OPERATIONAL MANAGERS AND HR PROFESSIONALS 1
The Unhappy Marriage between Operational Managers and Human ResourceProfessionals: Source of Tensions, Compensations, and Harmony
The Unhappy Marriage between Operational Managers and Human ResourceProfessionals: Source of Tensions, Compensations, and Harmony
Historically, human resources management and operations managementhave been two distinct and separate fields. Practically, humanresource professionals and operational managers primarily interact onan administrative capacity. Among academics, these two fields are thefocus of studies by separate scholar communities preparing differentacademic papers from distinct disciplinary foundations. Armstrong(2012) and Tsui & Lai (2009) contend that human resources andoperational managers are closely intertwined on a fundamental basisthus, the cultivation of organizational behaviours that promoteharmony need to form the basis of administration. Operationsmanagement offers context, which ideally explains and moderates humanresource management functions outlining remunerations, staffing,training and communications (Zheng, 2012). Likewise, Armstrong (2012)asserts that the ideals of management may have critical areas ofharmony but tension between human resource divisions and operationsoften display the tensions and conflict between the two departments.Human responses towards systems adopted by operations managementoften serves to explain for anomalies or variations which in atraditional operations management research model would be treated asrandom or erroneous variances. The provision of a literature reviewexplaining the unhappy marriage between operational managers andhuman resource professionals will provide a critical assessment onthe areas of conflict and tension in the management field. As such,the literature review will offer insights as to the sources oftensions, compensation initiatives and the realization of harmonybetween these two management fields.
Sources of tension between Operations & HR
Studies by Perkins & Arvinen-Muondo (2013) show that tensionbetween operations managers and human resources professionals is notnew phenomenon. These two departments always seem to disagree on oneissue or another. For instance, differences often occur with regardto what operations managers also referred to as line managers areresponsible for relative to the role of human resources department.Research by Sirmon, Hitt, Ireland & Gilbert (2011) demonstratethat operations managers work on front lines of businesses to reducecosts and increase productivity while human resource professionalsprotect employees and the company thus, they seem to converge at amutual rallying point for the benefit of the company, but egos andpersonalities often cause collisions and tensions. In fact, Harris,Tuckman & Snook (2012) have demonstrated through the 2007 Gibbonsreview and subsequent repeals of the statutory disciplinaryprocedures of 2009 that conflicts in management especially betweenhuman resource professionals and operations managers arise frompolicies, responsibilities, personalities and the offices the twodiverging sides hold. Likewise, Armstrong (2012) and Perkins &Arvinen-Muondo (2013) have demonstrated that the two groups of peoplehave different personalities and responsibilities and hold that theirawareness and knowledge of the firm differs thus, the presence ofdifferent forms of tensions and conflicts. In spite of reasonsbehind such conflict, an organization’s business model shouldclearly delineate responsibilities and duties for these twodepartments (Perkins & Arvinen-Muondo, 2013).
Esland, Esland, Murphy & Yarrow (2013) assert that tensionsbetween operations and human resources is in most cases founded onallocation of responsibilities and the organization’s defined lineof authority. Study by Sirmon et. al (2011) best explains the tensionthat exist between operations and human resources professionals suchthat for organizations where the human resources management is taskedwith offering consultancy to operations managers, the organizationalstructure is such that operations managers have more control of theirstaff and exercise more latitude with regard to labour relatedplanning and staffing initiatives. This organizational structure canhowever easily result in disagreement or ruin especially in caseswhere operational managers are not fully informed of human resourcesprocesses. This also the case where operational managers have greaterauthority in staffing matters than they normally should (Esland et.al, 2013). Such a level of authority should be granted to operationalmanagers with regard to human resources issues should be dependent ontheir ability to employ acceptable employment practices anddevelopment in leadership skills.
