Total Quality and Human Resource Management

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TOTAL QUALITY AND HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT:
CAN THEY SUCCESSFULLY COEXIST?

J.N. Bradley
Central Washington University

ABSTRACT

Total Quality Management (TQM) has been defined as a system designed to satisfy customer's requirements, a philosophy that stresses a team approach to achieving quality and continuous improvement and a total change in organizational culture. Unfortunately, most Human Resource Management (HRM) systems/activities generate, or at least allow for, inconsistencies in the quality of outcomes. Consequently, an important question that should be considered is whether using a systems engineering approach would be beneficial in the integration of the two activities?

INTRODUCTION

Total Quality Management (TQM) has been defined as a system designed to satisfy customer's requirements (Sashkin & Kiser, 1991), a philosophy that stresses a team approach to achieving quality and continuous improvement (Lawler, 1994b), and a total change in organizational culture (Ross, 1993). If management accepts these definitions and attempts to implement TQM within an organization, the success of the program relies heavily on the strategic application of human resources in the organization's quality transformation process while attending to its own transformation of quality. (Hart & Schlesinger, 1991).

Unfortunately, most Human Resource Management (HRM) systems/activities generate, or at least allow for, inconsistencies in the quality of outcomes. Consider the following selection of personnel is typically based on individual job requirements and not organizational values (Barrett, 1995; Blackburn & Rosen, 1993); job analysis is a static (or consistent) process that takes place within a dynamic environment (Cardy & Dobbins, 1992; Hamstead, 1995); performance appraisals usually compare individuals to one another instead of the system; and the typical pay system rewards individual performances not organizational goals (Dobbins, Cardy, & Carson, 1991). Furthermore, Deming (1986) claims that performance appraisals (P/A's) are one of management's deadliest sins and that their use should be totally eliminated.

Given the above perspectives, important questions that should be analyzed and answered are whether TQM and HRM can combine in a synergistic manner that results in a positive contribution to organizational improvement and achievement of objectives? And, whether using a Systems engineering approach would be beneficial in the integration of the two activities?

Problems with HRM Processes

Selection

Cascio (1991) states that the typical objective in traditional personnel selection processes is that of capitalizing on individual differences in order to select those persons who possess the greatest number of key attributes judged necessary for job success. Dobbins, Cardy, & Carson (1991) further state that the objective of the traditional selection process is the differentiation of applicants on one or more dimensions such as knowledge, skill, ability, or motivation. However, they state that a problem arises, from a system perspective, when employees are selected based on individualistic or differentiated characteristics, but are evaluated on system-related criteria and measures. Thus, HRM departments may be reinforcing counterproductive processes when they select (or recommend for selection) personnel based on individualized job analyses and then attempt to evaluate them under a TQM or system-wide performance structure or criteria.

According to Blackburn and Rosen (1993), some past winners of the Baldrige quality award are still engaging in traditional selection practices. These companies admit to hiring the best candidates for a position based on individual job specifications, and that they hope these individuals can be socialized into the TQM environment...
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