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Changing Job Roles

.. ust be able to motivate people to accomplish aggressive objectives within defined time constraints. Extensive travel within the European region as well as to the US is expected. European language skills, in particular German, will be a distinct advantage. Remuneration and Benefits Manager Coupled with being a good communicator, you will have excellent analytical skills, in addition to a demonstrable strategic perspective in relation to the development and implementation of policies.

The models identified by Tyson and Fell have also be found in Irish organisations (Shivanath, 1986; Monks, 1992/3). Monks, from a study of 97 Irish organisations, identified four types of personnel practice: traditional/administrative, traditional/industrial relations, innovative/professional and innovative/sophisticated. The traditional/administrative is similar to the ‘clerk of works’ identified by Tyson and Fell (1986). The personnel practitioners described their roles as ‘housekeeping’ and ‘policing’. In the ‘traditional/administrative’ function, the roles were those of ‘firefighting’ and ‘containment’ and ‘conflict resolution’.

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The ‘innovative/professional’ model is not described by Tyson and Fell; in this model, the personnel practitioners appear to have moved away from the traditional approaches to personnel practice and were concerned to dismantle the problematic elements of their current practices. Their roles were those of ‘expert’, ‘change agent’ and ‘consultant’. One personnel manager described the situation: We’re moving from an industrial relations/administrative/record keeping function to a more structured, streamlined, up-front approach. We’re playing a role in the organisation and we’re involved in major demands and decisions’. (Industrial relations manager, manufacturing company).

In the ‘innovative/sophisticated’ model, personnel managers were carrying out roles which can be described as those of ‘business manager’, ‘consultant’, ‘facilitator’, ‘policy developer’ and ‘expert’. In all these organisations personnel issues were integrated into strategic plans and personnel was represented on the board. Personnel managers were proactive and had adopted recruitment, appraisal and training measures which were designed to ensure the commitment and performance of their staff. There were widespread communication and involvement programmes in place. This model can be compared to the ‘architect’ role suggested by Tyson and Fell (1986) and bears many of the hallmarks associated with HRM. Personnel Management and Ambiguity There is evidence that there are a variety of roles for personnel practitioners, but the carrying out of these roles appears to be a difficult and complex activity. For example, Watson (1986: 180-183) lists six sources of ambiguity in the personnel management. The first stems from the caring versus controlling elements in personnel work.

The caring element emerges from the welfare roots of the profession and can be at odds with the need ‘to control or manipulate the labour force’. Watson suggests that ‘to watch a personnel manager operating over a period of time is to go through a process of constantly wondering whether one is seeing the wielding of an iron fist in a velvet glove or a velvet fist in an iron glove’. Other ambiguities arise from the nature of personnel authority: personnel managers find themselves in an advisory role to line managers, but yet this advice, particularly where it relates to legal matters, simply has to be taken so that ‘there is frequent ambiguity as to whether recommendations from personnel departments are in fact recommendations or are orders disguised as advice’. Linked to this issue is the nature of the personnel manager’s expertise: ‘the personnel manager is meant to be an expert in personnel management while personnel management is something that all managers do’. At one and the same time the personnel manager has to indicate evidence of his or her expertise, or risk being ignored as having any value to the organisation, and yet avoid taking all responsibility for their staff away from line managers.

Much the same argument can be applied to the value of the personnel department to the organisation: ‘personnel work is often a matter of dealing with the unique, the subjective and the intangible, none of which is measurable’. In addition, many of the ‘expectations, orientation and wants of the employee constituencies, with which the personnel function is especially concerned, are frequently unclear and the information about these which the personnel specialists must collect to carry out their functions will inevitably be inadequate and ambiguous’. Finally, ambiguity arises in the implementation of the procedures, systems and techniques which have been carefully designed by the personnel specialist. For Watson, ‘all personnel procedures contain the seeds of their own destruction’ as they are subject to modification and reappraisal by individuals and groups. Threats and Opportunities The ambiguity attached to the personnel function leaves it, perhaps more so than any other function, in a vulnerable position within the organisation.

