The relevance of strategic human resource management (SHRM) for the growing small business

Louise Johnston

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

[Truncated abstract] The commercial developments of the late 20th and early 21st centuries have come to signify profound and far-reaching change in the way that goods and services are designed, produced, marketed and delivered to customers in the world's international and domestic markets. In order to respond to a more intensively competitive trading environment that demands ever-increasing levels of product quality, customer service, organisational efficiency and business performance, the management of business entities has undergone fundamental alteration in form and content. It is within this context that two traditionally disparate business disciplines have emerged to play an important role in the new economic commercial order, that of small business management and that of Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM). Historically eclipsed by the large and powerful mass-producing corporations, the small business sector has been more recently viewed as playing an increasingly prominent part in the creation of national and regional prosperity within the developed countries. The unprecedented interest in smaller firms and the desire to see them fulfill their economic and social potential have resulted in legislative reform and widespread initiatives by governments and other institutions designed to support and protect the smaller operators in their commercial endeavours. Similarly, in the post-industrial knowledge economy people have risen in prominence over other organisational resources as a key source of competitive commercial advantage. The role of intellectual capital in securing business success has fuelled the development of management technology and methods designed to enhance the contribution of human resources to business performance. Heralded by many as the defining managerial approach for enterprises that wish to build sustainable competitive advantage in the markets of today and the future, SHRM has come to the fore as a means to re-evaluate the importance of human contribution to business outcomes and guide management practice in leveraging the latent potential of a company's human assets. ... In general, the management of business strategy was found to possess low levels of structure and formality, effectively merging into the collective activities associated with owning and operating a small business. Similarly, when compared with the key elements of a strategic human resource management framework constructed specifically for this study, the data indicated that the strategic management of people is prevalent in smaller firms but that this again represents only partial adoption of normative models as commonly promoted for the larger business management context. It was concluded that the theoretical principles and concepts of SHRM demonstrate relevance for small companies on account of the status of the contemporary external commercial environment in which they must compete as well as the range of managerial benefits associated with strategic methodology and practice. However, currently there exist no suitable models of practice with supporting guidelines that respond to the unique contextual and operational needs and experiences typical of smaller firm owner-managers.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008

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