Everything you need to know about HR research. HR research is, “the task of searching for, and analysing of facts to the end that HR problems may be solved or principles and laws governing their solutions derived.”
HR research implies searching investigations, re-examinations, re-assessments and revaluations. In other words, research is a purposive and systematic investigation designed to test hypothesis through structured questions.
According to Dale Yoder, “HR research is a shortcut to knowledge and understanding which can replace the slower, more precarious road of trial and error in experience. It implies searching investigations, re-examinations, reassessments and revaluation.
It is a purposive and systematic investigation designed to test carefully considered hypotheses or thoroughly framed questions”.
1. Meaning of HR Research 2. Need for HR Research 3. Characteristics 4. Coverage 5. Objectives 6. Process 7. Methods 8. Approaches.
HR Research: Meaning, Definition, Need, Characteristics, Coverage, Objectives, Process, Methods, Approaches & Other Details
- Meaning and Definition of HR Research
- Need for HR Research
- Characteristics of HR Research
- Coverage of HR Research Area
- Objectives of HR Research
- Process of HR Research
- Methods of HR Research
- Approaches to HR Research
HR Research – Meaning and Definition by Michael J. Jucius, Dale Yoder and Other Experts
The study of human resource practices and activities gives the extent of success or failure of policies and practices. Research on HRM activities provides an understanding of what does work, what does not work, what needs change, the nature and the extent of change. HR research is, “the task of searching for, and analysing of facts to the end that HR problems may be solved or principles and laws governing their solutions derived.”
According to Michael J. Jucius, “HR research is the task of searching for and analysing of facts to the end that HR problems may be solved or principle and laws governing their solution derived”.
According to Dale Yoder, “HR research is a shortcut to knowledge and understanding which can replace the slower, more precarious road of trial and error in experience. It implies searching investigations, re-examinations, reassessments and revaluation. It is a purposive and systematic investigation designed to test carefully considered hypotheses or thoroughly framed questions”.
” According to another expert, HR research is “the task of searching for and analysing facts, to understand how personnel problems may be solved or principles governing their solutions derived.”
HR research implies searching investigations, re-examinations, re-assessments and revaluations. In other words, research is a purposive and systematic investigation designed to test hypothesis through structured questions. It seeks to answer specific questions and is not merely an accumulation of unstructured observations. It is objective; that is, it recognises and limits bias and prejudice in every step of the process.
a. It is systematic; that is, it begins with a comprehensive designs or plan, and the investigation is conducted in terms of that design.
b. It is parsimonious; that is, it identifies methods and techniques for the solution of problems with the minimum cost.
c. It is repeatable; that is, it can be used independently by several researchers at the same time.
A researcher has to follow a certain research procedure. In the first place, he has to define problem; that is he has to determine the problem that is to be solved by constructing research design. He has then to state his objective; that is, he has to determine the goal that is to be reached as a result of his research. E.g. formulates and tests a hypothesis and collects data as a result of his observation of personnel and following the issue of a questionnaire and the holding of interviews.
After the data have been collected, he classifies, analyses and interprets his information, draws conclusions, makes generalisations, or develops new hypotheses. Finally, he prepares a formal report containing statements, tables, charts and other explanatory or illustrative material, and submits the results of his research to those for whom they are meant.
The results of research projects, plans, findings and experiences are generally reported in a number of publications brought out by an organisation, and in a number of other journals, technical or business magazines; they are also covered in seminar reports, conference proceedings and monographs.
Yoder classifies these into three categories – (a) those professing a major interest in the field of personnel and labour relations; (b) those having a specialised focus on one or more of these; and (c) journals covering wider interests, which include reports on research in the manpower management area.
Research is not the sole responsibility of any one particular group or department in an organisation. The initial responsibility is that of the personnel department which, however, should be assisted by line supervisors and executives at all levels of management. The assistance that can be rendered by trade unions and other organisations – for example, educational institutions, private research groups and governmental agencies – should not be ignored, but should be properly made use of.
