Sample PHD HRM Dissertation Proposal

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Challenges of Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM)

Research Focus: Project Based Public Organisations in Trade and Industry Sectors of UK


The proposed research will be based on an exploratory and interpretive paradigm to understand the challenges faced in strategic human resource management (SHRM), with a particular focus on public organisations of the UK in trade and industry divisions of the UK government.

The reviewed literature depicted that in a project-based organisation (PBO), the achievement of long term competitive advantage is one of the essential goals in large public and private organisations that lead to the modifications in management practices of new modes of operations. The transition from traditional to optimised project management techniques in government organisation not only involves the management’s change of mindsets, but it also requires changes in operational compatibilities of human resources.

Proposed Title

Challenges of Strategic Human Resource management (SHRM) in Project based public organisations in trade and industry sectors of UK


The successful progress of any organisation requires the adequate performance of Human resources as an integral component of organisational resources and capabilities. The studies of Hayton (2005), Peiseniece and Volkova (2010), and others have convincingly declared human resource management (HRM) as one of the most critical management functions as a driver of the value chain.

Project management is one of the contemporary management approaches with more concentration on achieving a single objective. With the increase in dynamics and complexity of the external business environment, the change management and project management approaches are widely used in public organisations (Kaufman and Miller, 2011).

This research proposal is based on analysing human resource challenges posed in the public PBOs during the transition phase. The literature is reviewed concerning the critical perspectives of studies about challenges in achieving the dynamic performance of HR in PBOs. Further, the discussion on research methodology is part of this proposal.

Rationale of Research

According to Mathis and Jackson (2011), strategic human resources management (SHRM) is one of the essential differentiation functions of a traditional management based organisation and a project-based organisation (PBO).

Pronjogo and McDermott (2011) argued the limitations of human resource management in public organisations project management approaches. Because of the traditional approaches followed in the bureaucratic setup of government or public departments, the transition towards PBO has specific challenges related to performance and skills management, adaptation to change, and modifications of operational strategies. Therefore, it is essential to analyse these challenges given the theoretical frameworks for HRM in public sector PBOs in the United Kingdom (UK).

Research Aim

This research aims to cover the essential aspects of SHRM to explore SHRM challenges in increasing the HR capacity and adaptation to change resulting from the transition of public sector project-based organisations (PBO) from the traditional public sector in the UK.

The proposed research will be related to the achievement of the following research objectives;

1. To understand the changing role of employees in a public organisation in context to PBO requirements in the UK.

2. To identify the modifications required in the HRM policies, practices, and designing of project teams in public sector PBOs.

3. To assess the capabilities and adaptation to transitional changes in human resources of selected PBOs in the UK

Research Questions

Given the complexities involved in the transition process faced by public sector organisations due to their size and diversity in human resource characteristics, the research will endeavour to answer the following questions;

1. What are the main challenges posed during the transition of a traditional public organisation to a PBO in the UK, and how do these challenges affect the modifications of HR practices to the new design of HRM in PBOs?

2. How do the roles and capabilities of HRM modify given the designing and management of project teams in public sector PBOs in the UK?

3. What is the consequence of the transition from a traditional to PBO on HR development and employees adapting to the new project environment in the context of public organisations?

Literature Review

This section reviews the relevant literature of project organisations and the challenges to HRM during the transition from traditional to project-based organisations (PBOs).

Transition to Project Based Organization (PBO)

The switching of traditional organisations to project-based, process-based, and change management-oriented organisations are pretty standard in the private sector. Similarly, public organisations also face the challenges of attaining the required performance in project-based settings. According to the proposed notion of Garies (2010), more frequent changes have been observed in recent eras due to the increased complexity and dynamic environment in consumers and business environments. Therefore, Turner (2009) declared the transition to a project-based organisational setup is essential to attain strategic organisational goals with a more focused approach. In contrast to the private organisations, the activities of PBO require a more focused and dynamic approach from public organisations due to their bureaucratic structure with less flexibility and large employee base to control HRM activities (Young and Howard, 2012).

