Top 5 Academic HR Articles of 2011

2011 was another challenging year for human resource management. With ever-changing laws, policies and regulations, coupled with continued economic difficulties and the ever-present threat of downsizing, the only constant demand for HR managers was “change.”

With more of the same expected for 2012, TribeHR has rounded up five of last year’s most useful and insightful peer-reviewed HR papers.

1. “Strategic Human Resource Management in Small and Growing Firms: Aligning Valuable Resources.” 

Hargis, M.B., & Bradley, D.B. (2011). Academy of Strategic Management Journal. Preview.

Michael Hargis at the University of Central Arkansas, and Don Bradley at East Carolina University, take a look at the growing recognition of human resources as an essential component of business operations. The authors discuss current HR practices common to small and medium businesses, and present a model for implementing HR programs that enhance competitive edge. Recommendations include:

  • Develop a competitive strategy, such as low-price initiatives or a unique selling proposition.

  • Align business objectives with human resource practices. For instance, if a company is competing based on low prices; recruitment, training and compensation practices should support this objective. That means utilizing recruitment and compensation practices that are cost-effective.

  • Create complementary human resource practices. Ideally, human resource policies should be mutually supportive, such as training programs that improve efficiency, compensation programs that award waste reduction, or bonus structures for employees who develop unique ideas.

2. “An Employment Systems Approach to Turnover: Human Resources Practices, Quits, Dismissals and Performance.”

Batt, R. & Colvin, A.J.S. (2011). The Academy of Management Journal. 54(4), 695-717. Preview.

Turnover is a thorn in the side of any human resources director. Rosemary Batt and Alexander Colvin (both at Cornell University) examine the impact of quits and dismissals on customer service. Interestingly, factors influencing quits and dismissals, and their consequences, were found to be very similar, which contradicts prior research. 

Both long-term investment and high-involvement work environments were associated with lower quit and dismissal rates, while short-term performance-enhancing measures were correlated with slightly higher rates of quits and dismissals. In the case of high turnover rates, managers reported significantly lower levels of customer service.

3. “The Trouble with HRM”

Thompson, P. (2011). Human Resource Management Journal. 21(4), 355-367. Preview.

Human resources managers take a lot of flack. When a company downsizes, it’s the HR director who is often tasked with the dirty work of terminating employees. Paul Thompson (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow) addresses the misconceptions surrounding the industry. Primarily he rejects the view that HRM is a cultural entity which exists exclusively to maintain employee satisfaction, or to develop procedures and training methods for making employees better at their jobs. 

Currently, HRM is perceived in the context of developing company culture and fostering employee commitment. Thompson notes that the current framework often fails when employees see HR functions as dishonest and impractical, suggesting a political economy approach that focuses on market strengthening (rather than commitment) as a driving force behind successful organizations.

4. “Why Good Guys Finish Last: The Role of Justification Motives, Cognition and Emotion in Predicting Retaliation against Whistleblowers.”

Sumanth, J.J., Mayer, D.M., & Kay, V.S. (2011). Organizational Psychology Review. 2(1), 165-184. Preview

Stories of whistleblowers are everywhere. Retaliation is illegal in most cases, but that doesn’t stop it from happening. This paper evaluates the driving factors behind whistle-blowing, and the relationship between those who report wrongdoings and those who retaliate against them. 

5. “Does Human Capital Matter? A Meta-Analysis of the Relationship Between Human Capital and Firm Performance”

Crook, T.R., Todd, S.Y., Combs, J.G., Woehr, D.J. & Ketchen Jr., D.J. (2011). Journal of Applied Psychology. 96(3), 443-456. Preview.

This meta-analysis examines 66 previous studies analyzing the relationship between human capital and firm performance, using 3 moderators suggested by resource-based theory. The goal of this analysis was to determine whether human capital really matters in terms of an organization’s success, or whether high recruitment and training costs offset the potential benefit. 

The authors found a strong correlation between human capital and firm performance, especially in instances when human capital is more specialized or not readily obtained on the market. In conclusion, the authors recommend that managers invest in programs designed to produce highly-trained and specialized employees. 

If there’s one thing that’s clear from this research, it’s that human resources is an essential component of successful business operations. While HR may occasionally have a bad reputation, it’s a crucial function that enables firms to stand apart through clear-cut policies and expectations, fair restructuring practices, and training programs that produce a specialized labor pool.


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