STRATEGIC HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Unit Tutors Contact details
Dr Huw Thomas (HT) Huw.Thomas@bristol.ac.uk
Dr Oghale Ayetuoma
Mrs Anna MacPherson
Teaching Team Details ........................................................................................... 3
Introduction ........................................................................................................... 4
What we ask of you ................................................................................................ 5
Staff Responsibilities .............................................................................................. 6
Unit Overview ........................................................................................................ 6
Lecture Schedule ................................................................................................... 7
Tutorial Schedule ................................................................................................... 7
Learning Outcomes ................................................................................................ 8
Teaching and Learning .......................................................................................... 8
Formative Assessment (two parts) ......................................................................... 9
Summative Assessment .......................................................................................... 9
Assignment Company Suggestions ...................................................................... 12
Assessment Criteria ............................................................................................. 13
Assessment Criteria (continued) .......................................................................... 23
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) ..................................................................... 24
Blackboard ........................................................................................................... 29
Recommended Reading ....................................................................................... 29
Glossary of (selected) terms used during the Unit ............................................... 31
Teaching Team Details
Name: Dr Huw Thomas
Office: 3.06, Howard House
Huw Thomas is a Lecturer in Management in
the School of Management. He has
previously work at Cardiff University and at
the International Labour Organization (ILO)
in Geneva, Switzerland. Huw's research has
focussed on international labour standards
in a range of economic sectors. In particular
he is interested in the impact of global
production networks on labour governance
and the role of international organisations.
Name: Dr Oghale Ayetuoma
Office: 2.23, Howard House
Oghale Ayetuoma is a Lecturer in Human
Resource Management. Her current
research and teaching interests include,
Talent Management Strategic Human
Resource Management, Leadership &
Change Management, Organizational
Behaviour, Business & Management studies,
International Human Resource Management
Name: Mrs Anna Macpherson
Office: 2.23, Howard House
Anna Macpherson joined the School of
Management in 2018. She had previously
worked at the University of the West of
England, and the Kaplan International
College. Prior to this Anna worked in the UK
banking and IT industries. Anna is an
Associate Fellow of the Higher Education
Welcome to the Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM) unit. This
unit builds on your learning in the first teaching block. As with other units on
the MSc, you are expected to develop your academic and practical skills by:
❖ synthesising relevant literature and evaluating arguments from different
ideological/ theoretical frameworks and perspectives
❖ applying theory to practice through the critical analysis of real-world
❖ accessing and utilising information from a range of research sources
❖ developing IT and other enquiry-based skills related to the organisation,
evaluation and interpretation of data
❖ undertaking secondary-data research as part of your assignment
❖ communicating ideas, principles and theories effectively, both in verbal
presentations and visually as part of the formative assessment for your
We expect all students to participate fully in the unit – which at a minimum involves:
❖ attending lectures and tutorials;
❖ reading all the core/recommended texts for each lecture and any reading
material for tutorials (e.g. case studies);
❖ taking notes in lectures (or taking notes subsequently via recording); and
❖ participating in tutorials (e.g. engaging in constructive discussion with
classmates and tutors).
Our aim is to create a positive teaching and learning environment that will enable
students and members of staff to fulfil their personal potential. It is the
responsibility of all students and staff to assist in creating an environment where
each individual is treated with dignity and respect and does not face discrimination
or harassment arising from race, gender, sexual preference, age, appearance,
political or religious views or on any other grounds. The School neither condones
nor tolerates any behaviour that undermines the dignity or self-esteem of any
individual or creates an intimidating, hostile, abusive or offensive environment.
This commitment applies to all staff and students, whenever and wherever social
interaction takes place. We therefore ask everyone to:
❖ treat everybody with respect and dignity;
❖ make absolutely sure your own behaviour does not cause offence or
❖ think carefully before you make any personal remarks; and
❖ accept responsibility for challenging all forms of unacceptable and
offensive behaviour, and for upholding personal dignity
What we ask of you
• You should view lecture notes as a starting point for further study. Do not
view lecture notes as the only source of information for your assignment.
• Lectures are an opportunity for discussion and debate and not simply
‘receiving information’ – therefore, you are strongly advised to attend. If you
miss the lecture or want to recap the whole or certain parts of the lecture, all
sessions are recorded.
• Please put all mobile phones on silent in tutorials and only use laptops for
• If you are unable to attend a tutorial please inform your Unit Tutor. If you
have missed a lecture you can catch up via Re/Play on Blackboard.
• You should be well-prepared for tutorials and willing to participate in class
• You should read the essential material provided in lectures and supplement
this with other items from the reading lists. If you hope to achieve higher
marks you must thoroughly reference the literature and make use of
contemporary research published in relevant journals (listed later in this
• Please come to the tutorials and lectures on time. Arriving late or leaving
early is very disruptive to your fellow students and to the lecturer.
• Plagiarism must be avoided at all costs and you should fully reference all
• If you have a disability that might require special attention, please contact
the Postgraduate Personal Tutoring Team email@example.com.
• Please make sure you check the unit outline (this document) and Blackboard
before emailing the Unit Director of Tutor. We may not reply to your
question if the answer is easily found on Blackboard and in this document.
• Please do not record lecturers in your tutorials or during advice and
feedback hours without their consent. If you need to record the conversation
so you can refer to it later, please ask them first. All lectures are recorded
and put on Blackboard and available immediately after the lecture has
ended. This is not a reason however for skipping the lecture and watching it
• When you send us an email please make sure that in the subject the unit
code (MGCRM2011) or name (SHRM) is referred to. We teach on many
different units and this helps us keep track of questions/queries.
• If you need an extension for your assignment for whatever reason, you must
contact the Graduate Studies Office firstname.lastname@example.org. We do
not have the power to grant extensions. Sometimes extensions can take a
few days so please do not wait until the last minute.
