Organisational tensions determine set-up and effectiveness of HRM

How the HR function develops in practice is largely explained by the way organisational tensions are dealt with. The most effective HR structure emerges when opposites are well understood. This is the main conclusion of a study that was conducted by Berenschot in collaboration with the Amsterdam Business School (UvA). Organisations are never finished and in practice, the HR structure is continually being adjusted to suit changing developments within and outside the organisation. Changing tensions and the pursuing of multiple goals lead to a constant dynamic.

The study into the set-up of HR was conducted at several companies in the financial and energy sectors in 2016. This research was triggered by the fact that the same models are often used for HR (the Ulrich model), while the reality often ends up being quite different. The researchers found that this can mostly be explained by looking at the way in which a company deals with organisational tensions (the so-called paradoxes).

The paradox between organisation and strategy is dominant in this regard, whereby a more strategic HR in combination with efficiency is an important goal. This results in tension. Splitting up strategic and operational units leads to integration issues, while continuing the combined activities may lead to the strategic side not being expressed sufficiently. The most effective structures arise when the interdependencies are well understood.

About the study

Keegan, A., Bitterling, I., Sylva, H., & Hoeksema, L. (2017). Organizing the HRM function: Responses to paradoxes, variety, and dynamism. Human Resource Management. doi:10.1002/hrm.21893

The full study is available via Wiley Online Library or through one of the authors.

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