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Module: Managing Human Resources

Levi Strauss & Co.

Critically analyse Levi Strauss & Co.s approach to fulfill
the HRM policy goals.


The David Guest model (1987) can be said to be customary in nature as he assumes that human
resource management is contrastingly different from the traditional fashion of personnel management.
David Guest considers that human resource management should be unitarist whereby the interests of
the workers and the managers are the same; and individualistic whereby there is bondage between the
individuals and the organisation where they prefer to work or operate through group and representative
The contribution of personnel or HR specialists can be hard to identify because they work in partnership
with line managers and succeed in their work by exercising influence. In many cases, it is the line
managers that will take decisions about their department, however, they need to operate within a
framework that has been designed and developed by the HR people. The HR will thus act as a facilitator
to make sure that the line managers are making the correct decisions. What David Guest says, though is
more of a unitarist perspective.
Concerning employee relations, there are different groups in a company that will have different
agendas, and each one will be going in their own directions- this is more of a pluralist perspective. What
David Guest highlights concerning employee relations, is that all the groups should go towards a form of
unitarism by focusing on the business objectives. This unitarism will eventually be the source of creation
of a sense of mutual respect and satisfaction to both employees and the management.
To achieve the above, D. Guest proposed a model through which HR should achieve or fulfill 4 policy

According to D. Guest, strategic human resource management is mostly about integration
which is one of the main policy goals of human resource management (Guest, 1989).The Hr processes
need to be lined up with the business strategy. It needs to be vertically integrated such as recruitment,
training, selection and performance management among others. These policies will be driven by the
business strategies and also the culture of the organisation, that is, belief of the founders of the business
or the directors.


Levi Strauss & Co.s senior management team in 1987 designed a new pattern of values for the company
in the form of a new mission statement. Also they designed a set of ideals by which the management
team and employees could weave that mission into the organisation. These two creations are the ideals
by which every operation, department and employee is measured. They are also the way in which the
company has made everyone in the organization a partner in its success. Especially since, everyone in
HR had taken those principles to heart; it became the very essence of the business.
This means that the designed values and ideals have successfully been vertically integrated into the
company since it is those strategies that drive the business.
For example, if the company needs to be expanded, in terms of new outlets. For that there will be a
need for recruitment the best people possible. To recruit the best, the recruitment and selection
strategy will have to be compromised. Following that, the company will have to make sure that their
compensation and reward system is lined up with what is being done on the market. If new outlets are
going to be operated, employees will have to be poached from other companies. And if the company is
poaching from other companies, undoubtedly, more will have to be paid in terms of salaries. Higher
salaries will also impact the reward strategy. This shows how business strategies drive the HR practices.
The next thing that Guest says is that not only will the HR practices be driven by the business objectives,
but those HR practices also need to be horizontally integrated meaning that, an HR process is a standalone process. It is inter-related. Recruitment and selection means trying to find the best people that we
need, but when those people are assessed and evaluated, some gaps are found such as those persons
may have problems in communication skills they might not be able to communicate as well as they are
expected to, even though they are good. If the company is to become the best on the market though,
the people that will be recruited will need to have excellent communication skills. Thus, HR needs to
make sure that those gaps are catered for.
After identifying the gaps, the latter needs to be communicated to the training department or the
person in charge of training who will do the necessary to eliminate those gaps. In some companies, it is
the same people who do the HR and the training; in others there is a separate training department. This
passing on of information to ensure that the gaps are obliterated is known as Horizontal Integration.

