Human Resource Management: Gaining a Competitive Advantage



Human beings are viewed as the most important part of any business organization as they are the ones who work to fulfill the set goals. This part of the organization is generally grouped as human resources as it is composed of human beings. It does not discriminate the workforce depending on the level of academic or other specific qualifications that each staff member has; it encompasses every human being that works in the organization, ranging from the janitor to the grounds personnel to the board members. It is also referred to as human capital although this concept may be used to refer to a specific set of qualifications i.e. the specific knowledge that the person in question has that helps in the economic growth of the business.

Human resource management is the process by which the organization controls and directs the use of the human capital available to the organization. Its main function is to maximize the performance of each employee towards the accomplishment of a strategic objective set by the employer. It accomplishes this objective by managing people within the organization through enactment of effective policies that are compatible with the organization’s systems. This is achieved through the human resource departments and units which are tasked with the following duties: designing employee benefits, recruitment and termination of employee contracts, training and development of the workforce, performing employee appraisals and rewarding employees depending on their levels of input through salaries and various benefits such as commissions and bonuses. The department is charged with monitoring changes in the industry and balancing the organizational changes with industrial relations. This includes balancing the organization’s practices with the expected requirements by the employees such as industrial laws and collective bargains (Legge, 1995). 

Strategic human resource management can be described as the alignment of human resources with the best policies and actions by the human resource department to ensure maximum returns from the human capital employed. This ensures that the employee feels satisfied with his job while the organizational goals are effectively and efficiently achieved. The aim of this paper is determine how best strategic human resource management can be used to improve the efficiency of the work force. 

Enhancement of HR services

Enhancement of HR services is the work of the HR department. The department may use various strategies within its power to ensure that the workforce of the organization work at an optimum level hence ensuring optimal productivity, competitiveness, effectiveness and efficiency of the organization. Organizations generally use two broad HR strategies in order to improve the efficiency of output from its employees. These are classified as either ‘high-road’ or ‘low-road’ human resource management strategies (Cooke, 2000).

‘High-road’ human resource management

These are generally described as positive strategies put in place by HR departments to enhance the efficiency of the organization’s workforce. They are meant to appeal to the employee’s sense of workmanship through provision of incentives. The employee increases the level of output above the average in order to receive the incentive. The incentives range from bonuses, recognition in front of peers, and salary increment to reception of commissions. For the case of Catholic Elementary School, the HR department may seek the following procedures: high level training of the workforce, improved involvement and commitment by the employees and management, high level of rewards and employment of quality initiatives.

High level of training

The HR department may resolve to employ only the most qualified personnel to join the school’s workforce. These individuals should be the top of the cream in terms of academic qualification and be all round individuals. The acquisition of such personnel in the workforce ensures that each individual understands his place and how he should behave in the institution’s set up thus improving the efficiency and productivity of each individual hence enhancing HR services. In case the organization fails to secure the services of such individuals, the HR department may groom existing employees in to fit into the said roles through frequent in house high-level training facilitation.

Improved involvement and commitment

In order for a task to be effectively accomplished, each party concerned is expected to be at their peak. This means that each individual concerned is expected to effectively participate in the production process; the level of involvement and commitment should be high at all times. For an effective workforce to be established, the employees require a strong and dedicated leadership. If the top leadership is seen as being invested in the work done by the organization, a trickle-down effect is achieved as the employees take up the challenge and follow in the footsteps of their seniors. The reverse is true as a lazy and uncommitted leadership subconsciously passes across the message that the workforce does not necessarily have to be committed in order to receive their salaries.  

Employee rewards

Each individual loves to feel appreciated at all time. This is true for all employees working in an organization; an individual may be the most qualified person for the task at hand but may fail to excel in it simply because he feels that the effort he puts in on a daily basis is never recognized by the management. He therefore resolves to put in as little effort as he may spare to complete the task at hand. Employee rewards serve as a means of motivating the individuals improve in their various positions by outdoing each other. The rewards may vary from a simple acknowledgement by the management of one’s efforts to a raise in the salaries received.

Employee quality initiatives

These include practices that are geared towards improving the level of competence of the workforce. They vary from continuous in house training, and employee oriented seminars to the use of the latest equipment available in the market. Improved skills in the workforce ensure improved output received hence improved customer satisfaction due to the improved overall output of the organization.

