Vouzas, F. (2006), "Investigating the link between quality improvement efforts and strategic HRM in selected Greek industrial organizations implementing the new ISO 9000:2000", Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 10 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/mbe.2006.26710aaf.001Download as .RIS
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Investigating the link between quality improvement efforts and strategic HRM in selected Greek industrial organizations implementing the new ISO 9000:2000
Investigating the link between quality improvement efforts and strategic HRM in selected Greek industrial organizations implementing the new ISO 9000:2000
Fotis VouzasFotis Vouzas is a Lecturer in the Department of Business Administration, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece.
In today’s unstable and fast changing business environment, organizations are forced to re-think and re-evaluate their policies and practices in relation to the management of people, moving away from imposing power and leadership, but rather encouraging participation, improving communication, enhancing and empowering the workers, improving employee relations, and creating an organizational culture in which people will feel free to express their ideas, fulfill their goals and the goals of the organization (Aktuf, 1992; Pfeffer, 1994). Furthermore, several authors argue that people are the key element for organizations to obtain and sustain competitive advantage (Snell and Dean, 1992; Wright et al., 1998; Youndt et al., 1996).
Strategic human resources management (SHRM) has been extensively examined both theoretically and empirically over recent decades, however, due to its ambiguity, it is still under constant critique and dispute. Several approaches and models have been proposed for the “link”, “fit” or “integration” of HR to business strategy through various organizational improvement practices and techniques. The majority of authors argue that SHRM emerged out of the need for organizations to move towards a new “approach” to manage operations with a “strategic” orientation and context (Thomason, 1991; Beer et al., 1984; Brewster and Larsen, 1992). Furthermore, Legge (1995), states that a number of factors such as increased internal and external market competition, recession, and the search for “excellence” has caused a change in the vocabulary for managing the workforce.
On the other hand, total quality management (TQM) is one of the most controversial concepts in the history of management theory. According to several well-known writers total quality management has become something of a social movement (Hackman and Wageman, 1995), a comprehensive way to improve total organizational performance and quality (Hunt, 1993), and a new paradigm in management (Spencer, 1994; Grant et al., 1994). Its origins can be traced to the work of the so-called quality gurus, Deming, Juran, Feigenbaum, Ishikawa and Crosby and on the rise and dominance of the Japanese automobile industry in the world markets.
In the TQM literature the importance of the “human element” in quality improvement efforts has often been overlooked. According to Wilkinson et al. (1991) organizations are often engaged in a “hard”, production-oriented perspective of total quality. Recently a number of authors suggested that the shift of thinking about quality has major implications for the management of labor and has occurred in parallel to a shift in thinking about strategic human resources management (Hart and Schlesinger, 1991; Vouzas, 2004; Soltani, 2003). It has been argued that TQM cannot be applied in isolation. TQM is a total philosophy involving all organizational members and has a high personnel content. Several studies suggest that TQM implementation is closely related to the HR function (Soltani, 2003; Cardy and Dobbins, 1996; Wilkinson et al., 1991).
The main aim of this paper is to theoretically investigate and empirically test the current status of the content and context of SHRM in an ISO 9000 environment using a case study approach in selected Greek industrial organizations.
Context and content of strategic human resources management: a literature review
According to many writers the evolutionary process that leads to the strategic orientation of the management of human resources, is in fact ambiguous, elusive and variable, which in turn makes the relationship between the concepts of strategy and human resources management impossible to define (Luoma, 2000; Legge, 1995; Thomason, 1991; Brewster and Larsen, 1992).
Investigating the HRM-strategy relationship that has been recorded in the literature in Europe and the USA, it is possible to identify its “pragmatic” and “rhetorical” context and content. According to Legge (1995) SHRM has been “hyped” as something new and consistent with the demands of the enterprise culture, in order to serve the interests of the various organizational players who seek legitimacy in a hostile climate. Furthermore, the issue of compatibility and homogeneity between the two is often misunderstood or underestimated in the literature, but it is of great importance considering the future implications of possible integration of HRM practices and policies into overall strategy design and implementation (Schuler and Jackson, 1987; Skinner and Mabey, 1997).
