always aim at improved performance. The Human resource managers would always want the right people to perform the staff requirements of the organization. The manager can employ the right people with the right skills but fail to make an improved performance out of it. Improving an organization’s performance involves getting the right people for the right jobs as a first step and ensuring a favorable environment is provided for them to work towards performance improvement.

Purcell gives the various steps needed to accomplish performance improvement. He recognizes that the employees have the discretion behavior but indicates that this behavior has to be made use of. The human resource managers have to encourage the employees to make sure that their discretion behavior is utilized in the improvement of the organization’s performance. There is a theory that explains how to improve performance in an organization. This theory is based on the AMO (2003:6).

The A (Ability) shows that the people have the skills, will apply for the jobs to be selected for the jobs, be ready to be recruited by the organization or company, and learn new behaviors. The M (Motivation) shows that the employees can be motivated by recognizing their efforts and the contribution they make to the company using their skills. The O (Opportunity) indicates that employees will work beyond the required targets, give high-quality customer service, and would want to be involved in problem-solving issues and other important organizational developments if given a chance to.

It indicates that the employees need the chance to participate in organizational development issues apart from using their skills to contribute to the efforts of the organization. The opportunity should be given to the employees to participate in the organizational efforts both at the work level and at the organizational level (Purcell (2003: 6)

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Basic knowledge about employee management and discretion behavior is therefore important. Human resource managers, who are the employers, should have the basic knowledge about the employee as well as the AMO theory to be able to know that the right skill alone cannot make improvements in the performance. This kind of information is very important since the employer is made aware of the employee management requirements that make the employees motivated and work towards the success of the organization.

Purcell writes that in order to meet the survival minimum standards, an employer (human resource manager) has to have the policies on Ability, Motivation, and Opportunity in their approach to people management (AMO) (2003:6).

The above black box link between the human resource management and the performance of an organization paper defines what a black box is in relation to management, the human resource management, and the roles of a human resource manager and organizational performance. This paper further explains the relationship between the human resource manager and the organization’s performance by indicating the specific link between them. It further explains how employee behavior is influential in organizational output by explaining the performance improvement requirements.

The empirical evidence has shown that without the good management of organizational assets, especially the workforce and their discretion behavior, the performance of the organization may not be effective. Several studies have shown that employee discretion behavior is the connection between the employer and organizational performance. In Purcell’s topic of unlocking the black box, he indicates that discretionary behavior affects the performance of an organization if the employee is not well managed (Purcell 2003:5). Quality human resource management enhancement needs to think critically about the links between the Human resource management and the Firm’s put (Boxall and Purcell 2008: 224).


Box all, P. and Purcell, J., 2008, Strategy and Human Resource Management, America, Palgrave Macmillan.

Gardner, M. T., Movnihan, L. N., Park, J. H., and Wright, P. M., 2001, Unlocking the Black Box, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies, Cornell University.

Hendry, C.,1995, Human Resource Management, An Employment Approach, London, Butterworth-Heinemann.

Johnson, M., Redmon, W. K., and Mawhinney, T. C., 2006, Organizational Performance Book, Analysis of Behavior and Management, New York, Haworth Press.

Mathis, R. L., and Jackson, H. J., 2006, Management of the Human Resource, Thomson South-Western.

Purcell, J., 2003, The Link Between People and Performance, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. CIPD Publishing.

Stiffler, M. A, 2006, How to Create an Organization-Driven Organization, America, John Wiley & Sons.

Whiddett, S., Hollyforde, S., 2003, Individual and Organizational Performance, London, CIPD Publishing.

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