Globalization in the business theater is driving companies toward a
new view of quality as a necessary tool to compete successfully in
worldwide markets. A direct outcome of this new emphasis is the
philosophy of total quality management (TQM). In essence, TQM is a
company-wide perspective that strives for customer satisfaction by
seeking zero defects in products and services.
Making quality improvements was once thought to be the sole
responsibility of specialists (quality engineers, product designers, and
process engineers). Today, developing quality across the entire firm can
be an important function of the human resource management (HRM)
department. A failure on HRM's part to recognize this opportunity
and act on it may result in the loss of TQM implementation
responsibilities to other departments with less expertise in training
and development. The ultimate consequence of this loss is an ineffective
piecemealing of the TQM strategy. Thus, HRM should act as the pivotal
change agent necessary for the successful implementation of TQM.
HRM can act as senior management's tool in implementing TQM in
two fundamental ways. First, by modeling the TQM philosophy and
principles within its departmental operations, the HR department can
serve as a beachhead for the TQM process throughout the company. Second,
the HR department, with senior management's support, can take the
TQM process company-wide by developing and delivering the long-term
training and development necessary for the major organizational culture
shift required by TQM. The HR department also has major strengths in
terms of recruitment, selection, appraisal, and reward system
development to institutionalize a quality-first orientation. An
appreciation of the capabilities of HRM to model and institutionalize
TQM begins with an understanding of the TQM philosophy.
The TQM Philosophy
Implementing a total quality management system has become the
preferred approach for improving quality and productivity in
organizations. TQM, which has been adopted by leading industrial
companies, is a participative system empowering all employees to take
responsibility for improving quality within the organization. Instead of
using traditional bureaucratic rule enforcement, TQM calls for a change
in the corporate culture, where the new work climate has the following
(1) An open, problem-solving atmosphere;
(2) Participatory design making;
(3) Trust among all employees (staff, line,
(4) A sense of ownership and responsibility
for goal achievement and problems
(5) Self-motivation and self-control by all
The TQM approach involves more than simply meeting traditional
rejection rate standards. The end result of TQM is the efficient and
effective use of all organizational processes in providing consistent
quality at a competitive price. The TQM philosophy is a long-term
endeavor that links people and processes in a system that alters the
corporate culture to become one where quality is the core aspect of
In cultivating the TQM philosophy, strategy implementation must
involve a focused effort on the part of every employee within the
organization. It cannot be applied successfully on a piecemeal basis.
TQM requires that management, and eventually every member of the
organization, commit to the need for continual improvement in the way
work is accomplished. Business plans, strategies, and management actions
require continual rethinking in order to develop a culture that
reinforces the TQM perspective. The challenge is to develop a robust
culture where the idea of quality improvement is not only widely
understood across departments, but becomes a fundamental, deep-seated
value within each function area as well.
HRM as a Role Model for TQM
HRM can jumpstart the TQM process by becoming a role model. This
means that HRM has two specific tasks: "Serving our customers, and
making a significant contribution to running the business." This
emphasis on customeroriented service means that the HR department must
see other departments in the firm as their customer groups for whom
making continuing improvements in service becomes a way of life.
In their efforts to achieve total quality management, HRM can
demonstrate commitment to TQM principles by soliciting feedback from its
internal customer groups on current HR services. HRM should include
suggestions from its customers in setting objective performance
standards and measures. In other words, there are a number of specific
TQM principles that the HR department can model.
Applying TQM Principles in HRM.
The current emphasis on quality as a competitive strategy has
produced many views regarding the actions necessary to achieve it.
Leaders in the quality movement (Deming, Juran, Crosby,
Feigenbaum)(2)(8)(1)(4) have proposed similar approaches which share
certain themes. These themes can be summarized as five basic principles:
1. Focus on customers' needs;
2. Focus on problem prevention, not correc-
3. Make continuous improvements: seek to
meet customers' requirements on time, the
first time, every time;
4. Train employees in ways to improve
5. Apply the team approach to problem
To institute total quality management as a philosophy within an
organization, all employees must come to realize that satisfying
customers is essential to the long-run well-being of the firm and their
jobs. No longer is the customer-driven focus exclusive to the marketing
department. But customer satisfaction can only be achieved after first
defining the customer groups. The new perspective here is that all
employees exist to serve their customer groups, some internal and some
external to the firm. The human resources department has internal
customers to satisfy, which indirectly provides ultimate satisfaction to
In addition to identifying customer groups, there are other
essential TQM customer issues. Clarifying what products and services
will provide maximum customer satisfaction, measuring satisfaction, and
continually monitoring and improving the level of customer satisfaction
are all fundamental to the TQM philosophy. For the HR department,
applying these TQM issues would translate into identifying the
expectations of senior management -- their principal internal customer
-- regarding TQM, and spearheading the TQM program's implementation
on the basis of those expectations. TQM in practice for HRM might also
mean periodic surveys, both formal and face-to-face, to monitor senior
management's levels of satisfaction as the TQM process unfolds.