Devanna et al. (1984), argue that the relationship is actually an extension of Chandler’s “structure follows strategy” thesis, assuming an evolutionary approach to SHRM, given the generic nature of strategy itself. Schuler (1991) argues that the form of HRM practice of an organization is contingent on the strategy it adopts. He suggests that for the successful implementation of strategy, a coherent set of HRM practices should be in support. Mabey et al. (1998) states that for strategy to be effective, changes have to be made to the design and implementation of any aspect of the organization’s existing HR systems. Accordingly as suggested by many HRM theorists, HR issues should be considered in the formulation of business plans (Kochan and Barrochi, 1985; Schuler and Jackson, 1987).
Gunnigle and Moore (1994) in a study in Ireland found that various product market conditions heavily impact on HRM policy choice and organizations examine alternative personnel policy menus, which might be used to complement different business strategies. Furthermore, personnel policy choice may be an important ingredient in the formulation of business strategy. Santos (2000), states that HR practices should not only have a functional basis. Issues of “coherence”, “fit” or “integration” between manufacturing strategies, product market strategies, and HRM policies and practices need to be practiced throughout the organization in order to achieve overall business goals.
Purcell (1989) argues that today’s personnel systems need to become more flexible so as to “fit” the strategic choice of an organization. Kane and Palmer (1995) in their basic argument state that HRM policies and practices flow directly from the overall HRM strategy, which is an outcome of organizational strategy and objectives. Sisson (1989) views strategic HRM as an integration of existing personnel policies with business planning, upgrading the role of the HR managers, working closely with senior line managers, and finally moving from collectivism to individualism, and change manager’s roles.
Storey (1992) defines SHRM as a whole with a uniqueness of core ideas such as highly skilled, flexible workforce, single union agreement, flat organizational structures, common employment conditions, emphasis on training and implementation. Huselid et al. (1997) and Schuler and Jackson (1987) suggest that SHRM is linked to effective utilization of an organization’s workforce and improved performance. British authors such Sisson (1989) refer to SHRM in terms of key features and elements ranging from integration of personnel policies and devolvement to senior line managers, a shift from collectivism to individualism, a change of manager’s role, use of planning, link with overall strategy and the perception that the people of the organization be seen as a “resource”.
A major contribution to the strategic orientation of the HRM is the Cranfield survey covering several European countries (Brewster and Larsen, 2000). The survey was conducted three times (1993, 1996, and 1999) According to that survey, during the 1990s, human resource policies and practices were re-examined in general, because European organizations tried to adopt methods and techniques already successfully applied by multinational companies operating in the country examined. The surveys show an optimistic approach arguing that HRM is moving away from its administrative role towards a more strategically oriented role. This role includes the increasing importance of training, the effort to link training to the firm’s strategy, the higher involvement and collaboration with line managers (Brewster et al., 2000). Furthermore, the Cranfield study argues that there is a slight move towards more flexibility more extensive use of external consultants, especially in training issues, and finally an increase in performance linked rewards (Mayne et al., 2000).
Strategic HRM and quality improvement: a literature review
The vast majority of quality experts, researchers, academics and practitioners in recent years seem to agree that “human resource” issues are at the core of the quality philosophy and that employee involvement and commitment is essential for the successful introduction and implementation of quality initiatives, programs or practices and techniques (Blackburn and Rosen, 1993; IPM, 1993; Hart and Schlesinger, 1991; Wilkinson et al., 1991). It is widely accepted that total quality management has a high human resource context and that the quality movement recognizes the importance of human resources and states a conceptual and well-defined image concerning human behavior and motivation (Pfeffer, 1994). According to Wilkinson et al. (1991) putting human resource issues in the top management agenda is a prerequisite for the effectiveness of all quality improvement efforts. In recent years, research evidence suggest that as TQ improvement efforts precede a change in the corporate culture, resulting in the establishment of a work climate in which participation, trust, responsibility for goal achievement and employee involvement take place (Lawler, 1994).
