Tag Archives: human resource management

Human Resource Challenges

Human resource management is a comprehensive support paradigm for both the employer (and his or her agents) and the employee. Most of the discussion regarding human resources revolves around problem employees and how human resources management can be used to deal with them. This week, however, we get to appreciate how human resources management can be effective at mediating employee concerns. Presented with two scenarios involving employee concerns, we will choose one and explore the fundamentals of human resources management as it relates to the challenges presented.

Throughout the past two weeks, Paul, a physical therapist, has been receiving in his work e-mail inbox some disturbing messages from an unknown sender. Many of the messages are sexual in nature and some even refer to Paul’s coworkers. Paul has reluctantly confided in the head of the organization’s HR department to help him with the issue. He is very embarrassed about the situation and is concerned that an investigation might jeopardize his relationships with coworkers and even his position with the organization.

As internet technology and systems management is a forte or mine, it is difficult for me not to take the easy path by selecting scenario 1. For this scenario, Paul would only have to enlist his manager in engaging the IT department to track the emails, which is a very simple process (most people do not understand how much information is generated in server logs and attached to email messages). The sender of the offensive emails would be found out and dealt with, and/or future messages of this type would be blocked by the email server, and Paul would no longer be distracted by these offensive emails.

However, as I stated previously, I prefer a challenge and will review the problems and some potential solutions regarding scenario 2.

For the past year, the nurses’ union at Good Health Hospital has been meeting to discuss grievances against Good Health’s management. In particular, the nurses are concerned with the way managers treat them; many feel overworked, undercompensated, and underappreciated. They have recently submitted a proposal to Good Health’s executives asking for better management practices, an increase in nurse staffing, and better compensation and benefits for nurses. The executives have enlisted the help of Good Health’s HR department in addressing the concerns in the proposal; they are concerned about budget constraints as well as the possibility of a nurses’ union strike.

Scenario 2 involves organized employees threatening a work stoppage if, at least, some of their concerns are not mitigated. Work stoppages, or strikes, are detrimental to any organization. The nurses’ union at Good Health Hospital have presented grievances that are typical in health care (Fallon & McConnell, 2007). It is a wonder why these concerns were not identified early. As Fallon and McConnell (2007) point out, “the best time to address a problem is before it becomes a problem” (p. 281). In this case, effective management would have identified these concerns early and developed a plan, perhaps integrating potential solutions through the organizations strategic plan, and prevented the growing acrimonious and bitter discontent amongst the rank and file employees. Though Fallon and McConnell discuss various types of organizational leadership, I prefer to lead with libertarian values in mind; ergo, both respect and responsibility must be virtues of both employee and employer, and both must work hard for the other. Fallon and McConnell discuss how trust and mutual respect lends to an effective, efficient, and rewarding work environment. Unfortunately, in scenario 2, it seems that we are beyond mitigation and prevention and, legally and contractually, they must be addressed.

Good Health Hospital administrators should take heed to the complaints noted in the nurses’ grievances. Although many managers and adminstrators dislike unions, ignoring them is not the answer. In this case, the concerns are probably real. Fallon and McConnell (2007) tell how information pertinent to employer-employee relations does not typically transcend the ranks, and this set of grievances may be the first indication to upper management that there is an issue. Still, the hospital adminstration, depending on the organizational schema (for-profit, not-for-profit, public, private, et al.), has a responsibility to its stakeholders and must ensure both operational feasibility and cost containment. Answering to these grievances could jeopardize one or both of these. A work stoppage would be detrimental to the operation and prove costly while meeting the demands in full would unrealistically obliterate the profit margin (note: the demands are not listed within the scenario; however, we can infer that they are significant).

If I were in the position of dealing with these grievances, I would, first, separate the demands by genre: safety and ethics, emotion, and economics. First and foremost, any ethical or safety concerns should be dealt with immediately, anyway. By identifying and dealing with these issues first, the perception of a receptive and action-oriented administration is gained. The solutions for these issues can also be highly visible and can be made to work for the organization by way of press releases outlining improvements in safety if not mere visible changes in the work environment and culture. Second, addressing emotional issues, such as poor treatment by managers and the perception of a lack of appreciation, can be solved by the employees, themselves. For instance, a “grade your manager” program might be cost neutral and provide some insight for future coaching. This would also give a sense of the prevailing attitude of the employees in the way comment cards give businesses a sense of the clientele. Another way of addressing emotion is to direct each manager to inquire of their staff periodically about any minor concerns they might have. This would give a sense of open communications, something that appears to be lacking. Finally, it is time to address the economical concerns.

Many times, the pay and benefits that are offered to unionized workers are stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement. These, fortunately (or, unfortunately) cannot be changed until the contract is renegotiated. Ethically and respectfully, the compensation package should hover near market levels. Fortunately for Good Health Hospital, we have already addressed a few concerns, so we have latitude in addressing the economic issues. As Fallon and McConnell (2007) state, working conditions are just as important as financial incentives, and employees may sacrifice pay and benefits for a decent working environment.