Jackson, Renwick, Jabbour & Müller-Camen (2011) have conducteddifferent studies on the source of tensions between human resourceprofessionals and operations managers and found out thatadministrative polices and especially the delineation of duties is acause of alarm. Jackson et. al (2011) have concluded that delineationof duties, scheduling, and performance appraisals are the most causeof tensions in the administrative policies of a firm between HRprofessionals and operations managers. In their studies Jackson et.al (2011) and Goyal, Jain & Garg (2014) have demonstrated usingADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) how inconsistencies and lack ofclear responsibilities in job duties ensue tensions and conflicts. On the other hand, Armstrong (2010) (2012) and Ulrich (2013) twoacclaimed authors of management papers and books have establishedthat scenarios where issues concerning employees arise, operationsmanager may feel duty-bound to pragmatically deal unswervingly withthe difficult without consulting human resources hence, source oftension.
Jiang, Lepak, Hu & Baer (2012) proclaim that human resourcesprofessionals always insist on consistent application ofadministrative policies. In their research, Jiang et. al (2012) claimthat both groups insist on applying administrative policies even whencompliance and application policies suggest the use of differentstrategies. In fact, in a research conducted in Fortune Companies,Jiang et. al (2012) concludes that personalities, egos, and lack of aclear and demarcated policy on the application of policies results todifferent forms of tensions on a daily basis. According to Tsui &Lai (2009), individual administrative services should be accountablefor the effectiveness of implementation processes of core HRstrategies. Line managers should develop their plans based on thesestrategies in meeting their individual departments’ objectives inline with the overall organizational strategy. Armstrong (2012) andUlrich (2013) contend that operational managers who tend to veer awayfrom enforcing adopted administrative policies within theirdepartments tend to have tense working relations with human resourcesprofessionals as they are at continuous odds with them.
As Jiang et. al (2012) and Moynihan (2008) provides, progressive HRpolicies revolve around a core objective which is the prevention ofincidences where the abuse of managerial authority resulting insystem failures leading to selective employee discrimination. Forinstance, operational managers at times ignore employee tardiness orabsenteeism on the basis that such employees are excellent employees.Bacal (2011) and Adhikari (2010) claim that employee absenteeism andthe failure to put into effect administrative policies that minimizeabsenteeism negatively influence the output of other employees. Thisalso serves to diminish an organization’s ability in maintainingaccurate records. Workers who observe supervisors selectivelyoverlooking or ignoring absenteeism of fellow workers tend to showsigns of diminishing morale and poor motivation eventually.
Low worker morale and poor motivation translates to challenges forthe HR staff to resolve, forming a basis for tensions between the HRdepartment and operational management. HR professionals safeguard theinterests of employees thus, they try to cultivate processes thatincrease motivation, morale, and compensation, but on the other hand,operations managers have a duty to ensure that productivity increasesin a firm thus, continuous development of tensions and conflicts.Several studies by Armstrong (2012), Ulrich (2013), Melo &Machado (2013), and Farndale, Scullion & Sparrow (2010) suggestthat the establishment of policies that demarcate such roleseffectively ensure reduced tensions and conflicts hence, theexistence of harmony in the workplace.
However, in recent studies by Özbilgin, Groutsis & Harvey(2014), Luu (2014), and Goyal et. al (2014) on different companies’processes and models, employees’ compensation is a major cause oftension. In their bid, to ensure the effective application ofadministrative policies, HR professionals and operations managersoften disagree on the way to conduct training and development ofemployees. Özbilgin et. al (2014) and Luu (2014) suggest that thenotion that operations managers have a clear role to ensure costreductions and HR professionals’ perception that they have acomprehensive role to play in ensuring training, protection,development, and compensation of employees usually results totensions. The body of research on the roles of operations managersand HR professionals in the application of administrative policiesclaims that firms need to have clear roles on individual basis ratherthan delineating duties on a group basis.
Performance management is an organizational tool used to assessemployee potential, strength, weaknesses, training and developmentneeds, and aids in the appraisal of employee compensation. Schwarz,Hall & Shibli (2010) provide that operations managers shouldadhere to human resource manuals formulated within the organization’score objectives. Farndale et. al (2010) claim that the groupsconflict on the systems applied in performance management andemployee compensation. Most operations managers do not useperformance management strategies developed by HR professionalsthus, the HR professionals feel like operations managers overlooktheir energies and time spend preparing those tools. Ulrich (2013)and Knight, Curham & Locke (2001) suggest that operationsmanagers need to appreciate the roles of HR professionals in order tolessen the tension that exist between them.