• If you are struggling with the Masters and it is effecting your ability to study,
you should talk to Postgraduate Tutoring Team who provide academic and
personal support for students: email@example.com
The Unit Director is Dr Huw Thomas. Any issues related to the unit as a whole should
be directed to Dr Thomas in the first instance. Issues related to specific lecture
topics should be directed to the relevant lecturer. You can also discuss any issues
with your tutorial tutor (Oghale Ayetuoma or Anna MacPherson). Any question on
your assignment must be directed to your tutorial tutor. We encourage students to
post questions on Blackboard as both the question and response can then be read
by other students. General questions applicable to all students, whether related to
the exam or assignments must be posted on Blackboard. We aim to reply to your
email within 48 hours (during the working week).
We are interested in your feedback on this unit, whether this relates to content,
presentation of material, the resources available on Blackboard, the assignment,
formative and summative assessment, or indeed any other aspect of the unit. You
can talk to us anytime about the unit (before, after and during class, ‘advice and
feedback hours’, or via email and Blackboard). We value you input and will always
try to respond positively to your feedback (e.g. this year we have changed the
structure of the lectures).
This unit will provide knowledge and understanding of the strategic role of human
resource management (SHRM) in organisations and provide a platform for critical
evaluation of that role. Various models and frameworks of human resource
management are introduced and (causal) links to corporate business strategy are
developed. Contemporary developments in key functional areas of HR such as
recruitment and selection, training and development, performance management,
job design, employee involvement and remuneration are covered. Drawing on
relevant theory, models and frameworks, students will analyse case studies,
diagnose SHRM problems and make recommendations for appropriate courses of
action. The unit also considers SHRM issues arising from the international growth
strategies employed by companies in the global economy. International and
comparative dimensions of SHRM are emphasised throughout the unit.
Week Title Date Lecturer
13 Introduction to Strategic Human Resource
14 From Industrial Relations to Human Resource
Management: New Models for Managing People?
15 Strategic HRM in Practice: The International Civil
16 Employee Influence and the Employment
17 Work Systems and Best Practice HR 01.03.21 HT
18 Talent and Human Resource flow 08.03.21 OA
19 Reward Management and Performance 15.03.21 OA
20 Concluding the Unit – What Have We learned? 22.03.21 HT/OA
HT = Dr Huw Thomas; OA = Dr Oghale Ayetuoma; PT = Professor Peter Turnbull
Week Title W.C.
13 Introduction – HRM in an Age of Crisis 01.02.21
14 The Role of Strategic HR Managers: Palm Toy Case Study 08.02.21
15 HRM and Business Strategy: Four Cases 15.02.21
16 Is Ryanair the Southwest Airlines of Europe? 22.02.21
17 The Meaning of Employee Influence to Managers 01.03.21
18 Managing Human Resources at Singapore Airlines 08.03.21
19 Best Fit vs. Best Practice: Presentations 15.03.21
20 Drop-in Assessment Advice 22.03.21
W.C. = Week Commencing
On completion of this Unit students should be able to:
▪ critically evaluate contemporary Strategic HRM frameworks and concepts;
▪ understand the links between HRM, strategy and organisational theory;
▪ understand and evaluate the ways in which HR strategies affect, and are
affected by, business performance;
▪ evaluate HRM processes in a variety of different organisational and national
▪ demonstrate an appreciation of contemporary approaches to recruitment
and selection, training and development, performance management, job
design, employee involvement and remuneration.
Teaching and Learning
As with all units on the MSc, teaching is research-led and we expect students to
engage with the research literature. The Strategic HRM unit is based on active
learning methods, which is learner-centred and best viewed as a process of
interaction between reflective practitioners (students) and facilitators (lecturers).
Three basic principles guide this approach:
1) Reflection enables us to take the meaning out of our reading and
2) Empirical data helps us to contextualize and compare our experiences
3) Theory enables us to understand and explain our experiences
Active learning involves a combination of teaching methods, including: formal
lectures, case studies, role-play exercises and small-group work, oral and written
presentations. Reading and guidance on preparation will be provided in advance
of each tutorial. The key to active learning is participation.
The module is delivered through a series of weekly 1-hour lectures (8 hours) and
weekly tutorials (8 hours) with additional asynchronous material (4 hours) and
online discussion. There is an emphasis on student-directed learning and you are
expected to prepare thoroughly for classes via reading and reflection. Tutorials
will involve a combination of group-work, individual and group presentations,
discussion and debate. Reading will be provided in advance of each tutorial.
Formative Assessment (two parts)
PART 1: Reflective diary
Where: Online via Blackboard.
The formative assessment requires you to produce a reflective diary. Each week
questions will be set on the Blackboard discussion board which you will be asked
to answer. These questions will help you reflect on what you have learned so far on
the Unit as well as planning for your assignment. Tutors will be on hand to comment
PART 2: Group narrated PowerPoint
When: Week 18 – Thursday 11th March 13:00. Feedback given in Week 19
Where: Online Submission via Blackboard.
The second part of the formative assessment will be a group narrated PowerPoint
to test your knowledge on the best fit vs. best practice debate in Strategic HRM.
Earlier in the semester (Week 13) students will be split into three/four different
groups. Each group will be asked to produce a maximum of 10 minutes narrated
PowerPoint (maximum of 10-12 slides). This narrated PowerPoint will be submitted
online via Blackboard. Each presentation will then be shown in Week 19 and verbal
and written feedback will be given. More details can be found on Blackboard.
