Human Resource Management, 3e

Managing Employees for Competitive Advantage

by Lepak, Gowan

ISBN: 978-0-9971171-5-8 | Copyright 2017


What makes this book better than other HRM textbooks?

  • Unique chapter organization explains HR principles, followed by demonstrations of HR in practice.
  • More emphasis on managing employees than managing the HR function
  • Consistently considers the importance of managing employees in the context of the firm’s strategy, culture, and external pressures. 
  • Uses an integrated framework to demonstrate the interdependence of HR practices.

Chapter Design: Each chapter focuses on more HR activities and builds on the idea that context matters. Thus, each chapter has two parts. 

The first part describes the principles of the HR activity. The goal is to help students acquire the tools appropriate for each activity. For example, when we discuss performance management, we discuss aspects of measuring employee performance, tradeoffs with different performance evaluation approaches and considerations of the process for evaluating employee performance. 

The second part of each chapter is where the difference between our approach and other textbooks becomes clear. To emphasize the importance of context, in the second part of the chapters we detail how the context—the organizational demands and environmental factors—affect the choices made in applying the technical knowledge. In the second part of each chapter, we emphasize how the HR challenges—the various organizational demands and numerous environmental influences—affect decisions about which performance management approach to apply and how to use it. 

In essence, we first explore the fundamental principles for each HR activity and then take a step back to look at how these practices can be used to meet different contextual challenges. We have found that our  approach helps students put together the pieces better than simply discussing context at the beginning of the semester and then focusing on each of the major functional activities, with only minor discussion of context. In many ways, we use a decision-making approach, asking “What if A? What if B?”. We include examples and company spotlights to highlight this information and include discussion questions, exercises, and short cases that give students a chance to apply chapter concepts.

Managing Employees Rather than Managing the HR Function: Students often have difficulty separating the concept of employees as human resources themselves from a discussion of the HR department of an organization. The unique framework, woven throughout the book, places equal emphasis on the principles of employee management practices and the application of those practices in different organizational and environmental contexts. These are contexts in which all managers must make daily decisions that affect firm performance , how work is structured, and the terms and conditions of employment.  The goal is for those using this book to understand both the theory behind effective employee management practices and the reality that managing employees under different scenarios presents unique challenges and requires different responses. The managerial perspective, as opposed to an HR perspective, makes the book accessible to all students interested in learning about managing employees while still being applicable for future HR professionals. 

Managing Employees in Context: A second point of differentiation for this book is how the authors place management of employees directly in the broader context of organizations and their external environments. They devote a significant amount of coverage to the role of employee management in supporting business strategy, company characteristics, organizational culture, and employee concerns. They also address the external pressures that come from globalization, technology, labor force trends, ethics, regulatory issues, and related topics. The importance of context is highlighted in the overarching framework for the book and incorporated into every chapter. Each chapter discusses contextual pressures on the use of different tools for managing employees and focuses on how contextual pressures influence the effectiveness of these practices. Most current textbooks present this information primarily in the early chapters.

Integrative Framework: A third point of differentiation is the book’s overarching framework.  Students learn better when they have a clear framework for understanding how different practices are used independently and interdependently. In this case, they will learn about issues related to individual employee management and the larger work group, as well as how to address this independence and interdependence relative to different internal and external contingencies. The authors highlight three primary activities for managing employees and show their interrelationships: work design and workforce planning, management of employee competencies, and management of employee attitudes and behaviors. Lepak and Gowan approach these themes from the context of understanding how employee management affects the ability of an organization to achieve its objectives and attain a competitive advantage. They have developed a matrix outlining the topics covered for each employee management role relative to the organizational demands and environmental influencers to aid students in understanding the many interrelationships that exist in managing employees.

Approach: This book will help current and future managers understand what practices and tools are available for managing employees, how to use them, and when to use them for different situations. Knowing that a picture is worth a thousand words, we began our work on this book by developing an integrative framework for the strategic management of employees. This framework, which is woven throughout the chapters, shows the relationships among organizational demands, environmental influences, regulatory issues, and the three primary HR activities noted above: (work design and workforce planning, management of employee competencies, and management of employee attitudes and behaviors. These HR activities, when managed in concert and within the context of the HR challenges, lead to the desired employee contributions and create a competitive advantage for the organization.

Three Primary HR Activities: In essence, the strategic management of employees requires managers to attend to three primary HR activities. First, managers must design and manage the flow of work and the design of specific jobs employees perform to ensure employees are in a position to add value to the company. Second, managers must identify, acquire, build, and retain the critical competencies employees need in order to effectively perform their jobs. Third, managers must guide and motivate employees to use their abilities to contribute to company goals. By describing the activities in this manner, we help students understand the interrelationships that exist among them.     All managers need a solid understanding of the practices available for managing employees. Managers can use a wide array of practices for job design, workforce planning, recruitment, selection, learning and development, performance evaluation and appraisal, compensation and other rewards. To effectively manage employees, a manager has to know how and why the various practices work as well as when to use them.

HR Challenges: The Importance of Context: Employee management activities do not happen in a vacuum. Rather, managers must keep in mind the context of the organization in terms of the company’s strategy, characteristics, and culture. In addition, managers must consider the concerns of their workforce. Beyond organizational demands, the strategic management of HR requires managers to anticipate and take steps to meet the environmental influences associated with labor force trends, advances in technology, ethics, and globalization, as well as to ensure that companies comply with legal requirements. Having a good understanding of the options for recruiting new employees is not very useful if managers do not also have a good understanding of when the different options are likely to be effective. Knowing when to use the different practices requires that you know the context of managing employees.

Expand/Collapse All
Cover (pg. Cover)
Table of Contents (pg. iii)
Chapter 1: Managing Employees for Competitive Advantage (pg. 1)
Part 1: HR Challenges (pg. 29)
Chapter 2: Organizational Demands and Environmental Influences (pg. 31)
Chapter 3: Regulatory Issues (pg. 65)
Part 2: Work Design and Workforce Planning (pg. 105)
Chapter 4: Job Design and Job Analysis (pg. 107)
Chapter 5: Workforce Planning (pg. 151)
Part 3: Managing Employee Compentencies (pg. 189)
Chapter 6: Recruitment (pg. 191)
Chapter 7: Selection (pg. 233)
Chapter 8: Learning and Development (pg. 279)
Part 4: Managing Employee Attitudes and Behavior (pg. 325)
Chapter 9: Performance Management (pg. 327)
Chapter 10: Compensating Employees (pg. 367)
Chapter 11: Incentives and Rewards (pg. 407)
Chapter 12: Employee Benefits and Safety Programs (pg. 440)
Part 5: Special Topics (pg. 487)
Chapter 13: Labor Unions and Employee Management (pg. 489)
Chapter 14: Creating High-Performing HR Systems (pg. 518)
Glossary (pg. 545)
Index (pg. 555)
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