The TQM approach entails identifying the wants and needs of
customer groups and then propelling the entire organization toward
fulfilling these needs. A customer's concerns must be taken
seriously, and organizations should make certain that its employees are
empowered to make decisions that will ensure a high level of customer
satisfaction. This can be achieved by promoting an environment of
self-initiative and by not creating a quagmire of standard operating
procedures and company policies.(7) Flexibility is the key, especially
in a business environment that is diverse and constantly changing, as
most are today. In modeling these aspects of the TQM process, the HR
department would need to identify human resource concerns of other
departments and undertake to continually improve its performance,
especially in any trouble areas that come to light.
Based on this "customer first" orientation,
organizational members are constantly seeking to improve products or
services. Employees are encouraged to work together across
organizational boundaries. Underlying these cooperative efforts are two
crucial ideas. One is that the initial contact with the customer is
critical and influences all future association with that customer. The
other idea is that it is more costly to acquire new customers than to
keep the customers you already have.(7) Exemplifying TQM here would mean
that the HR department would need to train itself, focusing on being
customer-driven toward other departments.
Quality improvement programs typically involve the directed efforts
of quality improvement (QI) teams. Using teams and empowering employees
to solve quality-related issues using such tools as statistical process
control. (SPC) represent fundamental changes in how many businesses
operate. The Focus of SPC, also known as statistical quality control
(SQC), is defect prevention as opposed to defect correction. Defect
prevention results from continuously monitoring and improving the
process. In this context "process" refers to service delivery
as well as manufacturing. To ensure that output meets quality
specifications, monitoring is performed by periodically inspecting small
samples of the product. SPC alone will not ensure quality improvement;
rather, it is a tool for monitoring and identifying quality problems.
The effective use of quality improvement teams, and the TQM system
as a whole, can be reinforced by applying basic principles of
motivation. In particular, the recognition of team accomplishments as
opposed to those of individuals, and the effective use of goal setting
for group efforts, are important in driving the TQM system. The HR
department is in a position to help institutionalize team approaches to
TQM by designing appraisal and reward systems that focus on team
For many companies, the philosophy of TQM represents a major
culture shift away from a traditional production-driven atmosphere. In
the face of such radical operational makeovers, a determined
implementation effort is vital to prevent TQM from becoming simply
platitudinal and the team approach just another management fad. Senior
management must take the lead in overt support of TQM.
Senior Management and TQM
To be successful, a TQM system must be wholeheartedly accepted by
top management, who, in turn, must convey their commitment to all
organizational members.(9) The policy for implementation and maintenance
of the TQM system should be set forth in writing and incorporated into
the organization's mission and goals statements. The key elements
of senior management's role in implementing TQM are:
* Institutionalizing the TQM structure as established by stated
goals and formal policies and procedures; and
* Providing leadership as demonstrated by top management's
explicit expectations and behavior in everyday activities.
As previously mentioned, it is essential that top management set
organizational priorities and goals of the organization. The process of
setting goals and allocating authority, responsibility, and resources
must be continued throughout every level in the organization. The intent
is to have every employee's work support the organizational
priorities and to have each person know what to do, in measurable terms,
to accomplish the goals. In addition, progress must be monitored
regularly, according to agreed upon checkpoints, and employees must be
rewarded for attaining specified goals.(5)
In summary, top management's responsibilities in the TQM
implementation process include:
1. Initiating agreement on goals and measures
that cascade throughout the organization;
2. Providing the agreed resources (people,
money, training, machines, etc.);
3. Assigning authority and establish deadlines
to put resources into motion;
4. Monitoring progress in achieving goals,
not to apportion blame, but to aim for
5. Measuring improvement and reward both
the achievement of goals and the ways they
Beyond modeling TQM, the HR department, with senior management's
support, can play a leading role in implementing a quality strategy
across the firm.
