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One of the major challenges facing each and every manager today is based on the ways that can be used to achieve and sustain a competitive advantage over the competition. To this end, various strategies have been tried out, and others are being developed almost on a daily basis. One of such strategy is to allow employees some autonomy over either partly or a whole area of their work. It is envisaged that such will motivate the employees to put in more efforts in their work or even unleash their creative potential (Marschan, Welch and Welch 1997). This is attained by allowing employees to some level of discretion in what to do in order to solve some of the challenges they face in their work place. This is done both at individual or team level.
Allowing employees some independence over their roles is not enough. According to Jean (1996, p. 103), such employees need to have a guiding principle or framework within which they work. Such a principle acts as glue holding employees together so that they are able to bring their collective efforts attaining organizational goals. For this to happen, they must share in and indeed embrace the common principle. This then begs the question: how can we have employees working largely on their own accord and still be able to propel the organization to greater heights? Two things stand out: there must be both a strong corporate culture and line managers who are exceptional in people management skills.
Organizational culture can be looked at as the sum of attitudes, beliefs and practices that are spread throughout the organization (Leung and Cohen 2011). Put in other words, it is the collective will of members needed to move the organization ahead. It is important to note that corporate culture is established over time and may at times be against the laid down principles of the organization. Orlando, Susan and Ken (2013, p. 2576) are of the opinion that organizational culture is a key block that contributes to competitive advantage and sustaining performance.
A strong organization culture will contribute to the success of a big idea in several ways. First, it will help in reducing the firms operating costs involved in managing human resources. This is achieved through establishing a set of implied rules that unifies and regulates behaviors and actions of employees (Oliver 2011). According to Andrew (1995, p. 121), a strong organizational culture will include critical factors which cannot be copied by competitors hence attaining competitive advantage.
Line managers should be trained in people management skills for the success of the process due to three key functions that they play. One critical function of a line manager at this stage is conflict resolution. In any work arrangement, conflicts are bound to arise due to many factors, and thus, there is need for timely intervention in order to prevent them degenerating into disasters.
A line manager is closer to employees and interacts with them at greater lengths. They know them at a personal level and have personal connection with them. Therefore, they are better placed to encourage effort from them than the middle managers. Line managers actions should always be consistent and ethical so as to send a strong message to other employees (Elsemore 2001).
Another key function that the line manager will be required to play is coaching and mentoring of employees. It should be noted that some of the employees may need guidance on how to apply their discretion. Some may fear acting due to uncertainty or punishment should their action lead to losses for the company. The person who is likely to realize this and take appropriate action is the line manager.
The line manager will be expected to motivate and inspire his subordinates. This is to say that the manager should be in close contact with employees monitoring their performance and inspiring employees perform even better. This requires tact, which some line mangers may be lacking.
Pearson Australia operates in close to over 70 countries and faces unique challenges as far as development of people management strategies is concerned. This is because of its sheer size; its operations are spread over many countries and the fact that its employees are of a multicultural background.
This, in itself, means that before any policy development program commence, a SWOT analysis has to be carried out so that the organization can clearly understand its position and ways it will have to adopt in order to move ahead with its programs. Such an understanding is important as it points to the organization the likely alternatives it has for each and every situation it faces.
If SWOT analysis was to be used in developing a people management policy, several issues will have to be considered as illustrated below.
Pearson is a multinational company that operates in many countries for a substantial number of years. This means that the organization has a history of operating in areas where people come from different cultures. Such a rich history can be tapped in developing people management policies that can be effective and can lead to the motivation of employees (Horwitz 2012, p. 2942).
Another strength factor is that due to its larger network, it has a good pool of human resource personnel who can be used to diffuse already established policies (Horwitz 2012). Through meetings, conferences and other mediums of communication, employees and managers from across several countries can deliberate over the new policies and influence those skeptical to adopt the new practices.
One weakness the company faces lies within the organizational culture that is already established. Bendixen and Rijamampianina (2007, p. 832) observes that it is a fact that changing organizational culture is not easy. It takes time and sometimes challenging decisions to make employees and the managers to cede ground. Therefore, if the new policies are to conflict with existing organizational culture, then overcoming resistance will be a major challenge.
Another weakness that is likely to be experienced is the size of the organization. The organization operates in many countries; therefore, it is considerably large. According to Horwitz (2012, p. 2942), the net effect of the larger organization is that managing effectively all subsidiaries becomes a challenge, and therefore, application and development of a policy covering all employees may likely leave loopholes, which may not be easy to determine or even seal. Another challenge related to this is the possibility of the developed policy being rigid or simply difficult to apply in other countries due to existing differences in situations at hand.
According to Horwitz (2012, p. 2943), even in those countries where expansion opportunities offers are made to such companies as Pearson say in Africa, already there are multinationals there with westernized style of management. This means that expansion of the organization may not present it with strong challenges in terms of diffusion of its policies as it expands operations.
Travel and work conditions are steadily being relaxed by many developing countries as they seek more foreign investments. This is a big advantage as expatriates can be sent across nations to help with expansion programs of the firm.
Practices built around meritocracy may not be viewed favorably in some countries for instance, within the African continent and some of Asian countries such as Japan where seniority, service and age remain important (Horwitz 2012). This means that the firm may have to adjust its policies across the regions of the world in order to conform to the differences in culture. An attempt to capture the heterogeneity in culture within a firms policy may be a challenging activity since in the end, the policies may lack meaning and application may not be uniform hence likely to put the firm in an awkward position.
Another threat relates to differences in legislation across countries. Legislation touching on employees across countries tends to differ, and this means that application of policies will have to vary across countries whenever legislation is to be respected. Therefore, it creates a situation whereby established policies may be difficult to implement as envisaged.