Human Resource Management

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Discussion Board Assignment 1:
Answer the followin” rel=”nofollow”>ing question: Assume the position of a HR consultant hired to assess the approach toward HR
management taken by a client organisation. What factors might you evaluate in” rel=”nofollow”>in determin” rel=”nofollow”>inin” rel=”nofollow”>ing whether an organisation uses
a traditional (transactional) or strategic approach to managin” rel=”nofollow”>ing its HR?
Discussion Board Assignment 2:
Answer the followin” rel=”nofollow”>ing question: Why is a competitive advantage based on heavy in” rel=”nofollow”>investment in” rel=”nofollow”>in human assets more
sustain” rel=”nofollow”>inable than in” rel=”nofollow”>investments in” rel=”nofollow”>in other types of assets?
Discussion Board Assignment 3:
In Module 5, read the case study titled ‘The IT firm and the performance appraisal system’ and answer the question at
the end of the case study.
Discussion Board Assignment 4:
In Module 6, read the case study titled ‘Sue upsets the applecart’ and answer the questions at the end of the case study.
The word limit for each Discussion Board Assignment is 500 words. You must strictly adhere to the word limit
otherwise a penalty will be applied. For this assignment you do not have to provide in” rel=”nofollow”>in-text citations. However, you must
provide a list of books and articles consulted that complies with ECU referencin” rel=”nofollow”>ing guidelin” rel=”nofollow”>ines at the end of each answer.
Criteria that will be used to assess each answer are shown below.

Case study: Module 6
Sue upsets the applecart
The partners of a small accountancy firm have just made a radical new appoin” rel=”nofollow”>intment: the
firm’s first HR manager. The firm, which has 9 partners, has grown to 150 employees. Now,
the partners feel, their people management activities need more professional support. They
have always prided themselves on runnin” rel=”nofollow”>ing a friendly, carin” rel=”nofollow”>ing style of staff management but
other firms like them, with around 100 to 300 staff, typically appoin” rel=”nofollow”>int HR specialists.
Accountancy might seem to be about numbers but they know that runnin” rel=”nofollow”>ing an accountin” rel=”nofollow”>ing
firm is actually a people busin” rel=”nofollow”>iness. It depends on recruitin” rel=”nofollow”>ing good staff, train” rel=”nofollow”>inin” rel=”nofollow”>ing them in” rel=”nofollow”>in the
key practices of professional accountancy, payin” rel=”nofollow”>ing as well as you can (but not over the top),
doin” rel=”nofollow”>ing your best to hang on to high performers, and so on. Every year, the partners
collectively monitor each other’s profit performance and engage in” rel=”nofollow”>in the soul-searchin” rel=”nofollow”>ing
process of decidin” rel=”nofollow”>ing who, if anyone, will be offered the ultimate accolade of bein” rel=”nofollow”>ing in” rel=”nofollow”>invited to
join” rel=”nofollow”>in them in” rel=”nofollow”>in partnership. The firm is successful and bein” rel=”nofollow”>ing a partner is hard work but very
rewardin” rel=”nofollow”>ing.
The new HR manager has actually arrived from the public sector but from no ordin” rel=”nofollow”>inary part:
from an elite department within” rel=”nofollow”>in it. This is a branch of government which only recruits
people with first-class honours degrees from the top universities and which in” rel=”nofollow”>invests heavily
in” rel=”nofollow”>in their ongoin” rel=”nofollow”>ing development. The department, which will remain” rel=”nofollow”>in nameless, is not one of
the main” rel=”nofollow”>instream parts of the public service, where budgets are always under pressure, but a
small, select cadre dealin” rel=”nofollow”>ing with the crème de la crème, much as the French do in” rel=”nofollow”>in the higher
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echelons of their public service. Its HR policies are well established, well resourced and well
in” rel=”nofollow”>insulated from other branches of government.
