Barriers to Effective Human Resource Management


    Human Resource Management

    Human being along with many other resources run an organization. Where an organisation has to manage its other resources it does need to manage human resources as well to achieve its goals. An effective human resource management is the most import factor for an organisation. To achieve short term and long-term goals an organisation needs a skilled and professional workforce to fulfil its objectives. This workforce or human resources are vital assets for an organisation. How to utilise abilities and skills of those qualified, experienced and well-trained employees in useful manner, is exactly what HRM supposed to deal with?

    Obviously, human being cannot be treated and managed like other resources. At least, they are not machines. They possess feelings, beliefs, values and many other characteristics and individual differences. HRM Managers are supposed to manage these people effectively regarding their individual characteristics. An organisation needs competent, well educated, well trained HR managers and staff fully equipped with modern techniques and skills to manage human resources effectively.

    Before going in to the depth of topic and discussing the different barriers and restrictions to the implication of HRM in an organisation, let’s have a look what human resource management basically is? There are some basic definitions of HRM by different authors. RM is concerned with the effective and efficient use of the organization’s human resources. How do we decide what kind of human resources (employees) we need? How will we procure them? How will we ensure that we select only the best? How will we ensure that the people we choose can do the jobs we expect them to do? How will we measure their effectiveness? How will we maintain or motivate these employees? (Ratzburg, 2005)

    The integrated use of systems, policies, and management practices to recruit, maintain and develop employees in order for the organization to meet its desired goals.” (World Health Organisation, 2001) “Human resource management refers to the philosophy, policy, and practices related to management of people. Human resource management is the systematic planning, development and control of a network of interrelated processes affecting and involving all members of an organisation.”These process include

    • Human resources
    • Job work design
    • Staffing
    • Training an development
    • Performance appraisal and review
    • Compensations and rewards
    • Employee protection and representation
    • Organisation improvement

    (French 1997,pp 5-6)


    During all these process there are many barriers and restrictions due to which implementation of effective human resource management is ideally hard. Some of the barriers are similar in nature to all the organisations of the world. Where as, some of organisations may have specific difficulties in managing the human resources depending on national and local culture, organisational culture, traditions, believes and many others. Managing human being as compare to other resources is of course difficult in the sense that they possess individual differences. They need autonomy, independence and pressure free environment. People like to work by their own convenient ways; an employee doing the same job for a long time becomes used to with his work and he knows better which method is convenient and more suitable for him to do the work than a manager who never did that job. So if a manager wants to enforce his own methods for that specific job, it won’t be effective and long lasting. This simple example shows a barrier to effective HRM, where HRM manager himself is creating a barrier and hence resulting poor performance of an employee.

    Poor knowledge, skills and leadership style of the mangers is itself a barrier to effective HRM (Kane, Crawford and Grant, 1999,488-515). In their article about the barriers to effective HRM they discuss some major barriers to Effective HRM in five countries.  Below is critical discussion on different barriers to effective HRM Including those four major barriers pointed out by Kane Crawford and Grant. Kane, Crawford and Grant (1999. 488-555) described some major barriers to effective HRM.

    1. Top Management Priorities

    Top management has more concerned with their personal status, power and maintaining their control than about the real needs of organisation. Where as they give low priority to the HRM issues. Managers in especially in the countries like Australia and New Zealand are not fully committed to the effective operations of HRM (Fowler, 1987; Kane, 1996; Purcell, 1994). Some of the writers e.g. Dyer and Holder (1998,p 37) have stated that top management is so powerful that it can work against the adoption of HRM.

    Not only the organisations in Australia and New Zealand but also almost all the international organisations face the same problem. They do not bother about the employees’ welfare and day-to-day needs. As normally they are not aware of the staff’s difficulties and problems facing at work and have created many communication barriers between them and employees, so they are not able enough to make right decisions and employees policies. Obviously when people sitting right on the top of the organisation put their priorities first rather than the organisation, defiantly it will affect the organisational structure and policies in the long term prospective. The philosophy of top management is particularly important because managers and supervisors down through the organisation react and adapt to the signals higher management gives off about acceptable supervisory behaviours. For example, if top management believe that subordinates should work exactly according to procedures or managers instruct to do with no question asked, the same message will go down through the organisation to all the employees. On the other hand if top management believe that subordinates or employee should have should have considerable voice in the matters concerning their jobs and job conditions, certainly this believe will be found at every level. So in this way top management policies and believes go down through the organisation and result quit different consequences. In other words top management behaviour, attitude, believes and policies plays significant role in developing an organisational culture.

