Journal of Service Science and Management, 2013, 6, 273-282
Published Online December 2013 (
Open Access JSSM
Does Human Resource Management Help a Company’s
Financial Operating Result?
Rob. C. H. van Otterlo
Faculty of Law, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Received October 2nd, 2013; revised November 1st, 2013; accepted November 25th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Rob. C. H. van Otterlo. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. In accor-
dance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copyrights © 2013 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual
property Rob. C. H. van Otterlo. All Copyright © 2013 are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Human Resource Management (HRM) is widely believed to have a positive effect on the performance of company.
However, empirical proof of this is hard to come by. In this study, we try to establish a linkage between HRM and fi-
nancial output of two case studies in the profit sector. To do this, we have developed a performance measurement sys-
tem that is tailored to the specific needs of measuring HRM-performance in for-profit of company. Although we do not
try to generalize the outcome of this study, it looks promising in the way that more case studies should be conducted
using this specific performance measurement system. If nothing else, management and controllers could use the system
to evaluate the performance of their HRM-tools.
Keywords: HRM; Return on Investment; Finance
1. Introduction
As HRM has become increasingly popular in manage-
ment ranks, there are growing calls to make HRM efforts
measurable and thus subject to direction. Several HRM
theories associate HRM performance and organisational
performance with each other. They assume, based on
empirical research or not, that HRM has a positive im-
pact on a company’s operating result. Up to now, how-
ever, the “evidence” that HRM has a positive impact on
the operating result has often been insufficiently “hard”.
This article presents a theoretical model which partly fills
this “gap” in the literature. We wish to answer the ques-
tion: are the effects of HRM measurable and can they be
assessed quantitatively?
We also hope that the model will furnish a practical
tool enabling controllers to measure the effect of HRM in
companies. Based on such effectiveness measurements, a
controller can advise the board and HR manager on how
best to manage the company to optimise the HRM efforts.
In this manner, HRM should be able to make a useful
contribution to the particular organisation’s bottom-line
2. Structure of This Article
In Sections 3 and 4, we will start with a brief overview of
the various research schools regarding HRM perform-
ance measurement. After this, in Sections 5 through 9,
we will present our performance measurement model,
which relates to measuring a business’s general per-
formance, and then, in Sections 10 and 11, we will pre-
sent the specific HRM performance measurement model.
Next, we will offer specific recommendations in Section
12 on how controllers and management might use the
model in practice, and, finally, in Section 13, we will
make some concluding remarks.
3. HRM in Relation to Performance
The relationship between HRM and performance has
been the subject of a growing number of studies during
the past thirty years, particularly in the English-speaking
world. Dutch researchers have shown increased interest
in this theme as well [1-5].
HRM also appears to be gaining ground as an opera-
tional issue meriting attention by management. More and
more, the HRM departments within large companies are
Does Human Resource Management Help a Company’s Financial Operating Result?
being led by a director or manager who is a top executive
at the organisation. These departments thereby have a
greater interest in making clear the part HRM plays in
the overall business operations. The time seems ripe for
no longer being satisfied with implicit assumptions about
HRM/PM’s impact on the company’s operating result,
but instead, to start searching for empirically-supported
HRM performance theories which are as explicit as pos-
4. Performance Theories
It is generally assumed today that there is a positive rela-
tionship between HRM and corporate performance [6-9].
There are various theories, however, concerning the way
in which PM supposedly affects a company’s operating
Three major schools of thought are reflected in Table
These actually represent three HRM performance ap-
proaches: 1) strategic fit; 2) broad HRM approach with
implicit assumptions about HRM performance and 3)
normative theory. None of these schools, however, has
been successful to now in providing sufficiently hard
evidence demonstrating the connection between HRM
and company performance. In this connection, Guest has
stated, “There may be an association between HRM
practices and company profit (one of the potential cor-
porate objectives, RvO), but without some linkages (be-
tween the performance indicators, RvO), we will not
know why: we have no theory.”[10]
5. Company Performance: A Model
The research described here provides a model for testing
the effects of HRM policy against the operating results.