Psychologists, sociologists, economists, mathematicians, and specialists in business administration, political science and other areas should also be laid under contribution insofar as research is concerned.
According to Jucious, “The field of research requires the resources of several types of researchers and different kinds of tools. To seek answers through the methodology and principles of a single specialty is to build upon a weak foundation. Rather, research calls for a cosmopolitan attitude and interdisciplinary cooperation. The specialists who try to build a fence around all Aspects of research do themselves and industry a serious disfavor.”
HR Research – Need: Build upon Existing Knowledge, Evaluation of Proposed Programmes, Practices and Activities and a Few Others
Undertaking human resource research is often crucial in solving HR problems as it is difficult to make effective decisions without accurate information.
The human resource research is needed due to the following reasons:
(i) To build upon existing knowledge – Growth of the knowledge is a continuous and a never ending process. Human resources knowledge grows at a faster rate. HR research contributes significantly for building up of the existing HRM knowledge.
(ii) Evaluation of proposed programmes, practices and activities – The proposed programmes, practices and activities are needed to be appraised thoroughly, before implementation. HR research provides necessary information for evaluation.
(iii) Evaluation of current and new policies and practices – The action research provides for implementation of policies and practices based on the results of the research.
(iv) Anticipation of Personnel Problems – The HR problems are the outcome of employees’ dissatisfaction over several issues. These problems will lead to industrial disputes. The HR research can predict the possible problems and suggest measures for their prevention.
HR research is warranted due to the following reasons:
i. Growth of knowledge in the economy is tremendous and continuous. HR knowledge grows at a faster rate. HR research significantly contributes to building up of new knowledge and strengthening existing knowledge.
ii. HR research supplies the inputs needed for thorough evaluation of proposed programmes, practices and activities.
iii. In the light of HR research, current HR policies, programmes and practices need to be altered.
iv. HR research on various aspects of human behaviour helps the organization to spot out the areas of satisfaction and dissatisfaction of employees. While it may take measures to shore up satisfaction, it may take proactive measures to minimize employee dissatisfaction and the impending trouble to the organization.
HR Research – 8 Important Characteristics
Some of the important characteristics of HR research are:
(i) Human resource research is purposive. In other words, it seeks to answer specific questions.
(ii) HR research is objective. It recognises and limits bias and prejudice in every step of the process.
(iii) It is systematic. It brings with a comprehensive plan or design. Investigation is conducted based on that design.
(iv) HR research is parsimonious. It identifies methods and techniques for the solution of the problems with the minimum cost.
(v) HR research is repeatable. It can be used by different researchers at the same time.
(vi) It is planned and designed investigation and analysis.
(vii) It is conducted in a systematic manner to check or verify or disprove clues, assumptions or hunches.
(viii) It supplements knowledge and extends the frontiers of understanding.
HR Research – Coverage of HR Research Area
Research in manpower and human resources covers all those specific areas which are the subject matter of personnel administration. The scope of such research may vary from the very simple to the very complex, or from the short and inexpensive to the long and costly. Most studies reveal that the four most dominant areas of research are selection; training and development; attitudes and leadership; and measurement devices.
The human resource researcher seeks to discover the basic relationships which may lead to improved personnel decision-making in such areas as turnover, absenteeism, compensation levels and structure, job satisfaction, employee morale, assessment of managerial potential, training effectiveness, grievance handling, labour relations and collective bargaining.
Human resource research areas are often identified in terms of high or low appearance – selection, opinion measurement, training and development, appraisal, motivation, organisational effectiveness, managerial obsolescence, counselling and retirement. Managerial selection and development and general employee motivation have generally been identified as the two main human resources areas which are in the greatest need of additional research.
HR Research – Fundamental and Specific Objectives
The fundamental objectives of HR research have been listed here:
i. Promoting and evaluating present conditions.
ii. Predicting future conditions, events and behavioural patterns.
iii. Evaluating the effects and results of current policies, programmes, practices and activities.
iv. Providing an objective basis for revision of current policies, programmes, practices and activities.
v. Appraising proposed HR policies, programmes and activities.
vi. Evaluating and reviewing the linkage between organizational strategies and HRM strategies.