If personnel management in its widest sense can be undertaken by any manager, is there a need for a specialist department staffed by expensive individuals? This is an ongoing debate which has extended from Drucker’s (1961) dismissal of personnel work as ‘largely a collection of incidental techniques without much internal cohesion’ which as a ‘hodgepodge’ hardly warranted a special department, to current perceptions of ‘personnel management without personnel managers’ (Flood, Gannon and Paauwe, 1996). For those organisations without personnel departments, advantages were low overhead costs, flexibility, line management responsibility and tailor made packages: line managers could devise their own appraisal systems. However, there were several disadvantages: a lack of synergy, with no opportunity to learn from other specialists; inefficiencies, as every unit had to invent its own personnel system; lack of structure, as issues were dealt with in an ad hoc manner; no uniformity in conditions of employment and remuneration which impeded the exchange of personnel among units; line managers pressed for time with the additional range of activities; and arbitrariness due to the lack of procedures and systems (Flood, Gannon and Paauwe, 1996: 215-216). While the wholesale closure of the personnel department is unusual, there is evidence of the personnel territory ‘being invaded, sold-off, subdivided and put under lease to consultants, sub-specialists and line managers’ (Tyson, 1987: 530). The use of consultants for personnel work is widely established (Garavan and O’Dwyer, 1987; Flood, Gannon and Paauwe, 1996; Storey, 1992). Accountants also appear poised for a takeover bid: ‘management accountancy, just as much as personnel management can claim to possess a means of motivating and assessing the performance of individuals and groups (Armstrong, 1988: 25).

In addition, business managers and line managers have become ‘key players on employment issues’ (Storey, 1995: 14). These take-over bids may in part stem from the inability of many personnel specialists to take part in the major events which have taken place within organisations over the last number of years. The research literature is littered with evidence of the limited involvement of the personnel function in initiatives such as technical change (Daniel, 1986), information technology ( Legge, 1989) and quality programmes (Monks, Buckley and Sinnott, 1996). Managing the Employment Relationship: The Psychological Contract Given the increasing pressures on the personnel specialists for ‘cost effective’ behaviour resulting in ‘high quality’ and ‘competitive advantage’ for the firm, in what tasks should they engage? The old way of managing the employment relationship, through a welfare or industrial relations approach, although extant shows signs of wear and tear. The newer human resource focus may have offered much but can deliver in only the most specific of circumstances.

In addition, HRM has been described as ‘amoral and anti-social, unprofessional, reactive, uneconomic and ecologically destructive’ (Hart, 1993: 29). Hart argues that HRM needs to be exorcised from mainstream personnel management to enable this emergent profession to reassert its purpose in providing a moderating influence on managerialism, and a catalytic force for genuine innovation in workplace relationships, seeking out new synergistic systems and structures within which organisations can operate. One possible source of livelihood for the personnel manager may lie in the management of the psychological contract. Although the term ‘psychological contract’ has been in existence for some considerable time, it has recently received renewed attention. It can be defined as encompassing ‘the actions employee believe are expected of them and what response they expect in return of the employer’ (Rousseau and Greller, 1994: 385).

Thus, there is a set of expectations held by the individual employee that specifies what the individual and the organisation expect to give and receive in the working relationship (Rousseau and Parks, 1993). Evidence from some recent research suggests that the psychological contract as it was previously interpreted is rapidly changing. The ‘old’ contract was generated in a period of full employment, with its notions of stability and predictability. Employees could expect promotion and rewards in return for hard work and commitment. Such expectations are frequently undermined in an era of downsizing, delayering, mergers and acquisitions, and good performance can no longer guarantee job security. Recent studies of managerial employees (Herriott, 1995; Holbeche, 1995; Mirvis and Hall, 1994) are summarised by Sparrow (1996).