Written Assignment: 100% of Unit Mark
When: Week 22 – Wednesday 28th April 2021 (13:00 )
Where: Online submission via Blackboard
• Assignments must be maximum 3,000 words excluding bibliography,
appendices, cover sheet, table of contents and abbreviations list. Tables,
diagrams and other illustration are also excluded from the word count, but
students are expected to provide detailed description of the illustrations in
the main text of the assignment. Assignments that exceed the 3,000 word
limit will be penalized by the loss of 5 marks per 100 words. If the
assignment is late or not submitted, you will be penalized as per the
sanctions outlined in the MSc Student Handbook 20/21.
• The assignment should be written as an academic essay and NOT as a
• All sources of material that you use to inform your ideas should be
referenced. Direct quotes should be given in quotation marks and
accompanied by the relevant page numbers. Note that plagiarism is taken
very seriously so if in doubt provide a reference. Give references in the text
where you use a theories or ideas from the literature.
• For this assignment Harvard (author-date) referencing must be used. We
have provided a reference style guide on Blackboard in the assessment
• Please use Times New Roman font (size 12), with double line spacing, 2.5cm
margins and page numbers at the bottom of the page.
• A title page, abbreviations page and contents page may be included but this
is not a necessity.
• A minimum of 15 academic references must be included. Academic
references include journal articles, books and textbooks. The use of non-
academic sources is OK if they supported by more authoritative texts (see
below for more detail on this).
The summative assignment for this Unit is a 3,000 word maximum individual
essay on the HR strategy of a multi-national organisation of your choice. A list of
potential organisations from previous years is listed on the next page to help you
in your decision. Your chosen organisation does not need to be a ‘for-profit’
organisation although many will choose such organisations.
Using theories and models from the Strategic Management Unit (Semester One),
you must first assess the available secondary data on your chosen company (e.g.
financial reports, annual reports to shareholders, business press, specialist trade
journals, published academic papers, etc.) to determine the company’s business
strategy. The business strategy should be a maximum of 400 words (students will
be penalised for exceeding this).
The second part of the assignment is a critical analysis of the current HR strategy
of your chosen company derived from secondary data collection. You would have
learned about critical analysis during Organisational Behaviour and Studying
Management in Semester One. Critical is the operative word. As we know from
Lecture 5, the objectives of the employment relationship are a balance between
efficiency, equity and voice.1 These three fundamental objectives should be
considered, and the focus should not just be on the efficiency of the organisation.
Based on the information on the business strategy, you should analyse how and
why the particular configuration of HR policies and practices support (or do not
support) your chosen organisation’s business strategy. In other words, using any
available secondary data on the organisation’s actual HR policies and strategies,
evaluate whether and to what extent current HR policies support the business
strategy, and undertake an evaluation of how and why you might recommend
changes to the organisation’s current HR strategy.
Based on theory covered in the SHRM lectures it should be relatively
straightforward to determine the ‘most appropriate’ HR strategy for the
organisation in question. For example, if your company has a low-cost focus, what
would be the most appropriate recruitment strategy? However, as information on
the organisation’s actual HR strategy, policies and practices may be harder to
come by (depending on the company selected), this might be as far as some
1 Budd, J. (2004). Employment with a Human Face: Balancing Efficiency, Equity, and
Voice. Available at:
students will be able to take their analysis – in this scenario, you will need to focus
on why particular HR policies and practices are ‘most likely’ to support/drive the
organisation’s business strategy, drawing on empirical evidence from the
academic literature (e.g. similar firms in the same/similar industry) and relevant
theory. Where data is available on the organisation’s HR
strategy/policies/practices, students should undertake an assessment of any
‘gaps’ between best practices/best fit and actual HR policies/practices, and then
critically evaluate why such differences exist and to what effect.
Following feedback from last year, you may decide to focus on one or more aspects
of the HR policies of your chosen company (e.g. talent, rewards, work systems etc.)
especially if there is sufficient available information on this particular facet. There
is no expectation to cover all aspects of a company’s HR strategy. At the end of the
day you only have 3,000 words! For example, you might find that the most
interesting element of the organisation is its employee voice strategies, which
require further elaboration and explanation.
A sample structure is outlined below with indicative word counts (please feel free
to deviate from this):
• Cover sheet (Candidate number, topic of assignment, word count)
• Introduction (300 words)
• Business strategy (500 words)
• Critical analysis and evaluation HR strategy (1,200 words)
• Recommendations (700 words)
• Conclusion (300 words)
Where to start?
• Start your research by reading Chapter 3 of the core text by Boxall and
Purcell (2015) where the authors discuss HR strategies in different contexts
(manufacturing and services) and types of firm (multi-divisional and multi-
• Consult the Library Guide: ‘How to research companies’, available on
• Read Wallace and Wray’s chapter on “Scholarly Reading as a Model for
Scholarly Writing” (2011) available on Blackboard.
Students are expect to write academically and use a logical structure when framing
an assignment. Guidance on essay writing and study skills are available in the
library. In addition, the careers advisory service and the student’s union offer
advice and support in this areas.
I highly recommend these two books:
Becker, H.S. (2007) Writing for social scientists: how to start and finish your thesis,
book or article (available via the University of Bristol library).
Wallace and Wray (2011) Critical reading and writing for postgraduates. (available
on Blackboard under course documents).
Assignment Company Suggestions
British Airways Aviation
Singapore Airlines Aviation
Southwest Airlines Aviation
Aer Lingus Aviation
Malaysian Airways Aviation
American Airlines Aviation
General Motors Manufacturing
Geely Auto Manufacturing
Sports Direct Manufacturing
China Shipping Services
Hutchinson Post Holding Services
PSA International Services
Ant Financial Services
Distinction: ≥70% Merit: 60-69% Pass: 50-59% Fail: below 50%
The assessment demonstrates that an
excellent knowledge of the topic has
been gained from careful literature
research and wide ranging reading that
goes beyond essential
A sound understanding of the
concepts is demonstrated, and there is
evidence of extensive knowledge of
the topic. Issues are identified and
discussed. There is clear indication of
independent literature research.