The definition of PBO is stated in Muller and Turner (2010) as an organisation that delivers the services and products as per customers’ specifications and provides custom-built designs to suit the specific needs of clients or markets. Project-based organisations (PBOs) are comprised of a set of various projects and formed based on two categories of original PBOs and Projectified Organisations as shown in the following illustration:

Characteristics of PBOs in Public Sector

The category of the government sector in the UK is considered as Projectified organisations due to the transition made from traditional organisations to a more flexible and dynamic delivery of custom designs given the changes in the business environment.

Further, Gurbuz and Mert (2011) argued that the public organisations offered objectification to specific departments and service areas because of specified requirements of government projects, and the other sections and departments are governed through traditional management approaches. Hence, the requirement of practical human resources is one of the preliminary requirements in PBOs.

In view of the research of Perkins and White (2010) and Turner (2009), the changes in HR practices in PBOs are essential to address as the project’s development is associated with the designing of a new work environment on Projectified organisations. Jalocha et al. (2014) emphasise the development of critical competencies in project managers of Public organisations.

The designing and enforcement of project-centric training and perspectives development of individual employees are considered two main aspects of critical competencies (Jalocha et al., 2014). Further, Shaw et al. (2013) and Crawford et al. (2013) discussed the links of HR practices in a PBO concerning the employees’ development from the beginning of project management teams formation till the release in a project.

SHRM Challenges in the Public PBO

Compared to the newly formed PBO, the Projectified organisations like public organisations face resistance to change from existing employees. In this regard, Perkins and White (2010) and Snape and Redman (2010) highlighted that the public sector organisations have a permanent set of HRM practices and faced difficulty changing in a dynamic project-based environment where tasks change, and roles change regularly. Therefore, inertia and status quo are fundamental hindrances in rapid change management. The framework of SHRM activities in PBO is designed by Mathis and Jackson (2011) to elaborate on the significant challenges in incorporating Project-based HRM in large organisations.
The critical challenges identified from a literature review in PBOs are that work overload on project teams requires elevated levels of intensity of dedicated output m. Still, public sector workers found it difficult to manage high workloads in a dynamic environment. Ingason and Jónasson (2009) argued the presence of a stressful work environment as a reason for employees demotivation.

In addition, the increased requirements of soaring performance are difficult to achieve in view of the work concept in public organisation employees.

The other essential factors identified by the studies of Li-Yun, and Pan (2011) and Muller and Turner (2010) are linked to the development of career opportunities, flexibility in work routines and consistency in performance appraisal system for various projects in a single organisation are some important issues to be addressed.

Research Methodology

The exploratory research methodology governed by an interpretivist paradigm is selected for this research. The application of theoretical constructs of a PBO on the public organisational project settings needs a detailed and comprehensive study to align the concepts to the actual life practices of these PBOs.

The main areas of exploration are the development of SHRM practices in view of the challenges in current project-based working scenarios of public organisations in the UK. The studies of Li-Yun, and Pan (2011) and Jalocha et al. (2014) provided the necessary literature base for the HR settings in PBOs.

Further, the works of Crawford et al. (2013) and Snape and Redman (2010) will assist in determining the crucial variables of HR performance development in SHRM planning and HR linkages in PBOs.

The empirical research will be based on detailed personal and group interviews in five selected public organisations in the UK. The government departments operating in trade and industry are the main focus of the proposed research.

The nature of this longitudinal study will use an inductive approach in the collection of and qualitative data from interviews of project managers and HR managers in selected public organisations in the UK. Coding of data collected from interviews will be done by feeding qualitative data of interviews in RDA/QDA or ATLAS to convert qualitative data to quantitative.

The evidence in qualitative data will be collected through brainstorming, interviews, and focus group discussions with the project planners and HR managers in public sector organisations.