‘Low-road’ human resource management

Low-road’s human resource strategies are initiatives that serve to improve the output of each individual employee through the employment of fear tactics. Such include low wages, lack of job security and working hours. These measures should only be employed as a last resort should the former tactics fail to elicit the desired out come from the employees. 

Low wages

An individual is motivated to improve his level of output through the promise of improved wages and salaries. The employee is forced to increase the level of effort he expresses on a daily basis through the promise of an increment in the level of remunerations received hence improved output.

Lack of job security

The school’s management may create an atmosphere in the work place that exhibits signs of a high rate of turn over by the employees. This may be due to incompetence of the work force or intolerance by the management. Management may act in such a way that indicates that any form of mistake or incompetence expressed on the side of the employees results in an automatic expulsion from the organization. This helps streamline the workforce in to shape thus improving the level of output exhibited by each individual.

Working hours

Management may put in place stringent working hours and conditions to ensure that each individual is able to work at optimal level. Each organization has its own set of working hours that are expected of each individual. The school may go an extra mile by setting the time each individual employee is expected at his work station and when he is expected to leave and monitored strictly by the use of a biometric clocking in system. This is despite the fact that the individual may not have a pressing matter to attend to. This ensures that the workforce is always present and available to accomplish a given task at the specified time duration.

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Competitive Advantage

Competitive advantage is described as a situation where an organization enjoys lower costs or higher sales over its immediate competitors. A number of factors are responsible for such a scenario ranging from better technology, cheaper or more motivated workforce and labor, cheaper resources, and use of alternative resources to tax exemption or subsidy by the government. In essence competitive advantage is summarized as doing something better than the rivals; the firm succeeds while the competition flounders. Competitive advantage can be achieved through the employment of various human resource strategies.

Offering low prices

An organization may choose to offer the lowest prices for the same services being offered by its competitors. This can be achieved if the operational expenses do not exceed the price of the goods or services and the organization is still able to make a profit i.e. the operational expenses must be as low as possible in order to maximize the profits. This may be achieved by acquiring cheap labor from independent contractors and/or offshore labor. This minimizes HR expenses, which is combined with other methods of reducing expenses to achieve the targeted low prices. The elementary school may decide to offer its services at a cheaper rate as compared to other elementary schools. To achieve this, it can acquire the services of un-unionized employees and seek alternative vendors for the resources it uses.

Change of perspective

Organizations may decide not to use the conventional way of idea generations and combine a wide variety of perspectives to come up with effective business ideas. Equity partners, full or part-time employees and advisory board members are seen as the richest sources of new ideas. The organization may create avenues where they create and nurture new business ideas that are fresh and effective to give them an edge over its competitors. The school may come up with new, fresh and effective innovations, from within the school, that sets them apart from other elementary schools hence attract more parents.

Employing highly skilled personnel

Employment of highly skilled personnel enables an organization come up with products and services that are superior to similar products in the market. The employees use the resources available to come up with masterpieces that ensure improved consumer traffic to the organization. The school may seek out the most skilled and qualified personnel to work in the school. This ensures that the best educators teach the children and services are provided by the best providers setting the school’s standards above the other elementary schools. The school should however ensure it acts within its budget so as not to incur unnecessary expenses arising from salaries and wages and complementary services.


An organization should not only strive to employ the most skilled individuals in the market. Rather it should also look at how operationally effective they are. The employee should possess the required skills to fill the position available but also be able to reduce internal costs incurred highly increases the margins received by the business. The organization should have a very strong internal culture, which serves to increase the engagement and morale of the employees, to increase the overall productivity thus returns. The school should employ individuals who are not only highly skilled but also very effective in what they do. This serves to ensure that the school uses very little resources to achieve a set task thus sparing the resources to be employed in other avenues hence saving on costs incurred while raising the standards of the elementary school. This sets it apart from other similar institutions hence increasing enrolment numbers (Berry, 2012).

