- The Universalistic Perspective
- The Contingent Perspective
- The Configurational Perspective
- The Contextual Perspective
- Comparison of the SHRM Approaches
- Arguments to Support the Configurational Perspective
- The Configurational Perspective and the Quantitative Method
- The Implementation of the Configurational Theory in Different Contexts
The literature review on the approaches to Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM) was conducted in order to discuss the main theoretical perspectives and models that are usually applied to SHRM. The traditional sources on SHRM perspectives were examined along with the recent researches in this topic area. The examination of the recent literature on the topic allowed analysing the current debates on the most effective SHRM models applied in public, semi-private, and private sectors. The review of the literature starts with identifying such popular SHRM perspectives or approaches as the universalistic perspective, the contingency perspective, the configurational perspective, and the contextual perspective. The traditional and recent studies were examined in order to state the main concepts of the models and to compare the approaches in relation to their effectiveness to be used in the context of discussing HRM practices implemented in the public sector of Qatar in 2009. The literature on the configurational approach was discussed with much attention in order to conclude why this approach is usually selected by researchers in order to discuss the effectiveness of the HRM practices’ implementation and why this perspective is often chosen to work with the quantitative data. In order to answer the provided questions, the current literature review is divided into several sections that cover the details of different SHRM perspectives, the comparison of the approaches, the advantages of the configurational approach, the appropriateness of using the configurational approach while working with the quantitative data, and the aspects of using the configurational approach in different contexts.
Keywords: Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM), SHRM approaches/models/perspectives, universalistic perspective/approach, contingency perspective/approach, configurational perspective/approach, contextual perspective/approach, configuration, bundle, fit.
Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM) can be discussed as covering the wide area of management tasks and approaches, including management of change, performance of the organisation, effectiveness, culture, that represent the organisation’s orientation to efficient strategies and future accomplishments (Den Hartog et al. 2013, p. 1640; Dhiman & Mohanty 2010, p. 75; Gill & Meyer 2011, p. 6). If traditional Human Resource Management (HRM) covers the areas of recruitment, training and development, rewards, and performance measurement while proposing practices to manage these fields, SHRM is oriented to developing and integrating strategies based on HRM practices that can lead the organisation to achieving the set strategic goals (Katou 2013, p. 676; Mann 2006, p. 36; Onyemah, Rouzies & Panagopoulos 2010, p. 1953; Sanders, Dorenbosch & De Reuver 2008, p. 413). In this context, there are different approaches to theorising SHRM. Today, researchers are inclined to focus on four approaches that are used to explain the basic features and principles of SHRM. These approaches or models are the universalistic perspective, the contingent perspective, the configurational perspective, and the contextual perspective (Martin-Alcazar, Romero-Fernandez & Sanchez-Gardey 2005, p. 634). It is important to state that four approaches differ regarding the specific aspect related to SHRM that is accentuated by the researchers who support using this or that approach to SHRM (Delery & Doty 1996; Khawaja, Azhar & Arshad 2014, p. 216; Pfeffer 1998). The aim of this review of literature is to compare the identified approaches to theorising SHRM and to focus on discussing the appropriateness of the configurational perspective to explain the situation regarding the recent adoption of HRM practices in Qatar. From this point, the literature review presents the discussion of four separate theoretical approaches to SHRM, it compares the aspects of the approaches with the focus on the configurational perspective, and it analyses the modes of using the configurational approach for analysing the situation in Qatar.
The Universalistic Perspective
One group of researchers have focused on promoting the universalistic perspective or the universalistic approach to SHRM (Beh & Loo 2013; Hamid 2013; Hughes 2002). Innes and Wiesner define the universalistic approaches as “based on assumptions of human capital theory” and focusing on “the notion that HR practices impact linearly on employee knowledge, skills, and abilities” (Innes & Wiesner 2012, p. 33). According to the proponents of the approach, while discussing SHRM, it is important to focus on certain ‘best’ practices that can be discussed as universally effective and valid to improve the organisational performance regardless the specific features of the organisation (Beh & Loo 2013, p. 157-158; Hamid 2013; Hughes 2002).
