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International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908 Available online on http://www.rspublication.com/ijrm/ijrm_index.htm Issue 3, Vol. 1 (January 2013) Page 1 Achieving Strategic- Fit between Business and Human Resource Strategies in the Agricultural sector. An Assessment of Transnational Tea Firms in Kenya. Dr. Wilson Odiyo, Dr.Ronald Chepkilot, Dr. Isaac Ochieng Africa Nazarene University, kenya ___________________________________________________________________________ Abstract This study sought to establish the extent to which strategic fit between business and human resource strategies is achieved by the transnational tea firms in Kenya. The objectives of the study were: to establish the extent of strategic fit between various business and human resource strategies; to identify which Strategic Human Resource Strategies (SHRM) processes are used by the firms-integrated, aligned or separate; to find out the approach to formulation and implementation of Human Resource(HR) strategies used by the firms; The 27 respondents comprised 20 Managers of the strategic Business units and 7 Managers in charge of the Human Resource function at these companies. Most of the data was collected by way of Questionnaires, personally administered to ensure clarification is offered where necessary. The study found that once business strategies are decided upon, human resource strategies that both complement and justify them are formulated and implemented.The two sets of strategies, the study established show strong correlation and therefore high levels of strategic fit. To arrive at the strategic fit, the most used process is an integrated process where HR strategy is an integral part of the business strategy, along with other functional strategies. In addition, the study found that the majority use the Best-Fit approach to formulating and implementing HR strategies. Key words: Synergies, Strategic- Fit, Business strategies, Human resource strategies ___________________________________________________________________________
Transcript

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

Available online on http://www.rspublication.com/ijrm/ijrm_index.htm Issue 3, Vol. 1 (January 2013)

Page 1

Achieving Strategic- Fit between Business and Human Resource

Strategies in the Agricultural sector. An Assessment of

Transnational Tea Firms in Kenya.

Dr. Wilson Odiyo, Dr.Ronald Chepkilot, Dr. Isaac Ochieng

Africa Nazarene University, kenya

___________________________________________________________________________

Abstract

This study sought to establish the extent to which strategic fit between business and human

resource strategies is achieved by the transnational tea firms in Kenya. The objectives of the

study were: to establish the extent of strategic fit between various business and human

resource strategies; to identify which Strategic Human Resource Strategies (SHRM)

processes are used by the firms-integrated, aligned or separate; to find out the approach to

formulation and implementation of Human Resource(HR) strategies used by the firms;

The 27 respondents comprised 20 Managers of the strategic Business units and 7 Managers in

charge of the Human Resource function at these companies. Most of the data was collected

by way of Questionnaires, personally administered to ensure clarification is offered where

necessary.

The study found that once business strategies are decided upon, human resource strategies

that both complement and justify them are formulated and implemented.The two sets of

strategies, the study established show strong correlation and therefore high levels of strategic

fit. To arrive at the strategic fit, the most used process is an integrated process where HR

strategy is an integral part of the business strategy, along with other functional strategies. In

addition, the study found that the majority use the Best-Fit approach to formulating and

implementing HR strategies.

Key words: Synergies, Strategic- Fit, Business strategies, Human resource strategies

___________________________________________________________________________

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

Available online on http://www.rspublication.com/ijrm/ijrm_index.htm Issue 3, Vol. 1 (January 2013)

Page 2

Introduction

The achievement of any set of corporate objectives requires the deployment of the two most

basic resources, namely, money and people. Deficiency in either of the two can reduce the

best –laid strategy to a valueless pipe dream. Organizations seem to find it more difficult to

develop human resource strategies, which are linked to business strategies despite a

widespread recognition that this is important (Hussey, 2000). It is now recognized, however,

that the organization can only do the job efficiently if the right quantity and quality of

management and non-management personnel are on board. Walker (1992) suggests that the

following types of processes are used in Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM);

the integrated process is where HR strategy is an integral part of the business strategy along

with other functional strategies. The aligned process is the approach whereby the HR strategy

is developed together with the business strategy. They may be presented and discussed

together but they are distinct outcomes of parallel processes. By considering them together,

there is the likelihood that they will influence each other and be adopted as a cohesive whole.

Lastly, the separate process is whereby a distinct HR plan is developed. It is both prepared

and considered separately from the overall business plan. It focuses on HR issues and, as far

as possible, looks for business-relatedness of the information obtained. This approach

perpetuates the notion of HR as a staff driven functional specialist concern.

