According (Mitchell, no date). Thus, the company still

According to
Brockbanks (1999) findings, a firms’ performance was found to be higher if Human
Resources departments focused more on the strategic aspects of Human Resources and
less on operational agendas. In the 1990s the term ‘proactive’ started being
used within the field as a criterion for Human Resources success (Brockbank,
1999).  This was a result of Human
Resources function becoming more demanding and no longer being restricted to just
personnel training or administrative function. The term strategically proactive
refers to creating future strategic alternatives in advance of their actual
occurrence and making appropriate organisational shifts in response (Meshoulam
and Baird, 1987). According to Brockbank (1999), a Human Resources department
increases its potential to create competitive advantage as it moves from being
operationally reactive to being strategically proactive. Taking this into
consideration, this essay will demonstrate to what extent Christine Williamson,
the Human Resources manager demonstrates this approach.


According to Storey
(2007), adopting a more holistic approach considers a ‘soft’ version of Human
Resources which provides a long term focus, a step towards becoming
strategically proactive. The main function of the human resources department at
John Crane Flexibox is to monitor and control various personnel activities
which are performed in conjunction with the various organisational departments
including recruitment selection and training (Mitchell, no date). Thus, the
company still performs a ‘personnel’ function. Because personnel management is
seen as an outdated way of managing employees, giving priority to
organisational rather than individual development needs (Millmore, 2007), it is arguable that in order to be more strategically proactive, Christine
should adopt a more holistic approach. Holistic human resources practices expand
the departments position within the organisation using a strategic approach to promoting
initiatives that decrease cost, improve processes, improve productivity and
ensure employees maintain happy (Harney, 2006). Renwick (2003) argues that in
doing so, it will help the human resources department be closer in line with
overall business strategy, encouraging organisational success throughout the
company (Sadler-Smith, 1996). Brockbank (1999) suggests that implementing
proactive strategy can be earned by adopting the following two ways: Firstly,
by learning enough about the other functional areas in order to contribute to
business discussions regarding other functional areas and by secondly by increasing
and enriching the parameters of Human Resources agendas where strategic
alternatives can be created. Therefore, if Christina integrated her approach
with holistic practices the latter could be achieved. It is evident Christine
adopts a more traditional approach to human resources which may appear to be
disjointed when comparing with modern practices, adopting a more holistic human
resources approach considers the bigger picture, enabling the ability to
implement proactive practices.


Proactively adding strategic value and
aligning it with employees’ needs is essential for their engagement and
productivity level, Renwick (2003) argues that enhancing
responsibilities to line managers drastically improves engagement which will
help the organisation to meet its strategic goals. Christine set up new
arrangements for liaising with line management through regular meeting and
improved internal publicity for the work they do (Mitchell, no date). This proactively adds strategic value as it attempts to achieve the
alignment of employees to the organisation’s vision and objectives. In addition, engaging
line management to Human Resources issues provides them with an opportunity to
be involved in people management decision making, it’s beneficial as human resources
managers can maintain a closer orientation of an organisations procedures
considering organisational objectives, whilst ensuring the organisation is
aware of external environmental changes (Alf et al, 2013). However, Thornhill and Saunders (1998) argue that often problems arise
due to line managers not having the time, training or even interest in
addressing Human Resources issues. The latter reflects the case study as middle
managers at John Flexibox similarly resisted strengthening communications. Nonetheless,
although attempts to improve communications between line managers and employees
failed, Christine worked hard to attempt it which conveys she was attempting to
be proactive in some aspect of her practices.


Brockbank (1999) suggests that one of
the three ways to become strategically proactive is by creating internal
capabilities based on future external environment requirements. At John
Flexibox, the activities of the Human Resources department are mainly pragmatic
and opportunistic and tend to reflect the current state of the industry
(Mitchell no date), conveying a more reactive approach as opposed to proactive.

This approach appears to best reflect the ‘matching model’ in which the direction of
influence is one way with Human Resources responding to organisational
strategic imperatives influenced by the market. This approach relies on a
traditional approach to strategy as a logical, top-down process, indicating
that organisation structure should be managed in a way that is in line with
organisational strategy (Storey, 2007). This approach is necessary for effective
strategic Human Resources Management but does not consider future external environmental
requirements and thus is not ‘proactive’ in that sense. Kew and Stredwick
(2010) established a two-way model of the relationship between the environment
and Human Resources. They suggested that a way of analysing the external
environment is by the use of a political, economic, sociological and technical,
legal and environmental analysis. Each category and changes in it should
influence Human Resources. The case study does not show evidence of Christine
taking any external factors into consideration and therefore conveying the
department has limited proactive perspective, Christine could adopt a more
proactive approach if external environment requirements were taken into


It is clear there’s an absence of
integration between human resource management and businesses strategy in
Christines approach which is amongst the most important demands that is put
forward by modern day organisations in order to be proactively strategic
(Meshoulam and Baird, 1987).  Although
her actions attempt to improve communications in order to proactively improve
strategy through engagement, it is evident her approach is more traditional
than proactive. This essay sums up that in order to be more strategically
proactive Christine could adopt a ‘softer’ approach by integrating her
practices with more holistic practices, giving more responsibility to line
management in order to improve engagement which will influence proactive goals
and finally creating internal capabilities based on future environmental requirements.

Involving herself in all functions of the department in order to develop an in-depth
understanding of the organisation and its external influences is essential in
order to create future strategic alternatives in
advance of their actual occurrence and making appropriate organisational shifts
in response, achieving proactive strategies.