Thus, in their research, Delery and Doty state that the followers of this perspective claim that “some human resource practices are always better than others and that all organisations should adopt these best practices” (Delery & Doty 1996, p. 803). These researchers admit the fact that there is a linear relationship between HRM practices and changes in the organisational performance (Zheng et al. 2007, p. 694). If certain HRM practices are implemented in the organisation, they can guarantee the increases in performance. For instance, Pfeffer is inclined to offer sixteen best practices that are discussed by the researcher as effective to influence the performance in the organisation (Pfeffer 1998). The other researchers choose to determine practices oriented to training and development, compensation, security, and employee involvement as important to achieve the high performance (Beh & Loo 2013, p. 157-158; Hamid 2013, p. 186).
In this context, Allani, Arcand, and Bayad identify several specific principles according to which the universalistic model develops. These principles include the universality of the best HRM practices that can influence the organisational performance; the superiority of those HRM practices that can be discussed as strategic; and the autonomy of ‘best’ practices that are usually implemented separately, and their effects on performance are additive (Allani, Arcand & Bayad 2003, p. 237). Nevertheless, the problem is in the fact that the supporters of the universalistic perspective do not “study either the synergic interdependence or the integration of practices” (Martin-Alcazar, Romero-Fernandez & Sanchez-Gardey 2005, p. 634). Those researchers that choose the universalistic approach are inclined to measure only one HRM practice at a time in order to determine how effective this practice can be in order to influence the organisational performance or the employees’ attitudes to job (Allani, Arcand & Bayad 2003, p. 237; Delery & Doty 1996; Khawaja, Azhar & Arshad 2014, p. 216; Pfeffer 1998; Takeuchi, Wakabayashi & Chen 2003, p. 449).
The Contingent Perspective
The second group of researchers has developed the principles of the contingent perspective according to which the features of SHRM can be discussed (Bakshi et al. 2014; Bergeron, Raymond & Rivard 2004; Wan-Jing & Huang 2005). In contrast to the universalistic approach, the proponents of the contingent approach state that the relationship between HRM practices and the performance of organisation cannot be discussed as linear because it is necessary to achieve the match between HRM practices and the stages of the organisation’s development (Lepak, Bartol & Erhardt 2005, p. 140; Zheng et al. 2007, p. 694). According to Zheng and the group of researchers, certain HRM practices cannot be effective enough at different stages of the organisation’s progress, and the match of the practices and the organisation’s needs is the key to the success (Zheng et al. 2007, p. 694). The proponents of the idea of contingency choose to pay attention to certain variables that can influence the effectiveness of the HRM practices in the specific context (Wan-Jing & Huang 2005, p. 437-438). Thus, Bergeron, Raymond, and Rivard state that organisational factors and environmental factors can influence not only the choice of HRM practices necessary at different stages of the company’s life cycle but also the effectiveness of the practices’ implementation (Bergeron, Raymond & Rivard 2004, p. 1003-1004). In their turn, Allani, Arcand and Bayad (2003, p. 237) note that the effectiveness of this approach is in the perspective’s responsiveness to a range of external factors that influence the implementation of HRM practices and their fit to the business strategy.
If the universalistic approach accentuates the autonomy of HRM practices, the supporters of the contingent perspective point at the necessity of integrating different practices and factors like innovation, product quality, and customer satisfaction in order to achieve the higher performance (Allani, Arcand & Bayad 2003, p. 237; Rose & Kumar 2006, p. 19; Karanja 2013, p. 2). In this context, contingency means consistency of using certain practices in different situations when the company takes different strategic positions (Farr & Tran 2008, p. 378). In the situation when different organisations adopt different practices to support their strategies, it is necessary to measure the effectiveness of these HRM practices (Bowen, Galang & Pillai 2002, p. 106; Shih & Chiang 2005, p. 584). The followers of the contingent perspective measure the HRM practices while focusing on the criteria of a match and appropriateness rather than on the criterion of effectiveness (Bakshi et al. 2014, p. 89; Desarbo et al. 2005, p. 51).