The Company-Wide Role of HRM in Instituting a TQM Culture
Human resource management can plan a vital role in implementing and
maintaining a total quality management process. HR managers are
responsible for recruiting high-quality employees, the continual
training and development of those employees, and the creation and
maintenance of reward systems. Thus, TQM controls processes that are
central to achieving the dramatic cultural changes often required for
TQM to succeed. Tailoring the TQM cultural development program to the
firm's circumstances is essential in overcoming resistance to
change and moving beyond simple compliance toward a total commitment to
Holding a major liaison role between top management and employees,
HRM has many opportunities to establish communication channels between
top management and other members of the organization. Using these
channels, HR personnel can ensure that employees know they are the
organization's number one priority in implementing TQM. Building
trust through an open exchange of ideas can help allay fears regarding
the work-role changes that TQM requires. This can provide the foundation
for all employees to be trained to consider their peers in other
departments as internal customers. Here again, HRM has the opportunity
to emphasize this new outlook by example. By exemplifying a
customer-first orientation, HRM can help establish a departmental view
of service throughout the entire organization.
Part of HRM's functional expertise is its ability to monitor
and survey employee attitudes. This expertise can be particularly
important for a TQM program, since getting off to a good start means
having information about current performance. Thus, a preparatory step
is to administer an employee survey targeting two primary concerns. One
involves identifying troublesome areas in current operations, where
improvements in quality can have the most impact on company performance.
The other focuses on determining existing employee perceptions and
attitudes toward quality as a necessary goal, so that the implementation
program itself can be fine-tuned for effectiveness.
Obtaining cooperation from other departments in the use of surveys
largely depends on their perception of HRM's role in the survey
process. The challenge is to establish that HRM is not usurping
departmental prerogatives, but is instead a helpful collaborator
assisting each department in making their own quality improvements.
Emphasizing HRM's collaborator role can be accomplished in the
participative spirit of the TQM philosophy by involving other
departments in the development of the survey instrument itself. This
involvement begins the process of helping each department own the TQM
program which will follow. Thus, using a corss-functional TQM survey
development team provides an early opportunity for HRM to exemplify the
TQM team philosophy and dispel territorial fears about how survey
results will be used.
TQM and Training and Development.
In general, HRM is responsible for providing training and
development. With their background, HR departments are well-positioned
to take the leading role in providing such programs consistent with the
TQM philosophy. HR managers have an important opportunity to communicate
a history of their organization's TQM program and its champions.
Equally important, HRM can tell stories of employees who are currently
inspiring the TQM philosophy. As corporate historian, the HR department
should be primarily responsible for relaying the TQM culture to members
of the organization in employee orientation training.
Beyond communicating the TQM philosophy, the specific training and
development needs for making TQM a practical reality must be assessed.
Basically HR professionals must decide the following: What knowledge and
skills must be taught? How? What performance (behaviors) will be
recognized, and how will we reward them? HRM has faced these questions
before and can best confront them in the TQM process. Training and
development that does not fit within the realm of these questions will
more than likely encounter heavy resistance. However, training and
development does fall within the realm of these questions probably will
be accepted more readily.(3)
In practice, the authors' current experience with TQM suggests
that employees require three basic areas of training and development in
the TQM process:
(1) Instruction in the philosophy and prin-
ciples of TQM;
(2) Specific skills training such as in the use
of statistical process control (SPC); and,
(3) Interpersonal skills training to improve
team problem-solving abilities.
In developing TQM training programs, efforts should be aimed at an
integrated approach to the instruction process. Training objectives
should be directed at helping employees reach the goals set forth for
their individual jobs and the overall goals of the organization.
In creating a training and development format for any of these
areas, employees respond better to training they can relate to and apply
immediately in their daily work activites. Thus, whenever feasible, TQM
training efforts should deal with specific issues related to the
employee's immediate job.
If trainers are selected from outside the organization, they should
have a practical knowledge of the organization's operations as well
as a theoretical background in TQM. If possible, trainers should come
from both outside and inside the organization to provide a good mix of
diversity and practicality.
Whether the source of training is internal or external, the HR
department needs to be involved early in quality improvement teams. Once
trained, these teams focus on productivity-related problems where the
issues are complex; for example, identifying and solving bottlenecks in
the required time to complete a specific business activity.(12) In many
instances, these teams eventually become self-managing.(11) Where this
has occurred, the teams exercise great autonomy, scheduling their own
work, conducting their own training, and setting and controlling sick
leave and vacation policy, for example. In addition, they are often
involved in the selection of future team members.