A basic level of understanding of the
concepts and issues has been
demonstrated, but with some gaps or
misunderstanding. Key issues have
been identified and discussed, but
without any significant insights being
An inadequate level of understanding of the
concepts and issues is evident. The selection
of ideas is not appropriate, and the discussion
remains at a basic level as a result. Few
essential issues are identified and analysed,
and there is evidence of substantial
misunderstanding. There may also be
evidence of inappropriate or irrelevant
selection of content.
Coverage and selection of the content is
excellent. There is a clear analysis of the
question or topic. A clear and creative
ability to describe, analyse, and
synthesise ideas is demonstrated. There
is evidence of critical appreciation of
relevant theory and research. Arguments
are sound and substantial, with elements
The topic is addressed
comprehensively, and a convincing
and coherent line of reasoning is
maintained. There is a very good
coverage of content and evidence of
good critical evaluation of relevant
theory and research. Main points are
sound and substantial.
An appropriate response to the
assignment task and all aspects of the
question or topic have been addressed.
A reasonable level of content has been
covered and the ability to analyse
concepts and think critically is evident
although not fully developed. Argument
is weakened by occasional confusion or
The assignment does not meet expectations of
appropriateness as a response to the task set.
It needs to address the topic more explicitly
and analytically. There is little evidence of a
critical perspective in relation to the ideas
focused upon, and the whole remains largely
descriptive. No discernible arguments are
presented, or they are flawed or confused.
The assignment is internally consistent,
coherent, concise and well structured.
The introduction is well focused and
provides a clear indication of the
rationale, key literature base used and
organisation of the work. The conclusion
draws insights that are logically
developed from the analysis.
The structure of the assignment is
sound. The introduction is well
focused and highlights relevant
literature, a central argument and
overall organisation. The conclusion
summarises the issues and
Effectively structured, although more
careful editing would perhaps have
improved the overall conciseness of the
work. The introduction could more
clearly state the rationale, theoretical
basis or outline of the overall structure
of the assignment. The conclusion
provides a summary of the discussion,
although there may be limitations in the
significance of outcomes.
There is little effective organisation of ideas in
the assignment. There is no introduction, or it
has not been related sufficiently well to the
topic or question. The lack of analysis in the
assignment results in a lack of insight in
relation to outcome. The conclusion lacks
focus and insight.
Use of sources The selection, interpretation,
comparison, evaluation and integration
of material from sources is extremely
effective and demonstrates personal
research, and with full critical awareness
of their status and relevance.
Overall, there is a very good selection
and use of sources, which are well
integrated, interpreted and evaluated,
demonstrating some critical
awareness of their status and
The scope of sources is generally
relevant although limited. There is a low
level of critical evaluation, or some
significant sources are missing.
There is an inadequate and uncritical use of
essential literature sources, and some sources
may not be relevant to the topic. Sources may
also have been casually paraphrased or
The writing has a consistent and clear
style that is highly appropriate. There is
evidence of careful editing and
proofreading. The layout of the
assignment conforms to expectations and
the length is consistent with
requirements. Referencing is accurate,
consistent and appropriate, and
conforms exactly to recommended
The assignment is concise and easy to
read, and conforms well to style
conventions. It has been well edited
and proofread. The layout of the
assignment conforms very well to
expectations and the length is
consistent with requirements.
Referencing is accurate, consistent
and appropriate, and conforms well to
the recommended conventions.
The style of writing is appropriate
although it might present some
comprehension difficulties. The
assignment is not as concisely written as
it might have been, although layout
conforms to expectations and the length
meets requirements. Referencing
generally conforms to conventions,
although there may be some inaccuracy
A lack of clarity in written expression
presents considerable comprehension
difficulties. The style of the assignment does
not meet expectations, and may not meet
length requirements. Referencing does not
conform to expected conventions and lacks
Assessment Criteria (continued)
Work is assessed for the knowledge and understanding displayed, the level of
critical discussion, the quality of argument used in developing conclusions, the use
of sources, the way that the assignment is structured and for style and presentation.
These criteria form the basis for feedback provided by Tutors and it is
recommended that you take the time to study the guidelines above.
In addition to the more generic criteria above, below is some additional feedback
from last year:
Below 50% (i.e. a fail) = Students who failed produced an incoherent argument
around the HR strategy of the company and its strategic link to its business strategy.
In many cases, those that failed did not address the key question of the assignment
(i.e. an analysis of the HR strategy) and only focussed on the business strategy.
Students who failed also had poor referencing skills, their assignments were
poorly structured and at times were impossible to read.
- 6 per cent of students failed last year.
50-59% = Students who received a pass mark covered the basics but were largely
descriptive concerning the company of their choice without providing an analytical
component on their HR strategy. There was some academic referencing, but many
relied on their opinion (i.e. a claim) rather than a carefully constructed argument
(i.e. claim + evidence). They often also did not go above and beyond the lecture
material. These assignments were also very uncritical relying on what the company
says about their own HR strategy rather than having an argument on whether this
is appropriate/effective. For example, many spoke of the value of 80-hour work
- 38 per cent of students received a pass.
60-69% = Students who received a merit provided consistent referencing. They
were also more analytical and provided a coherent argument on the company’s HR
strategy. There might have been some critical discussions, but these were not
effectively linked to academic literature and the student might have relied too
heavily on ‘grey’ literature. Students might have also struggled with providing
convincing evidence-based recommendations. Although they might have
indicated good knowledge of the core material of the Unit, there was little
indication of going above and beyond the basic reading material.
- 42 per cent of students received a merit.
70%+ = Students who received a distinction had a focused argument throughout,
had effectively used a wide range of good quality source material. They were
critical (but did not unnecessarily criticise), provided convincing and evidence-
based recommendations, and found their own conclusion backed up by proper
- 14 per cent of students received a distinction. 3 students received an 80%+
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can I use internet sources?