The Configurational Perspective
The third group of researchers who theorise SHRM has adopted the configurational perspective, according to which the theorists identify “configurations, or unique patterns of factors, that are posited to be maximally effective” in order to promote the performance of the organisation (Delery & Doty 1996, p. 808). Waiganjo and Awino indicate that a set of configurations that are properly selected to be implemented as a unit in the organisation are ‘bundles’ in which certain HRM practices support the other practices in order to lead the organisation to completing the strategic goals (Waiganjo & Awino 2012, p. 82-83). Nigam and the group of researchers note that the HRM practices should be perceived as a system where the focus is on the horizontal fit and on the vertical fit that reflect the internal effectiveness of HR practices and the match of the HR practices with the strategy (Nigam et al. 2011, p. 149). Furthermore, according to the researchers, “a particular business strategy requires a specific approach to SHRM. It emerges from the contingency approach that the relationship between SHRM and performance is contingent upon the business strategy” (Nigam et al. 2011, p. 151). In this context, the configurational approach is the expansion of the contingent approach that is associated with the ideas of fit, synergy, and integration (Bahuguna, Kumari & Srivastava 2009, p. 101).
‘Synergy’ is a specific state or combination of practices to gain the benefits that is “achievable only if HRM policies and practices perform in combination and better than the sum of their individual performances” (Arshad, Azhar & Khawaja 2014, p. 94). Moreover, the ‘internal fit’ refers to the specific situation when the company can work “to develop interconnected and mutually reinforcing HRM policies and practices” (Arshad, Azhar & Khawaja 2014, p. 94). In contrast to the definition of the ‘internal fit’, there is the definition of the ‘external fit’. In their research, Arshad, Azhar, and Khawaja pay attention to the fact that when the organisation tries to develop a bundle of HRM practices “that comes fit with the business’s strategies even beyond the scope of HRM, case for ‘external fit’ stands for” (Arshad, Azhar & Khawaja 2014, p. 94). Thus, according to Raymond and other researchers, a configuration can be discussed as “the true essence of strategy to the extent that it results from the alignment (or “fit”) between the firm’s structure, activities and environment” (Raymond et al. 2010, p. 124). Martin-Alcazar, Romero-Fernandez, and Sanchez-Gardey also accentuate the advantage of the configurational approach to SHRM that is the possibility to develop the synergic integration of HRM practices as “a multidimensional set of elements that can be combined in different ways to obtain an infinite number of possible configurations” (Martin-Alcazar, Romero-Fernandez & Sanchez-Gardey 2005, p. 637). To support this idea, it is significant to refer to the research by Innes and Wiesner who have found that the multidimensional elements of HRM practices implemented in the organisation as a set or a bundle can work “synergistically towards internally coherent and valuable configurations of HR practices” (Innes & Wiesner 2012, p. 33).
If it is possible to apply a set of best HRM practices based on the internal and external fit to reinforce the effectiveness of practices in the organisation, it is important to identify the particular features of the organisational context in order to determine “the most effective practices leading to higher business performance” (Arshad, Azhar & Khawaja 2014, p. 98). While summarising the idea, it is relevant to state that the configurational approach “implied the specific configurations of HR practices with their respective organisational contexts” (Arshad, Azhar & Khawaja 2014, p. 98). From this point, it is important to speak about the configurational approach to SHRM as the holistic approach because the focus on configurations means the choice of multiple bonds and non-linear interactions between the specific strategy followed in the organisation and the set of HRM practices (Allani, Arcand & Bayad 2003, p. 238; Hughes 2002, p. 222; Uysal 2014, p. 130; Zheng et al. 2007, p. 694).
The Contextual Perspective
The other group of researchers chooses to focus on the broader perspective, such as the contextual approach, and analyses different contexts within which the organisation can develop (Brewster 1999; Martin-Alcazar, Romero-Fernandez & Sanchez-Gardey 2005). According to Martin-Alcazar, Romero-Fernandez, and Sanchez-Gardey, “while the rest of the perspectives, at best, considered the context as a contingency variable, this approach proposes an explanation that exceeds the organizational level and integrates the function in a macro-social framework with which it interacts” (Martin-Alcazar, Romero-Fernandez & Sanchez-Gardey 2005, p. 638). Innes and Wiesner identify the important features of the perspective while stating that the contextual approach shifts “a level of analysis to a wider network of stakeholders to social, institutional and political forces” (Innes & Wiesner 2012, p. 33).
In this context, the selected HRM strategies can influence and be influenced by both the internal and external factors. Moreover, the role of the environmental factors is emphasised because it is important to focus on the broader organisational context (Zheng et al. 2007, p. 695). In his research utilising the contextual model, Brewster accentuates the “importance of such factors as culture, ownership structures, labour markets, the role of the state and trade union organisation” in affecting the implementation of HRM practices in organisations (Brewster 1999, p. 48). The contextual approach is often used in studies in order to research the implementation of HRM practices in organisations with references to contexts that can change the perspective and the overall effectiveness of the certain practices.
