A conceptual overview of HRM in retail

HRM as a concept has been widely accepted in most developed countries. Academics define HRM from different perspectives. For instance, from a strategic management point of view, HRM is defined as a strategic and coherent approach to the management of an organization’s most valued assets – people working there who individuality and collectively contribute to the achievement of its objectives . The aim of this input is to link the objectives of HRM with the overall organizational performance.

An interesting definition has been given by Kleiman who defines HRM as the organizational function that consists of practices that help the organization deal effectively with its people during the various phases of the employment cycle. HRM is the process of managing organizational employees in an effective way. To implement the management process, HRM cannot be separated from the HR practices comprising selection and recruitment, training, rewarding, expatriate management etc. and general HR policies and procedures.

Increasingly, in many organizations, the perspective of strategic human resource management is gaining ground. A strategic perspective is gained when the human resources practices are matched with the strategic goals of organizations. The framework of strategic human resources management (HRM) provides guidance to both descriptive lines of questioning. Strategic HRM begins with the notion that HRM practices are tools, managers have at their disposal to achieve organizational goals. Such practices include compensations (rules governing pay and pay raises, pay levels, wage and benefit structures), training, staffing (including work force levels, the mix of full time, part time and contingent employees), hiring and selection, systems of workplace governance including schemes for employees involvement and representation, and job design and work organization.

The HRM policy enhances the performances of the organization, the well being of employees, or the well being of the society and has to take the four Cs of Commitment, Competence, Cost effectiveness and Congruence into consideration. The four Cs are popularly termed as the Harvard Map. HRM policies need to work towards enhancing the commitment of the people to their work and the organization. Further, a mapping of the required skills sets and the existing skills sets of the people has to be done, and it has to be determined as to where and when the skill sets have to be enhanced. The policy evolved has to be cost effective in terms of salaries and wages paid and the level of absenteeism etc. Lastly, human resource policies have to be congruent to the management philosophy and sustainable over a period of time.

Over the years, various other models have evolved, which include the Michigan model developed by the Michigan Business School and the New York variation on the matching model, outlined by Schuler and Jackson, which looked at Michael Porter’s generic competitive strategies (quality enhancement innovation and cost leadership or reduction) and developed a set of needed role behaviors for each strategy.

While framing a human resources strategy, the various stakeholders have to be kept in mind. Stakeholders in a given enterprise may include owners, government, host communities, workers, labor unions, and the managers themselves. The economic environment in which the firm is operating, the rules and regulations, the law of the land and the nature and type of competition affect the human resource policy that a firm eventually evolves.

The type of business that the company is in determines the characteristics that are required of the workforce. In retail, human resources are at two levels. The first being the front end of the store level and the other, the management or the back office level. The type of competencies skill sets and hence training required at various levels varies significantly. Perhaps, the most difficult aspect of a retail business to master is staff management and development.

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