The new HR manager, Sue, was an HR advisor there and, like everybody else, has a firstclass
degree from an elite university and, in” rel=”nofollow”>in her case, a flair with foreign languages. Even
though she had no private sector experience, she told the partners she was keen to get in” rel=”nofollow”>into
private-sector HR work and develop her career further on this basis. She feels more attracted
to the private sector than the public, despite the excellent conditions she enjoyed in” rel=”nofollow”>in the elite
unit. She clearly sees herself as risin” rel=”nofollow”>ing, in” rel=”nofollow”>in due course, to a position as HR Director in” rel=”nofollow”>in a top-
100 company. The partners responded warmly to this and decided to recruit her because
they considered her experience in” rel=”nofollow”>in the management of professionals would have carry-over
value to their firm.
Thin” rel=”nofollow”>ings went well for the first three months. Sue immediately threw herself in” rel=”nofollow”>into helpin” rel=”nofollow”>ing the
firm with its annual recruitment of new accountin” rel=”nofollow”>ing graduates. This greatly relieved the
managin” rel=”nofollow”>ing partner and his PA, who had previously handled this work themselves and could
now rely on someone to handle campus liaison, presentation of the firm at recruitment fairs,
and in” rel=”nofollow”>initial screenin” rel=”nofollow”>ing of candidates to create a set of ‘good possibles’ that the partners could
review.
Now, however, the partners are worried. Their staff have been comin” rel=”nofollow”>ing to them to discuss
what they (the partners) consider to be unrealistic expectations for personal development.
From these conversations, they discern that Sue has been talkin” rel=”nofollow”>ing freely with staff about the
career development programme where she worked previously. There, it transpires, staff
were encouraged to enrol in” rel=”nofollow”>in postgraduate degrees at the employer’s expense (all fees paid)
and were, in” rel=”nofollow”>in fact, allowed plenty of paid time off to attend classes and also to prepare for
exams. This largesse was available after only one year with the department. Sue was talkin” rel=”nofollow”>ing
freely about this personal development policy as an HR ‘best practice’ and staff were gettin” rel=”nofollow”>ing
the idea from her that the firm should adopt more generous HR policies and become an
‘employer of choice’ in” rel=”nofollow”>in the in” rel=”nofollow”>industry.
They decided to call Sue in” rel=”nofollow”>in for a meetin” rel=”nofollow”>ing to hear her views on HR issues in” rel=”nofollow”>in the firm. Sue
started by talkin” rel=”nofollow”>ing about ways of improvin” rel=”nofollow”>ing their employee selection practices through some
tests to assess cognitive ability rather than relyin” rel=”nofollow”>ing on university grades and a more formal
method of reference checkin” rel=”nofollow”>ing for experienced job hires. All this sounded good and the
conversation ran along in” rel=”nofollow”>in a non-threatenin” rel=”nofollow”>ing way for some time. Then, Sam, the managin” rel=”nofollow”>ing
partner, decided to grasp the nettle:
I thin” rel=”nofollow”>ink I speak for the partners when I say this is all very good, Sue. We like your ideas on how to
make this firm a more effective recruiter and I know I’ve benefited already from your assistance with
this year’s graduate recruitment. However, somethin” rel=”nofollow”>ing has changed in” rel=”nofollow”>in the last 3 months that we are
not so sure about. Staff have been comin” rel=”nofollow”>ing to partners with the idea that the firm should pay for
postgraduate study for them and give them generous time off for study. We’ve never done this sort of
thin” rel=”nofollow”>ing before and, more importantly, we try not to raise these sorts of expectations. After all,
everythin” rel=”nofollow”>ing we do has to be charged to clients and, as we explain” rel=”nofollow”>ined to you at your recruitment, we’re
not a first-tier accountancy firm… We’re in” rel=”nofollow”>in a tier of small and mid-size firms where we try to pay
well relative to our competitors and can look after people, up to a poin” rel=”nofollow”>int. People often come to us
because they don’t want to work in” rel=”nofollow”>in a huge firm where nobody takes any notice of them. They’re not
the A students but they are good B students who can do the job well enough. We have a personal
touch with our people. When Jayne, who has worked for our tax section for 28 years, had a stress
breakdown last year when her husband died suddenly, we gave her 3 months of paid leave to help her

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recover. That’s the sort of thin” rel=”nofollow”>ing we do but we’re never goin” rel=”nofollow”>ing to be big spenders on further education
for new staff. There’s always goin” rel=”nofollow”>ing to be a high rate of attrition among new accountin” rel=”nofollow”>ing graduates. At
least half of them will leave us after 3 years, that’s the reality. We see their best development as takin” rel=”nofollow”>ing
place through the experience we give them, not through more education …
Sue thought for a while and then responded:
Well, I thin” rel=”nofollow”>ink you are in” rel=”nofollow”>in the game of managin” rel=”nofollow”>ing professionals and professionals have these sorts of
expectations these days. I thin” rel=”nofollow”>ink you have to change or … die. Yes, I thin” rel=”nofollow”>ink it’s as serious as that: you
need to evolve beyond a small-firm mentality. Any HR professional will tell you the same thin” rel=”nofollow”>ing. How
do you expect to become more successful if you don’t embrace best practice?