This article is limited to for-profit organisations. All
the models and performance indicators presented in this
article have been derived from a previous case study [11].
Figure 1 shows in diagram form how, under our
model, the effectiveness performance measurement is
ultimately determined. The operating result is assessed
based on a number of characteristics which, after being
multiplied by a weight, are clustered into effectiveness
criteria. In this manner, operating results within the same
sector can be compared to one another.
6. The Performance Measurement Model
In order to ultimately measure the performance of per-
sonnel management in practice, we developed a theo-
retical model, which can be tested empirically [11].
The model includes five “effectiveness criteria”, namely,
financial added value; efficiency; needs met; self-main-
tenance and satisfaction. These effectiveness criteria in
turn consist of 21 performance indicators, the “effective-
ness characteristics”. Effectiveness criteria and charac-
teristics must be formulated differently for each industry
and/or company. The effectiveness criteria and charac-
teristics from which they are composed, as used in the
empirical study mentioned earlier, are shown in Table
In terms of business operations, these characteristics
will not all have the same importance in every instance.
To assign a weight to these now, we asked 12 industry
experts to assign a value to each characteristic for pur-
poses of the case studies.
The 12 experts evaluated the different effectiveness
criteria on a scale of 1 - 5 {1 = irrelevant; 2 = unimpor-
tant; 3 = neutral; 4 = important; 5 = very important} with
regard to their perceived importance for their organisa-
tions’ business operations [11]. The results shown in Ta-
ble 2 are rounded-off averages.
Table 1. HRM schools.
School Theory Performance definition
Hendry & Pettigrew; Miles &
Snow; Schuler & Jackson.
(“Strategic Theory”, Michigan
Focuses on strategy: the relationship between possible
external, uncertain factors and HRM policy and practice.
A good “fit” between HRM and its
context (corporate strategy and corporate
structure) results in superior
“performance”. Performance is defined
primarily in financial terms.
Beer; Kochan; Katz & McKersie.
(‘Descriptive Theory’, Harvard
Broad HRM approach. Very general specification of the HRM
field and the related outcomes. Strong focus on the different
interests of employees in organisations.
No clear picture of the relationship
between HRM and performance.
Walton; Lawler; Pfeffer; Guest.
(“Normative Theory”)
Normative. Based on “best practices”, and implies “one best
If an integrated ‘set’ of HRM practices
(best practices) focuses on the normative
objectives commitment, quality and
flexibility, employees will automatically
perform better, resulting in better
organisational performance.
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Does Human Resource Management Help a Company’s Financial Operating Result? 275
characteristic 1weight
characteristic nweight
characteristic mweight
characteristic ... weight
characteristic kweight
criterion 1weight
criterion nweight
Figure 1. Interrelationship between effectiveness characteristic scores.
Table 2. Effectiveness criteria, characteristics and assigned weights.
Effectiveness criterion Characteristic Weight
Financial added value
Return on Assets
(ROA) 5
Labour ratio 4
Market share 4
Days of receivables outstanding 4
Turnover rate 4
ISO certification 4
Assessment standard 3
Needs met
Competitive price 4
Customer satisfaction 5
Delivery reliability 5
Just-In-Time deliveries 5
ISO certification 4
Organisational adjustment 4
Career management 4
New products 4
New services 3
Salary 4
Career management 4
Quality system 4
Occupational health and safety annual plan 4
Absenteeism 4
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Does Human Resource Management Help a Company’s Financial Operating Result?
7. Nominal and Scalar Effectiveness
We have used nominal and scalar effectiveness charac-
teristics in our model. Nominal characteristics are attrib-
utes in which the values are derived from categories,
such as: salary in/not in accordance with collective la-
bour agreement scheme and client satisfied/not satisfied.
Scalar characteristics are attributes in which the values
are expressed as quantities, such as: stock turnover rate
or number of days absent per year on account of illness.