Four very different types of mindsets are identified: h ‘Flexers’ understand the nature of business changes and are prepared to accept sideways moves or flexible working patterns. h The ‘ambitious’ understand the implications of these changes but can still see personal progression for themselves. h ‘Lifers’ essentially hanker after a guarantee of security, believe that experience and length of service are a legitimate basis of reward and are unimpressed by performance related pay. h The ‘disengaged’ have begun to exhibit withdrawal behaviour ( a desire to leave voluntarily or seek early retirement or redundancy). These different mindsets result in seven different career responses (Sparrow, 1996).

Managers will ‘get ahead’ by pursuing power and influence and engineering openings for themselves; ‘get secure’ by finding what they hope is an unobtrusive role in the organisation; ‘get balanced’ by rebalancing work, life commitments and relationships so that loss of employment is not damaging; ‘get free’ by creating autonomy and marginal organisational membership; ‘get even’ by ensuring that the organisation (or certain members of it) pay a price for what they see as the injustices done to them; ‘get high’ by moving to the centre of events and becoming totally absorbed in work; or ‘get out’, deciding that this is no longer the life or organisational culture for them. Combinations between the four mindsets and seven responses mean that HRM managers face a complex task in matching employee expectations. Careers are becoming more complex and an individual may have many different careers and a variety of expectations from those careers. Thus, Herriott and Pemberton (1995: 33-34) suggest that personnel professionals must be capable of working with increasingly individualised needs, while simultaneously retaining a strategic perspective. It is the process management skills of HR that will be key to making the dialogue workable.

Herriott and Pemberton suggest that this ‘psychological contracting’ can be seen as comprising four stages (see figure 2) Figure 2 – The Four Stages of Psychological Contracting Business environment -* Organisation’s wants and offers -* Organisation’s offers -* Organisation’s wants changed? Contract fair? Contract kept? | | | Stage 1: Inform -* Stage 2: Negotiate -* Stage 3: Monitor -* Stage 4: Renegotiate or exit ^ | ^ | ^ | Social environment -* Individual’s wants and offers Individuals offers Individual’s wants changed? Contract fair? Contract kept? Source: Herriott and Pemberton, 1995 The notion of the psychological contract is not new; neither are many of the tasks that are required of the personnel manager in managing this contract. Thus, the stage one (‘inform’) elements in the Herriott and Pemberton model requires HR managers to ask whether employees know what is expected of them now and in the future, whether they know how the business is going and whether senior managers know what employees are thinking. For example, do the recruitment and induction systems convey a realistic expectation of what is required of the employee? High labour turnover, particularly in the first few months of employment, may be due to unrealistic job expectations created by personnel managers in an effort to hire suitable staff. These communication and information systems need to be supported by performance appraisal and employee feedback mechanisms. The ‘negotiate’ stage of the contract involves considering the needs of employees, for example in relation to training and development. Do training programmes meet individual as well as company needs? What does each individual expect from the training course? As far the ‘monitor’ stage is concerned, does the organisation monitor events to consider the impact on various groups of changes which are made within the organisation. For example, quality programmes have given more autonomy to operatives, but what impact has this had on supervisors and managers? As there may be limited benefits to the introduction of across the board schemes, personnel managers may have to consider more individualised types of programmes, such as those proposed by Herriott and Pemberton (1995) (See figure 3). Certainly there is evidence that psychological contracts are fragmented and that the old distinctions between skilled/unskilled, full/part-time, male/female are not longer justified as measures of differences between employees (Sparrow, 1996).

Indeed, Sparrow suggests that this shift in the nature of the contract may represent a shift in the nature of motivation itself: ‘the presumed links between commitment, participation, satisfaction, motivation and performance become submerged as part of a culture shock process’. In these instances, ‘much of the recommended HRM toolkit (lifestyle-directed time patterns such as annualised hours, sabbaticals, incentivising tools such as cafeteria benefits and performance-related pay and developmental tools such as potential identification workshops and mentoring’ is found wanting. Sparrow’s research in the banking industry suggests that there are two possible strategies for the HR function in managing these changing contracts. It may be possible to ‘build in flexibility to the HRM package (through cafeteria benefits, increased PRP and multiple career paths in order to offer a menu to line mangers which they align to their staff’. Second, it may be possible to ‘focus and differentiate HRM systems (i.e.

