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  • Journal of Management and Marketing Research

    Strategic human resource, Page 1

    Strategic human resource management, small and medium sized enterprises and strategic partnership capability

    Olumide Ijose Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania


    The study of strategic alliances has focused primarily on alliances between large corporations and between large corporations and joint ventures. However, powerful strategic partnership and alliances between small and medium sized enterprises and big businesses are also critical to the ability of big business to develop and maintain sustainable competitive advantage. This paper lays out a conceptual framework for studying the relationship between the strategic human resource management practices of small and medium sized businesses and their performance as corporate partners, as industry and competitive conditions change.

    Keywords: Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, Strategic Human Resource Management Practices, Strategic Partnership Capability

  • Journal of Management and Marketing Research

    Strategic human resource, Page 2


    Strategic collaboration between small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and the large businesses they partner can take many forms, such as locating a SMEs facility in close proximity to a buyers facility to enable just-in-time delivery of raw material, inputs and components; collaborating on research and development and product design to build organizational competencies and capabilities; collaborating on supply chain activities to manage costs and promote operational efficiency; or delivering outsourced human resource management activities (Doz and Hamel 1998). For large businesses, forming strategic alliances and collaborative partnerships can be critical to their ability to seize technological opportunities, to build critical resource strengths and competitive capabilities, to improve supply chain efficiencies and deliver value to their customers (Kaplan and Hurd 2002). Often these partners are small and medium sized enterprises, that are expected to perform as full partners. Indeed many partnerships and alliance break when a partner is unable to meet its obligations under the partnership agreement (Ernst and Bamford 2005). Given the promise it holds for fostering competitive advantage, strategic collaboration practices have received significant attention in the management literature (Michie and Sheehan 2005; Ichniowski, Shaw and Prennushi 1997; Pfeffer 1998). However, there has been little to no attention paid to the role the strategic human resource management (SHRM) practices of SMEs play in their ability to be valued and trusted strategic partners in the value chain of big businesses. Like any other organization, the sophistication of their human resource management practices can lead to operational inefficiencies that can affect their ability to meet their obligations to corporate buyers (reference and relate sentence to big businesses where this has been proven). Factors that enable operating excellence include having a strong management team, recruiting and retaining talented employees, viewing training as a strategic activity, structuring the work effort in ways that promotes successful strategy execution, deploying an organizational structure that facilitates the proficient performance of strategy critical activities, instituting policies and procedures that facilitate good strategy execution, instilling a strategy supportive culture and tying rewards and incentives to individual and team performance outcomes that are strategically relevant (Higgins 2005). While research on the SHRM practices of SMEs has made broad strides (Heneman et al 2000, Leug 2003, Hayton 2003), no research has been focused on the context of how the SHRM practices of SMEs hinder or contribute to successful partnership with big corporations. As such, the purpose of this paper is to explore the fit between a SMEs strategic human resource management practices and the industry and competitive position of its big business strategic partner. Adopting this approach is justified for several reasons. First it is consistent with the emerging view of strategic partnerships as a tool for building and/or sustaining competitive advantage (Dyer, Kale, and Singh 2004). Second, SHRM capabilities is an asset that is closely related to a companys ability to deliver its business model as people craft, implement and execute strategy (Schneier, Craig, Shaw, and Beatty 1991; Lee and Miller 1999). Lastly, a focus on intellectual capital, human capital, social capital, core competencies and capabilities is becoming increasingly recognized as a critical success factors for business (Pfeffer, 1998).

  • Journal of Management and Marketing Research

    Strategic human resource, Page 3

    Drawing on the SHRM and strategic management literature, this paper presents a conceptual framework for studying the relationship between the SHRM capabilities of SMEs and their performance as big business strategic partners. The first part is a review of the literature on SHRM and on SMEs as they relate to industry value chains, while the second part develops a conceptual model of the relationship between the different industry and competitive conditions under which big business can compete and the SHRM requirement of their SME partners. The conceptual model recognizes the challenges SMEs face as the market conditions and competitive standing of their big business partners evolve, and discusses SHRM specific approaches SMEs can adopt for dealing with such changes. Following Huselid, Jackson, and Schuler (1997), strategic human resource management is viewed as a critical element in fostering operational efficiency and firm performance. I argue that the characteristics of a SMEs strategic human resource management practices determines its people management capabilities and on the effect side, is directly related to its value as a strategic partner. I contend that the factors affecting the quality of a SMEs SHRM resource management capability include the industry and competitive condition of its partners and direct competition from other SMEs and businesses eager to provide value to a SMEs partners. This study contributes several new and valuable insights to the academic literature and to the practice of firm management. From a theoretical perspective, it provides valuable insights into the underlying workings of some of the key people variables that serve to provide synergy in the relationship between big businesses and their SME allies. Two, it highlights the significant role SMEs play in the value chain of big businesses and develops a new matrix that captures the relationship and three, it paves the way for future research in this area. From the firm management perspective, it presents a clear picture of a systems linkage between big businesses and their SME strategic partners that is a significant determinant of the cost of goods and services purchased by big businesses and provide a set of recommendations that will enhance the collaborative potential of SMEs and big businesses in general. A summary of the conceptual model is presented in Fig. 1.


    What is Strategic Human Resource Management

    Strategic human resource management practices are those practices specifically developed, implemented and executed based on a deliberate linkage to a companys strategy (Huselid, Jackson, and Schuler 1997). The term strategic human resource management implies that employees are strategic resources i.e. human capital that must be managed and leveraged in executing corporate strategy. Early efforts in developing the SHRM paradigm were predicated on the belief that specific human resource practices were required to promote behaviors designed to deliver firm strategies and were focused on the relationship between employee behavior and company strategy (e.g. Snell 2001; Schuler and Jackson 1989; Fisher 1989). The initial focus was on strategic context influences on individual and later systems of technical human resource management practices. Managers were expected to employ the system of individual practices that best

  • Journal of Management and Marketing Research

    Strategic human resource, Page 4

    fitted (based on considerations of external threats and opportunities and internal resource capabilities, resources, and competencies) their firms strategy, to elicit and reinforce the required behavior. Operationally, SHRM means tightly aligning traditional human resource management practices such as recruitment, selection, training and development and rewards to a companys strategy. It also means instituting policies and procedures that facilitate proficient strategy execution, using teams to leverage cross-functional knowledge and competencies, developing knowledge management capabilities that facilitate the leveraging of best practices and effective and efficient capture of economy of scope opportunities, developing learning organizations that facilitate the constant adoption, utilization, ownership, and internal dissemination of best practices, and executing change management approaches that contribute to building and maintaining strategy supportive corporate cultures. It includes practices such as the use of structured interviews, bio-data, cognitive ability tests, and assessment centers; competence development maps and frameworks; developmental performance feedback, management by objectives techniques, and balance scorecards; cross-functional teams and project teams profit sharing, team based compensation, merit pay, and long term incentives; open book management practices to reduce worker-manager status differential; enterprise resource planning human resource management solutions; and enhanced involve

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