The values for the nominal characteristics are deter-
mined by scoring each characteristic as yes/no or none
(or no)/present. For example: having ISO certification
(yes) generates 1 point; the lack of ISO certification (no)
generates 0 points. Note that, in our case, not having ISO
certification generates a neutral score of 0 and not, for
instance, 1, because, within the cases and industry ex-
amined by us, the benchmark for ISO certification is not
having this [11]! Of course, the values for the character-
istics may be different for each industry, and these will
have to be determined through research. A benchmark
must also be established for each characteristic. That is,
per characteristic, it must be ascertained, based on re-
search and/or literature, what a more or less “normal
score” is for that specific characteristic [11].
Table 3 provides an overview of all the nominal char-
acteristics utilised by us, along with the scores applicable
to the industry examined by us.
Table 3. Nominal characteristics and related scores.
Characteristic Value Rank Score
ISO Certification
ISO Certification (Efficiency) None normal 0
certification over 1
Salary in accordance with Collective labour agreement normal 0
Collective labour agreement plus over 1
Career management None normal 0
Present over 1
With MD excellent 2
Working conditions No occupational health and safety plan under 1
In accordance with occupational health and safety plan normal 0
Quality system None normal 0
Present over 1
Present and ISO excellent 2
Customer satisfaction No under 1
Yes normal 0
Delivery reliability No under 1
Yes normal 0
Just-In-Time deliveries No under 1
Yes normal 0
Competitive price No under 1
Yes normal 0
ISO certification No normal 0
(Needs met) Yes over 1
Market share Decrease under 1
Constant normal 0
Increase over 1
New products No under 1
Yes normal 0
New services No under 1
Yes normal 0
Organisational adjustment No under 1
Yes normal 0
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Does Human Resource Management Help a Company’s Financial Operating Result? 277
The values of the scalar characteristics are determined
by scoring each characteristic beforehand as to its spe-
cific performance falling within a ranking order. This
specific performance is measured against the benchmark
applicable to that characteristic. The ranking order is
shown in Table 4.
The score for the various scalar characteristics is de-
termined based on a benchmark (this is also true, by the
way, for the nominal characteristics) [11]. The following
items are examined for each characteristic:
What constitutes a “normal” score within the industry
What are the worst and best realistic scores within the
industry concerned, in other words: What is the lower
limit and upper limit for each characteristic?
To give two examples: Within the industry examined
by us, Return on Assets, or ROA, is a scalar characteris-
tic. ROA is expressed as a percentage. The scores associ-
ated with the scalar categories in this case are as follows
(Table 5).
If we look, for example, at the characteristic days of
receivables outstanding (see Table 6), then the bench-
mark is 30 days (this is the payment period which sup-
pliers themselves utilise in their delivery conditions) [11].
Excellent performance is achieved with a score of less
than 20 days, while more than 45 days results in a bad
performance score. We score all scalar characteristics in
this manner.
Table 6 sets forth all the scalar characteristics used by
8. Calculation of Overall Performance
We cannot regard the total score as an absolute value, but
must see it as an indication on a standard range made up
of two hypothetical extremes, namely, the bad performer
and the excellent performer (see Table 7) in the business
sector. The total score is thus standardised and results in
a figure between 100% and +100%. Table 7 shows the
effectiveness performance classes in which an operating
Table 4. Ranking order for scalar categories.
important Most
under normal over
2 1 0 1 2
Table 5. ROA scores for scalar categories.
Characteristic Lower limit Upper limit Rank Score
ROA - 6% bad 2
6% 9% under 1
9% 12% normal 0
12% 20% over 1
20% - excellent 2
Table 6. Scalar characteristics and related scores.
