chapter  5
Four lenses on HR strategy and the employment relationship
Pages 30

In this chapter and the next one we discuss what the HR function can contribute to branding, reputations and performance through its impact on the lived experience of employees and the quality of their individual employment relationships. As we have already pointed out, however, this is not a one-way process. Just as HR can drive reputations, brands and performance, in turn, these outcomes help attract and retain talented people, one of the major challenges facing most organizations (see Figure 5.1). What people on the inside think about organizational identity and image is informed by how they think relevant outsiders see them, for example from the views of professional colleagues, potential employees, the financial press, customers, CSR ratings, environmental activists and the public at large. So, employees’ views of positive perceptions are likely to influence their willingness to remain with the company; furthermore, talented people are

The connections between HR drivers, however, and these other variables are not as clear-cut as many of the more prescriptive HR texts would have you believe, nor as simple as Figure 5.1 would imply. How HR fast-forwards into individual employment relations and interpenetrates with corporate strategy is a rather more complex process; it is not just a question of aligning HR with the business strategy and pulling the right levers to generate positive psychological contracts and engaged employees. If life were so easy, there would be little point in writing yet another ‘how to’ book on the subject, since the market is awash with them. Most of these, researched and written with varying degrees of sophistication, are of the ‘one-best-way’ variety, with a basic but compelling message (not always intended but often read as such): search for best practices among ‘bestin-class’ firms on a range of HR variables, benchmark yourself against these firms and implement those practices that fit your needs, sometimes in a ‘pick-’n-mix’ fashion. Some of these works are naïve in the extreme; others are exceptionally good. We would include in the good category Jeff Pfeffer’s (1998,

attracted by high performing and reputable companies, one of the reasons underlying an employer of choice strategy (see Chapter 7).