This essay will critically evaluate the methodological choices of the authors, McGovern, Hope-Hailey and Stiles (1997) used in their article, ‘Human Resource Management on the line?’. In addition, it will analyze, whether the research design meets the ontological/ epistemological underpinnings of the research, whether the data collected are valid and reliable, whether the data collection methods were appropriate. It will also take a close look at the data collection processes to identify their usefulness. The article endeavours to study the possibilities of delegating Human Resource activities like performance appraisals, recruitment and the rest, to the line managers (and to what extent), instead of leaving them solely up to the HR function. The authors aim to achieve this by reviewing the practices that are already prevalent in some successful organizations. Methodological choice:
The authors opted for a case study approach to help answer their research problem which is, to examine to what extent can Human Resource activities be passed on to line managers. Collis and Hussey (2009) state, that a case study is a methodology used to understand an occurrence in a natural setting in order to gain in-depth knowledge about it. Yin (2003) mentions that there are three characteristics of a case study. * Not only does the research make an attempt to explore an occurrence but also tries to understand it within a specific context. * There is no particular set of questions, regarding the limitations within which the research will take place, at the onset of the research. * The research makes use of several different methods to collect data and these methods may be qualitative or quantitative. These characteristics, according to Yin (2003), are set in an interpretivist paradigm which shows that the researchers have taken an interpretivist approach to their research. Interpretivism is based on the belief that social reality is highly subjective, it is in our minds and formed by our perceptions (Collis and Hussey, 2009). It is an inductive process to provide interpretive understanding of social phenomena within a context (Collis and Hussey, 2009). Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2007) state that, the interpretivist has to enter the social world of the respondents and ‘understand their world from their point of view’ (p107). This is exactly what the researchers have done in their research. They have conducted interviews and used the answers, to gain an insight into what the respondents think about the situation under study. The ontological assumption for an interpretivist is that each respondent will have his own sense of reality and therefore there will be more than one reality (Collis and Hussey, 2009). The authors are examining the possibilities of passing on the HR activities to the line managers based on some practices that exist, so they are ‘open’ to finding out the different and varied opinions that the respondents may have about the practices especially, how the line managers feel about them. They scrutinize the role of the line managers in Human Resource Management as well as the way in which HR responsibilities are distributed between the HR department and the line managers, within each of the organizations, before going on to a deeper study of the possibility of devolvement. Here, focus groups help to understand the feelings and attitudes of a group of people about a common situation (Collis and Hussey, 2009). So, even though the common outlook was that the line managers should ‘own’ the selection and appraisal activities because it was they who worked closely with the employees, it was clear that they had to be supported by a specialist HR function. This is clearly in line with the ontological underpinning of the research as it shows that multiple realities do exist. The epistemological assumption is about what is considered as valid knowledge (Collis and Hussey, 2009). For an interpretivist,...
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