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Research methods for the empirical study of strategic human resource management

Tina Harness (York St John University, York, UK)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 12 June 2009




The purpose of this article is to discuss the methodological choices for a study of human resource management strategy implementation.


The methodology examines the matching and Harvard approaches to human resource management research which are prevalent in the field. This is achieved by a two‐stage methodology. First, a descriptive, quantitative survey methodology is employed to establish the extent to which strategic planning occurs in a rational way. Second, a qualitative, case study methodology examines the reasons behind the strategic choices made.


Limited evidence of formal planning, in line with the matching approach was found, particularly around the organisation's choice of human resource policies. Instead policies were determined by influences suggested in the Harvard approach, including stakeholders, organisation culture and power. The combined approach of quantitative and qualitative research offers a more balanced explanation than the previous independent research undertaken in the field.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations to the research included the difficulty in accessing commercially sensitive data on strategy planning. The study was limited to only six industries, thus making generalisability difficult. Perceptual measures were used, increasing the risk of respondent bias. Further research to extend the range of industries studied, longitudinal research and the use of objective data would be of benefit.


The paper is of value to academics wishing to consider the relevance of methodologies for research into the strategic planning process.



Harness, T. (2009), "Research methods for the empirical study of strategic human resource management", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 321-336.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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