HRM in the POC
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Human Resource Management in the Project Oriented Company:
An Underexplored Topic
Professor J Rodney Turner, Kemmy Business School, Limerick
Dr Martina Huemann, Project Management Group, University of Vienna
Dr Anne Keegan, Amsterdam Business School
Through this paper we aim to extend the current state of knowledge of human resource
management (HRM) in project-oriented companies.
Project oriented-companies differ from
classically managed, stable organizations and through this research we investigate if, and to
what extent, their distinctive characteristics, including the temporary nature of the work
processes, lead to a need for specific HRM practices.
We describe a review of the extant
literature on the topic of HRM in project-oriented companies, and then propose a model for
HRM in project-oriented companies.
We investigate this model through interviews with
managers from project-oriented companies.
We conclude project-oriented companies need to
adopt additional HRM practices specific to the project, and adapt existing HRM practices to
support the strategic choice of management by projects.
Human Resource Management (HRM) in project-oriented companies (POCs) is a relatively
new and underexplored topic.
This is strange given it is common to argue that HRM is of
strategic importance in all organizations, contributing to thei success (Pfeffer, 1998; Huselid,
1995) and helping to create competitive advantage (Wright and McMahan, 1992; Amit and
Belcourt, 1999), and that HRM should be integrated with the strategy of the organization,
(Lengnick-Hall and Lengnick-Hall, 1998).
POCs adopt project-based ways of working as a
strategic choice (Gareis, 2005) in response to their customers’ demands for bespoke products
or services, and so the conditions under which HRM emerges in the POC may differ from
those we associate with mainstream HRM, which is shaped by the large, classically managed
organizations that had most influence on its historical development and resulting normative
models (Schuler and Jackson, 1996).
While researchers with an interest in HRM often limit
their investigation to large firms (Wagar, 1998), commentators note it should not be assumed
that practices used by large firms are necessarily beneficial or practical in other contexts.
Likewise, models of HRM that advocate formal practices rooted in human resource planning
and job analysis are sometimes questioned by researchers studying how HRM emerges and
takes shape in organizations without formal personnel and HRM functions (Paauwe, 1996)
and knowledge intensive firms (Robertson and O’Malley-Hammersely, 2000).