The use of quality improvement teams, whether self-managing or not,
means that middle managers accustomed to solving problems and giving
directions, must be trained in new roles as coaches who guide and
support quality improvement team efforts. This major shift in the way
business is conducted requires much training for the long term. To gain
maximum benefit from a team approach to quality improvement, the HR
department can deliver training in areas such as conflict resolution,
negotiations, and interpersonal skills.
The substantial changes in work methods often required with TQM can
often cause workers and middle management to resist training efforts.
However, top management's personalized endorsement of TQM along
with clear rewards tied to TQM implementation can be the HR
manager's greatest weapons against such resistance. Therefore, HRM
needs senior management's visible endorsement in leading the TQM
change. For example, top management's involvement can take the form
of senior executives' regular attendance at training sessions to
communicate their personal TQM commitment, face-to-face with employees.
HRM, working with departmental managers, can develop reward systems
for teams different from traditional individual performance appraisals
based on quantity of production. Successful team efforts in improving
activity cycle times and reducing product defect rates can be the new
measures for rewards administered on a team basis.
Installing TQM and seeing bottom line effects may take years and
severely test top management's faith in the process. This means
that budgetary commitments from both top management and the HR
department for on-going TQM training carry both real and symbolic value.
Significant commitments signal that TQM is not a passing management fad.
Developing TQM takes time, and defining the length of training
needed for a specific firm is difficult at best. The long jouney toward
developing a full-blown TQM program can best be conceived as a series of
TQM Implementation Stages.
The foundation of the entire TQM process is an employee's
awareness that quality is vitally necessary and a top organizational
priority. Building this foundation begins with extensive "quality
awareness" training for all organization members. Sensitivity to
quality starts with senior management training followed by the training
of middle- and lower-level managers. The development of participatory
leadership styles needs to follow in close order. Managers must be
taught to feel comfortable with the nontraditional roles of coach and
team facilitator, since quality teams now decide what's wrong and
how to fix it. Management monitors, instead of directs, team efforts.
Authoritarian leadership styles can spell the death knell for a TQM
program. Therefore, unlearning of old behaviors may have to take place
before new behaviors can be adapted. Management training must dovetail
with that of quality teams. The end result is a synergy between the
quality team and the manager that produces solutions to quality
After training in quality awareness is completed, the second stage
of implementation focuses on training managers and quality teams in the
techniques (tools) for achieving quality improvements, such as
statistical process control. This training is immediately followed by
meetings with customers to define their satisfaction requirements. The
overall goal of the initial training sessions is to develop employee
understanding of all facets of TQM.
The third implementation stage is the promotion of employee
involvement and commitment by establishing employee suggestion systems
and quality improvement teams. These actions can stimulate, either
through formal or informal channels, a cooperative effort among
different functional departments that must work together to produce a
product or service. This is the essence of cross-functional teamwork: a
collaboration where different functional groups work together toward
improving total quality.
This need for participation and cooperation extends beyond company
boundaries and provides the basis for a fourth implementation stage. To
emphasize a customer-centered focus, many companies have set up customer
and supplier councils, which seek to develop better relationships
between a firm and its customers and suppliers. For example, a group of
employees from both the firm and a key supplier may meet on a regular
basis to discuss and solve various problems regarding quality, delivery,
pricing, product design, materials specifications, and packaging. The
face-to-face feedback and free flow of advice and opinions may solve
problems before they occur and also builds trust between the parties.
Some organizations have even offered TQM training to their suppliers to
assure raw materials that meet the firm's quality specifications.
Motorola goes a step further, requiring their suppliers to prove
themselves by applying for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality
TQM and Recruitment and Selection.
HRM's responsibility in implementing TQM should extend beyond
the training and development of existing employees. HRM must take the
lead in attracting, retaining and motivating a high quality work
force.(6) Successful recruitment and selection of employees with the
proper knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes compatible with a TQM
philosophy can be a driving force supporting continued program
effectiveness. In recruiting for all departments and for all
organizational levels, the HR department can identify people who will
promote the TQM philosophy. Candidate qualities to target in recruiting
include a willingness to receive new training and to expand job roles,
to try new ideas and problem-solving techniques, to work patiently in
teams within and across departments, and to be enough of a team player
to be evaluated and rewarded on a team basis.
TQM and Performance Evaluation and Reward Structures.
Another of the fundamental influences HRM can have on the TQM
process is in the development of performance evaluation and reward
systems that reinforce the TQM team philosophy. These systems can be
conceived of and patterned to be consistent with the fundamental tenets
of a TQM culture regarding customer satisfaction.