Notwithstanding how SHRM is realised, what is not in doubt is that Business strategy needs

to be dovetailed into the right quality and quantity of human resources. Without attracting

and retaining the right people, in the right jobs, with the right skills and training, an

organization cannot succeed (US office of Personnel Management, 1999). The HR strategy

ought to influence the business strategy and in turn be influenced by it. The research was

necessitated by the fact that though the tranational tea firms formulate and implement one

form of business strategy or the other; the human resource strategies are not as explicitly

stated as the business strategies.

Statement of the Problem

Kenyan Tea firms, like most international organizations, formulate and try to implement one

form or the other of business strategies. However, studies have not brought out any attempts

at achieving a strategic fit between the business and human resource strategies. Due to their

labour intensive nature, these tea firms require major decisions on human resources. For most

of them, labour related costs constitute up to 60 percent of the total cost of production (Task

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

Available online on http://www.rspublication.com/ijrm/ijrm_index.htm Issue 3, Vol. 1 (January 2013)

Page 3

Force Report on the Tea Industry, 2007). It is therefore crucial that every effort is made to not

only formulae and implement appropriate business strategies but to also complement these

strategies with coherent HR strategies, that is, to achieve strategic fit between the two sets of

startegies. The matter of strategic fit is even more important now as it has been established

that for HRM strategies to impact on performance, there must be a particular “fit” between a

firm’s HRM strategies and the firm’s competitive strategy (Wright and Snell, 1998).

Literature Review

Guest (1989) views strategic HRM as largely about integration. He sees the key policy goals

for HRM as adopting a strategic approach –one in which HR strategies are integrated with

business strategies. The end product has to be a matrix of people and business-centered

activities. The aim is to provide strategic fit and consistency between the policy goals of

HRM and the business. HR planning should not occur in isolation from business issues.

Possible changes in HR policies and practices should be considered in the context of issues

related to other tangible and intangible resources including finances, technology, physical

resources and the firm’s current and desired reputation. The need for close coordination and

collaboration between line managers and HR professionals during strategic planning

therefore cannot be overemphasized.

Graham and Bennett (1998) see strategic approach to HRM as the integration of personnel

and other HRM considerations into the firm’s overall corporate planning and strategy. It is

proactive, seeking constantly to discover new ways of utilizing the labour force in a more

productive manner thus giving the business a competitive edge. Practical manifestations of

the adoption of a strategic approach to HRM may include, incorporation of a brief summary

of the firm’s basic HRM policy into its mission statement, explicit consideration of the

consequences for employees of each of the firm’s strategies and major new projects,

designing organization structures to suit the needs of employees rather than conditioning the

latter to fit in with the existing form of organization and having the head of HRM on the

firm’s board of directors.

There are a number of models within which the framework of the concept of strategic HRM

describes various approaches to its development and implementation. These approaches

include the Best Practice Approach, Best-Fit Approach and Configurational Approach

(Armstrong and Baron, 2006). The Best Practice Approach is based on the belief that there is

a set of best HRM practices and that adopting them will lead to superior organizational

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

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Page 4

performance (Armstrong and Baron, 2006). The best known set is Pfeffer’s (1994) list of the

seven HR practices of successful organizations; employment security, selective hiring, self-

managed teams, high compensation based on performance, training, flatter organizational

structure and information sharing. However, according to Gooderham, Parry and Ringdal

(2008), even those bundles that impact on performance play only a relatively modest role in

terms of explaining overall performance. Off-the-shelf HRM bundles of practices are

inadequate. There is need for HR practitioners to become more embedded in their

organizations’ strategic process so that their offerings are more strategically integrated.

The Best-Fit Approach offers a solution to the shortcomings of the Best-Practice Approach.

This approach holds that the aim of SHRM is to provide a fit between policy goals of HRM

and the business. The HR strategy of an organization must be contingent on the needs and

circumstances of that organization (Guest, 1989). According to Armstrong and Baron (2006),

the Best-Fit Approach has been accepted by most of the commentators as more important

than Best Practice. There can be no universal prescription for HRM policies. It all depends..

It is proactive, seeking constantly to discover new ways of utilizing the labour force in a more

productive manner thus giving the business a competitive edge.