Comparison of the SHRM Approaches
The scholarly literature presents different approaches to comparing such SHRM perspectives as the universalistic, the contingent, the configurational, and the contextual models. While comparing the universalistic and contingency perspectives of SHRM, Bahuguna, Kumari and Srivastava note that there are multiple dimensions of the organisational performance, and it is necessary to choose practices that are fitting in relation to certain dimensions and certain aspects of the strategy (Bahuguna, Kumari & Srivastava 2009). In this context, the contingency perspective is more effective than the universalistic one oriented to the use of unique ‘best’ practices in all the contexts. Wan-Jing and Huang note that there is lack of evidence to state that the universalistic approach is effective to be implemented in the organisation and achieve the strategic goal (Wan-Jing & Huang 2005, p. 437).
In their turn, Takeuchi, Wakabayashi, and Chen are inclined to support the use of the configurational approach because there is the evidence to state that bundles of HRM practices should be implemented symmetrically to the specific processes observed in the organisation (Takeuchi, Wakabayashi & Chen 2003). This model argues against the universalistic approach when one practice can be discussed as fitting in relation to multiple different organisations. When managers focus on using HR practices in bundles, the positive effects on performance and effectiveness of operations in organisations are more obvious (Lengnick-Hall et al. 2009, p. 68). Therefore, the configurational approach is more progressive and complex than the contingency one that was traditionally discussed as more effective than the universalistic model (Martin-Alcazar, Romero-Fernandez & Sanchez-Gardey 2013).
Following the configurational perspective, Choi and Lee suggest that the congruence among definite HRM practices followed in the organisation leads to the success and progress in the development (Choi & Lee 2013, p. 575). Thus, the implementation of only one HRM practice cannot produce the effect similar to the implementation of the bundle of connected practices selected according to the principle of congruence (Trehan & Setia 2014, p. 790). Furthermore, in contrast to the universalistic approach, or the ‘best practice’ approach, the supporters of the configurational model note that the implementation of one HRM practice or a series of non-connected practices cannot lead to such high results as the implementation of a bundle of efficient HRM practices (Oyler & Pryor 2009, p. 443; Pourkiani, Salajeghe & Ranjbar 2011, p. 417).
If the universalistic, contingency, and configurational perspectives share the same theoretical backgrounds that allow comparing the approaches effectively, the contextual perspective is based on the theories other than the rational theory, human capital theory, and the resource-based theory (Martin-Alcazar, Romero-Fernandez & Sanchez-Gardey 2013). Still, the researchers focus on comparing the approaches regarding the appropriateness of the SHRM model to explain all the types of relationships observed between the realisation of HRM practices and employees’ attitudes and behaviours (Oyler & Pryor 2009; Pourkiani, Salajeghe & Ranjbar 2011). From this point, the universalistic, contingency, and configurational perspectives provide more opportunities for studying the problem than the contextual perspective.
Arguments to Support the Configurational Perspective
The recent literature on SHRM approaches demonstrates the presence of active debates on the appropriateness of using this or that model in studies. From this point, it is important to start with offering the arguments for using the configurational approach in order to discuss the implementation and analysis of HRM practices in organisations. Thus, the researchers try to answer the question of why the configurational perspective should be selected to discuss the implementation of HRM practices in different contexts and with references to many ideas and visions (Allani, Arcand & Bayad 2003, p. 238; Arshad, Azhar & Khawaja 2014, p. 94; Delery & Doty 1996, p. 808; Smeenk et al. 2006, p. 2050). One group of researchers is inclined to state that the advantage of the configurational approach is in the possibility to focus on the system interaction effects observed in the organisation when the bundles of practices are implemented (Bergeron, Raymond & Rivard 2004; Colbert 2004, p. 345; Fiss 2007; Martin-Alcazar, Romero-Fernandez & Sanchez-Gardey 2013; Morris & Snell 2011; Payne 2006). From this perspective, such researchers as Allani, Arcand, and Bayad emphasise the necessity of allocation of four configurations, including expansion, development, productivity, and repositioning, in order to achieve the strategic goal (Allani, Arcand & Bayad 2003, p. 238). In addition, the researchers also stress on the effectiveness of the configurational approach for developing strategies in the organisation through the actual implementation of them because this model is centred on “the implementation of strategy (strategy as “realised”) rather than on strategic positioning (strategy as “planned”)” (Bergeron, Raymond & Rivard 2004, p. 1003-1004; Delery & Doty 1996, p. 808; Raymond et al. 2010, p. 125).
