There are many ways to research the status of human resource management in an organisation. The general practice is to choose the techniques which promise to yield quality with the least difficulty, effort and cost.
1. Historical Studies:
Here past records are examined thoroughly. Exit interviews are conducted to elicit opinions of former employees. In an exit interview, people who are leaving the organisation are asked to state problems that cause them to resign. This information is then used to correct problems so that others do not leave.
Almost all big organisations maintain records of the various personnel problems absenteeism, turnover, accident rates, wage structure etc. The essential features of this method are “Its systematic investigation, utilizing an extended time span or longitudinal dimension”.
2. Case Studies:
Certain individual situations are closely analysed to identify issues of importance. Based on the conclusions drawn from such an analysis, steps to be taken in future are indicated.
Although the precise meaning of the findings of a case study is limited to its unique past situation, a careful analysis and thoughtful generalisation may be derived from it, which endows it with a broader significance and application.
Individual case studies may lead to the formulation of general hypotheses which would be useful in laying a foundation for additional or more intensive future research.
The main merit of this method is that it enables the researcher to make a through, in-depth investigation of key incidents or situations, while its demerit is that it is historical in nature and does not necessarily represent general conditions.
3. Survey Research:
In a survey research, attention is concentrated on the collection of original data by administering a questionnaire or conducting a structured interview.
Questionnaire gives employees an opportunity to voice their opinions about specific personnel management activities e.g., performance appraisal process.
Attitude surveys could be conducted to find employee’s opinion about their working environments (such as jobs, supervisors, co-workers, organisational policies). Organisational climate surveys could also be undertaken to determine how employees feel about the organisation.
The correlation among observed phenomena, possible causes and related efforts are then computed and conclusions are drawn.
This method is time-consuming and costly, and has been criticised on the ground that its application may emphasise the importance of the collection of data and not the importance of analysing these data and formulating a theory on their basis.
4. Statistical Studies:
These studies include the collection, analysis and interpretation of statistical data. They focus on qualifications, statistical inference, mean, median, mode, measures of dispersion, trends, correlation etc., to process the collected data. Use of statistical studies in research is increasing due to the development of high-speed electronic data processing equipments.
5. Mathematical Models:
These are used to explain simple as well as complex relationships among variables that are put to examination.
The models help the researcher to develop and test the design and sequences of equations which tentatively describe the behaviour of interacting variables in terms of mathematical notations. After the development of computers, use of mathematical models has increased.
6. Simulation Model:
In this case, a statement of the hypothesis is prepared and a model to simulate the interactions of variables is employed. This method is used to study problems relating to training of personnel, inventory control, collective bargaining etc.
7. Field Research or Action Research Method:
Under this method, the researcher involves himself directly in the process of observation.
Personnel departments, consultants, academic institutions, government agencies are often used to collect information relating to various aspects of personnel management.
Action or field research has been most effectively used for understanding group behaviour in working organisations.
It involves difficult design problems, for the observer himself becomes a variable in the process of observation. This self-involvement on the part of the researcher gives him new insights; and these are gained from an active interaction which would not have been possible under passive observation.
Personnel decisions can be improved through personnel research because better information leads to better solutions.
In the words of Mathis and Jackson, “Good personnel management comes through analysing problems and applying experiences and knowledge to particular situations”.