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Potential Impacts

Social networking

Social media has steadily risen from a tool used for fun by the populace to an important avenue where business organizations are able to advertise current job openings and acquire competent and effective workforce that it employs to work within its ranks. Leading social media networks such as Viadeo, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook have enabled recruiters acquire a wide range of information on potential and existing employees thus determine how effective they are at achieving their tasks. Such sites enable businesses build their brands not only in their designated official websites but also on the social media arena hence providing such entities with unlimited unpaid for reach where they can expand their information bases. Social media sites provide companies with avenues where they can create goodwill and good public relations with the outside world while cutting costs incurred during the recruitment process.

Social media however has its disadvantages when it comes to the side of the potential and existing employees as the organization may use the individual’s social media pages and presence to form a basis of a background check. This may easily disqualify such individuals as their presence and activities may not conform to what the organization is looking for. Alternatively, the public may be swayed away from the organization due to bad PR existing in such sites. It may also create personnel, financial and legal risks to the organization if not managed properly (Selçuk, 2013).

Talent Management

Business organizations look out for individuals who are highly skilled in the performance of a particular function in the industry. These are highly valued as they serve to improve the productivity of the organization at a minimal cost thus setting the organization apart from its competitors. Most organizations seek to recruit such individuals. This makes them very expensive as their services are highly sort after. This may lead to bitter rivalry between competing businesses that may be dragged to court due to employee poaching allegations. On the other hand, employing and promoting such individuals at the expense of other employees may cause friction within the organization as the talented individuals are given preferential treatment at the expense of other employees. This serves to put the human resource department at a quagmire as it is caught between providing the organization with the most qualified employees and settling employee grievances (Victor Oladapo, 2014). 


Diversity in the work place is determined depending on the cultural background of the employees. Directives from the International Labor Organizations and various governments demand that any international or public institution have a culturally diverse workforce that is gender sensitive in order for them to be issued with permits carry out their activities. Failure to institute this directive may result in the filing of legal proceedings against such organizations or the revocation of their business permits. The HR departments are forced to scout for individuals from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds to fill in such quotas. As a result, this has increased the workload of such departments as they are forced to scout far and wide for such individuals despite the fact that individuals with the required set of skills are locally available. The departments are also forced to consider cultural diversity and gender sensitivity when terminating employment contracts or giving promotions. This leads to increased friction between various groups at the work place (Shen, Chanda, & D’Netto, 2009).

Employee engagement

HR departments have been forced to change tact from previously being the overall voice of the organization while employees were meant to only listen and take into consideration what they have been told. Improvement in employee rights require that the organization take in to consideration what the employee say; their interactions are more of negotiations rather than directives from one quarter as was previously the case. This has increased the work and duties of the HR department (Tangthong, 2014).

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Effect of new technology on HR practices


Improved technology, particularly the advent of computer technology, has led to the improvement of the employee recruitment process. Organizations initially relied on the print media to advertise job opportunities in their organization. This was not only tedious as it required a lot of man hours to draft, print and distribute the advertisements but also had a limited scope of coverage due to the physical distribution of the fliers and posters. As a result, the organizations did not only waste a lot of time and resources but they also did not get the best candidate to fill the position in most instances. The current use of computer technology has reduced the need for the gruesome man-hours and saved on company resources such as stationery as the process is paperless and very fast. The HR department advertises the job openings on its official websites and other social media and official job sites. Interested individuals are able to reply through the designated channels and recruited as seen fit by the organization.


The use of Information Technology has enabled the recruiters to train the new recruits more efficiently than before. The recruits are able to access the company’s information and training programs remotely thus doing away with the need for the trainers working directly with the new recruits throughout the training process. Training can also be done using virtual classrooms in order for the trainers to reach a large number of recruits quickly and also enables them assess the progress made by each recruit through computerized tests.

Data storage

The HR department is notorious for the generation of a considerable amount of paper work due to the nature of work it is involved in. This ranges from, keeping files on past and current employees from the date of recruitment to their termination to keeping performance appraisals. The records include family, health, financial, complaints and related records. Initially this was done on paper, which made it very tedious as a lot of manpower, and space was required for the storage of such files. This is currently not the situation as improvement in ICT has enabled HR department use paperless files for the storage of vital information thus reducing manpower required for the activity. The department only prints on demand.