Strategic HRM and ISO 9000 series implementation
The literature on SHRM and quality improvement efforts is rather limited, especially when the focus is on the relationship and the impact of the implementation of the ISO 9000 series. The majority of these studies are descriptive in nature, with many generalizations, and only put the basis for a better understanding of the role of the personnel function in quality improvement efforts at a base level. TQM is often confused with quality initiatives, short-term projects and ISO 9000 series certification (Hill and Wilkinson, 1995; Ho, 1993).
According to Vouzas and Gotazamani (2005) the launch and implementation of the new ISO 9000:2000 series of standards further increases companies’ expectations that the new systems will bring firms one step closer to TQM and business excellence. The introduction of the five building blocks and the introduction of the process-based approach are an attempt by ISO to reduce the amount of documentation required. Furthermore, the new elements that it introduces to the certified companies relate to the “soft elements” of TQM, that have been proved to be the fundamental ones in the TQM system, with a very strong effect in improving company results (Costa and Martinez-Lorente, 2003). However, up to now there has been no major research undertaken into the effects and impact of the new ISO 9000:2000 series of standards on strategic HRM. The relationship between SHRM and ISO 9000 series certification is often seen as part of the HR function involvement in the design, introduction and implementation of a quality assurance system certified by an external evaluator. Wilkinson et al. (1991) and the IPM (1993) study suggest that the HR function actually plays an important role in the design and implementation phase of a quality assurance system.
On the other hand there are cases in which a quality assurance system had been implemented within the human resource department. Tuttle (1991) argues that in order for an organization to achieve competitive advantage through TQM the primary effort should be on “reorienting human resource management systems to support the total quality (TQ) revolution”. Its integration with human resource management is increasingly recognized as the commitment of managers and employees at all levels is a major component of success. Another striking finding is that HR professionals are willing to digest and implement the fundamental principles and practices of quality into their HRM practices. They also strongly believe that quality improvement efforts and the ISO 9000 series certification is one of the major challenges in their job.
Research evidence shows that when quality management evolves from quality control or quality assurance, it tends to focus on the “process” (technical) aspects of quality rather than on the “human” aspects (IPM, 1993; Kufidu and Vouzas, 1998). Thus, organizations engaged in a quality assurance approach to quality improvement, do not usually allow sufficient room for staff contributions, and training is targeted only towards people involved in the production process. The personnel department is usually a peripheral function with a very traditional role. The IPM study shows that organizations placing emphasis on a “process” approach to quality tend to exclude the human resource department from the design and implementation of quality assurance system such as ISO 9000 series. In most of the cases its role is limited and oriented towards increasing the awareness of the quality standard and handling the administrative aspects of quality efforts (IPM, 1993).
Strategic HRM and the major quality awards
In some other instances when a specific framework is used such as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, or the European Quality Award (EQA), the analysis of the relationship is just another parathesis of the role of the personnel professionals in the implementation of TQM initiatives in a specific time period (Hart and Schlesinger, 1991; Blackburn and Rosen, 1993; Vouzas and Gotazamani, 2005). Assuming that quality improvement efforts are not a fixed approach, and do not provide a ready-to-use methodology, but rather a holistic approach to management which embodies a common espoused philosophy and draws from a set of practices for improving the performance of the organization, it is evident that the assume diverse forms (Spencer, 1994). It would be however, theoretically and methodologically important to consider these forms in our effort to study the relationship between quality management and human resources issues.
In the US, organizations that were awarded the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, SHRM was considered as essential element in complying with the award criteria and to the effective management of quality. In such cases, SHRM issues are at the top of the top management agenda and HR professionals are part of the top management team, and participate in the design and implementation of the organization’s quality strategy (Blackburn and Rosen, 1993).
