Period 1: Strategic Human Resource Management
During this course, we delve into the principles and applications of theories of public management and strategic HRM. The key question is how strategic HRM contributes to organisational effectiveness, employee welfare and social welfare. By extension, we also discuss how to deal with the potential tensions between the interests of different stakeholders.
We will also explore the way in which the social and administrative environment influences the Human Resource strategy implemented by (public) organisations. This involves an international approach, focusing on the effects of institutional and cultural differences between countries, and on the level of cultural differences within organisations (including international organisations).
Research into strategic HRM’s contribution to organisational outcomes is contextualised for organisations with a public function. What does ‘public service performance’ mean specifically, in terms of the missions of schools, nursing homes and local authorities, for example? The effectiveness of strategic HRM policy is studied by focusing on:
- vertical integration: linking strategic HRM policy to the organisation’s strategic goals;
- horizontal integration: aligning HRM activities with one another, in the form of clusters focusing on abilities, motivation and opportunities to perform (AMO model); and
- people management: the implementation of HRM policy by managers, and their leadership behaviour.
In addition, this course focuses on theoretical developments in the areas of organisation of labour and employment relationships. This is because theories about ‘new organisational concepts’ claim that organisational concepts such as ‘high performance work systems’ help to improve service provision and the quality work. We draw on the literature to find out how different HRM approaches implement these concepts. In the same way, we study the extent to which organisations make practical use of such concepts.
The literature is constantly being illustrated with – and applied to – practical cases (at national and international level). As a subgroup, you will also work on a strategic management advice for a specific organisation. You will gather information about the organisation, using the Balanced Score Card model.
Period 2: HRM and Employees
The HRM and Employees course focuses on shaping employment relationships in organisations, taking the individual employee level as a starting point.
While strategic human resource management focuses primarily on strategy and HR policy issues at organisational level, this course deals with the search for human resource management for employees as individuals in an organisational context. One specific example of this involves employees in teams, another concerns the relationships between managers and employees.
There are various ways of shaping these employment relationships: First, based on functional HRM areas (employment practices), such as recruitment and selection, training and education, motivation and remuneration. Consideration will also be given to shaping HRM and employment relationships through the use of ‘work practices’ involving cooperation, participation and autonomy. In this course, we link employment and work practices to the context in which HRM is shaped. That could be either private organisations or public bodies. Having the ‘right’ employee in the ‘right’ place is not just a matter of applying best practices. It is also about using a wide range of tools to recruit and select the right person for the job, someone who will fit in with the organisational culture.
Organisations use various approaches in an effort to identify employee factors that could contribute to the performance of private organisations and public bodies. That is why it is important to understand what individual employees’ characteristics could serve as a resource for organisational performance. Take, for instance, the differences between men and women, young and old, in terms of their knowledge and skills; differences in types of motivation; in particular, motivation for public service and how HR policy can be geared to this.
The Public administration and organisation science perspective is a combination of various aspects of public administration and organisation science, such as the organisation of public services and a focus on public performance. In the context of the HRM and Employees course, this perspective is reflected by a specific focus on public bodies, and by spotlighting aspects such as the interaction between organisational contexts and individual employees. It is also reflected by our focus on social themes that directly influence the way employment relations take shape at individual level: HRM and generations; HRM and employees’ phases of life; employability and sustainable employability; HRM and diversity (for example, HRM and gender, and the balance between men and women in all layers of the organisation); HRM and vitality or burn out; and HRM and employee public service motivation and the role of leadership (including sector-specific leadership) in this context.
The HRM and Employees course draws attention to the international nature of the above-mentioned themes. It also features the differences and similarities between cultures and countries. For example, in the Netherlands or in Scandinavian countries, sentiments about workers’ well-being and employability (and about who is responsible for these areas) are quite different from the prevailing views in Anglo-Saxon cultures. This affects the form that HRM takes within organisations.
