Example research essay topic: Managing Your Most Important Resource; Human Resources – 1,983 words

In the business world today there is a constant
pressure to achieve ever-higher standards of
performance. There is little or no room for
complacency in the global market. Companies are
always in search of getting more for less. As a
result of this the stress factor has gone up in
many companies. Downsizing and restructuring is
just a couple of expressions that employees and
their representatives have come up with as the
employees try to improve the company by reducing
staff costs. (Mabey 1998) Yet we have seen the
development of a management philosophy that can be
summarized in the phrase our people are our
greatest advantage.

Human resource management is
an example of that philosophy. And arguably, human
resource management has become the leading theory
to people management in English-speaking
countries. But it is important to state that human
resource management has not come out of nowhere,
it has taken ideas from many areas. And a lot of
literature has been written about the topic,
showing how you best can manage your employees.
But throughout the twentieth century,
practitioners and academics have searched for
theories that can help them manage people at work.
A lot of things happen in a business that both
influence the employees and the employer alike for
instance: new equipment must be bought, old
procedures are replaced with new, staff must be
reorganised, retained or dismissed. And this shows
that workers and managers must deal with events
that need fresh thinking. (Price 1997) Many
sociologists, psychologists and management
practitioners have tried to work out theories that
can help companies in developing their human
resource management.

They have given ideas in
areas like people management such as recruitment
and selection, team building and organizational
design. These theories have been a part of the
development of human resource management. The most
significant theories are: Scientific management:
detailed task specifications and selection of the
‘best man’ for the job. It was the function of
managers to think – workers were expected to do
exactly as they were told. Fordism: a philosophy
of production based on the continuous assembly
line. Human relations: In the 1920s and 30s
researchers in the USA demonstrated that work
performance and motivation did not depend simply
on pay and discipline.

People worked for many
other reasons. Management by objectives: The
workers could clarify and set their own targets. Strategic management: This is about directing
people to achieve strategic objectives so that
individual goals are tied to the business needs of
the whole organization. These concepts have had a
strong influence on managers and their human
resource management. But like many other things
ideas come and go. And as we all understand some
of the theories that are shown above are not used
any more.

There are scientific management and
fordism. But many people say that the management
concept today will not survive long before being
taken over by the next one. But there is one thing
that all theories do agree on whether they are 5
or 20 years old: the most successful organizations
are those that can effectively use their human
resources. (www.hrmguide.co.uk) For many years has
managers in the west have had to change rapidly,
expected to deliver better and better results for
their business by whatever means they could
muster. Their own career and salary was dependent
on how well the business went. And many have been
fired for not doing it good enough and for not
reaching quickly enough when there were changes in
the market.

This is a figure that shows some of
the aspects that a leader must take care of and
make work in an organization. (www.hrmguide.co.uk)
And with the need to be a good manager and at the
same time have a fear of failure, managers have
come up with many ideas for the business to
survive. One of these is perhaps the one that has
been most used in the last few years: failure to
take care of human resources. It is easy to get
rid of people when something goes wrong in an
organization. Some people might call it effective
people management. Is this really necessary? Many
leaders would say so.

If the business is to
survive they must cut their costs, and then it is
often easy to cut human resources. But the
criticism has been the way that it is done. On the
one hand they meet the workers individual needs,
and develop them in the organization telling them
how important they are and then the next day get
rid of them. Reduction in work force is becoming
increasingly common in nearly all industries and
is often caused by organisational restructuring
and of course it is often used to make an
organisation more competitive because it reduces
costs. There are three main reasons why
organisations reduce the size of the workforce:
inefficiency, lack of adaptability in the
marketplace, and a weakened competitive position
within the industry. (Mello 2001) Reduction in
work force is a good way for an organisation to
reduce their costs.

In many organisations, payroll
is one of the largest expenses. This is especially
true in service organisations because they are
making up more and more of the economy and the
gross national product. These (and other)
organisations are trying to be more efficient by
having fewer people doing more tasks, and trying
to redesign the work tasks. They also help the
people that have been fired by getting them a new
job, paying them a salary for a while and funding
a new education. (This is the system in Norway
difficult to find much info about how things are
done in UK, but probably some difference) This
does not only help the employees that have been
dismissed but also the organisation. The
organisation does not only reduce costs,
(eventually it hopefully does) but also these
services help to retain the support and goodwill
of the remaining employees by making them feel
that the organisation takes care of the people
that have been dismissed and that the organisation
will do the same for them.

