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In an age when HR is a well developed discipline, countries and organizations are investing in this field for obtaining maximum output from their human resources. However, government and organizations in Pakistan are lagging behind in the development and management of human resources. Socio-cultural patterns have dominantly engulfed this field and several malpractices have polluted the entire body of the field of human resource management. Due to this reason we witness the unhealthy state of HRD and HR in the country. By keeping the prevalent circumstances in view it gets clear that there is an immediate need of leaving the current path and adopting a new way. The question which comes in front is that whether the ‘path of best practices’ is suitable or the ‘path of best fit’ is more appropriate to be adopted in the field of HR in Pakistan.

Among the HR practices some practices are more useful in terms of improving the organizational performance than others. Such practices which are considered to be the most beneficial for a business in terms of human resources management have been given the name of ‘best practices’. These are endorsed by academics and practitioners for optimal organizational performance. Exponents of this approach strongly believe in the universal application of best practices. They are of the view that best practices may yield positive outcomes when applied anywhere around the world. Geographical distances, socio-cultural differences and other dissimilarities which exist among nations are regarded as less meaningful by the advocates of this approach. Employment security, selective hiring, team working, high pay contingent upon performance, performance management, training and reduction of status differences are some examples of the best practices. A number of researchers have claimed that best practices may be applied worldwide. In order to see that this claim is true or not the case of Pakistan, in terms of application of the best practices, is studied.  A study on the oil and gas sector of Pakistan found that selective hiring; training, fair compensation and performance management enhances performance of human resources. Another research concluded that performance of employees goes up working in textile sector of Pakistan when they are given training. A group of researchers found that teachers working in universities of the public sector are pleased with their jobs due to the job security. They further found a connection between compensation and job satisfaction. All of the above mentioned studies and arguments highlight the presence of a congenial environment for the application of HR best practices in the country.

On the other hand there are many studies which have found things contrary to the above mentioned things.  Mailk (2005) studied the application of best practices in a bank working in the country. He found that the bank in general deviates from the path of best practices. Khilji (1999) found that the majority of the organizations working in the private sector of the country have adopted the ‘bit by bit’ approach; they introduced best practices in episodes. There are very few organizations which have a holistic approach in this regard. Albeit the organizations are trying to follow the best practices, which are being developed in other countries and are huge success stories in many countries, but they are unable to completely follow the path of best practices due to the country’s unique socio-cultural settings.

After evaluating the arguments favoring and opposing ‘best practices’, ‘best fit’ seems to be more appropriate and workable in Pakistan. As there is variety of HR practices which exist in the real world, the ‘best fit’ approach suggests that organizations should modify their human resources management to their specific situation. Here specific situation stands for ‘culture’ of an organization, its ‘operational processes’ and needs of employees. Hence, this perspective suggests bringing HR practices in harmony with organizational requirements and employee needs. Every business has its unique circumstances; the approach of ‘one solution fits all’ which is the hallmark of ‘best practices’ cannot cater the demands of every business. Therefore, need is to adhere to ‘best fit’ for its exclusive approach of accommodating specific situations of business. SNGPL, which is a public sector organization, introduced HR reforms. HR practices (merit based hiring, training and development, performance evaluation, compensation and promotion) were aligned with the practices which are being followed in other countries. It was found that these practices were merely introduced; they were not actually implemented by the managers and if implemented they did not bring desired results. The reasons for the unsuccessful implementation of best practices at SNGPL are: political environment, government interference and union pressures. The case of SNGPL shows that ‘best fit’ at the place of ‘best practices’ are more appropriate for application in Pakistan.

However, a critical analysis of ‘best fit’ highlights the presence of inherent flaws in it. This approach oversimplifies facts in an attempt to establish a link between internal and external environments. ‘Best fit’ logic is scarce of dynamics, thus it is less appropriate for applying in multidimensional situations. Insufficiency of dynamics makes this model vulnerable in the situations where competition is high. Furthermore, this approach asks to embed cultural dynamics during the course of managing HR. Embedding the cultural factors means making the system less diverse.

Till now we are standing at the crossroads. ‘Best practice’ with its universal approach and promises of delivering sweet fruits in the terms of superior human resources and organizational performance, is less likely to work in Pakistan. The rationale behind it is very simple; foundations of the ‘best practices’ school were laid by the academia and researchers of North America, thus it is recognized as American stance. This model ignores the social, cultural, political, religious, economic and geographical differences which exist largely around the world. It takes a myopic view of the situation and endorses these practices fit for being applied worldwide. On the other hand ‘best fit’ with its inherent flaws is not supposed to bring healthy results if applied. Furthermore, this approach runs short of dynamics. This whole scenario is quite grim and perplex, leaving the central question unanswered. The debate so far neither suggests the ‘path of best practices’ nor does it endorse the ‘path of best fit’. It pushes to go for a ‘middle way’.  In my view ‘middle way’ is about benefitting from the qualities of ‘best practices’ and ‘best fit’, at the same time keeping in consideration other important factors. These factors include national factors, contingent variables and organizational strategies.  Furthermore, there is need to study the different sectors of industry for the search of workable HR system in the country. The ‘middle way’ is actually a unique HR system, which is in alignment with a country’s particular HR context.

The ‘middle way’ can prove to be useful in order to minimize the malpractices rampant in the field of HR in Pakistan. It may also aid to develop a unique system of HR by keeping the socio- cultural elements and globalized HR practices in consideration. Thus, country’s human resources can be developed and managed in a best possible manner. If human resources are managed in effective manner optimal organizational performance can be achieved.

References:

  • Khilji, Shaista E.. (1999). Management in Pakistan. In: Warner, Malcolm International Encyclopedia of Business and Management. United Kingdom: Thomson Learning. .
  • Malik, Ahmed Qandeel. (2005). COMPENSATION POLICIES OF A FOREIGN BANK IN PAKISTAN. Market Forces. 1 (1).
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