DISSERTATION CHAPTER 3 - HRM POLICIES AND PRACTICES: CASE STUDY OF THREE SMALL MEDIUM ENTERPRISES (SMEs)
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This chapter discusses the research methods available for the study and what is applicable for its use. Likewise, the chapter presents how the research was implemented and how it came up with pertinent findings. The chapter also features reflection on the conduct of the study and the inherent limitations of the chosen research design.
The research philosophy adopted for this dissertation is interpretive epistemology which simply refers to the philosophical underpinning of the research. Interpretive epistemology has a basic assumption that knowledge can only be created and understood from the point of view of the individuals who live and work in a particular culture or organization. Therefore, every individual acts in situation and makes sense of what is happening based on experiences of the situation and the expectations people bring into it. This means that there may be different understandings and interpretations of reality and interpretive epistemology leads to accessing meanings made by others and describe how they come to make those meanings (Hatch and Cunliffe, 2006, p, 14). The choice of this philosophy is important because it guides the research design, the research approach, choice of methods, analysis of the findings, and even the presentation.
Further, an instrumental case study approach was used since this enables the researcher to make generalizations based on the findings although only three case study organization would be drawn upon the SMEs and how they approached HR policies and practices. In an instrumental case study, the particular case is less important than the insight it can provide into a specific issue of theory. Thereby, the goal of this case study is to understand something more general than the case but nothing general sable to other contexts (Colwell, 2006, p. 331). Denzin and Lincoln (2005), however, contend that the case, although it is of secondary interest, plays a supportive role and facilitates the understanding of important concepts. Investigating the case in-depth has a purpose of pursuing an external interest (p. 445).
A multi-method approach was adopted, drawing on primary and secondary research. The reason for this is to be able to provide adequate discussion for the readers that will help them understand more about the issue under investigation as well as the different variables involve with it, the primary data for the study will be represented by the survey results that will be acquired from the respondents. The primary research involved qualitative methods. The study employed qualitative research method because it tried to find and build theories that will explain the relationship of one variable with another variable through qualitative elements in research. Through this method, qualitative elements that do not have standard measures such as behavior, attitudes, opinions, and beliefs within the organizational domain were analyzed.
A survey strategy which is also known as the questionnaire method was used to gather primary data. Commonwealth of Learning (2000) noted that surveys are the most common form of researching the descriptive of a group. This is important in understanding the audience, and in the definition of the existence and magnitude of the problems, and the survey data are also helpful in determining cause and effect relationships between variables. Interview questions are also developed to provide the researcher the opportunity to ‘probe’ answers, which can be done in instances where there is a need or want for the interviewees to explain further or build on their responses in the questionnaire (Saunders et al, 2003).
On the other hand, the literature reviews to be presented in the second chapter of the study will represent the secondary data of the study. The secondary sources of data will come from published articles from marketing journals, theses and related studies, books, company reports and official statistics. Sometimes, secondary research is required in the preliminary stages of research to determine what is known already and what new data are required, or to inform research design. Robson (2002) notes this as relevant to the subject topic and current issues relating to it. Acquiring secondary data are more convenient to use because they are already condensed and organized. Moreover, analysis and interpretation are done more easily.
In order to stay close to the subject area, the possible approaches and options for researching HRM in small organisations became apparent. One of the techniques that I used for the preliminary literature review for this study is the Boolean technique which makes use of and or. I searched for HRM and SMEs, HRM practices and policies, HRM practices or policies.
Structured questionnaire was designed for this study. Because the study originally planned to accomplish the questionnaire first prior to developing the interview schedule, close format questions were mainly used in the questionnaire. A ranking approach was also used to measure the degree of importance of the several statements. A five-point Likert Scale was used in this measure. The questionnaire is divided into three parts namely demographics, HR policies- and HR practices-related questions. There are a total of 11 questions. Questionnaires are handed to the three representatives of the SMEs and are given 1 week to answer the questionnaire.
Interview schedule was also used, talking to the representatives of the three SMEs who also answered the questionnaire. An interview schedule was prepared and asked to the HR representatives based on their answer on the questionnaire. Interviews conducted aimed at providing in-depth qualitative insights to the discussion. It is through the HR representatives that information about HR policies and practices collected. It was hoped that the results and information gained from the face-to-face interviews could then be cross-examined for comparisons and differences of the three companies.
Interview were set up with relative ease with the other two case studies and took place at a location that was convenient for both of us in the manager’s relevant offices with an informal and comfortable atmosphere. Due to the fact that I know both managers of the two case study organisations, I found that this had its advantages such as the ability to extract answers that were both detailed, truthful and went beyond what the author had previously considered aside from initially acquiring access.
Also, we were immediately at ease in each other’s company because we did not have to make initial formal introductions and perform icebreakers, which can sometimes be a challenge. Conducting the interviews is the favoured research method of this study as they proved to be extremely helpful. The overall practicality of the research method undertaken was within the scope of my capabilities given the time scales provided.
The survey and interview data were presented, with emphasis on the discourse that took place to illustrate the main points being made. To build on this and provide a structured qualitative approach, the use of qualitative data analysis was employed. Qualitative data analysis was used to collect relevant themes from the analyzed data and categorize them accordingly. From those themes, the study developed insights regarding the subject. Background reading formed part of the analysis process. Thematic content analysis, a process which is more mechanical where analysis takes places after data has been collected, was used. Thematic content analysis is always accompanied by comparative analysis and hence comparative analysis was also included.
With this said, the dissertation is presented in written format with the addition of tables to represent the results of the study. Once the data are completed and analysed, it will be presented through formal meeting. Copies will be given to the participating case study companies. Data will be saved in thumbnails and will be retrieved only by the researcher. In case of publication, written consent form the participating company will be accomplished first. Evidences will be destroyed 12 months after the research was conducted.
The study is limited on the elements of HR policies and practices as applied by SMEs. The utilization of a company as the basis of the case study is another limitation because of the fact that it cannot make generalizations.
I assume that it would not be very easy to gain access to the company and the target respondents but I will ensure that I will give all my effort as the researcher and negotiation skills to organize and conduct the interviews. For example, one of the case study organisations was difficult to get information due to manager expected to be interviewed was already leaving the company. Because of this, the interview for the third company is postponed.
One of the limitations of key informant technique is the extent to which they will reveal commercial information. As such, the study is limited on the amount of information that the respondents are willing to disclose.
Further, the study is limited to the respondents’ capability to answer questions in the questionnaire and interview schedule. Another limitation is the fact that their responses could have inherent subjectivity specifically because interviewees are more particular on their HRM policies and practices, that is, effectiveness.
In order for the management to entrust with me the commercial information needed and allow me to conduct survey and interview, I will ensure them the contents will be subjected to commercial confidentiality. To uphold ethics within the entire process, written consent will be secured, outlining the obligations and liabilities.