According to Vouzas and Gotazamani (2005) the European Quality Award seems to provide a new platform for introducing new practices and upgrading the role of the HR function, which was previously found to be the most problematic area after ISO 9000 implementation. They further argue that the management and utilization of people seemed to be at the core of the EQA and it seems that organizations are striving to focus on specific issues and measures, covering all HR-related activities. The authors found that in some of the organizations studied the strategic role of HR function was not so dynamic and in many cases considered to be very costly and complex, while respondents realize that there are still significant opportunities for improvement in this area.
HR department role/practices and quality improvement efforts
Assuming that the human resource function is an important function contributing to the well-being of the organization, and that TQM is a holistic concept covering all functions and requiring the participation and commitment of all employees, it is obvious that what applies for the production, purchasing, marketing and finance functions can also apply to the human resource function. Several authors argue that the application of the TQM principles within the human resource function can force the HR department to abandon its traditional role and move towards strategic human resource management as quality is a way of life and everybody should be responsible (Wilkinson et al., 1991).
Evidence shows that when organizations pass from quality assurance to a wider approach to quality, a shift from personnel to human resource management occurs (IPM, 1993; Hart and Schlesinger, 1991; Vloeberghs and Bellens, 1996). Human resource professionals seem to participate in the various phases of quality initiatives and play a vital role (usually a facilitator role) in these efforts. Overall, the involvement of the HR function in quality improvement efforts is usually manifest in three ways:
By participating in the design, introduction and maintenance of various quality initiatives.
By changing traditional personnel practices in order to support a total quality culture.
By establishing a quality orientation within the function itself.
However, we have to consider that the quality stage or level an organization has reached, instantly influences the embodied organizational changes, which in turn affect the way human resource considerations are formed in relation to strategic quality goals.
Total quality management is a new management philosophy, which provides a unique way of improving organizational performance and attaining competitive advantage. Total quality calls for a cultural shift, emphasizes self-control, autonomy and has a significant effect on the way people are managed. In the context of these changes, new realities and perspectives emerge for the effective utilization of the organization’s human resources. Aligning total quality with effective utilization of human resources is often the responsibility of the HR function. Achieving this goal requires radical changes in the way the organization’s HR function operates. Such concerns are at the core of the SHRM context and content.
Quality, in some instances is related to following procedures and keeping statistical records. According to Pfeffer (1994) people are the key players in a quality improvement philosophy. When an organization considers its people as assets and not as an additional cost, it makes a big step towards a successful TQM implementation.
Hendricks and Triplett (1989), suggest that implementing total quality initiatives (including the ISO 9000 series certification) requires continuous adjustments of every facet of the work environment and corporate culture. They suggest that HR can play an important role in the TQM assessment, planning and implementation process as well as in annual monitoring and review. In this cultural shift, the HR function can play an important role, creating a work environment free from fear and mistrust, eliminating barriers between departments, designing educational courses and creating a climate in which a new way of thinking and new roles for the middle and upper level managers could be developed.
Another issue of great importance to studying the relationship between TQM and HR is the direct or indirect employee involvement to quality improvement efforts. The direct involvement of employees in quality management raises an issue concerning the attitude of trade unions to the introduction and implementation of quality initiatives because it may be regarded as circumventing their influence. The unions generally welcomed quality management efforts as they could improve job satisfaction, gain (secure) a greater degree of employees’ control over their jobs or develop a co-operative partnership between management and employees (Hill, 1991). However, research evidence shows that unions are not directly involved in the design and introduction of quality assurance systems or quality initiatives (Gill, 1993). Indeed the lack of communication and the absence of direct involvement make unions skeptical concerning issues such as job losses, increased workload, intensity of work or increased responsibility without additional reward.