It is fine to use internet sources when analysing the HR strategy of the company,
but sparingly. As Masters students at a research-based (Russell Group) university
you should, by now, appreciate the importance of reliable research and how the
research process works. Most academic research is funded by an external agency,
which means that academics must “compete” for research funds. Research grant
applications are peer reviewed and only the best ideas, with a sound methodology,
are funded. Research data will be carefully analysed by the researchers. The
results will initially be presented as a “working paper”, to be read by colleagues,
presented at conferences, and then eventually submitted to an academic journal.
It will then be read by a member of the editorial board of the journal and at least
two independent referees. In the vast majority of cases, the author will be asked to
respond to comments/criticisms before the paper is published. Once published it
will be read by other researchers who many seek to develop the theory, compare
the results with other research data, test the theory/methods on new datasets, etc.
If it stands up to scrutiny, the research may be incorporated into textbooks.
Compare this with internet sites. Is the information as reliable? Has the research
that is cited on various websites been conducted to the same standard as academic
research? Have the findings been subject to the same process of critical review?
All too often, the answer to each of these questions is: “No”. It is therefore important
to be critical when using these non-standard references especially when it comes
directly from the company!
How important is referencing?
Very important! We expect you to reference properly and include a bibliography.
You must use Harvard (author, date: page) system. We have provided a reference
style guide on Blackboard. There is no excuse for poor referencing. When you fail
to reference in support of certain data or arguments, you are left with nothing more
than assertion or opinion. When you cite an author in the text, but the reference is
missing from the bibliography, this is either: (a) a simple mistake (sloppy work),
or (b) an attempt to deceive the examiner (i.e. unfair practice). We check websites,
which all too often entails typing the address, re-typing the address because of
error messages, discovering that the site cannot be found or eventually finding the
site and then trying to locate the specific information in question, then discovering
that the data was unreliable. If the web address was either incorrect or no longer
(or never) existed, this is tantamount to unfair practice.
Can I use bullet points?
We are tolerant of bullet points (as long as these are fully explained), we
encourage the use of tables/figures/charts/diagrams etc, and we do not mind the
inclusion of photos. Ultimately, however, this is still a content driven assignment. A
well-researched, cogently argued report with no “bells and whistles” will always
score higher marks than the “all singing, all dancing” presentation that is rather
thin on academic content, lacking analytical rigour, unsupported by research
You should label or reference all figures and tables in the text. Tables and figures
are supposed to be a summary of more detailed information/data/models etc. that
you explain/elaborate upon in the text.
Does the English have to be perfect?
We expect your report to be written in good English. We are appreciative that
English might not be your first, second or even third language. However, your
writing can often be improved simply by using a spell-check or proof-reading the
assignment (or asking a friend to read it through). This is not a minor issue – if an
assignment is poorly written, it calls into question the reliability of other
information in the assignment. Please consider the following points as well:
• Please do not use “don’t”, “can’t”, “won’t”, etc. How many books/journal
articles can you find with these words?
• Use of words “may”, “might”, “could”. If you have research evidence, you
can “prove” what will happen. If you use theory, you can predict with a
degree of certainty. Telling the reader what “may” happen is not much use
– they could make an “educated guess” just as well as anyone else
(probably better, in the circumstances). Your job is to tell them what will
happen, what is most likely to happen, and why (likewise, we are not
interested in what you “believe” or “feel”, only what you can
• Avoid the use of American English (e.g. “labor”). This is usually a sign that
the relevant passage has been “cut and pasted” from a US
Which theory should I use?
You can use most HR models to explain most companies. Some are just more
effective than others. We will leave it up to you to identify the most appropriate
theory (or theories) to analyse the company. Students have used Harvard and
Michigan models in previous years to explain the HR strategy and the external
factors to analyse the business strategy (situational etc.). You do not have to use
these if you do not want to. You might find for example that there’s something very
specific about the company’s HR strategy that you want to discuss in more detail
for example how they recruit talent, or the way work is structured in the company
etc. In this respect you can bring in additional theory to help facilitate your
analysis. Remember, theory is only helpful if it helps you explain something
practical. As Kurt Lewin famously said: ‘there’s nothing as practical as a good
What do you mean by ‘gaps’?
You need to have an argument on the (strategic) fit between the business and HR
strategy (is there a gap between what we expect based on the academic literature
and what we find?). You might also find some interesting evidence regarding the
difference between the rhetoric and reality of the company's HR strategy (is there
a gap between how they say they treat their employees and actually happen?). For
example, you might find that a company says one thing (e.g. ‘people are our most
important asset’) while doing something else (e.g. discriminating, underpaying,
and disregarding or denigrating workers’ voice). You might also find a gap
between what the company is doing and whether it is legal or not. The key
takeaway is that no company’s HR strategy is perfect and there is always room for
What theory is the best for the business strategy?
People in the past have used SWOT, PESTLE, five forces, the Harvard model’s
situational/stakeholder aspects to explain the environment the company operates
in and its business strategy within this. Again, the choice of theory/models is up to
you. What you explain in this initial section needs to be linked to the HR strategy in
some way. In other words, there is very little point telling the reader that a
particular economic factor is important, or that the firm has an opportunity or
weakness if that is then not linked to a discussion around the HR strategy. This is
not a strategy Unit. As such there’s very little marks on offer for outlining the
business strategy. In that respect, make it as brief as possible (max 400 words!)
and move on to the main part of the assignment.
Can I use sub-headings?
I can’t find any academic sources on the company I’ve chosen, please help?
In the majority of cases you won’t find any academic sources on your chosen
company (although many of the suggestions we have made do have academic
sources). But there will be lots of sources of similar companies in the same sector.