In fact, several studies Ulrich (2013), Adhikari (2010) Knight et.al (2001), and Schwarz (2010) suggest that employee termination andperformance appraisals are some of the tasks that operationalmanagers perform poorly. In this regards, operations managers shouldtry to establish policies that ensure the use of the performancemanagement systems developed by HR professionals and at the same timereact on time on employees’ appraisals. This is because operationsmanagers tend to have several challenges when adhering to performancemanagement systems as prescribed by HR professionals (Adhikari,2010). These arise from poor preparations for employee appraisals,failure to accord employees with consistent, candid and honestfeedback that enhance employee output. The time invested by the humanresources professionals in formulating performance management systemthus appears to be time lost in cases where operational managers failto adhere to such a system (Bacal, 2011). This results tenserelations between operations and human resources managers.
The responsibility of HR professionals
The primary source tense relations between operational managers andhuman resources professional however does not always stem fromshortcomings of operational managers. It is important to note thathuman resources professionals tend to take their duties andresponsibilities far too seriously when effecting administrativepolicies, managing staffing structures and giving consultative adviceto operational managers (Mamman & Somantri, 2013). At times, theytake their duties and responsibilities to far such that they tend toassume duties and responsibilities designated for operationalmanagers. To solve this, HR professional should institute strategies,which can accord training to operational managers on the appropriateperformance of employment-related obligations. More so operationalmanagers should be taught more on how to carry out some humanresources functions (Melo & Machado, 2013). For instance,training operational managers on how to conduct interviews to enablethem make the most appropriate recruiting decisions. This can go along way in enabling HR professionals to employ more focus towardsstrategic HR management and less on the functional and transactionalroles, which are traditionally assigned to operational managers.
Resolving tensions between HR and operational Management
Simplification is an indispensable tool for all-organizationalmodelling and as such, operational management researchers as well asmanagers are well aware that these models are indeed simplifiedpresentations of human behaviour. Melo & Machado (2013) contendthat operational managers may not be always aware on the impact suchsimplified models may have on the decision making process. Melo &Machado (2013) suggest that to gain more insights on this issue, itis essential that one consider general assumptions applied inrepresenting employees in such operational management models.Likewise, Ulrich (2013) and Armstrong (2013) suggest that mosttensions arise during processes that involve employees thus, theneed to develop tools to resolve such tensions. As such, some studiesconducted by Jiang et. al (2012), Goyal et. al (2014), Jackson et. al(2011), Esland et. al (2013), and Sirmon et. al (2011) have submittedthe use of ADR to resolve such tensions.
In many operational management models, people are not the onlyfundamental factor of production. For instance, in most operationalmanagement models, machines and equipment are considered withoutincorporating the human factor. Secondly, operational managementmodels consider employees as predictable, deterministic or identical.Jackson et. al (2011) claim that operational managements tends toview employees as factors of production with perfect availabilityleaving no room for anomalies stemming from sick offs, absenteeism orphysical incapacitations. Task times are thus considered in adeterministic manner where mistakes are not factored in and allworkers work at the same rate, present the same level of output andas such are motivated by the same incentives (Sirmon et. al, 2011).
Thirdly, most operational management models consider employees asbeing independent variables such that the actions, absenteeism oroutput of one worker does not affect the output of other workers. Fourthly, operational management models perceive workers asstationary factors of productions. As such they do not consider suchissues as training employees improves output, tiredness negativelyimpacts on output or the possibility that similar circumstancesaffecting them as human beings also affect employees. As such,problem solving is hardly considered in operational managementmodels. Workers are not part of the product or service.
Sirmon et. al (2011) suggest that for some incidents of workplaceconflict, training and development are key factors in resolvingissues between departments and their managers. The conflict thatoften occurs between human resources staff and line management maynot be easy to resolve by simply holding professional developmentworkshops, however. It is critical to create a business model thatconsiders the organization`s products, services, structure and theexpertise of both human resources and operations managers. Thebusiness model should focus on organizational strategy and goals, andthen clearly lay out the roles and expectations of human resourcesversus operations.