The materials used in the HRM and Employees course include publications taken from international journals (of many different types) in the area of HRM in public and private services. These publications are used to develop diverse perspectives on relevant HRM issues (analytical approach). HRM and Employees must be primarily based on empirical evidence (‘evidence based’). Various options are available, such as quantitative and qualitative approaches. In addition, HRM and Employees must be based on solid theories and research methodologies derived from the discipline of HRM itself, and from adjacent disciplines, such as Organisational Psychology, Public Administration, Management, and Public Management (‘methodological rigour’). Finally, HRM and Employees must be embedded in the contexts of organisations, sectors and nations/cultures (‘contextualised’).
In the teaching sessions, we discuss the literature you have prepared by means of questions related to the material. We study this literature using the above-mentioned analytical approach, focusing on the various disciplines’ quality requirements (past and present), including requirements pertaining to academic integrity. We expect everyone to participate actively in the teaching sessions and during the lectures given by guest speakers (invited by the programme’s lecturers) from the world of professional practice.
The two-part testing procedure consists of an individual paper on a subject of the student’s choice and an individual oral examination. The paper focuses on the student’s ability to formulate a research question and a research design, with a special focus on academic and social relevance. The oral examination tests the student’s ability to academically process the literature covered, and to apply it in practice (using a case study). In this way, you will master every aspect of the course materials. The oral examination also requires you to demonstrate certain skills that we purposefully practice in the course. These are skills that you will require in your subsequent working life, such as the ability to rapidly analyse, structure, apply and verbally explain arguments.
Period 3: The public dimension of SHRM and the research design
This course is made up of two related components. One part of the course builds on the theoretical Master’s courses from semester 1, by highlighting the theme of SHRM and the public domain. The key question here is ‘how do social/public issues find their way onto organisations ’HRM agendas?’. The other part of the course has a methodological emphasis and offers support in preparing the research proposal, as part of the research seminar. In addition, there are methodological workshops that also focus on your own graduation research.
During the methodological part of the course, you develop a research proposal that you will carry out in the research seminar. This work is performed partly under supervision and partly independently. We will discuss the requirements that a good research question must meet and how the research question impacts the methods used in data collection and data analysis. We will also look at how the social and scientific relevance of the research question can be substantiated. Finally, we will address how an academic literature review can be carried out aimed at clarifying the research question’s key concepts and at illustrating the academic state of the art associated with the research theme. At a later stage in the course, there will be methodological workshops focusing on qualitative and quantitative methods of research. Here, we focus on creating tools for data collection (topic lists, surveys, etc.) and data analysis.
The second part of the course is theoretical, highlighting the theme of SHRM and the public domain. The key point of the Master’s programme is that SHRM always has a public dimension, both in private and public organisations. Moreover, this is an international phenomenon. The key question we address in this part of the course is ‘how do social/public issues find their way onto organisations’ HRM agendas?’. Here, we focus on:
- the role of institutional pressure on organisations – as exemplified by government policy and by collective agreements between employer organisations and employee organisations;
- ‘voluntary’ initiatives by organisations and employers within the framework of Corporate Social Responsibility;
- the significance of New Public Management in public organisations in terms of placing social issues on the HRM agenda.
We will see that although these mechanisms have international validity, their role in placing public issues on organisations’ agendas is mediated by local factors. In other words, they are highly dependent on the characteristics of the specific national institutional context in which organisations operate.
During the sessions, subgroups will give a presentation. Here, the literature’s contribution to the theme of ‘The public dimension of SHRM’ is evaluated, and the literature is applied to a topical theme. This presentation will be assessed. Halfway through the course, you will write an individual paper. You will conclude the course with a subgroup paper, involving a theoretical reflection of the public dimension of a specific SHRM issue.
Periods 3 and 4: SHRM research seminar
The starting course of the SHRM Master’s programme deals with organisations’ strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM), in their administrative and societal context. Next, the HRM and Employees course deals with the development of SHRM policy in organisations, with regard to employees and other relevant actors. Within the theoretical framework explored in semester 1 and subject to certain preconditions, you have the scope to delve into the theoretical and research aspects of a research question of your own choice. Empirical research can focus on organisations in a wide range of sectors. However, the public dimension of HRM and/or its societal relevance is always an essential ingredient of these studies.