You can make a reasoned judgment about their applicability to your chosen
company. In addition, you will be applying academic theories to the practical
realities of your chosen company.
Can I look at a company’s supply chain?
Yes. Take Nike for example. You could look at the HR practices in the HQ and write
an assignment on this. You could also reasonably talk about the impact that Nike
has on the HR strategy of its suppliers e.g. in developing countries. You do not need
to confine your analysis to those employed by the company directly but also those
that might be affected by the purchasing/sourcing decisions of the lead firm. Uber
for example does not hire any of its taxi drivers. Therefore, you could just look at
the HR practices of the HQ (where sexual harassment has been an issue) but you
could also look at the workers affected by the choices that Uber makes (i.e. the
thousands of drivers that use the Uber app). If you are looking at an airline, you
could look at the pilot, cabin crew but also potentially ground/catering staff. Either
way, you will need to outline your focus and your argument in the introduction.
Which business strategy?
If you’re looking at a firm that straddles multiple traditional business strategies, we
would recommend making a reasoned argument for why you are looking at one
(or more) of these.
I cannot find anything bad about this company, can you help?
There is no such thing as a perfect HR strategy! There is always something to be
critical about. If you cannot find anything about the company’s HR strategy that you
cannot be critical about, you are not looking hard enough. Even Google, a
company often lauded for its worker friendly practices, has been highly criticised
for its sexual harassment policy2 and use of temporary workers3.
What do you mean by establishing an ‘argument’?
Taken from Wallace and Wray (2001) Scholarly Reading as a Model for Scholarly
Writing (the whole chapter is available on Blackboard)
The term argument here does not mean a heated disagreement. Rather, an
argument is a claim backed up (warranted) by evidence. An argument consists of
two parts: the conclusion—one or more claims that something is, or should be, the
case—and the warranting. The warranting is the justification that makes the
conclusion convincing. The evidence offered in the warranting is adequate if it
sufficiently supports the claims in the conclusion.
Scholarly discourse entails finding something out, and then demonstrating to
others why it is significant. It is also about evaluating others’ claims to have found
things out. The discourse that scholars produce in the course of enquiry into the
social world is rather like detective-work. Detectives try to solve mysteries by
uncovering evidence about what has happened. They convince others of what they
have discovered and why it is significant, by showing them this evidence. In a
similar way, scholars are following a trail towards explaining what some aspect of
the world is like. They seek clues by asking well-informed questions and designing
literature-based and empirical investigations to answer them. As with detectives,
the process of finding out is not enough. The discoveries must be followed up with
a convincing presentation of the evidence. This evidence must provide support for
the claims being made as answers to the question(s) posed. Were academic
writers just to make claims about their discoveries, but not present evidence to
justify the claims, their readers would rightly query how they could be so sure they
Not everything that looks like an argument actually is one, so we must be alert.
Fairly easy to spot are cases where one of the necessary elements is missing. When
there are just claims, with no warranting, then the author has simply offered an
opinion. For example, ‘The earlier workers are trained to be leaders, the better’
is, as framed here, simply an opinion. Even if you agree with it, you should not be
satisfied to accept it without warranting. Ask ‘How do you know?’ The reason for
caution is that sometimes very popularly held beliefs turn out to be untrue. Once,
everyone believed the world was flat. But when sufficient evidence was examined,
this belief was discovered to be an unwarranted claim. It is fine for authors to have
opinions, but if they want to persuade their readers to agree, convincing reasons
must be provided for why the claims should be accepted.
Alternatively, there might be warranting but no conclusion—a collection of
statements amounting to a description that leaves readers asking, ‘so, what follows
from this?’ For example, a researcher reports ‘The study revealed that 77 percent
2 Go to: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/nov/08/google-sexual-
3 Go to: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/02/google-workers-sign-
of those judged by others as good leaders had undergone leadership training at
least five years before they took on a leadership role.’ This observation could be
evidence used to warrant a claim—but no claim is made. A critical reader would
ask ‘So, what do you believe this means?’ In fact, this statement would match rather
well the claim we previously said needed warranting, and together, they could
offer a sound argument: ‘The study revealed that 77% of those judged by others as
good leaders had undergone leadership training at least five years before they
took on a leadership role’ [the warranting]. ‘This evidence suggests that the earlier
workers are trained to be leaders, the better’ [the claim]. The reason for saying
‘suggests that’ and not ‘proves’ will be explained later.
The warranting-without-conclusion pattern just illustrated is a trap one can easily
fall into as a writer, particularly when engaged in an extensive literature review. It
is easy to provide a series of descriptive summaries of other people’s claims, and
forget that they need to lead somewhere. Descriptions can certainly be used as
evidence to warrant an argument, but similarities and differences between various
claims must be identified, so as to develop a case for why some should be
preferred to others.
Some problems with arguments are more subtle, and they relate to what readers
make of the conclusion and the warranting. There is nothing wrong with the
structure of the argument ‘The moon is made of green cheese, because my mother
told me so,’ but you still might not be comfortable accepting the assertion as fact.
The conclusion (the claim that the moon is made of green cheese) and the
warranting (the evidence of my mother telling me so, and implicitly that whatever
she said is true) are both there. But is the warranting adequate to render the
conclusion convincing? The warranting must not only be present, but also of
sufficient quality to make the conclusion acceptable.
What does being ‘critical’ mean?
Taken from Wallace and Wray (2001) Scholarly Reading as a Model for Scholarly
Writing (the whole chapter is available on Blackboard)
Being critical is often associated with being negative - trying to find fault. But being
constructively critical is more positive. You aim to respect other scholars as
potential contributors to your knowledge. But you adopt a sceptical stance towards
what they have to say. There are two key reasons why a sceptical stance is
necessary. First, anyone can make a mistake, over-interpret or misinterpret the
information they are dealing with, or fail to take into account other relevant
information, published elsewhere. As a critical reader, you work out whether to
accept the authors’ claims, by drawing on your accumulated knowledge and
experience, and by looking for any logical flaws or inconsistencies.