The human factor affects operational management models with numerousmeans. Singh (20120 suggest that some of the observable humanresources variables that tend to affect conventional operationalmanagement systems models include individual productivity levels areaffected by such variables as incentives, and workload influencedvariables such as fatigue, learning and forgetting, boredom and age.In addition, Thomas & Lazarova (2013) claim that retention orstaff turnover also tend to have significant effects on employeeperformance as well as HR initiated system training costs. On theother hand, Jiang et. al (2012) assert that agility and flexibilityalso significantly affect an employee’s aptitude towardsdynamically adapting to organizational changes. Motivation as apsychological reaction by a worker towards his or her workingenvironment influences positive behaviours, which can translate tobetter productivity. Motivation has been proven to positivelyinfluence speed, quality as well as other diverse aspects related toemployee output and almost every other aspect of worker
Team structure also influences the performance of employees as wellas the overall effectiveness of the overall operational managementsystem. In a team, output by other workers can result in a positiveoutcome among other employees such that this can facilitate learningor in other cases raise worker morale. However, teams can alsonegatively affect employee output such that some can take advantageof the high output realized from fellow employees to slack of whileon duty.
Studies by Jackson et. al (2011) and Furnham (2012) submit that teamsetting allow more experienced workers to offer new employeesassistance on a need be basis thereby facilitating training on thejob thus seamlessly integrating new employees without compromising onproductivity. Teams also facilitate communication thus decreasingdelays in production. This relay of information is thus a significantdesign variable, which can positively improve the expectations ofoperational managers by increasing output by diminishing delay times.
Realizing harmony between operational managers and human resourceprofessionals
The effect of goal setting on employee performance is one of thestrongest and most widely researched attributes in human behaviourresearch (Knight et. al, 2001). This implies that concrete, specificgoals are optimize employee motivation. Goal settings serves todescribe processes in which employees tend to receive externallysuggested aspirations and, more so, how they can set their own goalspositively. For operational managers, performance towards theachievement of certain goals takes precedent over other setobjectives. Human resource managers engage operational managementprofessionals to address the fact that specific and concrete goalstend to influence higher levels of individual performance. Knight et.al (2001) assert that both the operational managers can work towardsstrategies, which make behavioural comparisons in workers when taskedwith executing concrete and specific objectives against team output,individual performance and operations informed objectives reflectingessential process parameters.
Historically training research has offered crucial insights into thenecessary conditions. Appropriate towards creating conduciveenvironments, which allow creative learning, allow the transfer andapplication learning in the workplace. This research has also enabledfor insights into the relative effects of various training programs,such as simulation, experiential, and expository (Goldstein 2002).Operational management models offer specific contextual attributes,which influence traditional training queries. According to Harris,Tuckman & Snook (2012), in- house training research enables forbetter understanding on how HR and OM can work towards building onknowledge that can be utilized and line manages can then suggestwhere such knowledge is most appropriately applied.
For the HRM training is considered as presenting results that aremore effective where individual employees are in a position toperceive success that is self-efficacy (Harris, Tuckman & Snook,2012). As such, HR professionals recognize that employees contributepositively towards organizational goals when they have theunderstanding and opportunity to apply knowledge gained in theworkplace (Armstrong, 2010).
Singh (2012) claim that operational managers should advocate forcross training targeted for roles that translate to optimized workerrole sharing. For instance, in a loop training whereby each employeeis trained on more than one skill can ensure that more than oneworker thus enabling the sharing of tasks among employees’ sharesskills. This not only minimizes training costs but also improvesefficiency by incorporating the human factor in operationalmanagement models. Both HRM and OM can thus compare training transferlevels with the resultant process effectiveness under conventionalapproaches, which emphasize common standards of self-efficacy andtransfer to approaches where self-efficacy and training transfer istargeted towards the optimization of training application in theworkplace (Mathis, Jackson & Valentine, 2013).