break them up) so that different designs are used for each internal labour market’. However, as Sparrow points out, that both these approaches require a rethinking of the unitary assumptions underlying HRM and will require ‘leadership, not just facilitation, from HR professionals’. Figure 3 – The Deals of 2005 Contract Individual offers Organisation offers Risks Development Flexibility; Continuous added value; Committment, not dependence; Innovation. Security; Employability; Use of skills core to the organisation’s purpose; Continuous development. Exploitation of security needs; Life’s imbalance; Insufficent security to allow for risk taking; Generality of skills will reduce their market value. Automony Ready access to specific skills; Experience gained in a wide range of organisations; High performance with low management. Autonomy to exercise skills; Freedom is how individuals work; Challenge. Experience that increases employability.

Performance delivery undemrined by inadequate resources; Poor management or organisational politics, culture; Constraints on how they work. Lifestyle (part-time) Flexibility in matching demand and resourcing; Performance levels to match customer expectations; Performance levels of full-time employees. Willingness to balance work and other role demands Pay and conditions exploitations; Lack of career development. Source : Herriott and Pemberton, 1995. The need to rethink HR practices in order to manage the psychological contract reinforces the fact that HR practices can be seen as ‘communications that influence the psychological contract and employee commitment’ (Guzzo and Noonan, 1994:448).

Guzzo and Noonan argue that ‘much of the information employees rely on to assess the extent to which their psychological contracts are fulfilled comes from the HR practices of their employer’ (p. 452) and that ‘commonplace HR practices are loaded with communicative value’. They cite research (Schneider, Wheeler and Cox, 1992) which has found that HR practices in selection, training, performance appraisal, pay and benefits ‘were among the organisational practices most strongly related to interpretations of the climate for customer service'(p. 456). Evidence from research in Ireland suggests that there is a need for personnel managers to understand that there are a range of psychological contracts in existence. Research into the career progression of chartered accountants (Monks and Barker, 1995) indicated that there were differences between men and women in the values that they placed on work and its rewards.

A study of PRP in an Irish company (Kelly and Monks, 1996) indicated that there were considerable differences between managers in their acceptance of a PRP scheme. These differences lay in their differing views of money as a motivator and of the links between pay and performance. Yet the managers were treated in the PRP scheme as if they held the same values and sought the same types of rewards. A study of the impact of quality programmes on the HR function (Monks, Buckley and Sinnott, 1996) indicated that although most personnel systems (recruitment, training, induction, appraisal) had intensified as a result of quality initiatives, there had been very limited attempts to review reward structures. Yet, huge changes are demanded of employees in the implementation of such initiatives; failure to acknowledge these changes in the way in which individuals are rewarded may have long term consequences which prove detrimental to the overall success of a quality programme.

The study also indicated communications within organisations had improved as a result of the quality programmes (Buckley, Monks and Sinnott, 1996). However, the increased focus on communications had also led to an expectation that further improvements were possible. The challenge for personnel managers is how to manage this process. Conclusions This paper has explored the roles carried out by personnel managers. The analysis has revealed that many of the challenges facing the personnel practitioner have remained constant and the need to manage the employment relationship, no matter the terminology that is used to describe this relationship, is one which is central to the personnel role.

The management of the psychological contract as a critical issue for the 1990s may represent for the personnel profession a return to its roots. The need to understand the process of motivation and to translate this into appropriate personnel systems are tasks which are underpinned by an understanding of the employment relationship. While the specialist skills involved in the maintenance and development of this relationship were once considered critical to the carrying out of the personnel role, they may have been lost in the rush to participate at board level and to get involved in strategic decisions where only hard facts and figures are recognised. The management of the psychological contract will not negate the business acumen gained by personnel managers in their fight for boardroom representation; rather it is the combination of business and behavioural skills that should result in greater opportunities and greater acceptance for the specialist ro Bibliography Workforce Journal HR Journal International HR Journal Business.


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