Practicing strategy : making sense of the activities and approaches of the HR function in a Sri Lankan commercial bank : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Management at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Human resource practitioners have increasingly gravitated towards a greater strategic positioning of their activities. However, progress towards human resource (HR) practitioner strategic integration has remained elusive. Arguably, HR practitioners need to enact a greater strategic role within organisations, and as such, play a greater role in organisational practices and performance. This thesis reports on a case study undertaken in a Sri Lankan bank, where 65 interviews were conducted with 55 people across 6 hierarchical levels. The research focused on understanding how the HR function, in conjunction with its organisational partners, attempts to act strategically. Specifically, the research questions were: (1) how strategic are HR practitioners in the development and implementation of practices across different business units; (2) how does strategic integration occur between HR practitioners and business units; and (3) what factors affect strategic integration between HR practitioners and business units? A review of the literature on organisational strategy and strategic human resource management indicates that while both fields have unique research gaps within their respective bodies of work, when refocused through a Strategy-as-Practice lens, additional gaps emerge at the cross-section of both streams of scholarship. Addressing these gaps would advance HRM and strategic management scholarship’s understanding of strategy activity in the HRM context. Findings show that there are a complex range of interconnections between external and internal contextual factors determining the extent to which HR practitioners can make a strategic contribution. Business units’ contextual elements were also found to vary significantly as did the integrative frameworks of practices and activities they sought from HR practitioners. Two main factors inhibited HR practitioners from delivering on these expectations: HR practitioner identity structures, and contextual constraints including lack of clarity in relation to the broader strategic intent. Furthermore, HR practitioners drew on patterns of previous activity when faced with ambiguity. This often involved them making more sense of ‘what being more strategic means’. This study identified contributions in relation to HR practitioners’ willingness and ability to assert agency around strategic change by interpreting cues from line managers, and thus removing them from the broader strategic expectations of the organisation.
Banks and banking -- Personnel management -- Sri Lanka, Strategic planning -- Employee participation -- Sri Lanka, Bank management -- Sri Lanka