It is widely suggested that successful TQM implementation changes the dominant values, organizational structures, the way people work together and the way they feel about participation (van Donk and Sanders, 1993; Mallak et al., 1997). This supports the argument made by many authors who state that quality improvement efforts should become part of everybody’s job and everybody should feel responsible (Deming, 1986; Crosby, 1979; Oakland, 1989). Quality improvements should be based on a long-term perspective and be part of the overall business strategy. In this context people should be considered as assets rather than as additional cost upgrading that way the role of the human resource function. However research evidence shows that in organizations that were awarded the MBNQA, the role of the human resource function was essential. In such cases the personnel professionals were part of the top management team and fully participated in the design and implementation of the organization’s quality strategy (Blackburn and Rosen, 1993).
The context and content of SHRM in Greece
It is argued that the majority of the Greek enterprises have neglected human resource issues (Kufidu and Vouzas, 1998; Papalexandris, 1993; Kanellopoulos, 1990). Only recently have SHRM issues been thoroughly examined by academics. Studies conducted in the 1980s and 1990s revealed that in Greek industrial organizations, well-organized personnel departments are a recent phenomenon, and consequently personnel managers seemed to be a rare breed, only appearing over the last 15 years (Ball, 1992; Vouzas, 2004; Kufidu and Vouzas, 1998; Papalexandris, 1993; Kanellopoulos, 1990). Compared to other functions HR seemed to lack sophistication, and the application of modern human resource management practices was rather limited.
The main activities that are considered of major importance to Greek personnel departments according to the limited research literature on this subject are selection and recruitment, performance and appraisal, training and development, industrial relations, salary and wage administration (Kufidu, 1994; Papalexandris, 1993; Kanellopoulos, 1990; Kufidu and Vouzas, 1998; Vouzas, 2004). The same studies suggest that traditional personnel activities such as handling employee complaints, taking disciplinary action, being in charge of dismissals, demotions, transfers, working hours and shift patterns seemed to be abandoned and rated as least important for the personnel function. The role of the foreign-owned organizations in the rapid development of personnel issues and the high professional level of human resource managers in the Greek industrial environment merit mention. Foreign-owned companies started to provide training courses for their personnel managers and were the first to introduce overseas university training courses on HRM aspects (Kufidu and Vouzas, 1998). It is obvious that the personnel function in Greek industrial organizations is in a development stage. The new realities and perspectives developed due to European integration reinforce competition, which in turn motivates Greek firms to be engaged in new management techniques requiring a high level of personnel professionalism and a strong and empowered HR department.
The investigation of the current level of SHRM implementation in Greek organizations was covered by the Cranfield survey that investigated several European countries including Greece (Papalexandris, 1993). The survey was conducted three times (1993, 1996, and 1999) and the sample was 150 organizations, which employed more than 200 employees. According to that survey, during the 1990s, Greek organizations tried to adopt methods and techniques already successfully applied by multinationals. The main emphasis was on the increasing importance of training, the effort to link training to the firm’s strategy, the higher involvement and collaboration with line managers. Furthermore, the Cranfield study argues that there is a tendency of Greek organization to adapt their HRM practices to international trends (Papalexandris and Chalikias, 2002).
It has been argued that Greek organizations started to include HR issues in their annual reports. Written mission statements increased as did written corporate and HRM strategies. Most of the companies investigated have written policies but only for pay and benefits. Furthermore, in almost half of the companies, HR managers have a place on the board of directors and they are involved in corporate strategy from the outset (Papalexandris et al., 2002).
In a study in Greek hospitals Vassalou (2001) found that:
Greek hospitals encounter additional problems, such as the lack of strategic vision, the absence of an HRM department actively involved in the learning process and a hierarchical structure unfit-for-learning, which inhibit participatory decision making, and thus influence negatively not only teamwork and cooperation, but also knowledge transfer and shared leadership.
Survey objectives and methodology
In this paper, the author suggests that in order to have a reliable and objective depiction of the context and content of SHRM in a quality improvement framework, a thorough examination and analysis should include all the various approaches and perceptions recorded in literature – some of them based on empirical data and some deriving from anecdotal evidence.
