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The Harvard map of HRM

Based on Human Resource Management, 4th edition, by Alan Price

The Harvard map of HRM

A large part of this section in Human Resource Management, 4th edition is devoted to the Harvard 'map' of HRM. This is probably the most seminal model of HRM and has had a major influence on academic debate on the subject.

'We noted that the Harvard Business School generated one of the most influential models of HRM. The Harvard interpretation sees employees as resources. However, they are viewed as being fundamentally different from other resources - they cannot be managed in the same way. The stress is on people as human resources. The Harvard approach recognizes an element of mutuality in all businesses, a concept with parallels in Japanese people management, as we observed earlier. Employees are significant stakeholders in an organization. They have their own needs and concerns along with other groups such as shareholders and customers.'

The Harvard Map or model outlines four HR policy areas:

  1. Human resource flows - recruitment, selection, placement, promotion, appraisal and assessment, promtion, termination, etc.
  2. Reward systems - pay systems, motivation, etc.
  3. Employee influence - delegated levels of authority, responsibility, power
  4. Work systems - definition/design of work and alignment of people.

Which in turn lead to the 'four C's' or HR policies that have to be achieved:

  • Commitment
  • Congruence
  • Competence
  • Cost effectiveness

In more detail:

Beer et al (Managing Human Assets by Michael Beer, Richard E. Walton, Bert A. Spector, 1984) argue that when general managers determine the appropriate human resource policies and practices for their organizations, they require some method of assessing the appropriateness or effectiveness of those policies. Beer et al devised the famous Harvard Map (sometimes referred to as the Harvard model) of HRM.

This map is based on an analytical approach and provides a broad causal depiction of the 'determinants and consequences of HRM policies.' It shows human resource policies to be influenced by two significant considerations:

  • Situational factors in the outside business environment or within the firm such as laws and societal values, labor market conditions, unions, work-force characteristics, business strategies, management philosophy, and task technology. According to Beer et al these factors may constrain the formation of HRM policies but (to varying degrees) they may also be influenced by human resource policies.
  • Stakeholder interests, including those of shareholders, management employees, unions, community, and government. Beer et al argue that human resource policies SHOULD be influenced by ALL stakeholders. If not, 'the enterprise will fail to meet the needs of these stakeholders in the long run and it will fail as an institution.'

The authors also contend that human resource policies have both immediate organizational outcomes and long-term consequences. Managers can affect a number of factors by means of the policy choices they make, including:

- the overall competence of employees,
- the commitment of employees,
- the degree of congruence between employees' own goals and those of the organization, and
- the overall cost effectiveness of HRM practices.

Beer et al state that these 'four Cs' do not represent all the criteria that human resource policy makers can use to evaluate the effectiveness of human resource management, but consider them to be 'reasonably comprehensive' although they suggest that readers may add additional factors depending on circumstances. And various authors have done so.

Beer et al argue that: "In the long run, striving to enhance all four Cs will lead to favorable consequences for individual well-being, societal well-being, and organizational effectiveness (i.e., long-term consequences). By organizational effectiveness we mean the capacity of the organization to be responsive and adaptive to its environment. We are suggesting, then, that human resource management has much broader consequences than simply last quarter's profits or last year's return on equity. Indeed, such short-term measures are relatively unaffected by HRM policies. Thus HRM policy formulation must incorporate this long-term perspective."

* Beer et al themselves did not consider that the four 'Cs' represented all necessary criteria. Why not? What else could be considered?

HRM policies and their consequences

Beer et al (1984) proposed that long-term consequences (both benefits and costs of human resource policies should be evaluated at three levels: individual, organizational and societal. These in turn should be analyzed using the four Cs.

Point to consider

* Although central to the Harvard Map, 'stakeholder theory' has a much wider scope than HRM and has largely been developed outside the HR literature. At first sight, it is a simple notion - those parties or groups that have an interest in the firm. But more critical attention reveals a concept that is not easy to define and that is also exposed to a number of political, ethical and other agendas. How would right- and left-wing politicians regard stakeholders? Similarly, senior managers and trade unionists, etc.

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