    2. HR Managers’ proficiency 

    HR managers are the people who design and implement new rules and decisions and they hold key position on which successfulness or unsuccessfulness of an organisation depend. Effectiveness of HRM is related to the managers’ skills and knowledge about HRM programme. HR managers need to be aware of all the facts and figures and must know the consequences of a particular policy and its long term affects on organisation. They must be capable of handling different situations. They are supposed to be aware of latest techniques and skills comes into market every day by different researchers to cope up with the matters related to employees and other groups whom they have to deal with (soft HRM). And also they must update their skills to manage the strategic issue and planning by developing their corporate strategy (Hard HRM). Managers’ leadership style and abilities to lead the teams do affect the performance of the employees. To run an organisation HRM needs to have an effective HRM system.

    An effective HRM system requires:

    • Leadership and special attention
    • Trained HRM managers and budget
    • Integration of HRM functions to a system
    • Vision of HRM as a facilitator of organizational goals
    • Clear link to strategic and operational planning
    • Refinement as internal and external changes occur

    This web analysis of effective HRM system gives top most priority to Leadership style and managers’ training. Regular necessary training of managers and staff plays important role in today’s competitive organisational environment. How to develop such effective HRM system again depends on HR managers and practitioners’ abilities and skills.

    3. Training deficiencies

    The third barrier to effective HRM occurs as a result of the lack of proven knowledge about, and the few attempts at demonstrating, the long-term impact of HRM programs (Fernie and Metcalf, 1995; Guest and Peccei, 1994; Huselid, 1998; Legge, 1995b; Storey, 1995). As a consequence, members of an organisation may be sceptical of the value of major HRM initiatives. It is a scepticism that may be held by both senior and middle management. They are unable to discern tangible and positive performance outcomes related to HRM, so that their commitment to it wanes or, in some cases, simply fails to materialise. Since they are responsible for its actual implementation, their lack of commitment results in ineffective HRM (Kane, Crawford and Grant, 1999, pp4-5).

    Training is the process of improving the skills, knowledge, and attitudes required for job performance. Managers and staff especially those related to HRM, need regular training to learn and develop the new trends, skills and techniques to make the organisation fast in the run of competition.

     It is an investment an organization makes in it. While training can take many forms, the desired end is generally the same: improved performance of job-related tasks. Further, the quality of the training output (improved job-related or organizational performance) is only as good as the training data input. That is, if the needs for training have not been properly identified, then the training itself may be called into question. (Beardwell, Holden and Claydon, 2004) employees working for longer time in organisations use the same typical procedures that they have learnt in their academic life.  Where as, the developmental changes are very fast. Therefore, organisations need to provide its employees the latest knowledge of related fields so that they could work efficiently and right according to market requirements.

    HRM leadership must:

    • Install a philosophy that people are valued
    • Give meaning to the work that people do
    • Make HRM an agent for organizational transformation
    • Lead the integration of HRM components into a system

    When HR staff of an organisation does not have knowledge, skills and vision, it would affect the quality of goods and services and the organisation do not live competitive any more in the world market. HR staff will not be able to manage properly the human and other resources. It would then come to a situation where organisation will be not be competitive and the employees will be showing bad performance because of ineffective resource management. HRM department play a significant role in the growth of an organisation. Therefore having a competent HR staff has always been a significantly beneficial for a company. Further it merely depends on HR staff’s abilities that how they achieve the effectiveness by   both the hard and soft approaches.

    4. Differences in perceptions

    All the human beings are different from each other in their way of thinking, perceptions and interpretation. Everyone may have his/her own different perceptions about a particular matter. Similarly in organizations employees possess different perceptions. HRM managers are supposed to implement rules and regulations in such a way that it could minimize the chances of tensions. It is perhaps not surprising that HRM staff would rate their own helpfulness to managers and employees at a higher level than would non-HRM staff. HRM staff and managers are not able to perceive the certain operations as non-HRM staff can. This barrier exists because of the reasons that they cannot be professional in all the fields and departments of an organisation. So they try to implement the operations according to their own perceptions.

    However, the finding of more positive responses from senior level staff and from those who claimed greater familiarity with HRM in their organisation invites some discussion. It could be that these respondents simply have a greater knowledge of HRM as practised in their organisations, and that their views are thus more accurate. On the other hand, they might also feel a greater investment in the organisation’s management and its HRM, and either tend to respond somewhat defensively to the questions or at least not appreciate how top management and HRM effects lower level staff and those with less contact with HRM. Regardless of the interpretation, the finding of significant differences on the basis of these particular background variables supports the need for a multi constituency approach to evaluating HRM effectiveness. (Kane, Crawford and Grant, 1999, pp16)

    Critical Analysis

    Kane, Crawford and Grant discuss only one major barrier in their article. That is all about the HRM staff deficiencies, lake of proven knowledge, top management and HR staff perception. They did not include many other important barriers to effective HRM. Their analyses represent only five countries. Where as they do not discuss other countries China and Japan where HRM is really effective and organisations and world famous companies of those countries are really successful in implementing the HRM practises. These countries possess qualified and trained HRM staffs. That is why organisations of these countries are growing day by day, while European countries do not have such organisation these days. Large-scale organisations and companies are transferring their manufacturing departments to other countries like China, Japan, South Korea and some European countries. Especially USA and UK are facing this dilemma. Some authors argue that this is happening government policies and Ineffective human resource management. Although there are many other factors like cheap labour and low manufacturing cost, but the major factor is the HRM ineffectiveness. Apart from above discussed barriers there are many other barriers to Effective HRM. Below is a detail discussion on such barriers. 

