Sustainability in Human Resource Management

7 Pages   |   1,797 Words
Most managers have the wrong perception towards HRM; that it is a tool for administration and for solving human resource issues that arise in the workplace. However, HRM has even gone to another level, where it is no longer mere HRM but strategic HRM. Strategic HRM is a great tool for attainment of corporate sustainability. Corporate sustainability ensures that the present actions and practices will not put future generations of the organization in a position where they have limited or no access to resources. For corporate sustainability to be attained, corporate governance needs to be right. The policies that run an organization need to be set right so that the best results will be reached at. HRM is not easy, but it can be made easier if the organization takes steps to make the organizational culture one that does not hinder strategies for HRM and corporate sustainability.

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Most of the time, people in management do not see the great need for having sufficient knowledge about HRM in their organization. They look at HRM as a mere tool for administration and for controlling the employees in the desired direction. However, this is far from the truth. However, this notion ha changed to a great extent over the past twenty years, and HRM is now seen from a totally different perspective. It is today seen as one of the greatest tools an organization can have for overall success and corporate sustainability. HRM is, today, used as a tool by organizations for getting competitive advantage. Managers have come to the realization that human resource is one of the most ignored yet most powerful reserves any organization can ever have (Dunphy 2002).

HRM has even gone to another level, where it is no longer mere HRM but strategic HRM. This approach seeks to have the employees of an organization to be motivated, thus improving the overall performance and sustainability of the company. When strategic HRM is applied correctly, employees within an organization become strategic especially when dealing with the needs of the organization’s clients. This, and many other benefits, put the organization at a position of high and sustainable competitive advantage (Hermann 2005).

HRM serves as a very great tool in any organization regardless. It is an activity within the organization that adds value and that requires the attention of even the top management executives. However, the extent to which HRM is important in an organization of fully dependent on the level to which it puts the organization in a position of sustainability in competitive advantage. If HRM is seen to have high level of benefits in an organization, then it needs to be integrated in every step in the management of the organization (Zink 2008). The main purpose of this paper is to establish the link between HRM and corporate sustainability. For this to be achieved, corporate sustainability will be defined after which the usefulness of HRM to an organization in attaining corporate sustainability will be discussed.


In basic terms, sustainability is advancement, in whichever area, that covers for the immediate and present requirements without jeopardizing the possibility or capacity of future needs being met. Sustainability is a general term that is used in many disciplines, ecology being one of them. However, in this era of globalization, sustainability is used very frequently in business and in corporate matters. Corporate sustainability is the business approach in which the value of the customers is sustained for the long term basis. This is done basically by maximizing on opportunities and managing on the possible threats (SWOT). These opportunities and threats arise from commercial factors and factors related to the environment and the society. In order for an organization to have corporate sustainability, the management needs to put in place strategies through which the products and services of the organization can have sustainable advantage over competing products and services in the market. Companies that have high corporate sustainability portray a high intensity of the ability to combat various economic global problems and challenges in the corporate world (Hermann 2005).

Human resources are the only sure reserves any organization has for improvement in performance and production. Apart from this, the employees within the organization also get the satisfaction they need for maximum output. The organization also benefits by having greatly reduced risk levels and reduced costs of production. HRM is greatly linked to corporate sustainability especially because of the fact that it is impossible for an organization to attain corporate sustainability without total involvement of the HRM in the organization. Employees also need to be trained on the various strategies needed for corporate sustainability to be worked out in the organization (Dunphy 2002).

Performance management is also another way in which corporate sustainability and HRM are directly linked to each other. Measures for performance management need to be put in place whereby the performance of the human resource is analyzed and tracked in relation to the targets made known to the human resource, after which a rewarding strategy is put in place for motivation of the work force. In other words, corporate sustainability cannot be attained unless an organization stops placing much emphasis and focus on the shareholders but places it on its internal customers and both internal and external stakeholders (Zink 2008).