In addition, HRM can have a great deal of influence in developing
promotion policies that are consistent with the overall goals of the
organization. In so doing, HRM can be instrumental in the promotion of
employees who believe in and totally support the TQM philosophy, to
positions of influence.
With patient senior management and much training, quality
improvement teams frequently move toward self-managed teams. For these
mature teams, one type of performance evaluation system that is
consistent with TQM philosophy and participatory management approach is
team appraisal. Such appraisals, which may include self-evaluations and
peer ratings, concentrate on the acquisition of new team skills and on
their successful application on the job.
The HR department has the ability to help design the evaluation
system so that quality improvement teams conduct performance appraisals
of one another, interview and select team members, schedule the
team's work, and set performance goals. As a follow-up, peer
evaluations by the team members can be reviewed by the team chairperson
or an HR specialist so that the evaluations are reliable and contain no
unnecessary harsh language.
In rewarding team efforts for quality improvement, HR managers can
keep both management and employees informed about TQM achievements and
can identify opportunities to feature outstanding accomplishments of
team members who deserve recognition and rewards. Many companies publish
TQM newsletters that recognize team achievements and feature customer
council meetings, future training schedules, and other pertinent
The international focus on quality, combined with increasing costs
of materials, equipment, labor and training, are driving the
implementation of TQM as a competitive strategy in all types of
organizations. These forces for change also provide an opportunity for
an expanded role of human resource management in making TQM succeed.
Quality can no longer be viewed as the responsibility for one
department. It is a company-wide activity that permeates all
departments, at all levels. The key element of any quality and
productivity improvement program is the employee. Consequently, employee
commitment to a TQM program is essential. Because of its fundamental
employee orientation, HRM should seek the responsibility for
implementing TQM programs rather than risk losing their influence over
the key element of TQM -- the employee.
Organizations with a solid reputation for providing high customer
satisfaction have a common viewpoint: consistently taking care of the
smaller duties is just as important as the larger concerns.(7) Just as
they attempt to instill an overall quality philosophy across the
company, HRM can emphasize consistent quality in its own operations. The
day-to-day delivery of basic HR services can be just as important as
developing strategic programs that may have higher visibility and
supposedly greater long-term consequences.
As a guardian of such functions as recruitment and selection,
training and development, performance evaluation and reward systems, the
HRM professional is best able to take charge of these important
functions as they relate to a TQM strategy. The full potential of the
entire work force must be realized by encouraging commitment,
participation, teamwork, and learning. HRM is best suited to
accomplishing this by modeling these qualities.
Leading by example, the HR department could then sustain the
long-term TQM process company-wide. A by-product of setting a TQM
example can be the improved standing of the HR department in the eyes of
other, traditionally more influential departments.(10) But, the primary
end result can be total quality management as a successful competitive
strategy for organizational survival.
(1.)Crosby, P. B. Quality is Free. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979.
(2.)Deming, W. E. Out of the Crisis. Cambridge, MA: Center for
Advanced Engineering Study, 1986.
(3.)Fairbairns, Jill. "Plugging the Gap in Training Needs
Analysis." Personnel Management (February, 1991) p. 43--45.
(4.)Feigenbaum, A. V. Total Quality Control. 3rd ed. (New York:
(5.)Giles, Eillen and Williams, Roger. "Can the Personnel
Department Survive Quality Management?" Personnel Management
(April, 1991) p. 28--33.
(6.)Greene, Robert J. "A '90s Model for Performance
Management." HR Magazine (April, 1991) p. 62.
(7.)Jerris, Linda A. "Quality Shines in Small Details."
Personnel Journal (January, 1990) pp. 26--30.
(8.)Juran, J. M. Juran's Quality Control Handbook, 4th ed.
(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988).
(9.)Klekamp, Robert C. "Commitment to Quality Is Not
Enough." SAM Advanced Management Journal (Winter, 1989) p. 13--16,
(10.)McCormack, Shaun. "TQM -- Getting It Right the First
Time." Training and Development (June, 1992) p. 43--46.
(11.)Norman, Carol A. And Zawacki, Robert A. "Team
Appraisals-Team Approach." Personnel Journal (September, 1991) p.
(12.)Port, Otis; Carey, John; and Kelley, Kevin.
"Quality--Small and Midsize Companies Seize the Challenge."
Business Week (November 30, 1992) p. 66--72.