Table of Contents
Human resource management (HRM) refers to organization of employees in their roles, issues, and productivity aimed at attaining a set of goals. There are numerous ways and practices that are used in the work place, the choice of which depends on the nature of work, employees and other variations that occur across organization.
This research paper is focused on the extent to which human resource management practices affect employee wellbeing. The paper will look at the relationship between HRM practices and employee wellbeing and evaluate the nature and outcome of various HRM practices. The paper will look at how HRM has shaped and developed concepts and theories that influence employee wellbeing. Other questions that will be answered and discussed are whether there is a bias between HRM practices that are aimed at performance and wellbeing. The paper will try to come up with a common ground on how both performance and wellbeing benefit mutually from HRM practices and policies used in organizations.
Ethics, HRM and Employee Wellbeing
There is a continuing and ethical discussion concerning the well-being of employees both at work and at home. Work-life balance has become a source of a strong debate and research especially with technological innovations and developments. Questions are being raised regarding how work related aspects affects individual’s well-being in their workplaces and in their personal life. These changes do not only pose a threat to the employees but to the organizations as well. For instance, some technological changes have led to the automation of some daily activities as well as having the chance to work from home with increased access to information (Delbridge, 2014).
However, other changes have had a negative impact on employee well-being mainly due to increased demand or changes that create work overload (Derks and Bakker, 2010). Others have led to work-home interference by working from home, job insecurity, and lack of skills development. With technology there is increased surveillance making employees lose control over their work freedom increased stress. Researchers have shown that restructuring jobs to create more employee autonomy leads to greater well-being. Felstead et al. (2015), came up with some contrasting findings in UK where increased demands at work led to decline in autonomy especially in jobs that require low skills. The 2008 financial crisis is attributed to the increased pressure at work due to stagnating productivity of companies in developed nations (Derks et al., 2014).
Bryson and Forth (2015) pointed out that the stagnated productivity has led to increased workload without a corresponding rise in payments. This goes against the HRM practices and ethics of fairness and putting employees’ well-being at risk. It further proves futile, as productivity is not increased despite the increased workload (Bryson & Forth 2015).
Employee well-being incorporates the psychological, social and physical well-being. Most people tend to look at the physical well-being alone where injuries, risks and hazards are given more consideration. Let u look brief at each aspect (Bratton and Gold, 2012).
There are two kinds of psychological well-being at work; eudemonic and hedonic well-being. Hedonic well-being is concerned with the how employees fulfil their potential as they look out for purpose and meaning in their line of work, while eudemonic looks at employees job satisfaction. Psychological wellbeing can be categorized along three continuums of comfort/anxiety, enthusiasm/depression, and satisfaction/dissatisfaction. This approach is popular among workplace related researches. For example, companies such as Google and Apple have invested heavily in their employees’ wellbeing with educational reimbursements being part of their programs (Derks et al., 2014).
This is the physiological aspect of looking at symptoms and signs of health and illness in the workplace. It is a subjective phenomenon based one feelings including both positive signs such as energized characters as well as negative signs such as stress and exhaustion. For emple, apple has a wellness center where employees can receive treatment in under 5 minutes (Walker, Guest and Turner, 2017)
Social well-being looks at the interpersonal relationships between employees and management. It includes perceptions of trust and fairness on how employees are treated as well as levels of social support. Apple allows its employees to have a parental leave when an employee have birth of a child (Derks et al., 2014).
Approaches to HRM Practices Aimed at Employee Wellbeing
Researcher have come up with HRM policies and practices that can boost employee well-being at the workplace. This policies and practices are well aligned to look at the psychological, social, and physical aspects of employees. A large body of research on the antecedents of well-being provides a strong evidence base. The following section is going to look at three approaches that focus on a given aspect of work-related well-being (Walker, Guest and Turner, 2017).
The first approach according Edwards (2015) is concerned with externally generated goals, opportunity for control and skill use, opportunities for interpersonal relations, and environmental sustainability. Others include, variety of work options, physical safety, value for socially held positions, and easy of monetary access. This factor are focused on social and job issues and it sends more light into the kind of HRM practices expected for employment. For each of the factors a balance is needed when seeking to improve well-being to avoid too less or excesses (Gold et al, 2013).