Period 3 marks the start of the research seminar, in addition to a course entitled The public dimension of SHRM. The research seminar continues on into period 4, at which point you will write your final thesis. The courses in period 3 are closely interrelated in terms of content, due to the public dimension of SHRM research. In terms of methods and techniques, this interrelatedness stems from collective research sessions and workshops (qualitative and quantitative research).
The public dimension of SHRM that is linked to the public administration and organisation science domain is reflected in the research seminar in the following three ways:
- HRM issues in public organisations such as hospitals, schools, local authorities, ministries and police;
- HRM themes with a public character. Some specific examples of these themes are sustainable employability, lifelong learning, diversity in organisations, women in top positions and the interface between social policy and HR policy with respect to vulnerable groups of employees;
- The debate about organisational performance. For example, productivity, turnover and profit versus organisational performance in a range of areas, such as organisational effectiveness, individual welfare, and social welfare.
This interpretation of the public dimension in the SHRM research seminar reflects the deliberate focus on both private organisations and public organisations in semester 1, and on students’ options for their research.
Writing up the Master’s thesis is the key element of the research seminar. You prepare for this by designing an empirical study, carrying out the associated research, and developing the results into an end product. The seminar is structured to support you in this process.
Before this research seminar commences, you will submit an initial research design to the seminar’s coordinator. Based on this initial design, you will be assigned a supervisor. Research projects in periods 3 and 4 are supervised in tutor groups, under the supervision of a lecturer. Together, these tutor groups form a knowledge community of students in the area of SHRM issues, within the public administration and organisation science domain.
In the initial phase of the seminar, the emphasis is on literature reviews and on sessions featuring presentations, joint lectures, and debates aimed at defining the research question and the research design. The emphasis gradually shifts to implementation, involving subgroup or individual contacts, depending on the nature of the topic in question. In March, you will present your research design to the tutor group. The first and second assessor determine whether the quality of this design is sufficiently good for you to proceed with the research project. Students also give each other feedback, by means of joint lectures. Once your research design has been approved, you can carry out the research and develop the results.
In June, you will present your thesis. At this point, you will receive feedback from fellow students and from both assessors.
Academic and professional skills courses
The world is globalising rapidly and organisations are becoming increasingly international in nature. This means that our own culturally determined behaviours are no longer the self-evident norm. As a result, it is important to develop the competences needed to cooperate with others in workplaces that are characterised by cultural diversity.
You will find this course particularly useful if you are keen to grasp the complexities involved in working for organisations where you will be cooperating with people from other cultures or sub-cultures. It will also help you assess your current level of intercultural competence, and will enable you to invest in practicing and improving your own skills in this area.
In this connection, we focus on four specific competences:
- intercultural sensitivity (how and to what extent people are actively interested in and are seeking information about the norms, values, perspectives and needs of people from different cultural backgrounds, and the extent to which people are aware of their own cultural background)
- building commitment (investing in building relationships with people from a different cultural background and being aware of the interests deriving from the culture in question)
- intercultural communication (consciously communicating with people from a different cultural background)
- dealing with uncertainty (being able to cope with the ambiguity, complexity and tension of culturally diverse environments, as well as seeing and using them as places in which to learn and innovate).
In addition to discussing academic articles, we get hands-on experience with various types of training, exercises and simulations. As part of the course, we will also seek out, experience, and reflect upon a range of intercultural settings.
Interested in working as a consultant after getting your Master’s degree? This course will acquaint you with organisational consultancy, with a special focus on consultancy work in the public sector. This involves completing a genuine consultancy assignment for a public organisation, together with fellow students.
The backbone of the course consists of three key elements in the consultancy process – the intake procedure, the quotation, and the actual consultation. This exercise will help you develop your consultancy skills. The assignment will give you experience in conducting intake interviews with clients (including real clients). You will also be able to practice the conversational skills needed to reach agreements with clients concerning quotations and end products. In addition, we cover the literature on the organisational consultancy profession, and debate with guest speakers (internal and external consultants) during their lectures. Finally, you reflect deeply on your own actions in a consultancy role and as part of a consultancy team, supported by feedback from your supervising lecturer and the client.