What’s Your HR Policy Type?

Topic(s): strategic HR

Topic: Strategic HR
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Human resource configurations: Investigating fit with the organizational context.
Blogger: James Grand

Some businesses go for broke and pamper their employees from day one, starting with the all-expenses paid recruitment weekend all the way through the Golden Years retirement package, in the hopes that their human capital investment pays out big along the way.  But many others choose a more…shall we say, “conservative” approach, where the goal is to provide just enough incentive to keep a reasonably productive warm body in the chair until the next cheaper one comes along (See: Moneyball).

Surely HR policy management isn’t just black or white. Toh, Morgeson and Campion (2008) set out to determine some of the grey area in their latest JAP publication. Sampling from over 600 organizations across a diverse range of industries, the researchers were able to identify 5 archetypes that describe the majority of company HR approaches: Cost Minimizers, Contingent Motivators, Competitive Motivators, Resource Makers, and Commitment Maximizers. Additionally, the authors were able to use these HR policy profiles to predict which of a select number of core values (People Orientation, Innovation, and Stability) and structural aspects (Mechanistic Structure and Union Representation) a company was most likely to follow.

While Toh et al.’s findings are not able to support causal effects of any sort (i.e., a Cost Minimizing strategy results in an organization exhibiting a less positive orientation towards Innovation, or vice versa), the authors do provide some compelling speculative arguments about how, where, and why each HR policy type may be useful given certain strategic business goals, contexts, or environments.

As it stands now, it remains to be seen whether strategic HR management can ever escape its perception as the maleficent bane of employee well-being—but at the very least, continued efforts such as these can help HR policy-makers and organizational strategists better position their company to get the best of both worlds.

Toh, S.M., Morgenson, F.P., & Campion, M.A. (2008). Human resource configurations: Investigating fit with the organizational context. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(4), 864–882.