The other group of researchers chooses to focus on the fact that the configurational perspective provides the most complex view of implementing HRM practices in organisations to achieve observable results (Fey, Bjorkman & Pavlovskaya 2000, p. 2; Raymond et al. 2010; Stavrou & Brewster 2005; Wiklund & Sheperd 2005). Therefore, this approach can be discussed as holistic in comparison to the universalistic, contingent, and contextual approaches (Katou 2013, p. 676; Mann 2006, p. 36; Onyemah, Rouzies & Panagopoulos 2010, p. 1953; Sanders, Dorenbosch & De Reuver 2008, p. 413). Morris and Snell as well as other researchers note HRM practices should be implemented and analysed as systems because organisations can be perceived as systems of interconnected human resources, material resources, processes, and operations (Ahunanya, Ifebuzo & Nkemakolam 2014, p. 408; Morris & Snell 2011, p. 809). The researchers also conclude that the adopted HRM practices should also be implemented as systems related to each other. These systems or combinations of practices help to achieve the competitive advantage in the company (Morris & Snell 2011, p. 809). The next argument is associated with the concepts of the fit and synergy and their role for influencing the environment within the organisation (Innes & Wiesner 2012, p. 33; Krishnan & Singh 2001, p. 62; Morris & Snell 2011; Payne 2006).
In their research, Pourkiani, Salajeghe, and Ranjbar indicate that the managers and leaders in organisations should focus not only on aligning HRM practices and the stages of the company’s development, as it is according to the contingency approach, but also on aligning several HRM practices implemented in the organisation to achieve the higher results and to enhance the organisational performance and competitiveness (Pourkiani, Salajeghe & Ranjbar 2011, p. 417). The result of aligning HRM practices is the creation of the coherent HRM system that is oriented to approaching the organisation’s strategic goals. This internal alignment can be discussed as the horizontal fit that is associated with selecting the practices that can be effectively implemented as a set or a bundle (Morris & Snell 2011; Payne 2006; Pourkiani, Salajeghe & Ranjbar 2011, p. 417).
It is also significant to pay attention to the fact that the importance of bundling HRM practices is supported by many researchers who state that it is ineffective to implement and then assess individual or isolated practices that cannot demonstrate the overall progress in human resource management within the organisation (Bahuguna & Kumari 2008, p. 5; Becker & Huselid 2010, p. 381; Kase & Zupan 2005). Stavrou and Brewster clam in their research that when HRM practices are discussed by researchers in bundles, it is possible to analyse how different multiple practices can reinforce each other and associated conditions to affect the employees’ attitudes and performance (Stavrou & Brewster 2005, p. 190). Furthermore, different SHRM configurations can be used to influence different aspects of the human resource management, and it is important to vary the practices implemented in bundles in order to achieve the set strategic goal and improve the performance within the certain area (Pourkiani, Salajeghe & Ranjbar 2011, p. 419). As a result, there is the opportunity for achieving the benefits of synergy in the organisation (Bahuguna & Kumari 2008; Morris & Snell 2011). From this point, Payne states that the main focus is on achieving coherence and contributing to achieving the organisational strategic goals (Payne 2006, p. 758). In this case, the configurational approach to SHRM allows not only achieving the strategic goal but also analysing all the management’s strengths and weaknesses in a bundle.
While referring to the configurational model, researchers mention that they can concentrate on specific interactions in bundles of HRM practices that can further result in the most effective performance, high commitment, retention, and job satisfaction (Payne 2006; Pourkiani, Salajeghe & Ranjbar 2011; Scully et al. 2013, p. 2300). In addition, while focusing on both horizontal and vertical or internal and external fits, the researcher can conclude about the overall effectiveness of the model and management in the organisation because the stress is not only on the impact of practices on employees but also on strategic configurations (Waiganjo et al. 2012, p. 66). As a result, while using the configuration approach, an investigator can assess the specific need of the organisation for achieving the success regarding the vertical and horizontal fits (Garcia-Carbonell, Martin-Alcazar & Sanchez-Gardey 2014, p. 72).
