Giddens’ structuration theory and human resource practice in small firms
We studied HR practices in New Zealand small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by analysing semi-structured interviews with 48 SME owners-managers using Giddens’ structuration theory as an analysis lens. HR practices were shaped by routinised actions of actors, and employee agency was strong, as action (or lack of it) by a single employee could have implications for the whole firm. Employees were not purely economic agents, as the quality of work experience and family circumstances could shape their behaviour more than financial compensation. HR practices were reproduced through the reflexive actions of owners-managers, employees and their family members as well as of external agents, such as suppliers and regulators. The analysis suggests that, to implement HR practices, such as hiring, employee development, and employee retention/dismissal in small firms successfully, owners-managers should treat employees and members of their families as powerful actors co-creating, rather than merely being subject to, HR practices.
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