BST227 The Practice of HR in the Modern Workplace
Welsh Kitchens is a family business started in 1983 by Rhys Jones. A carpenter by trade, Rhys began by making and selling two styles of bespoke kitchens. The business grew by word of mouth and now manufacturers and sells more than twenty types of kitchen (including traditional and contemporary styles). Today the company is among the ten largest manufacturers and suppliers of kitchens in the UK. Its large manufacturing facility and head office are based in the Welsh town in which Rhys founded the business. Welsh Kitchens has nine retail showrooms, and is considering expanding further. The company employs 17 in its head office, 116 carpenters in its manufacturing facility, between 3 and 5 sales persons in each retail showroom, and 18 kitchen fitters. It faces increasingly stiff competition from national retailers, who can offer similar quality products at cheaper prices. Historically, Welsh Kitchens’ have differentiated themselves via high-quality customer service, and the provision of UK jobs. In fact, this is reflected in their mission to ‘serve our customers and our community’. However their market share is falling. To help increase their competitiveness, Welsh Kitchens’ has heavily invested in its 45,000 square foot manufacturing facility over the past five years. New high-tech machinery is helping to increase the reliability of the manufacturing process. It has also had the unanticipated consequence of reducing the number of carpentry staff required to meet Welsh Kitchens’ orders.
Context and concerns
After more than thirty years at the helm of Welsh Kitchens, Rhys is ready to retire. His three children – Lauren,Rhiannon and Tom– have worked in the business since graduating from university. They each have different visions for the company. Lauren wants to continue her father’s focus on providing secure, high-quality jobs in the UK. She believes in the benefits of a high-commitment approach to people management – and that investing in Welsh Kitchen’s workforce will pay long-term dividends. She does however think that a sense of complacency has crept into the company. She believes that the company should reinvigorate its existing approach to management – and that line managers could do more to encourage, motivate and manage employees. As part of her strategy Lauren intends to retrain line managers and remind them of the full extent and nature of their people-management responsibilities.
In contrast, Rhiannon has started to promote the benefits of adopting a ‘best-fit’ approach to people management at board meetings. Specifically, she is advocating the identification of a range of people-management interventions to focus employees’ minds on the role behaviours that will help produce the company’s kitchens at lower cost. Rhiannon is conscious of preserving the company’s reputation for making a quality product, but her view is driven by a recent national customer poll (of in excess of 33,000 consumers), which gave the highest rating to a company providing ‘good value for money’. She is impressed by Ryanair, and the success they have achieved in pursuing a low cost strategy. Rhiannon thinks similar principles could serve Welsh Kitchens well.
Last, Tom also wants to explore options to reduce staff costs and move away from the high-commitment approach. His thoughts have been informed by the resource based view and he has been reflecting on how managing people could provide an organisation-specific, hard to imitate basis for firm competitiveness. He would like to develop a stronger ‘performance culture’ in the firm. Informal feedback suggests that performance appraisals are not working well – with patchy coverage and few perceived implications. Tom has researched the benefits of a formal performance management system that ranks employees and gives them a clear picture of their current performance and perceived future potential. He knows that this approach is adopted by a range of large companies – including Henkel. Tom believes that investment in performance management processes would be a key part of helping to refine employees’ psychological contracts – and focusing their efforts in ways beneficial to the company. He is aware however, that a broader range of HR and leadership interventions might be necessary to achieve real and lasting culture change – and the inimitability that underpins sustained competitive advantage.
Rhys, the current CEO, would like the future of the company to be settled before he retires. He is concerned that all employees be treated in an ethical way. As a result, he has invited in an independent management consultancy to help identify whether a ‘high-commitment’ (Lauren), ‘best-fit’ (Rhiannon) or a resource-based view of the firm informed ‘performance culture’ (Tom) is the most appropriate approach to people management for Welsh Kitchens. He is also open to any alternative approaches that the consultants may propose.
You are a member of the consultancy group commissioned by Rhys Jones to help identify an optimal approach to people-management for Welsh Kitchens. You are required to make a case for the approach you believe that Welsh Kitchens should adopt. As part of your answer, discuss how the approach will impact employee and organisation performance, and the specific people-management practices that Welsh Kitchens should adopt.
Teachers requirements ;
In the light of some queries I wish to provide some clarification on the assignment:
The maximum wordcount is 3,000 words
Balancing theory and practice
Please remember that you have two tasks within the assignment. The first is to identify an overarching theoretical framework to guide your approach. The assignment gives you three options (a high commitment, best fit or resource based view oriented approach). It also gives you the option to propose an alternative (likely, but not necessarily guided by the resource based view.
Please remember that this assignment is focused on the practice of HRM. Thus, while it is important to select an approach, and explain why this is appropriate (so that the CEO will feel confident in your assessment), please ensure that you afford specific attention to making clear practical recommendations about how the company can translate your approach into action. The SHRM approach you choose will help guide the HR practices that you select – but addressing this alone is not sufficient.
You have a number of resources to help you develop the practical recommendations – all of the learning from prior modules on HR practices and leadership etc. (and the accompanying readings); the cases we have covered in class (many of which cover similar themes to those raised in the case); and any additional reading you elect to undertake.
Please ensure that each key point you make has reference support. High performing students will aim to have a combination of academic referencing and practice oriented support (e.g. from case studies covered in the class, other cases, and company websites) for major recommendations.
As this is a management report, you may use endnotes or traditional Harvard referencing – however you must ensure that you provide consistent reference support.
Every approach has its potential weaknesses and risks. You may wish to draw attention to key things that management should watch out for as they implement/embed your approach.