Operations and Human Resource Management: Working Together for a Better Tomorrow

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Operations and Human Resource Management: Working together for a better tomorrow Lori A. Erickson
East Tennessee State University

Introduction
Historically, operations management and human resource management have been separate fields, only interacting for administrative issues regarding payroll and other matters (Boudreau et al., 2002). However, human resources play an integral role in the development of strategic plans for organizations. Since no operations can take place without the human capital necessary to implement the operations, special attention should be paid to the linkages between the operational strategy and the human resource strategy of the firm. According to Ahamd and Schroeder (2003, p. 19) “human resources are considered the most important asset of an organization, but very few organizations are able to fully harness its potential.” Alone, sophisticated technologies and innovative manufacturing practices only provide a small enhancement to the operational performance, unless the requisite human resources management practices are in place to provide a consistent socio-technical system (Ahmad and Schroeder, 2003).

For years, human resource management has worked to achieve a place in the strategic planning of organizations, and has struggled to justify their bottom line contribution to the overall organizational performance (Akdere, 2006). It is easy for departments like operations and engineering to quantify their contribution to the success of the company; the inputs and outputs generated by these departments are easily measureable and can be defined. However, it is difficult to quantify the value added by human resource management, and as such it is often referred to as overhead (which immediately puts it into a negative connotation). So what can human resource management bring to the organization? Can it really function as a strategic partner in the organization? Can human resource management work directly with operations management to improve performance, quality, logistics, and other operations functions? Pauwee (2004, p. 55) states “to date there is very little research that “peels back the onion” and describes the process through which HRM systems influence the principal intermediate variables that ultimately affect firm performance.” This paper will look at the relationship between human resource management and operations management, and the areas that the two can partner together to improve organizational performance. The Human Factor

Machines cannot function without human interaction. Whether that interaction is the machine set up, placing parts on a line, or monitoring the machine, machines are not independent of human interaction, and organizational performance can depend, in large part, on the quality of the human resources. According to Bartolome et al. (2003) good human resource management identifies the skills of each person, and motivates the employees to use those skills for the greater good of the organization. It is imperative for operations to work with human resources to identify the skills necessary to perform tasks within the organization, develop sound job descriptions, and then allow human resources to indentify and recruit quality candidates. Human resources must be willing to work with operations to ensure the candidates recruited actually meet the needs of the organization. In knowledge based organizations, employee skills are the basis for competitive advantage, and it has become increasingly necessary for human resources to develop policies that foster the appropriate recruitment, selection, appraisal, development, and reward. The quality of the organization’s human resources, paired with their management can be a source of value and competitive advantage (Clark and Colling, 2005). In an article by Hesketh and Fleetwood (2006) during an interview with a human resources director, the director compared the implementation of human resource processes to an orchestra,...
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