Furnham (2012) submit that people can calculate HRM training costsand accruing benefits as a subjective rate in the application oftraining and the subjective estimates in monetary terms in therealized improvement in an individual employee’s output (Morrow,Jarrett & Rupinsky 1997).
Research by Furnham (2012) and Thomas & Lazarova (2013) suggestthat for line managers, training presents the greatest effect inroles that occur at a high rate or in such situations where rolesharing offers the most valuable outcome. For instance, call centremodels usually allow for predictability where task elements arise fora specific call and when task sharing optimizes output through theelimination of persistent bottlenecks. Both the HRM and OM canintegrate line manager predictions with regard to role frequency androle sharing impacts into estimates of training return-on-investment.
Attraction and Retention
Numerous research studies in HRM and input output psychology providesfor the possibility of a connection between employee attitudes towardtheir work and the likelihood that they may opt to leave theircurrent employment. Research by Levering & Moskowitz (2002)suggests that an opportunity for the employee to learn is criticaltowards employee satisfaction as well as in attracting and retainingworkers. Therefore, it can be a prudent practice for HRMprofessionals to engage in training employees broadly in an efforttowards attracting and retaining them. However, operationalmanagement models can reveal where there is a probability for anyparticular employee to gain meaningful skills is low thus enabling HRprofessionals to formulate appropriate recruitment and appraisalmechanisms (Mahadevan, 2009 Vance, Vance & Paik, 2011).
Singh (2012) suggest that cross training on rarely applied skillsresult in greater frustrations rather than satisfaction. The HRM inthis case can gain reports from employees on their levels of theirsatisfaction and the level of attraction to an organizations employeerelated policies relative to training. This can play a great role inenabling an organization to determine on the provision of learningopportunities such that training can be accorded to the idealemployees towards a lower staff turnover and higher productivity(Vance, Vance & Paik, 2011).
For workplace related conflict, training and development are crucialattributes conflict resolution between departments and theirmanagers. Tensions often occur between human resources professionalsand operational managers, which may be difficult to resolve byintroducing professional development workshops. It is howeverimportant to incorporate organizational models that consider anorganization`s products, services, structure and the expertise ofboth human resources and operations managers. Such a model shouldprimarily aim on organizational strategies and objectives to haveclear policies on the roles and expectations of HRM and OM.
Broughton (2013) and Banfield (2013) assert that conflict will alwaysrise between operations managers and human resources professionals,but the most imperative aspect is to understand the source of tensionand cultivate measures or procedures that enable a harmonious workingrelationship between the two departments. As such, firms should haveprocedures and processes that delineate the duties andresponsibilities of operations managers and HR professionals.Banfield (2013) suggests that firms should give operations managers alevel of authority that depend on their grasp of fair employmentpractices and the level of their established leadership skills. Onthe other hand, Armstrong (2010) submits that firms should haveconsistent workplace practices that ensure operations managers andtheir human resources counterparts work within the frameworks of suchapplications.
However, scholars such as Belbin (2012), Clark (2014), and Broughton(2013) suggest that firms should cultivate policies that applytraining and developments in resolving such conflicts. But, as theaforementioned scholars suggest that training and development are keyto resolving conflicts, Ulrich (2013), Jackson et. al (2011), andHarris et. al (2012) suggest that training and development cannotresolve the tensions that occur between operations managers and HRprofessionals fully since the conflicts have major dynamics. As such,Ulrich (2013), Harris et. al (2012), and Bacal (2011) suggest thatfirms should cultivate business models that consider firms’structure, services, products, and the expertise of both HRprofessionals and operations managers. In addition, other studies byJackson et. al (2013) and Esland (2013) submit that such modelsshould focus on organizational behaviours, strategies, objectives,and then undoubtedly lay out the parts and prospects of operationsversus human resources. As suggested throughout the literature reviewtension between human resources professionals and operations managershas been in existence for decades, but the businesses models andprocesses cultivated determine the level of harmony that the firmwill subsist. On the other, because of differing duties andresponsibilities between operations managers and human resources,such tensions occur even in tinniest of situations, but the reactionof the firm is the most significant strategy in offering harmony.
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