Changes in organisational policies and practices : the role of the human resource practitioner.
The Human Resources department, through the policies and practices that it develops, stands as a steering function for the rest of the organisation. Human Resource policies and practices, dealing with issues that most often directly affect every employee, set out the guidelines which govern the behaviour, thinking and action of all members of the organisation. The extensive influence of these policies, therefore, make it an interesting subject of research to explore the process that is conducted to develop these policies, the individuals involved and the personal impact of practitioners from the Human Resource department who are often the leaders of this policy development process. Through face to face interviews, coupled with short, factual questionnaires, subjects from information-rich organisations were questioned regarding the nature of their policy development process and the role that individual Human Resource practitioners play in this process. It has been determined through the results of the study that Human Resource practitioners primarily influence the development of policies, with some input from management and very little, if any, participation by employees. Essentially, these practitioners draw up the policies themselves and suggestions are then given and the policies ratified by top management before being implemented in the organisation. In most cases, no involvement of employees is permitted although in some instances, partial participation through representatives is allowed. The theoretical basis of the study rests primarily on systems theory which identifies how changes in one part of the organisation system, such as Human Resource policies and practices, has an effect on every other part of the system, in other words, every employee. This is important when considering that only a small group of individuals, and primarily one Human Resource practitioner, develop policies that affect an entire organisation. The competing values approach also impacts on the study here where it must be identified that the values of one, or a group, of individuals should not dominate an entire organisation where individuals are guided by different values and goals. The research addresses this issue by examining the impact that the personal values, beliefs and opinions of the Human Resource practitioner, who predominantly has the main influence on the process, has on the policies developed. The study reveals that when developing policies, practitioners are in fact guided by a balance between their personal values and the values and beliefs of the organisation. This means that they try to remain neutral in the process, not allowing either their personal values or those of the organisation to dominate the policies. This means that practitioners do not allow their own personal values and opinions to guide the way they influence the process and develop policies which affect the entire organisation. This study, therefore, is an exploration aimed at the discovery of the current practices that dominate South African organisations, with the focus on the Durban region, concerning Human Resource policy development. The study then extends beyond the South African borders to consider the first world situation in the United Kingdom, allowing a comparison between the first world and South African third world policy development process. This allows an opportunity to identify where the first world and third world differ regarding this process and whether there may be anything that can be learnt from the United Kingdom which could be adapted to the South African situation. The results of the study reveal, however, that although differences could be identified, these were neither suitable nor viable to be transferred to the South African situation. Therefore, through the use of current literature, past research and the exploratory interviews, this study has gathered a picture of how the process of Human Resource policy development functions in South African organisations today. Although the focus has been on the Durban region, the results can be generalised, both between industries and nationally.