Still, there are also many opponents of the idea of using the configurational approach to discussing the effectiveness of SHRM practices. Such researchers as Beh and Loo pay attention to the fact that there is no need to complicate the process of analysing the data when it is possible to use such linear approaches as the universalistic model (Beh & Loo 2013; Hamid 2013). This idea is also supported by Hamid who states that the universalistic approach is appropriate in many cases because it enables the researcher to focus only on one point or a practice at a time. As a result, the accuracy of conclusions increases (Hamid 2013). The other researchers point at the possibility to use the contingent approach because it is often used to demonstrate the relationship between the implementation of the HRM practice and employees’ performance or perceptions (Lepak, Bartol & Erhardt 2005). Nevertheless, there is no other model that allows the discussion of all practices and several clusters at a time. From this point, while focusing on the holistic analysis, it is necessary to choose the configurational model.
The Configurational Perspective and the Quantitative Method
Following the claim by Martin-Alcazar, Romero-Fernandez, and Sanchez-Gardey, it is important to note that the configurational model is a single approach to SHRM that allows focusing on the quantitative method in the research that is supported with references to the cluster analysis and factor analysis (Martin-Alcazar, Romero-Fernandez & Sanchez-Gardey 2005, p. 637). As a result, this model is usually used in empirical SHRM studies that are focused on discussing different sets of HRM practices as effective for different firms and organisations (Alusa & Kariuki 2015; Innes & Wiesner 2012, p. 48; Meyers & Woerkom 2014). Thus, in their research, Ibrahim and Shah studied such HRM variables as training, performance management, appraisal, and compensation and their impact on the employees’ performance and job satisfaction. It was found that HRM bundles of practices had a positive impact on the employees’ job satisfaction and productivity (Ibrahim & Shah 2012, p. 52). The literature shows that the use of the configurational approach allowed discussing the effect of HRM practices on performance and satisfaction from the larger perspective (Alusa & Kariuki 2015, p. 73; Bao & Analoui 2011, p. 33). Meyers and Woerkom also suggest the use of the configurational approach to measure SHRM practices in order to avoid the misleading results associated with measuring individual HRM practices (Meyers & Woerkom 2014, p. 193). It is also important for organisations to focus on bundles of appropriate HRM practices in order to understand the synergistic connections and consequences of these connections for the employees’ work (Guest et al. 2003, p. 293; Maryam & Sina 2013, p. 703; Trehan & Setia 2014, p. 790). From this point, the configurational approach is usually discussed as the most appropriate model to study the effectiveness of HRM practices from the holistic perspective and with references to the quantitative data.
However, according to Fiss, it is rather difficult to measure configurations because it is necessary to refer to clustering algorithms that are usually too complex to be used frequently (Fiss 2007, p. 1180). Still, it is important to state that the configurational approach continues to be the actively used approach in the field because of the necessity to work with variables that are supported by the quantitative data and that should be examined with the focus on the statistical analysis (Bartel 2004; Wiklund & Sheperd 2005, p. 73). In spite of the fact that the reference to the configurational approach means the focus on complex nonlinear relationships, it is a single approach that provides researchers with an opportunity to study nonlinear relationships as well as the synergistic and interaction effects (Marler 2012, p. 7; Michie & Sheehan 2005, p. 446). As a result, the researcher becomes able to create the empirical profile for studied configurations, measure them, and conclude about their effectiveness and impact on the employees within the organisation (Bartel 2004, p. 185; Fiss 2007, p. 1183). In the context of Qatar, bundles of practices or clusters that are effective to be implemented in the public and semi-private sectors are training and development practices; compensation practices; promotion programs; and performance management programs.
The results of the implementation of identified programs and practices can be calculated, and this fact is one of the main reasons to choose the configurational approach for discussing the issue. The assessment of HRM practices with references to the quantitative method means that the statistical analysis is expected to be used, and the main focus is on relationships between the identified variables. In this context, much attention should be paid to the configurational model that allows explaining the relationships from many perspectives (Guest et al. 2003, p. 293; Maryam & Sina 2013, p. 703; Trehan & Setia 2014, p. 790).
