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Safa Riaz

Without doubt, doing a doctorate involves a rollercoaster of feelings. One minute, you feel like things are going great and everything is smooth; the following minute, you find yourself afloat in incomplete drafts, looming due dates, fretful evenings and a miserable life! There is such an enormous amount occurring all at once and some of the time we are simply agonizing over a ton of things to do yet not doing anything at all aside from stressing. We have all been there. At the end of 12 months in the program, we must submit a confirmation milestone – a 45 minutes presentation and 60 pages of literature, methods and timelines. I was successfully confirmed and ready to begin data collection from my country, Pakistan. My plan was to stay there for at least four months. Being an international student, getting an opportunity to visit home is a treat.

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Keith Townsend, Kenneth Cafferkey, Tony Dundon and Safa Riaz

It has long been considered a ‘holy grail’ within the HRM research field to link HRM to performance, but more importantly, to demonstrate some causality. However, even with more and more published research, we do not seem to become any wiser about ‘how’ HRM processes contribute towards organisational performance. We draw inspiration from the study of consciousness to argue that the field of HRM is very good at answering ‘easy problems’ but we are a long way from answering the ‘hard problem’ of explaining how HRM processes affect performance and under what contextual circumstances. With a global labour pool of more than three billion people, and hundreds of millions of companies in the world, many of whom employ people on low wages and insecure contracts, we have to be careful not to simplify a HRM process model as one that is universally generalisable. Context and expectations evolve and unfold, often in very uneven ways: new employees come in to organisations every day; employees are promoted to become the frontline managers of tomorrow; employees have legitimate reasons to strike and resist employer inequity and injustice; governments adjust laws and the judiciary mandate new rights and change old rules - and so on. Understanding the relationships between HRM systems, process, and performance is indeed, the hard problem for our field.