New research: Why and how your perception of HR matters

December 11, 2019
Frances Jorgensen, PhD
Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources Management at Royal Roads

As a Professor in Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources Management at Royal Roads I am always fascinated by how employees perceive and understand Human Resources (HR). Research has shown us that how employees perceive HR, and the attributions they make about why HR practices are implemented will have a significant effect on whether HR has a positive influence on organizational performance or not. Also, research has shown that employees’ perceptions of HR vary considerably within and across organizations. To understand how and why employee perceptions of HR vary, Professor Karin Sanders has convened a global research team, including myself, to survey employees, line managers, and HR managers in organizations in 12 countries, including Canada.  The research team is currently recruiting interested organizations to participate in the study.

Why does your perception of HR matter? Previous research suggests when employees believe that HR practices are designed to intensify work and/or to reduce cost, they are less committed and less satisfied. To date, most studies designed to identify the factors that impact employee perceptions, understanding and attributions of HR focus exclusively on work-related factors, such as the way HR is communicated through the organization, and relationships with their managers and colleagues. Research on non-work-related factors is lacking, although they are assumed to play an important role in explaining the way employees perceive, understand and attribute their work context. For instance, employees who grew up in a household with parents with management jobs are likely to have another perception, understanding, and attribution of HR in comparison to employees with parents who are enthusiastic union-members.

The effect of the background of employees on how they perceive, understand and attribute activities from HR can be explained in different ways. For instance, in psychology and ethology, these kinds of effects are known as ‘imprinting’. Imprinting is any kind of phase-sensitive learning (learning occurring at a particular age or a particular life stage) that is rapid and apparently independent of the consequences of behavior. Research, for instance, shows that the relationship between the parents has an effect on the relationships children build in their lives. It can also be that having parents in management positions provide knowledge about the challenges and opportunities of this kind of position, which will influence their way of perceiving, understanding and attributing management decisions.

In this project, we are conducting a survey in organizations to measure how childhood and family background (imprinting) and the work situation/profession of the employees and their parents/partners impact employee perceptions, understanding, and attributions of HRM. We will also investigate how employee perceptions, understanding, and attributions of HRM vary according to the employees’ country of origin and the geographical location of the organization in which they are employed.

To make this project and to fully represent Canada, we need to recruit as many Canadian organizations as possible. We are looking for private, public, and not-for-profit organizations of all sizes and types to participate in the study.

The findings from the study will provide HR managers with the knowledge that can be used to make effective decisions regarding recruitment, selection, training and development and compensation and rewards for their employees. 

If you want to learn more about this research please get in touch with me. 


Visit RRU’s Office of Research to learn more about the other applied research that is taking place at Royal Roads.