What is strategic human resource management?
What is strategic human resource management?

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What is strategic human resource management?

The growth of alternatives?

One of the major debates triggered by the events of 2008, such as the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the wider economic crisis, was whether economic and corporate policies would revert to business as usual or whether alternative models would be adopted.

From a range of political perspectives, thought leaders are talking about the possibility of alternative and new approaches to economic activity. New interest was shown in social enterprises and co-ownership models. The Occupy Movement, which emerged across a number of countries alongside widespread anxiety about top pay and bonuses and added anxiety about the adequacy of regulatory bodies, reflected a widespread concern about extreme inequalities and the institutions which reproduce them. A counter voice expressed warnings about an 'anti-business' culture which could hamper economic recovery and growth.

Each and all of these can render prescriptions about HR that were suitable for one time and place, ill-suited to a different time and place.

Activity 8: The changing social context: the death of deference

Timing: Allow around 45 minutes for this activity.

Watch this short and playful clip about the death of deference and its critical contribution to modern leadership, management and organisation design, and answer the questions that follow.

Download this video clip.Video player: Never mind the bosses and the need for S.P.E.E.D.
Skip transcript: Never mind the bosses and the need for S.P.E.E.D.

Transcript: Never mind the bosses and the need for S.P.E.E.D.

We have something revolutionary to say about companies and organisations, about how they should be run and how they need to change. We believe traditional hierarchical working practices are becoming as relevant as prog rock in the white heat of punk and leaders that ignore what's happening are about to do a diplodocus.


Don't believe us? Look around. The Arab Spring, protests in Brazil and Turkey, WikiLeaks, Occupy, the rise of the whistleblower-- the world is challenging authority in a completely new way.


Closer to home, the traditionally unimpeachable-- teachers, doctors, lawyers-- are but an internet search away from being challenged or even unmasked. From government to global finance, bigwigs to broadcasters, people are losing faith in institutions and in leaders, using technology to self educate and to organise. This is the death of deference and it's coming to your office. It's an internet-enabled David and Goliath and a unique opportunity for organisations and individuals alike to rewrite the rule book on accountability and innovation.
Visionary workplaces are already reshaping the deal with employees and with clients, creating dialogue and sharing power in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. We have a plan for putting the final nail in the coffin of deference and we call it "Change at Speed."
First, S for symbols, symbols of hierarchy-- job titles, big desks, posh offices. Search and destroy. It sends out a big statement of intent.
Next, the psychological contract between management and workers. This is the deal we all sign up to at work and it needs to be about giving everybody more say. In turn, your bosses will be able to ask for more responsibility and get it.
Then you can spread the executive power. Let people who are closer to the customers make some decisions for a change and free them from all the approval and sign-off agony. Push the power down the ranks.
Do these things and real employee engagement will follow, with all the benefits that this brings. And as long as you maintain authentic, meaningful discourse, where the real stuff gets discussed, you will be able to see what's working and work out what to do with the bits that aren't. It sounds simple, doesn't it? Most revolutions are. It's time to say, "Never mind the bosses."


End transcript: Never mind the bosses and the need for S.P.E.E.D.
(Robin Ryde, 2013)
Never mind the bosses and the need for S.P.E.E.D.
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  1. What is your assessment of the validity of the claims made about fundamental changes to the social climate regarding authority?
  2. What, if any, are the main implications for human resource management specialists?

Write your notes in the space provided below.

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Our view is that this is a clever and persuasive short video heralding the death of deference and the rise of empowered and engaged employees, customers and suppliers. The claimed revolution is more likely to be disparately represented across and within economies. In that sense it over-claims. But it does touch on a recognisable trend in certain quarters.

If the analysis is correct, there are profound implications for the practice of human resource management. These include (to name just a few): a need for even less reliance on formal rules and procedures; a need to focus on staff recruitment and staff development; a new approach to reward. The analysis also implies a trend towards a more individualised form of employment relationship. Currently a more collectivised form of relationship is the norm, with collective bargaining, rules and procedures, job grades, job evaluation and a formal hierarchy of authority dominating in most sectors.


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