Routines as a Perspective for HR-Professionals: Diversity as a Driver for Routines

Routines as a Perspective for HR-Professionals: Diversity as a Driver for Routines

Robert J. Blomme (Nyenrode Business Universiteit, The Netherlands & Open University, The Netherlands) and Xander D. Lub (NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0948-6.ch017
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This chapter examines how organizational behaviour is rooted in routines and habits. Using insights from sociology and cognitive psychology, the authors develop a framework which addresses the influence of the broader environment on organizational behaviour, including societal and generational developments, over time is discussed. The chapter argues that these broader environmental developments exert a greater influence on organizational behaviour than many managers and HR-professionals realize. To assist these professionals, the authors present three insights offering them a further understanding of organizational behaviour and how this may be affected by HR policies.
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There are many definitions of organizations, and there are even more theories. Some thinkers focus on organizations as institutions (e.g., Greenwood & Hinings, 1996; Campbell, 2007), whereas others focus on a complex of networks that extends beyond the organizational context (e.g., Thompson, 2003). There are theorists who see organizations as ecological and evolutionary systems (Blomme, 2012; Blomme, 2014) with self-sufficiency and continuation at the centre, or as political systems driven by power, influence and vested interest (Morgan, 1997). Others see them as cognitive systems based on interpretation and sense-making (e.g., Daft & Weick, 1984). And there are still other schools of thought that regard organizations as chaotic and complex phenomena (e.g., Stacey, 2006; Blomme, 2012). In short, there is a whole plethora of perspectives. Although these approaches differ in their views on organizations, all of them are founded on the same premise, namely that individuals form an important part of any organization and are responsible for the way in which that organization works, not just internally but also in relation to the outside world. People not only form part of an organization through their presence, but they also construct and give shape to that organization through their behaviour, bound by organizational contexts.

In the field of organizational research, a main focus lies on developing a clearer understanding and acquiring more knowledge about the behaviour of individuals in organizational contexts and about the way in which it evolves. A term that is frequently found in this context is ‘collective behaviour’, which was first coined by Park (1927). He postulated that the relationship between the social and physical environment affects individual behaviour and in turn individual behaviour affects behaviour of individuals belonging to that social environment. Collective behaviour results from the mutual influences exerted by individual behaviours that lead to individual behaviours, which strongly resemble one another. Whatever way you see it, collective behaviours are founded on individual behaviour. At the core of what we call ‘organizational behaviour’ lies the accumulation and convergence of all the individual actions and behaviours that form collective behaviour in organizational contexts; these actions and behaviours are iterative and demonstrate clear patterns. This premise is supported in the literature by the attention for organizational routines and the role of human behaviour in these routines (Van Maanen & Schein, 1979). Over the years, this perspective has become increasingly popular (Feldman & Pentland, 2003; Feldman, 2000), and it deviates from the more commonly accepted business and economic perspectives on routines, which suggests that routines are formal and rational instruments providing a structure and rule-setting for organizational members (cf. Nelson & Winter, 1982; Becker, 2004; Felin & Foss, 2009). Routines are iterative and recognizable patterns of dependent behaviours, demonstrated by various actors, which are of fundamental importance for the execution of tasks within organizational contexts and which include skills as well as knowledge (Rerup & Feldman, 2011). This description also indicates the importance of the concept of ‘routine’ in organizational research and in the initiation of change. Changes in routines lead to different behaviour, to different duties and thus to organizational changes. We could assume that a more thorough understanding of the origin of routines and the way in which these routines evolve would contribute to a better insight into organizations and henceforth, into the effectiveness of HRM policies and its execution.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Schemata: Mental structure of preconceived ideas, a framework representing some aspects of the world, or a system of organizing and perceiving new information which is used for further sensemaking.

Cognition: The set of all mental abilities and processes related to knowledge: attention, memory and working memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning and “computation”, problem solving and decision making, comprehension and production of language.

Habits: Routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur unconsciously.

Habitus: The expression of the collective cultural systems that underlie individual thought processes, perceptions and actions.

Routines: Iterative and recognizable patterns of dependent behaviours, demonstrated by various actors, which are of fundamental importance for the execution of tasks within organizational contexts and which include skills as well as knowledge.

Generation: A group of people who were born and lived (or are living) around the same time.

Disposition: A state of mind or inclination regarding an object or subject.

Emotion: A strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances mood, or relationships with others.

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