Consistency With Human Resources

Consistent human resources practices are desirable for (at least) five sets of reasons. First, there are some obvious technical benefits of consistency. For example, a firm choosing to invest heavily in training its employees will see increased value in careful screening of applicants and in practices that are intended to decrease turnover. When on-the-job training accumulates over a period of years, practices that reward seniority (and thus reduce turnover among employees with longer tenure) make sense. When the firm employs informal training, provided by more senior workers to their more junior colleagues, seniority-based rewards also help by putting senior workers at no disadvantage when they share their knowledge. To cite another example, a firm that wishes to broaden its workforce (hiring, say, more women and minorities) may find it relatively advantageous to move to a cafeteria-style benefits plan. These reasons all pertain to single-employee consistency. At the same time, temporal consistency and among-employee consistency have different (and fairly obvious) technical benefits, having to do with economizing on costs of administration.

A second set of reasons why consistency is desirable concerns the psychology of perception and cognition. From basic psychology, we know that messages are more salient and recalled better when the multiple stimuli being transmitted are simple and support the same theme, as in an effective advertising campaign. Consistency, which also entails simplicity (i.e., everything follows the same basic principles), is thus desirable because it aids in the learning process that individuals must undertake, to understand what is expected of them and what they can expect in turn.

For example, owing to their technologies, some firms find that they must give their personnel wide discretion in some (but not all) matters. In these cases, the firms must choose whether to provide direct incentives for employees to perform as desired versus using indirect control based on the perception of mutual interests. When it comes to other activities that these individuals perform, the firm may be able to monitor its personnel quite closely and thus control them by rules. Should the firm use rules? The choice depends on how the firm aims to control its employees in the first set of activities. If the firm chooses close supervision of those activities that can be closely supervised, its employees may infer that they are not trusted and adjust their behavior accordingly by acting in ways that are consistent with not being trusted. Control of the first set of activities by trust will then be compromised: Employees will infer that they are not trusted (and thus not trustworthy), and react accordingly.

This category of reasons-largely about single-employee consistency as phrased above-can is extended to among-employee and temporal consistency. In most cases, an employee assumes that how she and others have been treated in the past, as well as how other similarly situated employees are being treated contemporaneously provides good data for how she can expect to be treated now and in the future. Consequently, if human resources practices changed frequently or varied considerably across similar employees, the process of learning what to expect and what is expected would be seriously impaired.

A third category of reasons for pursuing consistent human resources practices involves social forces. Consistency in the sense of congruence with external social norms and preconceptions – aids learning. It is easier to mold individuals’ tastes and expectations when the organization’s practices consistently (and symbolically) mimic previously internalized patterns of relationships in other contexts, whether these patterns are akin to an anonymous marketplace (dog-eat-dog) or a family relationship (mutual caring).

A fourth advantage of consistent human resources practices relates to recruitment and selection. Workers are not all alike, and they will do better or worse in a given organization according to how well they are matched to its attributes. Just to keep turnover costs in line, the firm should hope that prospective employees can understand the nature of employment on offer, so that mismatch and concomitant quits don’t result. Indeed, even if a somewhat mismatch worker doesn’t quit, he may be less happy and productive if the job doesn’t fit his tastes in employment.

Consistency in human resources practices allows for better initial matches in three ways. First, insofar as consistency promotes understanding, prospective employees are better able to comprehend at the outset what they are getting themselves into. Second, to the extent that there are correlations among the preferences of a given worker-for example, someone who feels comfortable with performance-based compensation also desires similar hard-edged practices when it comes to promotion criteria, benefits, decision-making authority, and the like-then clusters of human resources practices that are consistent in matching those correlations will achieve better matches. Third, individuals may have a taste for co-workers who have the same preferences they do-warm and fuzzy types may not interact well with very competitive types-and consistent human resources practices, insofar as they lead to a workforce that is homogeneous in terms of such preferences, may promote teamwork and worker cohesion.

How Can Department of Defense Human Resources Processes Be Streamlined?

In today’s budget conscious environment, it is a good idea to review a current process and examine the entire process flow to determine if the process can be done more efficiently. In most cases, newer technologies can be put into place in order to curtail current spending trends. So, how can Department of Defense Human Resources Processes Be Streamlined? All the Department of Defense needs to do is to look toward the private sector for the answers.