The second approach that focuses on the need for improved well-being stems from the theoretical model of job demands-resources (Johnstone and Ackers, 2015). The model proposes that employees well-being is a reflection of how well balanced are work demands and resources that have been availed for a given piece of work. The results of this are low burnout levels, reduced incidences of stress, and increases levels of engagement at work. This model proposes that when a firm has the right HR practices in place, and simultaneously provides the required resources, it reduces the chances of physical discomfort improving both individual performance and employee’s well-being. Research based on this model confirms that when the right HR practices are in place (Van de Voorde et al., 2012).
Quality of working life (QWL) is the third approach that shows the significance of employee well-being. Heffernan and Dundon (2016) came up with a summary of eight aspects that incorporate high QWL. These are sufficient and fair payment, a healthy and safe working area, integrating the society in planning, assessing the social usefulness of a given job, human rights and representation, growth and security, job security and development of individual abilities. Grote & Guest (2017) have suggested the inclusion of individual practicability and flexibility. Moreover, they came up with a multi-disciplinary framework for analysis into looking at well-being HR practices in the workplace that extend beyond work settings. High QWL outline the need for a wider range of policies and practices covering both to work and employee work relationships that have the potential to boost employees’ well-being (Bratton and Gold, 2012).
For instance, Apple and Google have been noted to use the Ability, Motivation and Opportunity (AMO) theory in assigning talented and star players’ key areas in which the companies view as focal points for success. Rather than allocating them responsibilities all over the organization, they assign when a critical areas which has been noted to increase productivity by over 40% (Van de Voorde et al., 2012).
Self-determination theory (SDT) and employee well-being.
Self-determination theory is concerned with human motivation, optimal functioning and personalities. The theory looks what brings about different types of motivation and states approaches to motivation. SDT is concerned with the positive psychology of how people nurture their strengths to develop positive emotions. The theory address the three psychological need that are universal to all people. That is, competence, autonomy, and relatedness (Robertson & Cooper, 2011).
Organization leaders who use self-determination theory in their work place must ensure they use the right kind approach to employee motivation. The right way is to use SDT’s autonomous motivation, which involves allowing employees to be part of a job that is intrinsically consistent with their values. Autonomous motivation promotes problem solving, high-quality learning and flexible thinking. These qualities can help employees feel useful and valued bring in new ideas, solutions and plans to the progress of an organization. Another way is through controlled motivation where employees are allocated job duties and make to realize the need for such duties even though they do not feel naturally obliged to do it (Stoll et al, 2012).
Theory of Employee Well-Being (EWB)
The theory of employee well-being (EWB) refers to a state of life satisfaction, contentment, and personal welfare directly linked to job satisfaction. The EWB theory is not focused on job satisfaction, rather than the levels of satisfaction and that employees can claim are accrued from having a fulfilling job or being associated with working in a given place (Stoll et al, 2012)..
Since employee well-being involves overall fulfilment with life, the theory of EWB looks at how work affects factors such as health, social life, and family. It is noted that if an employee is satisfied with their work, they are more comfortable at work, which reduces the amount of concern in other domains of their life such as spiritual life, family life or leisure. This in turn translates to an overall greater satisfaction and better life the satisfaction from work spills over to one domain to the other influencing their life (Robertson & Cooper, 2011).
HRM; Mutual Benefits or Conflicting Results
Most of the HR practices and policies that look at employee well-being are different from those that are concerned with employee performance. It is important for companies that are seeking to promote employee well-being to shift their attention from performance based HRM practices to those that are bound to improve employee well-being (Bratton and Gold, 2012).
The above development in HRM practices and policies are affected by technological changes and the demand to perform and achieve organizational goals. This has come to the risk of deteriorating employees well-being as most of the practices are allowed in the HRM sphere. This raises a concern regarding the extent that HR theories, research, policies and practices have strived to raise awareness of employee well-being. As noted by Beer et al. (2015), the bulk of HRM studies have help the assumptions that the main goal of HRM is to help organizations give maximum financial returns to their shareholders. This is to the neglect of HRM studies that advocate and investigate ways to promote employees well-being. HRM thus stands at the midpoint between mutual benefits and conflicting results ((Gold et al, 2013).
