It’s no secret that the workforce is the most important asset for a company. Deming emphasized that no organization can survive without good people, people who are improving. In quality management we talk about satisfying our customers. But in order to satisfy our customers, first we need to satisfy our internal customers, our employees.
The traditional role of human resources management (HRM) has changed. In their traditional role human resources managers focused on administrational tasks such as interviewing job applicants, negotiating contracts with the union or keeping attendance records. Their role today has changed dramatically. Even though they still perform these traditional functions, their role has become more strategic. Today, human resources managers need to care about creating an organization’s culture that promotes continuous improvement. Human resources plans are often linked to the business strategy, while, in many cases, the motivation of employees as well as the further development of their skills and capabilities serve as strategic goals.
In this sense of a strategic HRM function, what are the most important quality practices in today’s human resources management? These can be identified by considering the different aspects of human resources management. In this article we will focus on three aspects: health and safety, job design and training.
Health and safety is an important but often neglected HRM function. It’s undeniable that a healthy, hazards-free working environment can promote the well-being of employees. In such environment the employees are more satisfied and thus more productive. Health and safety management must not be about treating problems or fulfilling the minimum legal requirements. It must be about preventing problems and promoting wellness programs. Special services such as counseling, recreational or cultural activities, non-work-related education and other activities all can contribute to employee satisfaction.
Job design is another important aspect of HRM. How can we design high-performance work systems? One research study found that the top five employee needs in the workplace are: 1) interesting work, 2) recognition, 3) feeling “in” on things, 4) security, 5) pay. Managers, however, believed pay to be number one. According to a model proposed by Hackman and Oldham we need to consider three employees’ psychological states if we wish to create a work system that promotes motivation, satisfaction and organizational effectiveness.
These three psychological states are: experienced meaningfulness, experienced responsibility and knowledge of results. The employee needs to feel that his/ her work contributes significantly to the organizational success. He or she must have a clear understanding of where his or her work fits in relation to a procedure, a department or the whole organization. In order to experience responsibility, the second psychological state, the employee must be autonomous and empowered enough to be held accountable for the results. And finally in order to know the results, he or she must be given enough feedback of the evaluation of his or her work.
What are the quality practices related to training? Training is another vital for the employees’ motivation HRM aspect. In an organization that promotes quality, training and development programs must be planned, have a broad application, be group oriented and must place emphasis on the quality of work life rather than only on productivity issues. An organization that wants to promote a culture of continuous improvement needs to invest heavily in training and education. A cultural change is something difficult and not something that takes place overnight.
Training plans should base upon job skills requirements and strategic initiatives of the company. All employees must have a clear understanding of the goal of customer satisfaction and must be given the training and responsibilities to achieve this goal. If a company plans to implement improvement tools, such as lean six sigma, the employees need to be trained to understand its philosophy and its different tools, which include problem solving, teamwork or the interpretation and use of data.
Practices based on the philosophy of quality management are relevant and have application in different fields in an organization. One of these fields is human resources management. Today more than ever HRM demonstrates its strategic role in the organizational success. This strategic role makes the application of leading quality practices in HRM a necessity for all companies.