Summary and Conclusions

The changes in the environment and practices of individual employees in a public sector PBO are the most challenging aspects. The employees’ integration with project tasks needs a shift in mindset from traditional to task-based operations. The proposed research is expected to explore essential insights in the major transformations in public organisation SHRM to match the requirement of dynamic environments.

Proposed Work Plan

The span of the study is tentatively planned to three years, and a detailed plan is attached in Appendix.

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Crawford, E., Rich, B., Buckman, B. and Bergeron, J. (2013) ‘The Antecedents and Drivers of Employee Engagement, in Truss, C., Alfes, K., Delbridge, R., Shantz, A. and Soane, E. (Eds) Employee Engagement in Theory and Practice. London: Routledge

Gareis, R. (2010). Designing changes or permanent organizations by processes and projects. International Journal of Project Management, 28, 4, 314-327.

Gurbuz, S. and Mert, I. (2011) Impact of the Strategic Human Resource Management on Organisational Performance: Evidence from Turkey. The International of Human Resource Management. 22(8), pp.1803-1822

Hayton, J. C. (2005). Promoting corporate entrepreneurship through human resource management practice: A review of empirical research. Human Resource Management Review, 15, 21–41.

Ingason, H. T. & Jónasson, H. I. (2009). Contemporary knowledge and skill requirements in project management, Project Management Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2.

Kaufman, B. and Miller, B. (2011) The Firms Choice of HRM practices: Economics meets Strategic Human Resource Management. Industrial & Labor Relations Review. 64(3), pp.423-626.

Li-Yun, S. and Pan, W. (2011) Differentiation Strategy, High -Performance Human Resource Practices, and Firm Performance: Moderation by Employee Commitment. The International Journal of Human Resource Management. 22(15), pp.3068-3079.

Mathis, R.L., & Jackson, J.H. (2011). Human Resource Management (14th ed.). South-Western: Thomson. 592 p.

Müller, R. & Turner, R. (2010) Leadership competency profiles of successful project managers, International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 28.
Peiseniece, L., & Volkova, T. (2010). The necessity to evaluate human resource management in companies of Latvia. Economics and management, 15, 698-703.

Perkins, S. White G. (2010) Modernising Pay in the UK Public Services: Trends and Implications. Human Resource Management Journal. 20(3), pp. 244-257

Pronjogo, D. and McDermott, C. (2011). The Relationship between multidimensional Organisational Culture and Performance. International Journal of Operations and Production Management.31(7), pp. 712-735.

Shaw, J., Park, T. and Kim, E. (2013) A Resource-based Perspective on Human Capital Loses, HRM Investments, and Organizational Performance. Strategic Management Journal. 34(5) pp. 572-589.

Snape, E. and Redman, T. (2010) HRM Practices, Organizational Citizenship Behaviour, and Performance: a Multi-level Analysis. Journal of Management Studies.47(7), pp.1219-1249.

Turner, J. R. (2009). The Handbook of Project-based Management. Third ed. McGraw-Hill, New York and London.
Van Jaarssveld, D. and Yanadori, Y. (2011) Compensation Management in Outsources Service Organisations and its Implications for Quit rates,

Absenteeism and Workforce Performance: Evidence from Canadian Call Centres. British Journal of Industrial Relations. 49(s1), pp.s1-s26

Young, Y. and Howard, B. (2012) Financial Incentives, Professional Values and Performance: a Case Study of Pay-for-performance in a Professional Organization. Journal of Organizational Behaviour. 33(7), pp. 964-983.

Appendix – Detailed Research Schedule

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Frequently Asked Questions

How to write a Phd dissertation proposal?


To write a Ph.D. dissertation proposal:

  1. Choose a research topic.
  2. Develop a clear problem statement.
  3. Outline objectives and methodology.
  4. Review literature.
  5. Present a timeline.
  6. Seek feedback from advisors.
  7. Revise and finalize the proposal before submission.