Second, you may well find that different authors make incompatible claims about
the same topic, backed by contrasting evidence. Can they both be right? Going
beyond merely describing their opposing arguments, to judge which is more
convincing and why, means engaging critically with the nature of their claims and
the strength of any supporting evidence. Then you will be in a position to make
novel and significant claims of your own, which reach beyond what others have
Reading and other material for lectures and tutorials will be posted on Blackboard,
accompanied by notifications and announcements that will be emailed to all
students enrolled on the unit. You should log-on to Blackboard on a regular basis
to ensure that you are up to date with all reading, additional material that is posted
from time to time, any room changes, etc. General queries can be raised in tutorials
or via your tutorial leader. We will endeavour to answer any questions as swiftly as
possible. We have a Padlet on Blackboard where you can ask questions that are of
more general interest/relevance to the cohort. PowerPoint presentations will be
uploaded each week prior to the lecture (48 hours in advance of the lecture).
All lectures will be done via Zoom with the link sent in advance of the session.
Boxall, P. and Purcell, J. (2016) Strategy and Human Resource
Management, 4th ed., Palgrave Macmillan.
Grugulis, I. (2017) A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap
Book About Human Resource Management. Sage.
Redman, T., and Dundon, T. (2017) Contemporary Human Resource
Management: Text and Cases, 5th ed., Pearson Education.
Armstrong, R. and Taylor, S. (2020) Armstrong’s Handbook of Human
Resource Management Practice. Kogan Page
Boselie, P. (2010) Strategic Human Resource Management: A Balanced
Blyton, P. and Turnbull, P. (eds.) (1992) Reassessing Human Resource
Boxall, P., Purcell, J. and Wright, P. (eds.) (2008) The Oxford Handbook of
Human Resource Management, Oxford University Press.
Bratton, J. and Gold, J. (2012) Human Resource Management: Theory and
Practice, Palgrave Macmillan.
Dundon, T., Cullinane, N. and Wilkinson, A. (2017) A Very Short, Fairly
Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Employment Relations. Sage.
Edwards, T. and Rees, C. (2016). International Human Resource
Hollinshead, G. (2009) International and Comparative Human Resource
Management, McGraw Hill.
Legge, K. (2004) Human Resource Management: Rhetorics and Realities:
Anniversary edition, Palgrave Macmillan.
Rees, R. and Smith, P. (2017) Strategic Human Resource Management. Sage
Reiche, S.B., Harzing, A-W. and Tenzer, H. (2018) International Human
Resource Management. Sage.
Storey, J. (2007) Human Resource Management: A Critical Text, Thomson.
Torrington, D., Hall, L., Taylor, S., and Atkinson, C. (2014) Human Resource
Management, Prentice Hall.
Academy of Management Review
British Journal of Industrial Relations
European Journal of Industrial Relations
Human Resource Management
Human Resource Management Journal
Industrial & Labor Relations Review
Industrial Relations Journal
International Journal of Human Resource Management
Journal of Management Studies
Work, Employment & Society
You are encouraged to search various websites to access additional material and
to find contemporary articles and case studies. These will be particularly helpful
when you write your assignment. However, it is very important that you only use
‘trusted sources’ and that you provide detailed references of these in your written
work. Some useful sites include:
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD):
People Management: http://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills:
Low Pay Commission: http://www.lowpay.gov.uk
Office for National Statistics: www.ons.gov.uk
Trades Union Congress: http://www.tuc.org.uk
Advisory, Conciliation & Arbitration Service: www.acas.gov.uk
Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM): http://www.shrm.org
International Labour Organization (ILO): www.ilo.org
International Trade Union Confederation www.ituc-csi.org
You are advised to read the recommended chapter(s) from either of the core
textbooks, ideally prior to the lecture and certainly during the week of the lecture
in question. For several topics there are alternative and/or additional sources that
you might wish to consult. Further reading will also be recommended each week,
which should assist with your assignment as you explore key areas of HRM at your
chosen organisation. Reading is available on Blackboard under ‘Reading List’.
Glossary of (selected) terms used during the Unit
Absenteeism The practice of regularly staying away from work
without good reason (i.e. not because of illness)
An approach in IR and HRM that is typical for the USA
and UK, which mainly focuses on the added value of
people management to shareholder value.
Best fit HRM This theory emphasises that HR strategies should be
congruent with the context and circumstances of the
organisation. ‘Best fit’ can be perceived in terms of
vertical integration or alignment between the
organisation’s business and HR strategies.
Best practice HRM A set of HR processes and practices that work
universally (in all organisations). According to its
proponents, there are certain bundles of HR activities
that support companies in reaching a competitive
advantage regardless of the organisational setting or
‘Black box’ The unknown link between HR practices and
Business model A picture of an organization which explains how it
achieves competitive advantage and makes money.
Causal variables The variables which cause a change
Causality The relation between cause and effect
The process by which an employer (or group of
employers) will negotiate employment contracts with a
union (or group of unions). This will include aspects
such as pay and working hours.
Competence The ability to do a job well.
Achieving and sustaining better results than business
rivals thus placing the firm in a competitive position.
Core competencies What an organization does particularly well in
comparison to its competitors.
Exercised by organizations when they conduct their
business in an ethical way, taking account of the social,
environmental and economic impact of how they
operate, and going beyond compliance.