The Configurational School draws attention to three beliefs, first, that strategies may vary

according to the life cycle of the organizations, second, that they depend on the sector of the

organization, and third, that they are about change and transformation.The key issue in the

Configurational perspective is the argument that a given HRM practice –regardless of its

situational superiority- is unlikely to yield substantial benefits at the organizational level

unless it is combined with other effective practices (Lepak and Shaw, 2008). This perspective

suggests that a configuration of a set of internally-aligned HRM practices will have a much

greater ability to explain variation in organizational performance than single HRM practices

taken in isolation (Delery, 1998). Perhaps the most well-known configurational study was

conducted by Huselid (1995). In a large cross-industry study, he demonstrated that a system

of practices he labeled a High Performance Work System (HPWS) was positively and

significantly associated with important organizational outcomes.

This study sought to offer indications of the sort of approaches that, subject to fitting them

into the right context, are likely to assist in the delivery of sustained improvements in

business performance. It sought to lay emphasis on the importance of preparedness for

expected and unexpected changes in the business environment as well as associated human

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

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Page 5

resource requirements by the multinational tea firms and therefore encountering them with

the minimum cost possible to the firm and least psychological and financial challenges to the

employees. This is especially important in the agricultural sector as the leading employer and

the tea sub-sector as the leading foreign exchange earner in the agricultural sector. In the

recent past, these firms have reacted to the sudden threats to their bottom lines, by rushed

introduction of tea-plucking machines in place of human labour. A thorough understanding of

the industry in which they operate would lead to coherent business and human resource

strategies that would make an impact on the performance of these firms and further reduce

susceptibility to the vagaries of weather and international tea price changes.

Objective 1

To establish the extent of strategic fit between various business and human resource

strategies used by transnational tea companies in Kenya.

Research Question

What is the extent of strategic fit between various business and human resource strategies

used by transnational tea companies in Kenya?

Objective 2

To identify which SHRM processes are used by the firms-integrated, aligned or separate

Research Question

What SHRM processes are used by the firms-integrated, aligned or separate?

Objective 3

To find out the approach to formulation and implementation of HR strategies used by the

firms

Research Question

What is the approach to formulation and implementation of HR strategies used by the firms?

Theoretical Framework

This study was based on the Best-Fit or Contingency theory of SHRM which holds that

different types of HR strategies will be suitable for different types of business strategies. It

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

Available online on http://www.rspublication.com/ijrm/ijrm_index.htm Issue 3, Vol. 1 (January 2013)

Page 6

emphasizes that HR strategies should be congruent with the context and circumstances of the

organization (Armstrong, 2009). In line with this theory, the study sought to establish if there

is coherence between the business and HR strategies employed by the transnational tea firms.

The Best-Fit perspective can be contrasted with two other approaches namely: the

Universalist perspective and the Configurational perspective. The Universalist (Best-Practice)

perspective holds that some HR practices are better than others and all organizations should

adopt these practices and that there is a universal relationship between individual best

practices and firm performance. In contrast, according to the configurational perspective or

bundling, a strategy’s success depends on combining vertical or external fit and horizontal or

internal fit so that a firm with bundles of associated HR practices should have a higher level

of performance, provided it also achieves high levels of fit with its competitive strategy

(Delery and Doty, 1996).

Research methodology

In 2012, there are seven transnational tea companies operating in Kenya. The target

population of the study comprised of all the seven transnational tea companies. The 27

respondents comprised of 20 Managers of the Strategic Business units and 7 Managers in

charge of the Human Resource function at these companies. Questionnaires were personally

administered to all the 27 respondents. In addition, Strategic business plans covering the past

5 years as well as those covering the next 5 years were, where available, obtained from

respective companies and compared with human resource planning documents

In designing an instrument that would yield content valid data, the researcher specified the

domain of indicators which were relevant to the variables being measured, to ensure that they

contained all possible items that would be used in measuring the variables. The instruments

were also pilot tested. In order to test the reliability of the instrument to be used in this study,

split half method was preferred because it has a major advantage of eliminating chance error

caused due to differing test conditions. Cronbach’s Alpha Coefficient of 0.70 confirmed the

reliability of the instruments.Descriptive statistics such as means, percentages and

frequencies were used to analyze the various business and HR strategies. Pearson’s Product

Moment Correlation Coefficient was further calculated to determine the level of fit between

business strategies and human resource strategies.

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

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Findings.

The extent of strategic fit between various business and human resource strategies used by

transnational tea companies in Kenya.