In order for corporate sustainability to be attained, the way in which things within the organization are run matters a great deal. This is where corporate governance comes in. Corporate governance is the set of cultural standards, policies and guidelines by which an organization is operated and run (Calder 2008). Corporate governance can either be poorly or well defined. Poor corporate governance is one that does not create an environment in an organization in which every party within the organization is given benefits that accrue to the observation of the strategy of best practice and the observation of high ethical standards. For there to be good corporate governance, there is need for the top management and executives of any corporation to be ethical enough not to negatively exploit the corporate power they have (Calder 2008).

Corporate social sustainability is also another tool used by organizations to get to a level where they have corporate sustainability. In the past, there was no involvement of firms in environmental issues until recently, where the governments in the world have put in place policies and measures that force organizations to be actively involved in environmental and social issues. The organizations’ involvement in these issues commercially benefits them, hence the reason why organizations are striving to have corporate social sustainability strategies implemented. Corporate social sustainability involves issues regarding human rights and social issues. As defined earlier, sustainability is an aspect that supports the practice of activities in this present generation that will ensure that future generations are not put in a position of lack or inadequacy or little access to the resources they require (Hermann 2005).

Almost all of the time, companies and firms do not apply corporate social sustainability with sincere motives of ensuring sustainability (socially and environmentally) for future generations. The motive is usually for commercial benefits, but it really does not matter in the end, because desirable results are obtained regardless of the insincere motive. Most of the time, corporate governance and corporate social sustainability are confused or interchangeably used, but the truth is that there are differences between the two. Corporate governance, being a set of policies by which an organization is ran, can be used as a tool for corporate social sustainability by putting into place cultures and policies within the organization that lead the human resource of the organization to take actions that will not jeopardize future generations’ accessibility to resources (Dunphy 2002).


There are key practices in HRM and industrial relations that can ensure that an organization attains corporate sustainability. The management should see to it that the human resource of the organization is adequately trained on the best practices for corporate sustainability. Also, the culture of the organization needs to be reviewed, because some of the aspects within organizational culture can be drawbacks to attainment of corporate sustainability. Every organization should first start by knowing and making it factual to the management that the organization’s human resource is the most ignored yet the most useful reserve the organization will ever have. Therefore, it is the human resource that can be used to ensure that the organization has corporate sustainability such that the present practices will not hinder the future efforts of the organization to have continuity and to have access to resources.


Corporate sustainability cannot be separated from HRM, and these two aspects need to be implemented hand in hand. It is not easy to attain a level of effective and strategic HRM, but the organization needs to try its level best to get to that point. It is difficult to implement strategic HRM because of the fact that it has been a culture over many years to let the managers run the show and to deny the employees any chance of having control. Also, the culture of the organization may be hard to change, and changing it can only be made easier by doing selective hiring and recruitment of new employees who should be adequately trained on the new culture the organization wants to embrace.  

  1. For an organization to attain corporate sustainability, the first thing that needs to be changed is the culture of the organization. There should be a review of the policies that run the organization (corporate governance), and a new set of these policies needs to be drafted.
  2. The management of the organization needs to get to a level where empowerment of employees is commonplace so that employees can be involved in decision-making processes. In order for employees to observe the best practices, then they need to be given a sense of ownership of the organization.
  3. Organizations should also shift from practicing mere HRM to a level of strategic HRM, in which the organization should adopt a policy of best practice.
  4. Also, performance management cannot be ignored, because it is the key factor for motivation of the human resource to do more and to do better. The best practices in performance management should be adopted, whereby the main focus is not only on performance evaluation but also on performance rewarding.

Calder, A. 2008. Corporate governance: a practical guide to the legal frameworks and international codes of practice. New York: Kogan Page Publishers.
Colley, J. 2003. Corporate Governance. New Hampshire: McGraw-Hill Professional.
Dunphy, D. 2002. Organizational Change for Corporate Sustainability. London: Routledge.
Hermann, S. 2005. Corporate Sustainability Branding: Nachhaltigkeits- und stakeholderorientierte Profilierung von Unternehmensmarken. Germany: DUV.
Zink, C. 2008. Corporate sustainability as a challenge for comprehensive management. London: Springer Publishers.

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