Nottingham Trent University

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Reconfiguring the Human Resource Management Function

Reconfiguring the Human Resource Management Function

Overview and aims

This specialist module will explore the socio-economic, demographic, and technological trends and developments that are radically reconfiguring the role of the human resource management function. These various forces include changing attitudes to work and employment, the rise of the ‘gig economy’, other novel modes of nonstandard working, an ageing population, managing a multi-generational workforce, and the development of new technologies which have been labelled 'the second machine age' and 'the fourth industrial revolution'.

In this new context, demands on the HR function will change and intensify, emphasising the ‘business partner’ contributions of HR. For example, how will Gen Y and Gen C managers deal with older colleagues who are working beyond the traditional retirement age? What HR responses are appropriate given that it is now widely recognised that corporate cybercrime is an HR problem, not just a technological one? In what ways can HR use new data analytics and social media technologies? This module will explore the nature of these trends and developments and their implications.

The aims of this module are to:

  • identify key trends and developments influencing the HR role in significant ways
  • consider appropriate HR policy responses, and the implications for HR practice
  • examine the new capabilities that HR directors/managers require in order to be able to deal effectively with the range of forces now shaping the HR function

Module content

The module will focus on a number of key trends and developments.

  • Engagement, discretionary behaviour, and high performance work practices: are these fashion accessories or strategic necessities in the second machine age?
  • Big data, data analytics, and human capital analytics: how can the HR function use these new computational tools, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to help improve organisational effectiveness?
  • Baby boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z: what HR policies and practices are appropriate for dealing with demographic trends that include an ageing, diverse, and multi-generational ‘blended’ workforce; and how are these trends unfolding in different cultures and countries?
  • Flexible, mobile working and the gig economy: how should HR respond to the widening range of nonstandard and ‘tech-enabled’ forms of employment?
  • The second machine age, the fourth industrial revolution: computing developments now make possible the automation of professional knowledge work, including management – what pressures and demands will HR face in this new environment?
  • Making things happen, getting things done: what new capabilities, including influencing and political skills, will the HR function need to develop?
  • The social matrix: how can HR use social media tools and technologies to improve training and development, engagement, employee voice, internal and external corporate communications, knowledge-sharing, and collaboration?
  • The downsides: all of these trends and developments have disadvantages, drawbacks, problems, and dangers – so how can we identify, and avoid or manage those? This final issue – a critical voice – will run through the whole module, which will also consider the problematic issue of transfer, of western HR policies and practices to other cultures.

Learning outcomes

After studying this module you should be able to:

  • demonstrate a critical understanding of the ways in which socio-cultural, demographic, and technological trends are making fresh demands on the human resource management function
  • assess the ways in which new technologies are likely to change the nature of work and employment, and consequently influence the role of the HR function
  • critically review the opportunities that these trends and developments are creating for improved organisational effectiveness, and identify the disadvantages and dangers in some approaches and applications
  • demonstrate a critical awareness of how ‘business partner’ models of HR need to develop in this changing context, and assess the costs and benefits of appropriate HR policies and practices
  • explain the need for HR managers to have political and influencing skills if they are to make things happen and get things done in an organisation

This module will help you gain the skills and qualities to:

  • design an employee engagement strategy for your organisation, along with appropriate high performance work practices, and explain (‘sell’) the benefits to senior management
  • assess the potential contribution of big data and human capital analytics to a particular organisation’s HR function
  • implement policies and practices that are sensitive to the needs of older workers, and that recognise the challenges of employing a multi-generational workforce
  • assess the benefits and drawbacks of potential HR uses of social media, particularly with regard to employee communications, knowledge-sharing and collaboration
  • develop your own political and influencing skills in ways that will improve your personal effectiveness, and the contributions of your HR function

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