HR architecture consists of the HR systems, processes and structure, and employee behaviours. It is a comprehensive representation of all that is involved in HRM, not simply the structure of the HR function. As explained by Becker et al(2001: 12): ‘We use the term HR architecture to broadly describe the continuum from the HR professionals within the HR function, to the system of HR related policies and practices, through the competencies, motivation and associated behaviours of the firm’s employees.’ It was noted by Hird et al (2010: 25) that: ‘this architecture is seen as a unique combination of the HR function’s structure and delivery model, the HR practices and system, and the strategic employee behaviours that these create’.
Purcell (1999: 38) suggested that the focus should be on ‘appropriate HR architecture and the processes that contribute to organizational performance’. Becker and Huselid (2006: 899) stated that: ‘It is the fit between the HR architecture and the strategic capabilities and business processes that implement strategy that is the basis of HR’s contribution to competitive advantage.’
The HR system
The HR system contains the interrelated and jointly supportive HR activities and practices which together enable HRM goals to be achieved. Becker and Huselid (1998: 95) observed that: ‘The HRM system is first and foremost a vehicle to implement the firm’s strategy.’ Later (2006) they argued that it is the HR system that is the key HR asset. Boselie et al(2005: 73) pointed out that in its traditional form HRM can be viewed as ‘a collection of multiple discrete practices with no explicit or discernible link between them. The more strategically minded system approach views HRM as an integrated and coherent bundle of mutually reinforcing practices.’
As illustrated in Figure 3.1, an HRM system brings together HR philosophies that describe the overarching values and guiding principles adopted in managing people. Taking account of the internal and external environments in which the organization operates, the system incorporates:
FIGURE 3.1 The HRM system
- HR strategies, which define the direction in which HRM intends to take each of its main areas of activity.
- HR policies, which set out what HRM is there to do and provide guidelines defining how specific aspects of HR should be applied and implemented.
- HR practices, which consist of the HRM activities involved in managing and developing people and in managing the employment relationship.The HR function delivery model
In a sense the HR function is in the delivery business – providing the advice and services that enable organizations and their line managers to get things done through people. The HR delivery model describes how those services are provided. These methods of delivery take place irrespective of the degree to which what is done corresponds with the conceptual HRM model described in Chapter 1.
The most celebrated delivery model was produced by Dave Ulrich. In his influential Harvard Business Review article (1998: 124) he wrote that: ‘HR should not be defined by what it does but by what it delivers – results that enrich the organization’s value to customers, investors, and employees.’ More specifically he suggested that HR can deliver in four ways: as a strategic partner, an administrative expert, an employee champion and a change agent. This first model was later modified by Ulrich and Brockbank (2005), who defined the four roles as employee advocate, human capital developer, functional expert and strategic partner.