Strategic Fit between Cost Leadership and Related HR Strategies

Findings of the study (Table 1) show strategic fit between Cost Leadership and related HR

strategies as cost leadership had strong positive relationships with the following HR

strategies; Performance Management (r=0.850), Reward Management (r=0.888) and

Downsizing (r=0.800). At the same time, it had a strong negative relationship with

Recruitment (r= -0.850). Reduced costs come as a result of better performance per employee,

which is in turn motivated by better reward. At the same time, Downsizing of excess labour

leads to reduced costs.

Table 1 Strategic Fit between Cost Leadership and HR Strategies

HR strategies

Cost leadership

Continuous Learning Pearson Correlation 0.108

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.838

Performance management Pearson Correlation .850(*)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.0302

Job redesign Pearson Correlation 0.51

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.302

Job rotation Pearson Correlation 0.489

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.325

Reward management Pearson Correlation .888(*)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.018

Teamwork Pearson Correlation -0.4

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.432

Downsizing Pearson Correlation 0.800(*)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.056

Expansion-recruitment Pearson Correlation -0.850(*)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.032

* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

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Page 8

Strategic Fit between Differentiation and Related HR Strategies

Findings of the study (Table 2) show strategic fit between Differentiation and related HR

strategies as it had strong positive relationships with the following HR strategies; Continuous

Learning (r=0.838), Job Redesign (r=0.850) and Job Rotation (r=0.888). At the same time, it

had a strong negative relationship with Recruitment (r= -0.850). For Differentiation to work

well there is need for training in new ways of work (Continuous Learning) and Job Redesign

and Rotation to fit employees to their new roles. A firm making a differentiated product

makes use of the same people, but trains them and redesigns and rotates their jobs, thereby

having a negative correlation with Recruitment.

Table 2 Strategic Fit between Differentiation and HR Strategies

HR strategies Pear Differentiation

Continuous Learning Pearson Correlation .838(*)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.108

Performance management Pearson Correlation 0.51

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.302

Job redesign Pearson Correlation .850(*)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.032

Job rotation Pearson Correlation .888(*)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.018

Reward management Pearson Correlation 0.489

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.325

Teamwork Pearson Correlation -0.4

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.432

Downsizing Pearson Correlation 0.332

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.52

Expansion-recruitment Pearson Correlation - 0.850(*)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.032

* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

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Page 9

Strategic Fit between Divestiture and Related HR Strategies

Findings of the study (Table 3) show strategic fit between Divestiture and related HR

strategies. It had strong positive relationships with the following HR strategies; Job Redesign

(r=0.991), Job Rotation (r=0.956) and Downsizing (r=0.944). At the same time, it had a

strong negative relationship with Recruitment(r= -0.991). When a firm partly divests from a

business it has been carrying out, people previously working in the sold segment of the

business often have their jobs redesigned and rotated so as to remain relevant to the

organization. Those who are excess to requirement are then downsized.

Table 3 Strategic Fit between Divestiture and HR Strategies

HR strategies Pear Divestiture

Continuous Learning Pearson Correlation -0.086

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.871

Performance management Pearson Correlation 0.012

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.983

Job redesign Pearson Correlation .991(**)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0

Job rotation Pearson Correlation .956(**)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.003

Reward management Pearson Correlation -0.008

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.988

Teamwork

Pearson Correlation -0.227

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.666

Sig. (2-tailed) 0

Downsizing Pearson Correlation .944(**)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.038

Expansion-recruitment Pearson Correlation - 0.991(**)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

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Page 10

Strategic Fit between Acquisition and Related HR Strategies

The study findings (Table 4) show a strategic fit between Acquisition business strategy and

related HR strategies. It had strong positive relationships with Job Redesign (r=0.991) and

Job Rotation (r=0.956) and a weak positive relationship with Downsizing (r=0.038). At the

same time, it had a strong negative relationship with Recruitment (r= -0.991). When a firm

acquires another, jobs need to be rotated and redesigned in order to synchronize the

operations of the two firms.

Table4 Strategic Fit between Acquisition and HR Strategies

HR strategies Pear Acquisition

Continuous Learning Pearson Correlation -0.086

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.871

Performance management Pearson Correlation 0.012

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.983

Job redesign Pearson Correlation .991(**)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0

Job rotation Pearson Correlation .956(**)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.003

Reward management Pearson Correlation -0.008

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.988

Teamwork Pearson Correlation -0.227

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.666

Downsizing Pearson Correlation 0.038

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.944

Expansion-recruitment Pearson Correlation -0.991(**)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

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Strategic Fit between Diversification and Related HR Strategies

The study findings (Table 5) show a strategic fit between Diversification and related HR

strategies. It had strong positive correlation with Job Redesign (r=0.974), Job Rotation

(r=0.932) and Recruitment (r= 0.974). Product diversification often leads to Job Redesign and

Job Rotation in order for the human resources to fit into new roles necessary to produce the

diversified product. It may also be necessary to recruit some new staff to fill the skills gap of

skills that exists within the organization.

