Many studies have shown that total quality management (TQM) represents an up-to-date approach to the management of companies in a complex, turbulent, and global environment. In fact, TQM, as a multidimensional concept, offers the most advanced approach and a wider perspective on quality management that analyzes in depth its impact on strategic management, human resource, and information systems areas (Dale & Cooper, 1994; Wilkinson, Redman, Snape, & Marchington, 1998). In this article, TQM application in human resource management (HRM) (in terms of practices and implications for the company) and the role that technology and information systems could play as drivers in reaching HRM policy objectives are studied. To do this, TQM philosophy is introduced and, subsequently, the three main elements related to TQM implementation in HRM are discussed: the definition of the “success cycle”; the concept of “inverted pyramid,” an organizational structure designed to satisfy client needs, and where employees stay “at the top”; and the essential role that human resource information systems (HRIS) could play in the application of TQM to HRM, increasing employee satisfaction and enhancing customer needs satisfaction and loyalty.
TQM is a process that was applied successfully in industries in the USA in the 1980s. By using this process, many firms such as Xerox, IBM, and Motorola were able to improve their business positions by overcoming threats from global competition and other changes in the environment (Lozier & Teeter, 1996; Kanji & Bami, 1995).
There are many definitions of TQM (British Standard Institution, 1991; Evans, 1992; Lau & Anderson, 1998), but one of the most outstanding can be seen in the report from the Total Quality Leadership Steering Committee and Working Councils (Evans, 1992). This committee is sponsored by Procter & Gamble and is the result of a joint effort by many CEOs from important corporations and academics. The definition has been accepted by some academic papers (Becker, 1993, p. 32; Handfield, Gosh, & Fawcett, 1998; Larson & Sinha, 1995); it is as follows:
Total Quality (TQ) is a people-focused management system that aims at continual increase of customer satisfaction at continually lower real cost. TQ is a total system approach (not a separate area or program) and an integral part of high-level strategy; it works horizontally across functions and departments, involves all employees, top to bottom, and extends backwards and forwards to include the supply chain and the customer chain. TQ stresses learning and adaptation to continual change as keys to organizational success.
Taking the established definition as a starting point, it is possible to discern the basic elements of the TQM approach: stakeholder satisfaction (including customers, employees, and society), management leadership, strategic integration, people-focused approach, competitive advantage, global and horizontal organizational design, cooperation throughout the whole value chain, and continuous improvement and learning.
To conclude, the belief that organizations can gain a competitive advantage in the market by focusing on customer needs, continuously improving product and service quality, measuring improvements, and developing employees to their fullest potential is the core of TQM (Blackburn & Rosen, 1995).