Many corporations have consolidated their HR departments by centralizing their operations into one office center instead of having an HR representatives in each division. Also, the forms, software, and procedures are all standardized into one format so that the information is consistent across all divisions. A dedicated private office, or a virtual office can be setup at the locations that will no longer have an on-site human resources representative. These private virtual offices are important because they can be utilized by employees in order to converse with an HR rep via a video and/or phone conference in a private one on one area without the distraction of co-workers. General topics that need to be dispersed can also be done using a web conference broadcast to all divisions in unison. The web conference can also be utilized for questions and answer sessions and in addition, web conferences can be recorded and saved to a centralized location so that the broadcast can be accessed by employees (via the internet) at a later date. Libraries of different HR topics can also be placed on the web, whether it be video, documents, or audio files. It is important to note that a robust keyword database program is needed so that employees can easily search and access the materials that they are requesting.

The perceived projected downside of the Department of Defense Human Resources streamlining process is that this could make employees feel disconnected or reluctant to speak to their HR representative via video and/or phone conference instead of talking to a HR representative directly. But, centralizing human resources operations does not mean no more “live in person” face time for employees. On the contrary, now that the operations are centralized, schedules can centralized too. This means that schedules to visit each of the divisions can be more efficiently scheduled by distance and need and the visitations can be set at a certain time of the every month, quarterly, or yearly as needed.

So, in conclusion. The use of technology, consolidation of the HR department into a centralized location, and standardization of forms and software can create great strides in providing a streamlined; yet effective DOD HR department.

Status Inconsistency In Human Resources

When individuals attend to their relative standing or status within a particular group or organization, the relevant dimension of status might be pay in one organization, authority level in a second, and technical expertise in a third. The factors that produce status obviously vary among groups of employees and across occupations, organizational contexts, and countries. Yet although money (or authority, or expertise) may be the dominant dimension in a given situation, other dimensions cannot be completely ignored, particularly because studies have shown that people are also attentive to the degree of consistency in their statuses across multiple dimensions and across multiple social contexts.

Sometimes an individual occupies high status along one dimension and low status along another. Examples include: the highly compensated salesperson with only a seventh-grade education; the senior executive who is much younger than her subordinates; the task-force leader from Marketing in an Engineering-dominated organization; or the non-physician hospital administrator. This sort of status inconsistency can create an incongruity that has been shown to promote various undesirable outcomes. People who occupy wildly different status positions on different social hierarchies face confusion over how they should act and how they should expect to be treated by others. This confusion creates ambiguity and strain, sometimes producing nontrivial psychological (and even medical) maladies.

Accordingly, organizations must be sensitive to what can happen when an individual changes status on one dimension but stays at the same status or loses status on another dimension – for instance, the rapidly promoted superstar whose organizational rank is soon incommensurate with her age or tenure. Moreover, because we occupy many different statuses, including ones derived from activities outside of work, there are abundant opportunities for inconsistency between organizational status and social status. The literature on the adverse effects of status inconsistency implies that organizations should try to alleviate or mitigate such inconsistencies as well.

There are “switching costs” associated with making changes in any kind of transaction, such as sourcing components with a new supplier, taking your business to a new law firm, or relocating your physical plant. These costs arise because you (and members of your firm) must learn new routines and reconstruct networks of connections. To alter its human resources management practices or premises-either by replacing workers or transforming personnel policies – the employer faces these generic switching costs. In addition, however, changing human resources management philosophies, policies, and procedures entails another switching cost that is perhaps less tangible yet no less important: what we might call “Legitimation costs.”

Much of what makes human resources management function smoothly involves employment practices that are traditional, customary, and unquestioned or taken for granted by employees. Dramatic changes in human resources practices require that the old order be renegotiated and legitimated anew. For example, early students of labor relations argued that much of the benefit of long-term employment, promotion from within, and the other characteristic features of internal labor markets, such as pegging pay to jobs rather than to individuals, had to do with the legitimacy associated with these practices. Analogies were made between modern-day internal labor markets – which tied employees to an organization essentially for life-and feudalism, where the sense of mutual obligation among lords, vassals, and serfs and well-entrenched customs ensured that relationships persisted smoothly and harmoniously across generations.

Over time within an internal labor market, it has been argued, a similar set of customs and rules develops that provides an invaluable form of social glue within the workplace. If the organization’s job structure or reward system or performance appraisal system were to change on a daily basis, it is hard to believe that employees would ever view them as legitimate, much less take them for granted. The rub, of course, is that the very properties that tend to foster trust and legitimacy in an organization’s human resources system tend to make that same system resistant to change, a reality with which many prominent companies have grappled in recent years.