Regardless of the hospital’s ability to meet the nurses’ demands, I would insist on meeting with them, out of respect, to hear their concerns; however, the meeting would be official and the labor relations attorneys would be present to ensure compliance to the National Labor Relations Board regulations.


Fallon, L. F. & McConnell, C. R. (2007). Human resources management in health care: principles and practice. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Employee Retention

I am familiar with a local EMS organization where the perception of the employee-base is that middle management sacrifices requisite supplies in order to regain budget losses, losses that were incurred due to their overall mismanagement. Sacrificing supplies in the emergency medical service arena equates to negligence and could, indeed, prove harmful to patients. This, coupled with the notion of incompetence, has a negative effect on morale, especially as this is one of the only divisions within the larger company that experiences these types of problems. Many have considered leaving (in fact, I have been told that most consider it quite often); however, the compensation package that they receive cannot be met by any other provider in the area. This leaves the employee in an ethical quandary. This issue is not isolated to this particular company, though. Although many private ambulance companies in the region face the same mismanagement, they do not offer comparable compensation packages and are much easier to leave.

Fallon and McConnell (2007) discuss how pay and benefits are vitally linked to overall job satisfaction, and I agree with their determination. However, there are other components, such as conscience. Duffy (2010) explains, in the light of pharmacists refusing to dispense abortion pills as a right of conscience, how “medical professions are among those where ethics and morality are of paramount concern” (p. 509). Consider Duffy’s explanation in reverse as this particular company is forcing their employees not to care for patients who they would otherwise be able to treat. The result is a significant emotional and psychological toll, I can imagine, but the employees cannot just walk away from their paycheck. This company, I feel, has learned to balance some of the positive working conditions with some of the negative working conditions, and the company relies heavily on wages and benefits to do so. According to Fallon and McConnell (2007), this tactic helps to relieve employee turnover rates; however, if the company would mitigate the negative aspects of the job, the wages and benefits offered could be used to attract employees with higher skill levels. Instead of leveraging ambition and affecting positive psychology within the workforce, as Amabile and Kramer (2011) recommend, the typical leverage is financial at a cost of ambition and morale.

In contrast, I have worked for agencies that paid far less in compensation than their competition, but the appreciation on the part of management was evident and allowed me to overlook the compensation gap with the other companies where the employees were always complaining and just seemed unhappy. Unfortunately, the gap grew to a point that was unbearable and I had to ultimately leave, but it was quite a while before I found another agency that commended professional evolution and progress, such as described by Amabile and Kramer (2011) — the company discussed above, however, is not.

Amabile and Kramer (2011) describe the withholding of resources to be a “toxin” that negatively effects morale. By improving supply requisition, a “catalyst” to improve morale, and improving recognition and supporting a free exchange of ideas, this company could improve morale significantly and focus on hiring skilled and experienced providers rather than those that will merely acquiesce to their ambiguous demands.


Amabile, T. M. & Kramer, S. J. (2011). The power of small wins. Harvard Business Review, 89(5), 70-80.

Duffy, M. E. (2010). Good medicine: Why pharmacists should be prescribed a right of conscience. Valparaiso University Law Review, 44(2), 509-564.

Fallon, L. F. & McConnell, C. R. (2007). Compensation and benefits. In Human resource management in health care: principles and practice (pp. 201-218). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Human Resource Management, Part 2

“Didn’t Cut It? Hire Another”

Human resource management (HRM), especially when considering employment contracts, is heavily reliant on the understanding of the laws and regulations governing the jurisdiction of practice, whether these laws and regulations are local, state, or federally mandated. Fallon and McConnell (2007) demonstrate that “many laws and other legal requirements exert considerable influence on the employment process …. [and,] managers must [also] be aware of many aspects and nuances of HR law….” (p. 127). Kathy Gray’s difficulty, as described in the Fallon and McConnell chapter seven case study, arises from a culture within the organization that does not appear to respect the utility of HRM as both necessary and effective for the business. In the scenario, Kathy Gray is tasked with hiring a clerk for an open position; however, as soon as she makes her determination of the candidates, Sam Weston undermines the authority bestowed upon her and hires the lesser qualified of the two applicants. This would be difficult for anyone in a similar situation.