At this poin” rel=”nofollow”>int, another senior partner, Joe, chipped in” rel=”nofollow”>in:
But we are successful! Your view is simply not commercial. It’s not somethin” rel=”nofollow”>ing accountin” rel=”nofollow”>ing firms
operatin” rel=”nofollow”>ing in” rel=”nofollow”>in the private sector can take seriously. If one size fits all in” rel=”nofollow”>in ‘HR’, then I say, ‘HR be
damned’.
This brought a nervous laugh or two and, as it was now after 6pm, Sam, sensin” rel=”nofollow”>ing the need to
de-stress the situation, suggested they adjourn to the pub. Perhaps they might be able to
take the matter further there, in” rel=”nofollow”>in a more relaxed vein” rel=”nofollow”>in ….
Questions
1. How does this case illustrate the best-practice and best-fit perspectives of HRM?
2. What should Sue have done differently?
3. What should the partners have done differently?
Source: Boxall, P. & Purcell, J. (2011). Strategy and human resource management (3rd ed.).
Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Review and Discussion Questions:
1. Summarise the debate between the best-fit and best-practice schools.
2. What are criticisms of the best-practice approach to HRM?
3. What are limitations of the best-fit approach to HRM?
4. If you were an HR director charged with developin” rel=”nofollow”>ing an HR strategy for your
organisation, would you be considerin” rel=”nofollow”>ing a universalist or contin” rel=”nofollow”>ingent approach to
designin” rel=”nofollow”>ing the HR system, and why?
contextual variables that in” rel=”nofollow”>influence HR strategy?
5. What do you thin” rel=”nofollow”>ink are the key contextual variables that in” rel=”nofollow”>influence HR strategy?
Which are the most important and why?

Case study Module 5
The IT firm and the performance appraisal system
The company is an in” rel=”nofollow”>innovative IT service busin” rel=”nofollow”>iness, providin” rel=”nofollow”>ing consultin” rel=”nofollow”>ing and software
applications to in” rel=”nofollow”>insurance companies. It has 700 employees, all of whom are employed on
in” rel=”nofollow”>individual employment contracts. If its historical rate of growth contin” rel=”nofollow”>inues, it expects to have
1000 staff fairly shortly. The firm has expanded very quickly in” rel=”nofollow”>in its specialist segment of the
in” rel=”nofollow”>industry and senior management realises its HR policies have not kept pace. Given the
company’s desire to professionalise all parts of the busin” rel=”nofollow”>iness, two years ago, Angus, the CEO,
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appoin” rel=”nofollow”>inted an HR Director, Glenys. Sin” rel=”nofollow”>ince then, she has built a small HR department of 3
staff.
