Labor Market

‘More 'H' in strategic HRM’

In Human Resource Management (HRM), one area frequently neglected is that of individual employees. By linking with the field of work psychology, it will be possible to forge a better relationship with individual employee behavior and by extension with the objectives of the organization. This was the thrust of Marc van Veldhoven's argument when accepting the Chair in Work, Health and Well-Being at Tilburg University.

Strategic HRM concerns all activities relating to the management of the organization that focus on the organizational objectives to be achieved with the help of employees. This often involves a greater emphasis on the joint efforts of all employees as a kind of ‘work potential’ than on the efforts of individual workers. This is despite the fact that work ultimately comes down to the blood, sweat and tears of individuals and the way they coordinate their activities. This means that strategic HRM can lack insight into the foundations of the intended organizational performance: work behavior. If it neglects these foundations, ‘strategic HRM ends up not being about people, but actually sidesteps them,’ Van Veldhoven argues.

Within work psychology, a great deal of knowledge has been acquired on how specific characteristics of work can result in the health, well-being and work behavior of individual employees, but this knowledge is not always applied. Priority tends to be given to issues such as takeovers and mergers, the delivery of new products or services, and the introduction of new technologies. This is despite the fact that the ultimate success of these factors often depends on the behavior of individual workers. The fact that knowledge from this area is underused is also partly because work psychologists for their part pay little attention to the strategic level of the organization.

Van Veldhoven proposes that strategic HRM and work behavior should be linked together in three stages: from strategic HRM of the organization to (the experience of) individual work characteristics, from individual work characteristics to the individual choice to focus one's efforts on the organizational objectives and finally from individual efforts to organizational achievements. All of these steps will require a lot of additional research, on which Van Veldhoven and his colleagues are already hard at work.

Title inaugural speech: Over knipogen, badkuipen en kampeertenten: Arbeidsgedrag als fundament van strategisch HRM (About winks, tubs and tents: work behavior as the foundation of strategic HRM).