Characteristic Lower
limit Upper limit Rank Score
ROA - 6% bad 2
6% 9% under 1
9% 12% normal 0
12% 20% over 1
20% - excellent2
Labour ratio 45% excellent2
45% 48% over 1
48% 52% normal 0
52% 55% under 1
55% - bad 2
Stock turnover rate 2 bad 2
2 3.15 under 1
3.15 3.85 normal 0
3.85 4.5 over 1
4.5 - excellent2
Days of receivables
outstanding - 20 excellent2
20 27 over 1
27 33 normal 0
33 45 under 1
45 - bad 2
Assessment standard- 70 bad 2
70 75 under 1
75 85 normal 0
85 90 over 1
90 - excellent2
Absenteeism - 4% excellent2
4% 7.5% over 1
7.5%8.5% normal 0
8.5%10% under 1
10% - bad 2
Table 7. Effectiveness performance classification (EP = ef-
fectiveness performance).
performance classes
under normal over excellent
EP < 30% 30% EP
< 10%
10% EP
< 10%
10% EP
< 30% EP 30%
result may be classified based on the standardised per-
centage score.
9. Relative Performance Score
To be able to give a relative value now to the scores of
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Does Human Resource Management Help a Company’s Financial Operating Result?
the cases to be studied, we must place the total scores
from such cases within the two extremes, best case and
worst case (Table 8).
Table 8 provides an overall summary. The relation-
ship between the effectiveness score and the standard
range is expressed as a percentage thereof. The “normal”
scores from cases X and Y are completely arbitrary and
do not represent actual scores.
If, in the manner described above, the performance of
companies is measured and placed within realistically
selected extremes within the industry, a relative per-
formance score will be obtained for the company or
companies examined. Hence, as part of the measurement,
all nominal and scalar characteristics are given a score.
The final score will be determined by multiplying the
value of each characteristic by the weight of the charac-
teristic concerned. The scores thereby obtained for the
various effectiveness criteria will then be added together
to come up with a total score which falls within a certain
range, with a related rating.
In Table 9, we have applied this method to a fictional
Table 8. Final comparison for effectiveness score.
Case Eff. Score bad 30% under 10% normal 0% over 10% excellent 30%
Best case 56
Case X X%
Case Y Y%
Worst case 44
Table 9. Scoring table for “De Eik” (best case).
(Best Case)
De Eik Value Weight Score
Financial added value 1 26 26
ROA 21% 5 10
Labour ratio 44% 4 8
Market share Increase 4 8
Efficiency 1 26 26
Turnover rate 5 4 8
Days of receivables outstanding 8 4 8
ISO certification Yes 4 4
Assessment standard 91% 3 6
Needs met 1 9 9
Competitive price Yes 4 0
Customer satisfaction Yes 5 0
Delivery reliability Yes 5 0
Just-In-Time deliveries Yes 5 5
ISO certification Yes 4 4
Self-maintenance 1 11 11
Organisational adjustment Yes 4 0
Career management Yes 4 4
New products Yes 4 4
New services Yes 3 3
Satisfaction 1 24 24
Salary Collective labour agreement plus 4 8
Career management Yes 4 4
Quality system QM and ISO 4 4
Working conditions Occupational health and safety plan 4 0
Absenteeism 3% 4 8
Total score 96
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Does Human Resource Management Help a Company’s Financial Operating Result? 279
If, for example, we take a look at the effectiveness cri-
terion financial added value, the total score of 26 was
determined as follows:
In the first column, “21%” is shown for the scalar
characteristic ROA (return on assets). This 21% is an
excellent score within the industry and generates a
score of 2 (see Table 7).
Next, based on the benchmark, a weight of 5 (=very
important) is assigned to this specific key indicator by
experts [11].
If we now multiply the ROA value from the first
column in Table 9, namely, 2 (21% = score 2), by the
score from the weight in column two, namely, 5, we
get a score of 10 (column three).
The same calculation method applies to the nominal
characteristic market share in Table 9, which also
falls within the effectiveness area financial added
value, although the value of the concept ‘in crease’ (of
market share) here results in a score of 2. Market
share increase is a three-category question generating
1, 1 or 2 points for decrease, constant or increase
respectively (see Table 4).
When added together, all the scores in the financial
added value effectiveness area in Table 9 result in a
total score of 26.
When added together, all the total scores in the dif-
ferent effectiveness areas result in a final score of 96
for ‘De Eik’.