The sample consists of six selected industrial organizations that were judged as normal, ordinary, and representative, representing a range of industrial sectors (chemicals, clothing, food and beverages, etc.) and considered as SMEs (less than 150 employees) being certified with the new ISO 9000:2000 series. The data gathering was carried out through extensive and in-depth interviews in all six organizations asking multiple informants, i.e. the plant manager, the production manager, the personnel manager, using a semi-structured questionnaire with open-ended questions. The main purpose was to collect data and produce basic information, enabling qualitative observations concerning organisations’ HRM efforts, the role and the status of HR professionals, and the implementation of various human resource initiatives from people being directly involved. The data from each site was written up as an integrated case study, with the focus on drawing out the commonalties of meaning and understanding each site. The data analysis provide some ground for generalizations, even though subjective judgments were also made from the analysis of the cases.
In the majority of the organizations the emphasis on improving competitiveness and increasing productivity is mainly through financial management techniques (cost reductions) and recently by ISO 9000 series certification. From the analysis of the data, it is obvious that Greek organizations are reluctant to fully utilize their human resources by providing a clear and sound mission for personnel (especially lower level managers and shop floor employees) and set strategic HRM goals as part of their efforts towards gaining the ISO 9000 certification.
It was quite striking that many top managers stated that management of employees is the key element in achieving strategic goals. This of course is contradictory if we consider these organizations were reluctant to enhance employee participation, to improve working conditions, to modernize and empower their personnel function and to set and implement new HRM policies and practices.
Top management seemed to be skeptical about measuring, evaluating and rewarding performance, recognizing employee’s commitment, providing a career path and establishing a climate of trust – elements essential for the strategic orientation towards managing people. In many cases employees were often seen as a cost that the organization has to manage and eventually reduce in order to be competitive in the market. Furthermore, the authors noticed a tendency of undermining the employee’s ideas and recommendations regarding quality-related issues such as procedure elimination, health and safety, work schedules, etc.
The absence of a formal written HR policy or quantitative goals regarding the management of human resources in the organizations were not a surprise for the authors, despite the fact that some of the organizations are well known for their sophisticated marketing and public relations practices and the high educational and professional level of their top management team. Assuming that ISO 9000 certification did not require a written policy or quantitative goals for personnel, the quality manager in cooperation with the external consultant discarded than as unnecessary and rather costly. In addition to that, other reasons for the lack of a written HR policy include the preoccupation of top management with financial and marketing goals and the absence of an organized personnel department. However, the majority of the organizations mentioned that there is an informal and atypical mechanism of setting goals and targets for the employees and the management. Personnel managers as well as quality managers mentioned that setting an HR policy is considered by top management to be a luxury. In some cases HR professionals’ efforts to set up a written policy has not gained support from the top management team and the person responsible for the ISO 9000. Furthermore, problems in communication among various departments as well as internal disputes and conflicts were reported as a barrier to the development of a common and integrated HR policy that can support the certification process and the establishment of an “ISO culture”. In one of the organizations studied the efforts to cut costs and increase competitiveness through the ISO 9000 certification led to the development of a redundancy plan, which was described as a step to utilize human resources and increase flexibility.
The role of the HR professionals in the design, introduction and implementation of the ISO 9000 series was described as “minimal” and in many cases non-existent, meaning that the people in charge of personnel had no chance to review procedures, analyze present job descriptions, evaluate previous performance standards for employees, suggest training methods and learning activities and ways to increase motivation. This led us to assume that relevant decisions concerning people issues on the ISO 9000 framework were in the hands of the top management team, the director of the company or the head of the personnel department at the company’s headquarters.
In one particular organization, the participation of HR professionals in strategy formulation and in the implementation of ISO 9000 was considered dangerous or premature, taking into account the role of the department and the profile of the HR professional (a lawyer). In some instances, HR professionals took part in meetings and received information regarding strategic orientation, but they were not part of the quality steering committee or the strategic management group. This is clearly understood when the HR professional’s profile is examined. In the majority of the organizations HR professionals were former employees, who took over the post of the personnel department in recognition of their loyalty to the “boss” or because of company’s internal politics. In some other organizations HR professionals were lawyers or they held a university degree that had no relevance to the management of people.
