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The HR function in Australia : supports and barriers to strategic HRM integration


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Sheehan, Cathy(Cathy Robyn) 2002 , 'The HR function in Australia : supports and barriers to strategic HRM integration', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The transition from personnel management to Human Resource Management (HRM)
has activated considerable discussion and debate within the academic literature about
the strategic positioning of, and responsibility for, HRM activity (Beer, 1997; Dyer &
Holder, 1988; Guest 1987; 1989). Specifically, effective HRM integration involves
active HR representation in strategic decision-making processes, HR policies that
cohere and the acceptance of HRM responsibilities by line managers and employees
as part of their everyday life (Schuler, 1992). Despite the evidence that there has been
some shift towards this goal, there is good reason to believe that the HR function is
yet to make the full transition from administrator to strategic partner (Johnson, 2000;
Kochan & Dyer, 2001; Storey, 2001;). In an environment where core competencies
and competitive advantage are being increasingly linked to effective HRM activity
(Boxall & Purcell, 2000), it is critical that barriers to the full realisation of HRM
integration be understood and investigated.
The two broad aims of this thesis are to analyse the status, and processes underlying,
strategic HRM integration in Australian organisations and to contribute to the theory
development in strategic human resource management (SHRM). First, the analysis of
strategic HRM integration involved an initial large-scale survey of the membership of
the Australian Human Resource Institute (AHRI). The results of the survey revealed
that senior HR managers were supportive of strategic FIRM initiatives. Using a more qualitative approach, follow-up in-depth interviews with senior HR, finance and line
managers in 13 case organisations helped to clarify the variables that impact on the
success or otherwise of FIRM integration. Results revealed that although it may be
important that senior HR managers agree with strategic FIRM initiatives and that organisational structures are put in place to facilitate strategic HRM integration,
unless there are deeper shifts in levels of strategic HRM commitment by HR
managers and other senior business executives, the transition to strategic HRM
integration may not be successful. The second broad aim of the thesis, theory development, draws from the thesis results.
Using ideas from the change literature, a model is developed of the proposed
influences on strategic HRM integration. The argument supporting the model is that
the decision to implement a strategic FIRM approach requires a certain set of
symbolic gestures and ritualistic changes. These symbolic changes, however, do not
always necessarily result in desired outcomes: symbolic adjustments must be
accompanied by deeper levels of change. The research holds a number of practical
implications for HR professionals and senior business executives.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Sheehan, Cathy(Cathy Robyn)
Keywords: Personnel management
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2002 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

For consultation only. No photocopying permitted until 28/3/2004. Thesis (Ph.D)--University of Tasmania, 2002. Includes bibliographical references

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