This total score of 96 represents a maximum score (=
100%) as the best case.
The same exercise for a fictional worst case results in
a minimum score of 74 (= /100%). [12].
The standard range [11] is thus 170 (distance be-
tween /74 and +96).
Every ‘real’ case will therefore have a score some-
where within this standard range [11]. For instance, if
a certain case results in an effectiveness score of 2 (=
/10%), this case will fall within the ‘under’ classi-
fication (between 10% and 10%, see Table 7).
In principle, the performance of any for-profit com-
pany can be measured in this manner. Different effect-
tiveness characteristics with their own specific bench-
marks may apply, though, to different industries and
10. The Performance of HRM
After having presented a theoretical performance meas-
urement model above which can be used to measure a
for-profit company’s overall performance, we will now
adjust this model to measure the performance of person-
nel management, the purpose of this article. The model is
essentially the same as the performance measurement
model presented earlier. An additional element is the
degree of influence which HRM can exert on the per-
formance of the various performance characteristics.
To measure the performance of personnel management,
we have to determine first the degree to which personnel
management is capable of influencing the key effective-
ness indicators formulated by us earlier. We need to bear
in mind that it is nearly impossible to determine whether
the key indicators or performance indicators used by us
are in fact comprehensive enough [13,14].
Our key indicators can be considered actual indicators,
that is, aspects of research objects which cannot be
measured in a direct sense, but which can be considered
key data or measured values based on which perform-
ance can be measured [15].
11. The Degree of Influence Personnel
Management has on the Key
Effectiveness Indicators
Because, as stated in Section 10, it is nearly impossible
to determine precisely the degree to which personnel
management influences the various key indicators, we
used a simple five-point classification, in which the po-
tential influence of personnel management on the par-
ticular key indicator is reflected as a percentage between
0% (not at all) and 100% (to the highest degree); see Ta-
ble 10.
Table 10 below provides an overall summary of the
key effectiveness indicators and the extent to which they
are influenced by personnel management.
For purposes of the ultimate measurement of personnel
management’s performance, we will not include key in-
dicators with a 0% score.
To assess personnel management’s overall perform-
ance, we will use the same performance class classifica-
tion as we used earlier to measure the company’s overall
performance (see Table 11).
Here, too, the performance measurement for personnel
management is relative. Realistically selected scores for
fictional best and worst cases indicate the extremes for
bad and excellent performers respectively (see Table
12. HRM Performance Measurement: An
A controller who is faced in practice with issues con-
cerning HRM’s effectiveness will, with the model pre-
sented here by us, be able to present a substantiated
evaluation of the quality of the HR policy to his or her
particular client. He or she will, however, have to adjust
the model for each client and possibly for each industry;
for different companies and/or industries, different per-
formance indicators and key indicators are necessary to
gain a proper picture of company performance and HRM
erformance. The performance areas or effectiveness p
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Does Human Resource Management Help a Company’s Financial Operating Result?
Table 10. Degree to which key effectiveness indicator is subject to influence by personnel management, expressed as a per-
Key effectiveness indicator Degree influenced by personnel management
Financial added value
ROA 75% = to a high degree (direct)
Labour ratio 100% = to the highest degree (direct)
Market share 0% = not at all
Stock turnover rate 0%
Days of receivables outstanding 50% = to a certain extent (indirect/direct)
ISO certification 25% = somewhat
Assessment standard 100%
Needs met
Competitive price 0%
Customer satisfaction 50%
Delivery reliability 0%
Just-In-Time deliveries 0%
ISO certification 25%
Organisational adjustment 75%
Career management 100%
New products 0%
New services 0%
Salary 100%
Career management 100%
Quality system 25%
Working conditions 75%
Absenteeism 75%
Table 11. Effectiveness performance classification (P = effectiveness performance).
HRM/PM performance classes
bad under normal over excellent
P < 30% 30% P < 10% 10% P < 10% 10% P < 30% P[]30%
criteria financial added value, efficiency, needs met and
self-maintenance will remain the same, at least for
for-profit companies. Moreover, it is likely that other
benchmarks will be needed and that the manner of for-
mulating financial performance may differ by company.
