Articulating Corporate Values through Human Resource Policies

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Authors: Thomas M. Begley and David P. Boyd
Date: July 2000
From: Business Horizons(Vol. 43, Issue 4)
Publisher: Elsevier Advanced Technology Publications
Document Type: Article
Length: 3,136 words

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Many HR departments over the years have lost employee esteem because of the perception that their policies and procedures were aimed at making life harder. New employees often sat through seemingly endless orientation sessions on policies. Worse, they later discovered that their reasonable approach to a work issue often violated some HR dictum. On the other hand, HR professionals felt confused by the constant need to interpret HR policies and constrained by the constant need to apply them. They were beset by complaints about rigidity. Employees regarded the policies as obsolete, too limiting, and unresponsive to their concerns.

These features are symptomatic of the old "command and control" style of management that has traditionally prevailed in most American companies. Today, procedural rituals are disappearing from the landscape of best-practice companies. Such factors as corporate restructuring, empowerment, and participative management have combined to dismantle static and stultifying systems. In particular, such trends have affected HR forms of bureaucracy. HR executives now act as strategic partners on their companies' top management teams. They are expected to contribute to the achievement of business goals rather than simply occupy themselves with the details of personnel administration, In an environment that demands speed and agility, HR professionals are realizing that thick volumes to regulate employee behavior are a burden they can ill afford,

A New Approach to HR Policy Articulation

In the course of interviews with HR executives in several Fortune 500 companies, we discovered that a substantial number were engaged in a major review of their policies. Having suffered under the weight of hefty policy and procedure manuals long enough, they had decided that an entirely new approach to policy articulation was necessary. In every instance, the HR department itself was the catalyst for the review. HR professionals knew that fine-tuning voluminous sets of policies and procedures was not the answer, but they also knew that employees faced with a host of HR-related decisions still needed guidance. Without a behavioral bedrock, chaos, confusion, and parochialism would loom across the company's theater of operations.

Not only was each company wrestling with the same problem, but each had come to a similar solution. In the end, they all determined that the corporate culture needed to create a fabric for employee behavior. They realized as well that values serve as hallmarks of corporate culture. A core set of values conducive to company success should constitute a foundational element of the desired culture. Other components, such as corporate norms, stories, and symbols, should reflect these core values.

The task of every HR department, or some subset of HR employees who served as a task force, was to identify and articulate these primary values. Once the values were clarified and codified, the formulators had to produce guidelines that showed employees how the values applied to HR situations. Amplified by accompanying definitions, these principles became known as the "Company Way."

We have labeled this solution the "value-based culture" approach to HR policy articulation. Employees who act in concert with these...

Source Citation

Source Citation
Begley, Thomas M., and David P. Boyd. "Articulating Corporate Values through Human Resource Policies." Business Horizons, vol. 43, no. 4, July 2000, p. 8. Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A64519540