Table 5 Strategic Fit between Diversification and HR Strategies

HR strategies Pear Diversification

Continuous Learning Pearson Correlation -0.074

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.889

Performance management Pearson Correlation -0.061

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.908

Job redesign Pearson Correlation .974(**)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.001

Job rotation Pearson Correlation .932(**)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.007

Reward management Pearson Correlation -0.048

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.928

Teamwork Pearson Correlation -0.24

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.647

Downsizing Pearson Correlation -0.1

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.851

Expansion-recruitment Pearson Correlation .974(**)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.001

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

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Strategic Fit between Vertical Integration and Related HR Strategies.

The study findings (Table 6) show a strategic fit between Vertical Integration and related HR

strategies. Vertical Integration had strong positive relationships with Job Rotation (r=0.824).

When a firm takes over another firm in a different stage of the product cycle, employees may

need to be rotated so as to fit into newly created jobs.

Table 6 Strategic Fit between Vertical Integration and HR Strategies

HR strategies Pear Vertical integration

Continuous Learning Pearson Correlation 0.489

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.325

Performance management

Pearson Correlation 0.027

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.959

Job redesign Pearson Correlation 0.695

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.126

Job rotation

Pearson Correlation .824(*)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.044

Reward management Pearson Correlation 0.426

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.399

Teamwork Pearson Correlation -0.053

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.92

Downsizing Pearson Correlation 0.309

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.552

Expansion-recruitment Pearson Correlation 0.695

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.126

* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

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Strategic Fit between Horizontal Integration and Related HR Strategies.

The study findings (Table 7) show a strategic fit between Horizontal Integration and related

HR strategies. It had strong positive relationships with Job Redesign (r=0.957), Job Rotation

(r=0.944) and Recruitment (r= 0.957). When a firm takes over another firm at the same stage

in the product cycle, jobs may be rotated and redesigned while more employees may need to

be recruited to take care of additional responsibilities.

Table 7 Strategic Fit between Horizontal Integration and HR Strategies

HR strategies Pear Horizontal

integration

Continuous Learning

Pearson Correlation 0.037

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.945

Performance management

Pearson Correlation -0.112

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.833

Job redesign

Pearson Correlation .957(**)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.003

Job rotation

Pearson Correlation .944(**)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.005

Reward management

Pearson Correlation -0.082

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.877

Teamwork

Pearson Correlation -0.034

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.949

Downsizing

Pearson Correlation -0.014

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.979

Expansion-recruitment

Pearson Correlation .957(**)

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.003

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

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The above results imply that for every business strategy formulated and implemented by

these firms, there is coherence with an appropriate HR strategy. The study therefore

established that though HR strategies are not as explicitly stated as the business strategies, the

firms have a fairly good idea of what HR strategies they need to, in practice, align with the

business strategies. The findings confirm that Strategy is not realized merely by formal

statements but comes about also by actions and reactions

SHRM processes used by the firms

In addition to establishing that the HR implications of the business strategies are always

clearly spelt out, the study found that 57.1 percent of the HR Managers use an integrated

process while 42.9 use an aligned process. None of them use a separate process (Figure

4.14).For the majority therefore; HR strategy is an integral part of the business strategy, along

with all the other functional strategies. For the 42.9 percent who use an aligned process, HR

strategy is developed together with the business strategy. They may be presented and

discussed together but they are distinct outcomes of parallel processes. By considering them

together, there is the likelihood that they will influence each other and be adopted as a

cohesive whole.

Approaches to formulation and implementation of HR strategies used by the firms

The findings indicate that 72 percent of the HR Managers use the Best-Fit approach while

Best-Practice and Configurational Approaches are each used by 14 percent of the HR

Managers. For the majority of the managers therefore, there is a recognition that it is up to the

firm to decide what HR strategies can be adapted to its particular business strategies and

operational requirements at a particular time. Those who use best- practice believe that there

is a set of universal best HRM practices and that adopting them will lead to superior

organizational performance. Configurational approach means the use of a combination of

bundles of HR practices with high levels of fit with its competitive strategy.

