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Best Practice, Impossible to Achieve? Essay

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Topic Paper 1

Discuss the proposition that the reality of business and HR strategy formulation means that best practice is impossible to achieve

There are those who say that there are certain HR practices which are best for organisations regardless of context. This is called ‘best practice’ or the Universalist School.
The Universalist School assumes that the organisations which are successful and stand the test of time are the ones which have the ‘best’ practices (Legge, 2005, p.24). In HRM this means taking the view that employees are a valuable commodity by applying the High Commitment Model/High Performance Work System models. This perspective also assumes that it will always work despite the individual circumstances of the organisation and that ‘the effects are additive’ (Legge, 2005, p.24).
Farnham (2010) proposes that best practice isn’t a new idea. He refers to the work of early personnel management in Britain where specific ‘best practices’ were pinpointed which indicates that it has a long tradition in the UK. These practices were mostly surrounding selection and training, for example the selection of officers in WW2 (Crichton, 1962, in Farnham, 2010), and here the principles of industrial psychology had a huge influence.
A more recent trend has been the idea that ‘bundles’ of best practices can work in synergy with each other to produce even better performance (Legge, 2005, p. 24)

As mentioned, ‘best practice’ is a universalist approach to HR strategy which can be further categorised into ‘micro’ and ‘macro’ levels. Micro level best practice is widely acknowledged by researchers and practitioners such as Delery & Doty (1996), and is concerned with outlining best practice models on a small, individual scale; for example, when conducting interviews or performance appraisals. Using many individual best practice guides such as this are known as ‘clusters’ or ‘bundles,’ (Dyer & Reeves, 1995; Delery and Shaw, 2001). Macro best practice...

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