The specific objectives are:
(i) To measure and evaluate present conditions.
(ii) To predict future conditions, events and behavioural patterns.
(iii) To evaluate the effects and results of current policies, programmes, practices and activities.
(iv) To provide an objective basis for a revision of current policies, programmes, practices and activities.
(v) To appraise proposed policies, programmes and activities.
(vi) To keep the management abreast of its competitors by replacing old products by new products, old techniques by new techniques and old organisational practices by new organisational practices.
(vii) To discover ways and means of strengthening the abilities and attitudes of employees at a good or high level and on a continuous basis.
(viii)To evaluate and review the linkage and knitting between organisational strategies and HRM strategies.
HR Research – Process: Fixing Research Problem, Setting Objectives, Fixing Research Method, Collection of Data, Analysis and Interpretation & Report Preparation
The HR research process begins from the stage of a sign of grievance of employees. The management to be proactive should identify the possible future employee problems and offer solutions to prevent them. If, prevention of problems is not possible, the management should conduct research for solving the HRM problems.
Following are the processes of HR research:
1. Fixing Research Problem:
A researcher has to first fix a research problem for investigation. He can discover a research problem from industrial environment, survey of literature, observation, discussion with experts, etc. Researcher has to be clear about what he intends to study and why.
2. Setting Objectives:
Once the research problem is fixed, he has to formulate appropriate objectives and hypotheses. Otherwise research would be directionless.
3. Fixing Research Method:
i. It means the method of data collection. Data are of two types. One is primary data and other one is secondary data. Primary- data refers to data collected straight from the respondents while secondary data refers to collecting data from documents, libraries, records, magazines, journals, books etc.
ii. Next step for researcher is to design the research instruments i. e., questionnaire or schedule in the case of survey research.
iii. Researcher may collect data even from observation in the case of experimental study.
iv. Researcher has to fix sample where the universe is large. There are so many sampling techniques. He/she has to arrive at a correct sampling method and right size of sample in order to get valid results. Where the universe is small, he/she can contact all and cover the entire population.
v. The period of study needs to be fixed.
4. Collection of Data:
The researcher has to collect data from the respondents.
5. Analysis and Interpretation:
The collected data need to be analysed after processing it. Tables, charts and diagrams are used in analysis. Further, statistical packages are used to confirm the results of analysis. The data analysed are interpreted and then inferences are drawn. Final segment of analysis deals with implications of the results.
6. Report Preparation:
All the findings are accommodated in the report segment and finally suggestions are made for policy makers.
HR Research – Top 7 Methods: Historical Studies, Case Studies, Survey Research, Statistical Studies, Mathematical Models and a Few Other Methods
Various methods and tools may be used in the conduct of personnel research. Of the various alternatives available, a choice has to be made of research designs. The general practice is to choose the technique which promises to yield quality with the least difficulty, effort and cost.
Usually, the methods or tools, which are available for research, are:
Method # 1. Historical Studies:
Past records and documents are systematically investigated, and interviews are conducted with former employees. Almost all big organisations maintain records of the various personnel problems — absenteeism, turnover, accident rates, wage structures, etc. The essential feature of this method is “its systematic investigation, utilising an extended time span or longitudinal dimension.”
Method # 2. Case Studies:
These consist of analytically investigating the relationships which are significant in a particular situation or set of circumstances. Although the precise meaning of the findings of a case study is limited to its unique past situation, a careful analysis and thoughtful generalisation may be derived from it, which endows it with a broader significance and application.
Individual case studies may lead to the formulation of general hypotheses which would be useful in laying a foundation for additional or more intensive future research. The main merit of this method is that it enables the researcher to make a thorough, in-depth investigation of key incidents or situations, while its demerit is that it is historical in nature and does not necessarily represent general conditions.