Conclusions

Evidence from the study shows that, in most cases, the chosen HR strategies are coherent

with the business strategies. The business strategies are translated into the right quality and

quantity of human resources in order that the organization is “right sized” by eliminating

unnecessary work and responding to economic, legal, technological and consumer changes. It

was also evident that the organizations seek to achieve not only a vertical fit, that is,

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

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Page 15

integrating the business and HR strategies but also a horizontal fit (or bundling) i.e. achieving

coherence and mutual support between various HR strategies. The study also demonstrated

that these firms have since moved on from earlier findings by Kamoche (1992) to the effect

that subsidiaries of Multinational Companies had to a large extent relied on their head offices

in matters of strategy and policy formulation which led to a combination of strategic planning

and a less rational and less objective approach, which resembles a “gut feeling”.

The study demonstrated the importance attached to SHRM practices by the transnational tea

companies. This is attested to by the high percentage of those firms that use the integrated

process of Strategic HRM (where the HR strategy is an integral part of the business strategy,

along with other functional strategies) as opposed to the very few who use the separate

process. Consequently, the firms overwhelmingly use the best-fit approach to formulation

and implementation of strategy. They have recognized that it is up to them to decide what HR

strategies can be adapted to their particular business and operational requirements at a

particular time as opposed to the belief under best-practice that there is a set of universal best

HRM practices and that adopting them will lead to superior organizational performance. The

volatility in thje Agricultural sector in general and the tea industry in particular, caused by

weather, price and foreign currency fluctatutions make it necessray to formulate and

implemnt strategies that support the prevailing business environment.

Wright, Snell and Jacobsen (2004) made the following observations about HR-strategy

linkage; The inside-out approach begins with the status quo HR function (in terms of skills,

processes, technologies etc.) and then attempts (with varying degrees of success) to identify

linkages to the business (usually through focusing on people issues), making minor

adjustments to HR activities along the way. On the other hand within the outside-in HR

approach, the starting point is the business including the customer, competitor and business

issues they face. The HR strategy then derives directly from these challenges to create real

solutions and add real value. The study found that the tea firms make use of the outside-in

approach in seeking to achieve strategic fit.The use of the outside-in approach is consistent

with the finding that it is the business strategies that are explicitly stated. HR strategies that

are consisitent with the chosen business strategies then follow.

Recommendations

HR strategies need to be as explicit and clearly stated as the business strategies are. The

treatment of HR issues needs to go beyond the current treatment as merely another functional

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area. This is more so because all the other resources, money, machines, raw materials etc.

used as inputs for the achievement of the desired outcomes of the organization cannot work

without the human resources. HR strategies need not only be clearly stated, they need to be

proactive, and constantly reviewed to discover new ways of utilizing the labour force in a

more productive manner thus giving the business a competitive edge. Explicitly stated HR

strategies not only act as constant reference points but also call for justification for any

deviation.

The most advanced linkage between business and HR issues is the integrative linkage in

which the senior HR executive is part of the top management team, and is able to sit at the

table and contribute during development of the business strategy. The senior most HR

professionals are currently at the top management level, while a few are still at the middle

management level. It would be necessary that HR is represented at the Board of Directors

level, that is, where all strategic decision making occurs so as to fully contribute its expertise

in the formulation and implementation of matters of strategic direction.

Further Research

One of the most significant ongoing debates in the Kenyan Tea industry is the tradeoff

between use of men and machines especially in tea harvesting. The tea companies, pressed by

the rising labour costs have tended to react by knee-jerk introduction of tea harvesting

machinery to replace hand harvesting. Whereas labour cost is a real threat to the continued

existence of these companies, it is equally true that the best quality tea is that which is

harvested by hand. Research should therefore be carried out to ensure a proper balance

between cost reduction and quality achieved before wholesale machine harvesting of tea is

adopted.

Further research now needs to be carried out to get empirical evidence as to whether the best

practices are adequate or organizations need always to go on and search for a matching model

of HRM to the business strategy. Furthermore, it is necessary to research on whether

Pfeffer”s(1994) list of the seven HR practices of successful organizations, namely,

employment security, selective hiring, self-managed teams, high compensation based on

performance, training, reduction of status differential and sharing of information are adequate

or more HR Practices need to be added to this list.

International Journal of Research in Management ISSN 2249-5908

Available online on http://www.rspublication.com/ijrm/ijrm_index.htm Issue 3, Vol. 1 (January 2013)

Page 17

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