There are a number of problems that could stem from this scenario. First, by hiring the less qualified candidate, the business will utilize resources in training the chosen candidate only to seek out a replacement before recouping the expenses related to hiring and training the individual. O’Brien (2010) describes “the process of recruiting, selecting, hiring, and retaining employees [to be] difficult and costly” (p. 113). It would seem obvious that the chosen candidate should be the most qualified to save both cost and effort. Second, by Sam Weston undermining Kathy Gray’s authority, he has made her less effective as a leader. Kathy Gray was hired as a business manager and must earn the respect of those within the organization that she leads. By undermining her hiring authority, Sam Weston creates the perception that she is not prepared in her role as a manager. Fallon and McConnell (2007) posit that Sam Weston should have merely prepared himself to be a resource for Kathy Gray had she met difficulty in carrying out her newfound responsibilities. I have to agree as this would have allowed Kathy Gray to develop confidence in her new role, and a clear message would be sent throughout the organization regarding Kathy Gray’s authority in matters pertaining to her office. Although Sam Weston did choose an inept candidate, I do not see any reason why Kathy Gray cannot terminate the employment of her subordinate herself, as is the organizational norm. That being stated, there are better methods of dealing with employment matters than ad hoc hiring and firing of personnel by managers (Fallon & McConnell, 2007; O’Brien, 2010).

Fallon and McConnell (2007) and O’Brien (2010) both agree that HRM is a systematic approach to employment matters with ethical and legal considerations and implications. Meadows Nursing Home, the organization discussed in Fallon and McConnell’s case study, would do well to employ a human resources specialist (if not a human resources department) to handle the vetting of applicants, from within the organization as well as without. By developing a working partnership with the human resource team, managers can be assured that chosen applicants have met the minimum requirements for job performance, that job descriptions are accurate and detailed, and that, in the event an employee must be separated from employment, it will be handled in a professional, legal, and proper manner.

Finally, consideration should always be given to applicants within the organization before looking outward to fill vacancies. Employing from within demonstrates to the current staff a culture and willingness to cultivate talent and allow professional growth as a reward for loyalty. Also, current staff are already familiar with the business processes that an outsider may find atypical, and this would lead to short assimilation time; however, the organization runs the risk of “organizational in-breeding” if not enough outside influence is achieved (Eisenberg & Wells, 2000). With this in mind, promotions from within should be the norm unless considering vacant management positions, which should be advertised both within and outside of the organization in order to ensure competition among the candidates.


Eisenberg, T. & Wells, M. T. (2000). Inbreeding in law school hiring: Assessing the performance of faculty hired from within. Journal of Legal Studies, 29(S1), 369-388. doi:10.1086/468077

Fallon, L. F. & McConnell, C. R. (2007). Department managers and the recruiting process. In Human resource management in health care: principles and practice (pp. 125-145). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

O’Brien, J. A. (2010). Recruit and hire the best fit for your practice. The Journal of Medical Practice Management, 26(2), 113–118.

Human Resource Management

Mrs. Jackson’s Dilemma

In the dilemma of Mrs. Clara Jackson, as presented by Fallon and McConnell (2007), the emergence of health care professions created a vacuum of administrative roles that, until this time, were haphazardly fulfilled by senior clinical staff. Mrs. Jackson, professionally torn between clinical and adminstrative roles, understood that one would suffer for the attention spent on the other. As this realization set in, Mrs. Jackson allowed non-clinical supervisors to hire employees; however, this tended to decentralize the function of personnel management. This ad hoc methodology would eventually prove detrimental as regulations and legal requirements become standard. Mrs. Jackson could enlist an assistant to help with these administartive roles, but an unprepared assistant would prove as detrimental as the decentralized process previously discussed.

Caldwell, Troung, Linh, and Tuan (2011) show that “reframing an organization’s internal environment [by implementing strategic human resource functions] results in significantly higher organizational outcomes and financial performance that is superior to what firms can attain by implementing individual human resource program elements piecemeal” (p. 172); therefore, reorganizing and restructuring the processes used to handle these administrative personnel issues would benefit the hospital better than the ad hoc use of senior clinical personnel, such as Mrs. Jackson (Fallon & McConnell, 2007), especially with workforce legislation circa 1930 (e.g. workmen’s compensation, Social Security, collective bargaining).

These issues, requiring a sense of increasing specialization and knowledge, helped to form the field of human resource management (HRM) as we understand it today. HRM strives to use a form of “ethical stewardship[,] … a philosophy of leadership and governance that optimizes long-term wealth creation and that honors duties owed to all stakeholders” (Caldwell, Troung, Linh, & Tuan, 2011, 178), to “help their organizations add value to the lives of individuals and organizations” (Caldwell, Troung, Linh, & Tuan, 2011, p. 177). This philosophy helps to gain “commitment from employees which is the key to long-term wealth creation” (Caldwell, Troung, Linh, & Tuan, 2011, 178). Using this philosophy of ethical stewardship, HRM managers would have enlisted the help of Mrs. Jackson to formulate a list of requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed to perform each clinical job and hire nurses based on these, while meeting the requirements of employment law and regulation, so as to free Mrs. Jackson to perform her senior clinical role unimpeded.


Caldwell, C., Truong, D. X., Linh, P. T., & Tuan, A. (2011). Strategic human resource management as ethical stewardship. Journal of Business Ethics, 98(1), 171–182. doi:10.1007/s10551-010-0541-y

Fallon, L. F. & McConnell, C. R. (2007). Human resource management in health care: principles and practice. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.