Critical thinking The process of analysing and evaluating the quality of
ideas, theories, and concepts in order to establish the
degree to which they are valid and supported by the
evidence and the extent to which they are biased. It
involves reflecting on and interpreting data, drawing
warranted conclusions and recognizing ill-defined
Discrimination The favouring of one group of people to the detriment of
Dispute resolution Use of conciliation, arbitration or mediation to resolve
differences between two parties, eg management and a
The interaction and relationship between employers
(capital), workers (labour) and government (the state).
Employee voice The say employees have in matters of concern to them
in their organization.
Equity Fair treatment in relation to others.
The right to form and belong to a trade union.
Hard HRM People are important resources through which
organizations achieve competitive advantage. The focus
is on the quantitative, calculative and business-strategic
aspects of managing human resources in as 'rational' a
way as for any other economic factor.
Harvard Model The belief held by Michael Beer and his Harvard
colleagues (1984) that the problems of historical
personnel management can only be solved when
general managers develop a viewpoint of how they wish
to see employees involved in and developed by the
enterprise, and of what HRM policies and practices may
achieve those goals.
Bundles of practices that facilitate employee
involvement, skill enhancement and motivation. They
can constitute: ‘An internally consistent and coherent
HRM system that is focused on solving operational
problems and implementing the firm’s competitive
strategy’. (Becker and Huselid, 1998)
Human capital The knowledge, skills and abilities of the people
employed in an organization.
Founded by Elton Mayo (Human Problems of an
Industrial Civilisation, 1933) members of this school
believed that productivity was directly related to job
satisfaction and that the output of people will be high if
they like their co-workers and are given pleasant
Involves management decisions related to policies and
practices that together shape the employment relation
and are aimed at achieving individual, organisational
and societal goals.
International HRM A sub-field of HRM aimed at studying the shaping of the
employment relationship in an international context,
with special attention to HRM for expatriates, HRM in
large multinational companies and HRM in international
A United Nations organisation that adopt international
labour standards that governments implement into
Joint consultation A formal mechanism which provides the means for
management to consult employee representatives on
matters of mutual interest.
Karl Marx’s theory that capitalists appropriate surplus
from labour by paying it less than the value it adds to the
labour process. The theory refers to the application of
modern management techniques in combination with
mechanisation and automation, which secures the real
subordination of labour and de-skilling of work in the
office as well as the shop floor.
Matching model of
The view held by Michigan school (Fombrun et al, 1984)
that HR systems and the organization structure should be
managed in a way which is congruent with
Nepotism Favouritism shown to relatives and friends by
individuals in a position of authority such as CEO’s,
managers or supervisors.
Outsourcing Handing over HR services such as recruitment, training,
flexible benefits and pensions administration and
payroll management to an outside provider.
Paternalism A labour management style in non-unionised
organisations. This human resource approach takes care
of the welfare of employees and invests in them to earn
their loyalty towards the company. This type of
relationship is analogous to a father who does not
forcibly control or direct the activities of his child or
children but guides them or ‘looks after’ them.
Path dependency The fact that what comes before is a powerful force on
what comes after. Refers to the emergent nature of
A contingent pay scheme which provides individuals
with financial rewards in the form of increases to basic
pay or cash bonuses which are linked to an assessment
of performance, usually in relation to agreed objectives.
It is sometimes described as merit pay or individual
performance-related pay (IPRP) to distinguish it from
profit-related pay or team performance pay.
Pluralist Believing that the interests of employees will not
necessarily coincide with their employers.
Scope of trade
This describes the breadth of the representation
activities. In particular, whether union activity is
concentrated in the workplace or in the broader
political and social arenas. A business unionism focus on
collective bargaining is a workplace scope of
representation; an alternative approach embracing
community and social activism represents a broader
Seniority The length of time an employee has served for the
Soul of trade unions This captures how the representation is pursued or
delivered, especially regarding the extent of rank and
file participation. The rank and file are passive in the
servicing model; alternative strategies seek to instead
actively engage the rank and file in union activities.
Stakeholders All relevant groups inside and outside an organisation
that affect strategic decision making and strategic HRM
within an organisation.
Strategic HRM A sub-field of HRM aimed at studying the shaping of the
employment relationship taking into account the
international and external organisational context.
The view that it is the range of resources in an
organization, including its human resources, that
produces its unique character and creates competitive
advantage. HRM delivers added value and helps to
achieve sustainable competitive advantage through the
strategic development of the organization’s rare, hard to
imitate and hard to substitute human resources.
Remuneration The pay, benefits and allowances provided to
Selection The part of the recruitment process concerned with
deciding which applicants or candidates should be
appointed to jobs.
Social capital The knowledge derived from networks of relationships
within and outside the organization.
Social partnership The concept that as stakeholders, the parties involved
should aim to work together to the greater good of all.
Soft HRM Treating employees as valued assets, a source of
competitive advantage through their commitment,
adaptability and high quality (of skills, performance and
so on). (Storey, 1989)
Strategic fit The need when developing people strategies (1) to
achieve vertical fit between the and the business
strategy and horizontal fit between the different people
Strategic HRM An approach to managing people which deals with how
the organization’s goals will be achieved through its
human resources by means of integrated HR strategies,
policies and practices. It is based on the fundamental
proposition that the human resources of an organization
play a strategic role in its success.
Talent management Identifying, developing, recruiting, retaining and
deploying talented people - those individuals who can
make a difference to organizational performance
through their immediate contribution and in the longer
Theory An established explanatory principle of why something
happens and how it happens based on a hypothesis or
hypotheses which have been tested through research. A
theory can be used to make predictions of future
Trade union A formal organisation of employees established with the
primary purpose of protecting and enhancing the well-
being of its members.
Turnover Describes changes in the work force resulting from
voluntary or involuntary resignations.
Unitarist Believing that management and employees share the
same concerns and it is therefore in both their interests
to work together.
Work-life balance Having a measure of control over when, where and how
an individual works, leading to their being able to enjoy
an optimal quality of life. 学霸联盟