Glenys is a member of the senior management team, which also in” rel=”nofollow”>includes Angus and five
other senior managers: three in” rel=”nofollow”>in charge of service divisions, one in” rel=”nofollow”>in charge of the company’s
own in” rel=”nofollow”>information systems and one the fin” rel=”nofollow”>inancial controller. All have lower level managers
reportin” rel=”nofollow”>ing to them, with the greatest number of middle managers and team leaders (first-lin” rel=”nofollow”>ine
managers) in” rel=”nofollow”>in the operatin” rel=”nofollow”>ing divisions.
With Angus’s full support, one of Glenys’s first acts, 21 months ago, was to hire a firm of HR
consultants to help the company develop a good performance appraisal (PA) system, one
which would help managers to set performance objectives, formalise the process for makin” rel=”nofollow”>ing
merit-based pay recommendations, and foster employee development. Senior management,
led by Glenys, worked with the consultants on the design of the system. Angus felt he could
leave it to the members of his senior management team to speak up if they thought anythin” rel=”nofollow”>ing
was unwise in” rel=”nofollow”>in the design and, besides, he thought, “I’ve now got a highly paid HR Director
and an HR department and they’re the experts on this stuff.”
The new PA system is based on settin” rel=”nofollow”>ing in” rel=”nofollow”>individual performance objectives on an annual basis
(a management-by-objectives (‘MBO’) system). It in” rel=”nofollow”>involves staff participation in” rel=”nofollow”>in settin” rel=”nofollow”>ing these
goals and requires managers to keep an eye on how goals are goin” rel=”nofollow”>ing every three months in” rel=”nofollow”>in
case some goals need to change or employees need coachin” rel=”nofollow”>ing. At the end of the fin” rel=”nofollow”>inancial
year, the system requires managers to meet with each of their team members to discuss
achievement again” rel=”nofollow”>inst planned goals. It uses a five-poin” rel=”nofollow”>int ratin” rel=”nofollow”>ing scale to assess overall
achievement again” rel=”nofollow”>inst these objectives, anchored as follows:
1 2 3 4 5
Unacceptable Margin” rel=”nofollow”>inal Competent Commendable Outstandin” rel=”nofollow”>ing
The performance appraisal system is not simply about performance issues, however. Once
the performance ratin” rel=”nofollow”>ing has been discussed, it then moves in” rel=”nofollow”>into a section on employee
development in” rel=”nofollow”>in which the manager is supposed to discuss employee knowledge and skills
and agree a development plan, which may in” rel=”nofollow”>include train” rel=”nofollow”>inin” rel=”nofollow”>ing recommendations.
All the company’s managers were put through 2 days of appraiser train” rel=”nofollow”>inin” rel=”nofollow”>ing. This was
designed to help them deal with such issues as ‘rater bias’ and how to handle difficult
appraisal in” rel=”nofollow”>interviews. After the train” rel=”nofollow”>inin” rel=”nofollow”>ing was complete, the consultants declared the system
in” rel=”nofollow”>installed’ and departed. The CEO, Angus, then told managers to go ahead and set objectives
with each team member. This was done, not without some difficulty, but it happened. Then,
after 12 months, appraisal in” rel=”nofollow”>interviews were carried out, with Glenys and a member of her
staff helpin” rel=”nofollow”>ing to ensure this happened. Managers found the system’s requirements somewhat
laborious but at least the forms were on-lin” rel=”nofollow”>ine and the recommendations on pay and train” rel=”nofollow”>inin” rel=”nofollow”>ing
could be sent directly to the company’s HR department that way. Some four months ago,
Glenys in” rel=”nofollow”>informed Angus that all the recommendations had arrived.
Unfortunately, no merit pay in” rel=”nofollow”>increases have emerged yet and disquiet is bubblin” rel=”nofollow”>ing up among
the staff. A round of post-in” rel=”nofollow”>installation focus groups, comprised of randomly selected team
leaders and staff members, has just been conducted by the HR consultants who in” rel=”nofollow”>installed the
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system. They show that employees are losin” rel=”nofollow”>ing confidence that anythin” rel=”nofollow”>ing positive will come
out of the new PA system. The sort of comments people have been makin” rel=”nofollow”>ing in” rel=”nofollow”>include the
followin” rel=”nofollow”>ing:
The idea of rewardin” rel=”nofollow”>ing our stars is good but HR makes it all too complicated!