Performance Management

The department is able to use improved technology to assess the performance of each individual employee while at the same time getting the required employee feedback on how to improve the overall performance of the organization. The use of various computer software has enabled the department use different metrics to gauge whether the employees meet the set performance standards. Those who do not meet the required standards are either required to attend additional training or are let go and replaced with more effective personnel. The use of improved technology has led to the overall improvement of communication between the HR department and the rest of the organization as it is able to effectively articulate itself through various means such as emails, teleconferences and direct inter-personal telephone calls between the department personnel and the required employee (Lewis, 2017).

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Evaluation of Human Resource Management Practices

Evaluation can be described as set of planned activities geared to provide the responsible authority with a satisfactory assessment of the project at hand. Evaluation of HRM practices is necessary as it serves to determine what should be invested in the organization in the future of HR, help improve HR processes, determine business strategies in order to align HR practices accordingly, help build intellectual capital within business organizations, ascertain what is effective and what is not, provide accountability, reflect on the health and climate of the organization and improve where necessary, lead employee motivation and morale and improve the department’s image within the organization.

The most commonly used system of evaluation is the Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation. This suggests that there are four levels of evaluations involved: reaction; measured by use of short surveys or focus groups, learning; measured using demonstration performance or written tests, behavior; measured using observations by supervisors, self-report or third party and organizational impact through use of bottom-line measures. The model has withstood the test of time because it is easy to use and understand. It also explores various aspects of employee performance while expecting various outcomes; it is not a simple yes or no application process. The model however has its weaknesses such as a lack of validation through research; it shows a weak connection between reaction and learning on performance. The use of the term level has been deemed to be inappropriate as one level doesn’t consequently lead to the next. The model does not provide help on how to deal with the fourth level, the most important one. The model further provides several excuses why a systematic evaluation is not done for all the levels. The model is also too simplistic, it provides a taxonomy instead of a model. Lastly, the model seems to have been designed for evaluation of training hence may not be fit for other HR functions.

A second approach uses the repeat measures. This is used primarily in needs assessment. The model assumes that awareness for the requirement of an intervention amongst the workers must have been triggered by something. Replication of the said trigger indicates whether or not the intervention employed was effective in resolving the original problem. The approach is considered as very valid as it replicates the steps that signaled the requirement for the intervention employed. The measures instituted were already in place thus reduces costs that would have otherwise been employed. Additionally, the employees who brought the problem to light end up feeling validated for being good employees. The model has its weaknesses though. It may be expensive and time consuming should the original model include interviews and surveys. Additionally, the surveys would receive low responses as the parties involved get tired of answering them.

The Return on Investment (ROI) model approach tries to equate all the inputs and outputs with financial equivalences and determine the extent to which the HR function has contributed to organization, which results in a percentage used to indicate what the return on the investment was. It allows the observer the chance to compare the amount of human capital invested to other forms of capital investments. ROI is widely accepted because it provides quantitative information in terms of monetary valuation. It therefore aligns with the objectives of the business hence with its strategies. The approach also focusses on HR as an important asset of the organization and does not view it as an expense as is with other approaches. The model however has its own weaknesses such as the results can be easily manipulated, lack of agreement on what the numbers used in the estimators should be thus are guesses at best and the use of control groups in this approach have the possibility of reducing the impact of effective programs on the organization. The approach may be expensive to implement, it is based on false assumption that ROI can be proven by other business aspects, it is also very slow as compared to the rapidly changing world and it may be politically insensitive as it overstates benefits that actually result from other aspects of business while it over assigns costs (McLean, 2005). 

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HRM is one of the most important departments in any organization. Its main duties involve the recruitment, training, maintenance and termination of the organization’s manpower. It sources and employs new employees as and when required by the organization, it trains them on how to effectively achieve the expectations levelled against them, carries out employees’ performance appraisal, provides directives if additional training is required and terminates contracts as directed by management. It serves as the faces of the company and also serves as the mediator between the employees and the company or between employees. The world is changing at a fast pace hence the HRM department has to change with it or risk failing the organization. The use of modern technology has made the work of the department easier as it no longer has to use paper files to store the data it collects. Additionally, it has enabled the department reach a wider pool of potential employees via the Internet. On the other hand, advancements in technology has a down side to the department as the personnel are forced to adopt and become tech savvy or risk being made obsolete by younger more qualified personnel. Additionally, the number of cases brought to the HR department is on the rise due to the use of technology by some employees to harass their colleagues.  

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