There was an oxymoron in many organizations regarding the perceptions and willingness of the top management team, the actual practices applied and the climate in the organization regarding SHRM issues. Although there was an absence of an organized HR function in the majority of the organizations, and the contribution of the HR manager was minimal, the top management – through the interview process – were confident that through the quality journey and the because of the changes occurring globally, in the next few years their organizations would have to invest in people through education and training, introduction of performance related pay, introduction of new sets of incentives and improved participation.
Further examination of the status of the so called “personnel department” can support this oxymoron. Top management has all the reason it needs to be skeptical of the role of the personnel department in quality improvement efforts and in many cases to ask the line managers to be more involved in people management issues when it comes to ISO 9000 series. This is because in four out of the six organizations studied the personnel department offices were “hosted” in the administrative or the financial department, with no specific area assigned for the personnel department. Only one organization (a multinational organization), had an organized personnel function with five employees, a degree of autonomy and specific role regarding HR issues in the ISO 9000 implementation.
It seems that in organizations choosing a more process-oriented approach to quality and going for the certification according to ISO 9000 standard, the most common HRM practices found are file keeping, handling employee complaints, taking disciplinary action, being in charge of dismissals, demotions, transfers, working hours and shift patterns. However, the authors found that there is a tendency for such practices to have less importance and gradually to be abandoned, but ISO certification seems unrelated to this. Only in one organization, was the HR function using HR performance indices such as turnover rates, employee satisfaction, absences, evaluation of education and training programs, induction, labor productivity, etc.
Finally, the author believes that top management of the organizations studied were probably unaware of the potential advantages of the “new strategic HRM” practices and the effect these practices might have on the organization’s overall effectiveness and efficiency. Furthermore, because of the existing organizational culture and general climate that prevails, the organizations under study did not seem to promote quality as a new way of doing things, through the utilization of all available resources, including people. The ISO 9000 series is rather bureaucratic and cannot be used inside and outside the organization to promote innovation and to provide opportunity for new ideas and practices to be implemented.
It seems that the vast majority of the sample organizations, although aware of the fundamental principles and tools of quality improvement, are still in an early stage of implementation and the primary focus is the ISO 9000 series certification. The author believes that one of the most prevailing factors contributing to the delay of the establishment of a “quality-based” culture and a move towards strategic total quality management within these organizations is the short period of systematic implementation and the preoccupation with the so-called “hard” aspects of quality.
On the other hand, effective and well-structured human resources management strategies are almost non-existent. Furthermore it seems that the current status and the role of human resource functions suggest their participation in TQ efforts are minimal. In some cases it took the form of communication to employees of the corporate quality mission and designing and implementing programs for employee empowerment and the development or application of TQM principles, practices and techniques within the HR function.
Another factor that shapes the context and content of the HR-TQM relationship in the Greek industrial organizations is the size and the origin of capital. Both seemed to play a vital role in selection of the initial approach to quality improvement and affect the degree of implementation of TQM principles, practices and techniques. Data from previous studies show that medium and large Greek industrial organizations are more willing to adopt a less “process-oriented” approach to quality implementation. They used quality education and training programs more in order to raise awareness of quality or applied for the European Quality Award (EQA) or designed and implemented quality improvement programs developed in house to fit better into the existing organizational culture.
As far as strategic human resources management is concerned, Greek industrial organizations, in contrast with the service sector organizations neglected and underestimated the role of the personnel department. However, the conclusions of this study are in line with the results of recent studies (Papalexandris and Chalikias, 2002; Vouzas, 2004) that suggest that HRM in Greece is moving towards a more strategic perspective, by more effectively utilizing the skills and knowledge of employees, investing in training programs and involve the HR professionals in strategic making decisions.
Corresponding authorFotis Vouzas can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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