The same results were depicted by studies done by Van de Voorde et al. (2012), looking at the simultaneous effects of HRM on employee well-being and organizational performance. They showed that increased efforts by HRM to attain more job satisfaction and performance resulted into a reciprocal decline in health well-being. In such scenarios, HRM was linked to employee stress. Moreover, in such scenarios, HRM was linked to employee stress. Moreover, high-performance work systems are characterized by intense working conditions which stressful (Jensen et al., 2013) .When is designing a HRM approach aimed at promoting employee well-being, it is worth considering that companies will not base their concern on employee well-being on ethical grounds only (Jensen et al., 2013).
Companies seek to benefit when they promote employee well-being and how it will increase their productivity. This has led to employment legislations that seeks to accommodate both the interests of the organizations and employee well-being (Boxall, 2013). HRM practices should adopt a pluralist perspective that can be fitted into the employer-employee relationship; this can usefully be framed within the context of the employment relationship. Employments relations seeking to bridge the gap can apply the mutual benefit approach under workplace partnership. Positive employment relations have the capacity to benefit both the employee and the employer to the gain of the shareholders (Valizade et al., 2016)
Employment relationship involves exchanges between employees and employers in a form of reciprocity. This reciprocal model, employers who employ HRM practices and policies that enhance employee well-being, employees will return the favour positively by performing better. This is a deviation from the standard behavioural approach where HRM practices objectives are towards high performance with well-being as a side effect (Heffernan and Dundon, 2016).
The employment relationship model acts as an alternative with proposed greater positive effect on well-being, which consequently leads to better performance. Boxall (2013), portrayed the impacts of such a model that showed that, when the balance favoured employees, they reported positive outcomes. This included their perception on trust and fairness between co-workers on a personal level, with organization outcomes such as higher productivity and low turnovers. In cases where the balance went against the employees, both well-being and productivity recorded low outcomes (Boxall, 2013).
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HRM practices that can be used to improve employee wellbeing
Investment in employees: the necessity of investing in employees springs from QWL claim of the need to support human capabilities. This can be done through training, growth and providing security of an attractive job in the future. This feeling of security makes employees develop self-efficacy promoting wellbeing. When employees are trained, it gives them an upper hand in coping with job demands reducing stress. HR practices such as career-related support activities and, this requires HR practices such as critical recruitment and selection helps in identifying and helping employees develop a positive wellbeing. , training and development and support for career-related activities (Marchington and Wilkinson, 2015).
Providing engaging work. When workers are engaged, they feel that they are in control and free to use their skills at work. If the organization employs a job demands –resource model, employees will be more autonomous leading to increased well-being and less stressful events. HRM practices that help in growth of interpersonal relationships and to capture individual brilliance such as the QWL model should be used often as they lead to employee wellbeing (Grote & Guest, 2017).
Positive social and physical environment: organizations’ HRM departments should create a conducive and secure working conditions and settings. Employees’ safety, hygiene and health come first. HR managers should incorporate practices that motivate and enhance social interactions amongst employees in workplace. Social vices such as bullying, harassment, and ethnic profiling should be discouraged as they lead to some employees being affected negatively. HR practices that promote equal and fair reward systems, unity in diversity and reasonable pay improves most employee’s wellbeing. Furthermore, organizations should employ HR practices that provide job security and increase employability (Marchington and Wilkinson (2015).
Effective and timely communication. In organizations, communication is the link between employees and management. Employees should be allowed to express themselves freely and be represented in dialogues, discussions, meetings and planning. A two-way communication is necessary to rely information and to get the feedback. Even though communication is not highly regarded in performance-based models, it is one HR practice that can be used to promote and improve employee wellbeing, especially when they are allowed to take part and their voices heard and considered (Valizade et al., 2016).
Organizational support: HR practices in this aspect include cultivating a participative and supportive organization culture. HR managers can come up with flexible working conditions. When employees are involved, it sets a feeling of importance and being recognized making them confident and proud to be associated with their employer. It makes them develop as opposed when they are judged. Organizational support can highly raise employee well-being by making special arrangements for a family and friendly culture even involving employees relatives (Grote & Guest, 2017).
HRM exists because organizations need to look at the best ways to use their employees’ skills and expertise to achieve their objectives. Since employees forms the core unit of the success of a company, they should be catered for in the best way possible. Just like a company will go to great lengths investing in research and technology, organizations should work best to nurture, develop and maintain high levels of employee wellbeing. HRM researchers need to come up with better and improved methods and practices that are mutually beneficial to the organization and the employees as well (Bratton and Gold, 2012).
We can do it today.
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