In the “Koninklijke Jongeneel” and “Houtgroep Van
Drimmelen” cases studied by me, we used such key in-
dicators as Return on Assets (ROA) for financial per-
formance. Of course, it is a well-known fact that entirely
different key indicators can also be utilised for financial
performance. For meaningful comparisons to be made
within an industry with regard to a specific company’s
financial performance, the indicators must therefore al-
ways be adapted to a single manner of calculating profits.
This will require some conversion work if companies
within an industry use different methods to calculate
profits. The various key indicators providing direction
for a certain company can, of course, largely be taken
from the annual financial and social reports. In addition,
the controller will have to determine the benchmark for
each key indicator. He or she can do this by, for example,
having various experts within the industry concerned
make a valuation for each key indicator. This will enable
the controller to fill the model with relevant information,
from which he or she can then ultimately quantitatively
analyse the company’s overall performance, and the
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Does Human Resource Management Help a Company’s Financial Operating Result? 281
HRM performance in particular, in the manner described
by us in this article. Based on this analysis, the controller
can advise the management of the company concerned as
to which specific operational and HRM aspects must be
given attention to, so that the company will be an ex-
cellent performer in the end.
It should be clear that, after such an analysis, the client
must be consulted to determine the right strategy for
boosting the effectiveness criteria and the related key
indicators responsible for insufficient performance up to
the right level. If, for example, an unfavourable ratio
between personnel costs and gross profit (profit before
taxes) appears to be a major cause of an insufficient re-
turn, the reasons for these high or excessive personnel
costs will have to specifically be analysed further. For
instance, the company in question may be utilising an
assessment system which is not appropriate for this type
of company. An industry which is sensitive to market
fluctuations may, for example, have an assessment sys-
tem which is rigid and inflationary and which is linked to
a fixed remuneration system, in which too many ‘good’
evaluations drive up wages each year while the market
does not afford much latitude for sufficient turnover
growth. In such a case, implementing flexible remunera-
tion for the commercial jobs may provide a solution. In
another situation, if the number of days of receivables
outstanding is too high, this may lead the company con-
cerned to underperform. It must then be examined
whether collection training for administrators can help
lower this score, so that the company’s profitability in-
In short, the model offers enough insight into per-
formance to be able to pinpoint, together with the board,
the particular company’s weaknesses and to provide this
board with a well-founded recommendation concerning
the action to be taken. In these discussions, maintaining a
clear idea of the bottom-line objectives of the organisa-
tion in question is always critical.
13. Concluding Remarks
At the beginning of this article, it is said that there is a
general assumption within the HRM literature that a
positive relationship exists between HRM and corporate
performance. It seems obvious that there is a relationship
between HRM and performance, just as there is a rela-
tionship between financial management and performance
or between logistical management and performance. Up
to now, however, an empirically testable theoretical mo-
del to measure this relationship was lacking. It is only
with such a model that HRM’s role in the overall opera-
tions can be clarified, with the premise that HRM is one
of the tools of management and not the pre-eminent tool
for improving company performance. As is true for other
management tools, HRM can have both positive and
negative impacts on company performance. HRM should
therefore not just be celebrated as a management tool,
which seems to occur as a matter of course especially in
the American literature [8-10,14], but can best be “sim-
ply” measured and then be assessed as to its quality
within its own particular corporate context. This is the
only way for HRM and personnel managers to get an
idea of the HRM areas they must pay attention to, if they
want to be able at all to make a favourable contribution
to their companies’ bottom-line objectives.
The questions we pose at the start, to wit: “is the per-
formance of HRM/PM measurable and can it be assessed
quantitatively and are we capable of developing a practi-
cal tool enabling controllers to furnish their clients with
useful advice in practice concerning the HRM policy to
be followed?” now can be answered with a “yes”.
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Does Human Resource Management Help a Company’s Financial Operating Result?
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