Dismissing people from
an organisation however can often be avoided by
proper planning. The main benefit with human
resource planning is that the cost of having
employees can be controlled because they dont have
extra cost because of under or over staffing, they
dont have to fire or hire any people. Effective
human resource planning can in most instances
reduce the need for any large-scale reductions in
staff. This can be achieved by, for instance,
early retirement, reorganisation within the
organisation or offering voluntary redundancy with
compensation. (Mello 2001) One of the things that
organisations often forget is that they need to
develop a proper plan for managing the remaining
employees. One of the biggest challenges for
managers is to make sure that the surviving
employees can adjust to the changes.

It is not
automatically the case that the remaining workers
will be relived to have kept their jobs, and will
be motivated to do their best for the
organisation, as perhaps their best friend has
been dismissed. The workers that are left in the
organisation may feel less secure about keeping
their jobs, and do more work than previously
without getting more money. Consequently they may
be less loyal to their employer and want to leave
the organisation. Challenge for the organisation
in these times is to make a strategy to ensure
that the remaining employees remains committed,
loyal, high performers. But when downsizing takes
place often these facts are ignored and it is
assumed that the remaining employees are happy
simply because they have kept their jobs. Reality
shows that this is not true.

(Mello 2001) One
example of a company that had/has a major problem
is IBM, which at the beginning of the 80s, used to
be the leading business in world computing with 37
per cent of the total market. But in the 1990s IBM
had serious problems and was forced into major
restructuring and job losses. IBM had a policy of
taking care of their employees and they offered
employment for life and excellent career paths for
its best workers. The collective feeling was good
and everybody felt that his or her job was secure.
For half a century this culture was based on
excellent working conditions that were implicit in
human resource policies that included: Sophisticated human resource planning A system of
lifetime employment Equal status for all IBM
employees Centrally determined salaries Considerable emphasis on training An audit of
staff opinion held every two years But in the
early 1990s the company was in serious trouble.
The pc was an IBM invention, but pc clones were
now much cheaper and delivered by companies that
had much lower overheads. And IBM was forced to
cut 64,000 jobs in a period of 5 years, but this
still left the company with a worldwide workforce
of over 350,000. IBMs strongest points its culture
and structure, had now become its major
weaknesses.

IBM had not the ability to change when
they really needed to. A loss of $4 billion in
1992 led to the replacement of the leader of the
company. And the new leader listed four immediate
changes: Major staff reduction reducing the
global workforce to 250,000 Defining IBMs core
areas Improving customer relations Decentralisation In 1993 the new leader announced
a quarterly loss of $8 billion, and that included
money for dismissing 50,000 employees that year.
The leader said: getting IBMs costs and expense
structured in line with revenue realities of our
industry right-sizing company-is my highest
near-term priority. The leader of IBM chose a
formula accountant and ex-banker Gerald Czarnecki
to take charge of the human recourses. And
according to the new Czarnecki: IBM did
deliberately foster paternalism, with a social
contract between employer and employee. But
economic realities forced us to rethink the
relationship.

Now were no longer asking people for
total commitment to us. Theyre eager to stay, but
prepared to leave (Sampson, 1995.p. 228) After
this things started to go better for IBM and by
1995 the company returned to profitability. But
the remaining staff felt stigmatised and rejected
by the firm. And local mental health services
reported a massive increase in request for stress
counselling. This shows how IBM went from hard to
soft human resource management in a few years.
(Price 1997) Organisations have just started to
look at the human resource function of employee
separation.

For many years the dismissing of
people was an unknown problem for many
organisations. And managing turnover had been
ignored, taken for granted, or assumed to be a
easy way to get rid of employees that didnt do a
good job, and trying to fill the gap when someone
involuntarily left the organisation. It was more
of a repeating process than any kind of active
strategic management. However, today organisations
have realised that the effective strategic
management of turnover can be a thing that can
affect the performance of the employees. (Mello
2001) The question that many people are asking
today is: will human resource management survive
as a separate organisational discipline? It seems
like it is going towards the integration of many
disciplines. Old fashioned functions, such as the
human resource or personnel departments in many
organisations are likely to be replaced in the
same way as production and distribution.

Stewart
(1996) says that most of the human resource
functions consists of administrivia that can be
outsourced. (www.hrmguide.co.uk) Human resource
managers need to look at their effectiveness in
the organisation. A 21st century human resource
specialist must have the ability to see a
connection between human resource management and
the other processes that go on in business. It is
not enough to be an expert in human recourse
management you also need to know what happens in
the rest of the organisation to know how to
administrate human recourses in the best way for
the employees and the employer.
(www.hrmguide.co.uk).

Research essay sample on Managing Your Most Important Resource Human Resources