Method # 3. Survey Research:
In a survey research, attention is concentrated on the collection of original data by administering a questionnaire or conducting a structured interview. Certain research hypotheses are established, and survey questions are designed to collect data. The correlation among observed phenomena, possible causes and related efforts is then computed, and conclusions are drawn.
This method is time-consuming and costly, and has been criticised on the ground that its application may emphasise the importance of the collection of data and not the importance of analysing these data and formulating a theory on their basis.
Method # 4. Statistical Studies:
These studies deal with the collection, analysis, classification and interpretation of mathematical data and quantitative information. They lay emphasis on the importance of qualification, mathematical manipulation, and statistical inference. They may use averages, means, medians, modes, measures of dispersion, trends, regressions and correlations. Their use is becoming increasingly widespread because of the development of high-speed modern electronic data-processing equipment.
Method # 5. Mathematical Models:
Mathematical models are generally used in research to explain the relationships among the variables that are to be examined. They help us to develop and test the designs and sequences of equations which tentatively describe the behaviour of interacting variables in terms of mathematical notations.
These mathematical models also help us to examine comparatively simple and extremely complex relationships and evolve decision rules of wide applicability.
Method # 6. Simulation:
Computers have popularised designs which involve simulation. The process begins with the statement of a hypothesis. It is used to study problems of production and inventory control, of marketing, purchasing, hiring and training of personnel, and of collective bargaining.
Method # 7. Field or Action Research:
This method has been most effectively used in understanding group behaviour in communities and working organisations. It involves difficult design problems, for the observer himself becomes a variable in the process of observation. This self- involvement on the part of the researcher gives him new insights; and these are gained from an active interaction which would not have been possible under passive observation.
HR Research – 5 Main Approaches: Historical Research, Case Studies, Survey Research, Experimental Studies and Exploratory Study
Following are the approaches to HR research:
Approach # 1. Historical Research:
Historical research traces the origin and development of HR problems in order to isolate and understand causative factors. It is based on past records and documents. Historical research provides a perspective of current events in the backdrop of past experiences. It systematically investigates on a time-span or longitudinal dimension.
Historical research throws light on development of a problem over a period and then suggests solution for it. This type of research is costly as it take a long time. Further, time gap between the occurrence of an event and its investigation, poses a major problem. It questions the validity of data unless it is empirically demonstrated.
Approach # 2. Case Studies:
It seeks to analyse in particular how an individual or an institution handles a given problem. This type of study enables a researcher to formulate general hypotheses which would facilitate further research for similar problems in future. However, case studies are not amenable to comparison as each case presents a unique contextual perspective.
Approach # 3. Survey Research:
In this type of research, researcher collects data from a representative sample population or from the entire universe through structured questionnaire or interview schedule. He/she frames hypotheses. Data collected are tabulated, analysed and conclusions drawn. This type of research is time consuming and costly as the investigation has to contact each and every sample respondent, for example, investigation of job satisfaction, absenteeism, attrition, morale, etc., comes under this type.
Approach # 4. Experimental Studies:
Experimental studies seek to investigate how one variable influences the other. In other words, it examines the behaviour of one variable when the other one is constant. The casual relationship is established. For example, impact of incentive on output, in order to establish a relationship between incentive and output, other variables like personality of employees, environmental influence, etc., are kept controlled.
In this context, employee can be directed to work for a number of days under identical conditions by varying incentives. If it is found that output varies with a given incentive, it can be concluded that other things being the same, that particular incentives influence the output.
Approach # 5. Exploratory Study:
Exploratory studies lay emphasis on the discovery of new ideas and insight, in order to have closer familiarity with a phenomenon or to get a new insight into a research problem to formulate hypotheses. For example, software company intends to discover why there is high degree of attrition among programmers. It may formulate specific hypotheses to be tested empirically. Thus, the reasons for attrition in this particular category of employees are found out for remedial action. This type of study may serve as a precursor for large studies. It does not involve much cost and time. It is said to be flexible in data collection.