The Role of Human Resource Management in Achieving Organisational Agility: Strategic Agility, Organisational Agility, Agile HRM, Workforce agility

Research output: Thesis (awarded by external institution)Doctoral Thesis


Whilst uncertainty and change has always been the focal point of strategic management theories, the increasing rate of change and uncertainty that organisations have been experiencing during the past few decades has stimulated new approaches to the strategic management of firms.
‘Agility’ has been introduced as an appropriate paradigmatic approach to integrative strategy making ((Doz and Kosonen, 2008, 2010; McGrath, 2013a, 2013b; Sharifi, 2014). The concept has been considered as providing a comprehensive and cohesive platform for addressing the new conditions in the business environment, epitomised in notions such as hyper-competition, hyper-turbulence, and the continuously morphing business environment, through the perpetual process of altering and adjusting the firm’s direction and courses of action (Doz and Kosonen, 2008). The main aim behind the concept is to maintain strategic supremacy and competitiveness by anticipating and taking advantage of change ((D'Aveni, 1994; Thomas, 1996; Doz and Kosonen, 2007; Jamrog et al., 2006), and coping with and surviving unexpected changes (Zhang and Sharifi, 2000).
Agile organisations rely on a series of agility capabilities such as strategic sensitivity, decision making prowess, learning aptitude and resource fluidity and flexibility (Hamel and Prahalad, 1993; Dyer and Shafer, 2003; Doz and Kosonen, 2008; Lengnick-Hall and Beck, 2009), many of which are human-related. A review of the agility literature revealed that achieving agility, similar to other value-based management philosophies, is heavily dependent upon various human factors such as Human Resources (HR) strategy, management approach and the prevailing culture of an organisation (Harper and Utley, 2001; Street et al., 2003; Dyer and Ericksen, 2006). However, the review of Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM) literature indicated that the SHRM studies have not responded to the agility agenda, thus, little is known about human resource management strategies and systems enabling organisational agility.
In an effort to fill this gap, this research has focused on exploring the people aspects of organisational agility aiming at:
1. Identifying the HRM critical roles in developing organisational agility
2. Developing a theoretical model for crafting and implementing a HR Strategy which assists organisations in acquiring agile attributes. The conceptual model delineates the key constructs and features of an Agility-Oriented Human Resource Strategy (AOHRS).
The research was conducted through exploratory qualitative research, collecting data mainly through semi-structured interviews with HR directors, agility professionals and senior managers from 17 large public and private organisations in the UK.
The research explicated the need and developed a conceptual framework for AOHRS, which gives explicit attention to an array of external environment forces. The framework proposes the need for ongoing reinterpretation of contextual information, frequent review of necessary individual and organisation-wide skills portfolio and capabilities profiles, and frequent re-evaluation of HR principles, policies and practices-in-use to reflect the persistent uncertainty and continuously morphing business conditions. The framework also offers for a dynamic HR system that can analyse capability needs continuously and have appropriate policies and practices in place to easily and quickly reconfigure the firms’ human assets.
The study contributes to the knowledge in the field of SHRM and organisational agility by presenting a comprehensive conceptual framework for AOHR strategy, complemented by an expansive definition for an Agility-Oriented SHRM suitable for an uncertain business environment. As part of this, the attributes and capabilities of the agile workforce, a series of Agility-Oriented HR Principles and a series of widely-adopted Agility-Oriented HR Practices are also empirically identified in addition to the characteristics and dimensions of an Agile HR Function.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Birmingham City University
  • Brown, Mike, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Strategic Agility
  • Workforce agility
  • Agile HRM
  • Organisational Agility


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