Look, I’m prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt but the whole thin” rel=”nofollow”>ing has taken too
long. Why are they not makin” rel=”nofollow”>ing any decisions?
Well, in” rel=”nofollow”>in my view, thin” rel=”nofollow”>ings were better before there were any ‘high-powered’ HR procedures in” rel=”nofollow”>in
the company. My manager had more pull then and could get his boss to act quickly on a pay
in” rel=”nofollow”>increase. There was no form fillin” rel=”nofollow”>ing and people were gung-ho and pretty loyal for this
in” rel=”nofollow”>industry.
Several of the best performin” rel=”nofollow”>ing staff have resigned in” rel=”nofollow”>in the last month, movin” rel=”nofollow”>ing for better pay
and conditions elsewhere. There is currently a very healthy labour market for talented
programmers.
Part of the delay relates to a problem with the pattern of appraisal ratin” rel=”nofollow”>ings across
departments. Managers in” rel=”nofollow”>in Division X, the largest service department (where problematic
employee turnover is occurrin” rel=”nofollow”>ing), have rated 60% of their staff as outstandin” rel=”nofollow”>ing (five on the
scale) while most other managers in” rel=”nofollow”>in the company have given an average ratin” rel=”nofollow”>ing of (close to)
4 with around 20% in” rel=”nofollow”>in the outstandin” rel=”nofollow”>ing category. Glenys is not at all happy with Division X.
Along with the pay recommendations, she has reviewed the train” rel=”nofollow”>inin” rel=”nofollow”>ing recommendations from
Division X: these actually suggest that a lot of fairly expensive train” rel=”nofollow”>inin” rel=”nofollow”>ing and development
activity is needed for most staff there. This is hardly consistent with the view that 60% of the
staff are at level 5 in” rel=”nofollow”>in terms of job performance. What are Division X’s managers up to?
Just to make matters worse, the busin” rel=”nofollow”>iness environment in” rel=”nofollow”>in the in” rel=”nofollow”>insurance in” rel=”nofollow”>industry has
deteriorated dramatically in” rel=”nofollow”>in the last 3 months (due to a strin” rel=”nofollow”>ing of adverse weather events)
and this is expected to make in” rel=”nofollow”>insurance companies less likely to commission new software
projects. There is now a board-driven directive to review costs in” rel=”nofollow”>in all departments. Angus,
who has enjoyed runnin” rel=”nofollow”>ing a high-growth company, now fin” rel=”nofollow”>inds himself in” rel=”nofollow”>in the position of
havin” rel=”nofollow”>ing to manage a different context altogether. He has to ask Glenys to meet with him and
the rest of the senior management team to review all recommendations for salary in” rel=”nofollow”>increases.
Despite lower level managers havin” rel=”nofollow”>ing told staff that their performance is commendable or
outstandin” rel=”nofollow”>ing (and, in” rel=”nofollow”>in Division X, that 60% are outstandin” rel=”nofollow”>ing), he makes it clear to her that any
pay in” rel=”nofollow”>increases will now have to be very carefully handled and will not proceed without his
personal approval.
Question:
Analyse this case study usin” rel=”nofollow”>ing the Wright and Nishii (2013) HRM-performance model.
Source: Boxall, P. & Purcell, J. (2011). Strategy and human resource management (3rd ed.).
Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
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Review Questions:
1. Explain” rel=”nofollow”>in the meanin” rel=”nofollow”>ing of ‘HR system’.
2. Discuss the critical role of lin” rel=”nofollow”>ine managers in” rel=”nofollow”>in the HRM-performance lin” rel=”nofollow”>ink.
3. Firms that want to enhance the quality of their HRM need to thin” rel=”nofollow”>ink carefully about the

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