The Implementation of the Configurational Theory in Different Contexts
The implementation of the configurational theory in different contexts is usually studied from the cross-cultural perspective. The supporters of this idea note that the configurational approach can be effectively used in the environments other than the United States and Europe, when there are barriers for using it in the context of African, Eastern, and Asian countries (Arshad, Azhar & Khawaja 2014; Brewster 1999; Onyemah, Rouzies & Panagopoulos 2010). Thus, the researchers agree that the universalistic and contextual approaches are usually used in the western context, when the configurational and contingency models are appropriate to explain management systems in the eastern context (Brewster 1999; Martin-Alcazar, Romero-Fernandez & Sanchez-Gardey 2005, p. 638; Nigam et al. 2011, p. 149). The proponents of discussing the situation in Qatar with references to the configurational approach suggest that the discussion of patterns of HRM practices in the organisation can be more effective than the focus on individual practices because there are many cases in the eastern countries when managers try to implement not specific individual HRM practices, but focus on clusters of practices (Arshad, Azhar & Khawaja 2014; Williams, Bhanugopan & Fish 2011). Thus, in the broader context, the integration of the new HRM practices in Qatar’s public sector should be discussed from the point of the configurational approach because the proposed approach focuses on HRM practices that are directly associated with each other while aiming to reform the basic approach to using the HRM practices in the sphere (Williams, Bhanugopan & Fish 2011, p. 201).
The literature on SHRM models demonstrates that the configurational approach is associated with the idea that the performance and perception of employees can be influenced by the combination of certain HRM practices that are implemented in the organisations in order to achieve the strategic goals (Brewster 1999; Martin-Alcazar, Romero-Fernandez & Sanchez-Gardey 2005; Nigam et al. 2011). As a result, a configuration of HRM practices can guarantee that the practices implemented as a set are reinforced by each other. The reason is that the implemented bundle is a source for additional conditions that influence the development of practices within the organisation (Nair et al. 2007, p. 2; Williams, Bhanugopan & Fish 2011). While applying this idea to the context of Qatar’s public and semi-private sectors, it is important to note that the positive effect is possible when the HRM practices proposed in 2009 are implemented as bundles in public and semi-private organisations. The effective analysis of these outcomes is expected when the configuration approach is applied to the research that discusses the changes in the employees’ attitudes affected by the bundles of HRM practices (Nair et al. 2007, p. 4-5).
The implementation of bundles of HRM practices in the organisational environment means that there are strict relationships between the training and development practices and programs, compensation management practices, promotion, and performance management practices in relation to their impact on the employees’ perception and performance (Nair et al. 2007, p. 2; Shih, Chiang & Hsu 2006, p. 757). In order to enhance the positive changes in the public sector, HRM practices should work together (Arshad, Azhar & Khawaja 2014, p. 94). As a result, the complex implementation of practices based on the developed and proposed HRM policies is expected. In this context, it is necessary to see the whole picture and analyse the situation from every side (Lahteenmaki & Laiho 2011, p.168). The examined literature shows that the configurational approach adopted in the research is effective in this case to state whether the implementation of HRM practices as bundles in the public sector in Qatar can be discussed as the effective strategy and whether the proposed HRM practices are strategically oriented (Nair et al. 2007).
The attempts to compare different approaches to SHRM was made by many researchers, and the literature provides a lot of evidence to state what model can be effectively used in different contexts. However, it is important to note that the focus on the concrete perspective depends on the objectives facing by the researcher and on the context within which the certain model can be used. The configurational approach adopted in the research of HRM practices within the context of Qatar’s public sector can be discussed as an effective choice because this SHRM model allows discussing the results from the holistic perspective. In addition, it is possible to use and analyse the quantitative data with references the configurational approach because it is oriented to the use of the statistical tools and instruments for the analysis. The literature on the configurational approach demonstrates that having the opportunity to analyse the HRM practices in bundles, the researcher can refer to both the horizontal and vertical fits in order to conclude whether there are significant impacts of the implemented HRM practices on the employees; attitudes and behaviours. The examined literature supports the idea that the configurational approach is the most appropriate choice to discuss sets of HRM practices and their overall effect on the employees’ retention in the public and semi-private sector of Qatar.
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