    A Comparison among Different Models

    Five different models presented so far and Kane, Crawford and grant model has certain similarities and differences among them. Some of the models like Beer and Spector model and Devanna model stress on achieving effectiveness by corporate strategies (hard approach of HRM) where as the models presented by Walton stresses to achieve the effectiveness by soft approaches. The Neopluralist and Guest models take in to account both the approaches. Where as Kan, Crawford and Grant provide the evidence that effectiveness can be achieve by both the hard and soft approaches. But it depends upon the capabilities of the HRM practitioners and planners that how they achieve effectiveness. Many similarities and differences can be found if we go through all the models. There have been Identified some of them.

    All the models have some kind of similarities infect. How effectiveness can be achieved by different approaches. Walton Model stresses on the mutuality of goals, influence, rewards and responsibility between the employers and employees. Beer and Spector Model describe the same assumptions with a broad prospect of hard approach as well. Devanna Models the necessity of tight fit between HR strategy and business strategies.  This model assumes that conflicts cannot exist within an organisation because management and employees are working to the same goal of organisation success.

    Beer and his associates, on the basis of few assumptions form the previous models along with some new and worthwhile assumptions developed a more flexible model called Neopluralist. This model is considered as the map of HRM Territory, describing the fact that HRM must take into account the needs of various stakeholders. Guest model emphasis on the combination of propositions, like strategic integration, high commitment, high quality and flexibility, creates more effective organisations. This model discusses both the hard and soft HRM approaches infect. All the models discussed above infect match with the Kane, Crawford and Grant model in some ways. Even then Kane, Crawford and Grant described the broader aspects of effectiveness.

    Lack of Motivation

    Employees like other human beings seek appreciation when they work hard to achieve organisational goals. Motivation from the management and HR policies to motivate the employees plays significant role in the performance of employees, which is directly related to the performance of organisation. And on the other hand it will improve the quality of goods and services. Organisation where employees are not appreciated for their work, face the difficulties of bad quality and services. How to motivate the employees achieve best possible performance, merely depends on the HRM policies. Different organisations use different motivational tools to get the highest performance depending on local culture and employees’ taste. But again HR department face the problem of employees’ satisfaction. Managing human being is of course very crucial in the sense that every individual is different in nature from others. Implementing the same motivational tools for all the employees may not be possible, because same tools can de-motivate some of the employees. Therefore HRM practitioners need to evaluate the employees’ nature. And they must consider the consequences before implementing the tools. But some of the tools like performance appraisal, incentives, pay rise, paid holidays, promotion and other financial benefits attract all the employees and these tools are effective infect.

    Government Policies and National Culture

    Government policies may affect the HRM policies for a multinational organisation in a particular country. Different countries have different law and orders for itself. Multinational companies are supposed to follow the rules of that country.  In some developing countries bureaucracy has been found involved in organisational matters. Where it is not possible for HRM managers and directors of the organisations to implement policies without any interference. There may be some restrictions to implement the effective HRM policies and decisions.  Dealing either with soft or hard approaches effective HRM need to implement such policies, which are not in contrast with government policies, and it should be right according to the expectations of local community. Otherwise it would be difficult to run the organisation in that particular area.

    Ethical issue

    Multinational organisations and even national organisations now a day consist of multicultural and multiethnic group of employees. Although, working in a multicultural environment is considered beneficial for the organisations, but it could be a barrier as well to effective HRM in the sense that employees belonging to different cultures and ethnic region may perceive in quite different manner. Due possessing different background, culture, believes, values and religions, they may perceive a particular issue according to their personal characteristics. Their needs could be different. They may need some special arrangement during the work. And above all there could be a communication barrier among them; there could be favouritism factor between the managers and employees. 

    A 1991 survey of 1078 respondents – mostly human resources vice presidents or directors – found that the most serious ethical problems faced by today’s human resources professionals have to do with manager making personal decisions based on factor other than performance. Dealing with favouritism and bias were reported as the most serious ethical problem areas. (French, 1997,pp 79)

    HRM faces many other ethical challenges while managing the people and organisations. Some of these are racism, discrimination, conflicts, groupthink and social loafing etc. Behaviour of organizationsthat the tendency for members of highly cohesive groups to conform so strongly to group pressure regarding a certain…

    Source by Steve Jones