HR Policies/Practices

For example, for performance management, the performance manager will inform the training and
development department about employees performance because for internal recruitment of people of
people who can take up more responsibilities. The performance manager may also inform the reward
department so that the best employees can be rewarded accordingly. The performance manager will
also identify underperformers who are not achieving which will be communicated to the training
department for more training or they will be directed to the disciplinary grievance process.
All these practices are horizontally integrated. There might be different people looking at different
functions, but they need to work together because there is a need for coherent approach.
At Levi Strauss & Co, among the key strategies that human resource department has developed for
themselves, there is the alignment of all HR programs and policies with Levis Aspirations statement and
also, there is the development of HR systems that will instill continuous improvement in the companys
business systems, work processes and employees. This shows a successful horizontal integration of the
HR goals in the business.
There is a program designed as mentioned by Cathy Unruh, the director of compensation, which was to
open the lines of communication between bosses and employees, and bases pay on how well those
goals and other objectives are met. Communication between bosses and employees is an example of
how horizontal integration is taking place.
Horizontal integration is also occurring in the sense whereby Goya and all the other HR people, who
form part of the HR council, meet to discuss issues and share information. This means that all the HR in
the Levi Strauss companies in every corner of the world, knows about what is about is happening in
every other Levi Strauss company and thus, decisions can be made about problems in some of those

The D. Guest model also highlights the necessity of high commitment. Guest (1997) completely
exemplified his belief that the vital aspects of the HRM approach such as commitment have an explicit
relationship with estimable business consequences. From this point of view, companies should consider
employees as valued resources and not as profit making robots, which could boost employee
commitment. Employees will then perform excellently which will thus, generate profits in the long term.
One good example of employee commitment is the good performance of Toyota Motor in Kentucky.
Toyota has put in place programs that make sure that the treatment of employees grievance and
disciplinary issues are fair and just. It also has programs that help ensure employees can use all their
skills and gifts at work, such as career-oriented performance appraisal procedures and extensive training
and development opportunities (Dessler, 2005). If employees are committed for a long term period to
the company, it helps to maintain a sustainable development which finally contributes to a promising

Commitment can be Attitudinal and Behavioral. Employees, Managers, Directors, everybody should
have the right attitude in the business. Displaying the proper attitude means being positive. People are
not born negative nor do they join the company with a negative attitude. They become negative due to
some relationships in the business, due to some promises that were made to them but not delivered,
because they were not provided with the right opportunity or any training, or even because they did not
get any advancement and are in a team where they cannot work with the manager. Therefore one
needs to make sure that the right attitude is displayed in the business.
An HR needs to provide that framework; so they need to work with the line manager so that the latter
can develop communication systems, appraise, evaluate and reward accordingly without any element of
favoritism. If the positive attitude is adopted and practiced by managers, employees will also be positive
and hence be committed to the organisation. To know whether people are committed to the
organisation or not, an acid test can be performed, since one cannot depend on attendance only. People
may come to work, but they are idle at work, thus not committed to the organisation. For example,
productivity and efficiency can be considered.
Another way to test if employees are committed is by holding an event whereby employees will do
community service as part of the companys CSR program. The employees will be informed that this
activity will be held on a Sunday and not count for anything in their career. The answer will lie in the
number of persons that actually come for the event this will show if they are actually committed or
not. Barclays did something of the kind called the MAD Day (Make a Difference Day) out of their CSR
programme. However, for Barclays, employees attendance and participation was being counted in their
performance appraisal.
Levi Strauss & Co.s employees have used the two guiding principles created by the senior management
team as a precious guide in their work at Levi Strauss & Co. Concerning attitudinal commitment, Levi
Strauss & Co., HR determines where the business is headed in terms of vision, focus and resource
allocation. They also make sure, under the supervision of Goya, the senior vice president of human
resources, that the people in the department know where they are headed and understand their roles.
This will lead to attitudinal commitment because the employees will know exactly what is expected of
them and will thus act accordingly.
Each department in Levi Strauss & Co is given freedom to scrutinize their own ideas to ensure that they
are in alignment with the aspiration statement. This responsibility given to them will make them feel
more committed towards the company and work better.
For Halloween, all employees dress up in costumes; this really brings about a feeling of loyalty towards
the business because the employees feel a part of that business.
Behavioral commitment refers to the way an employee communicates with a client or other person
coming into the business for some purpose. When working in an organisation or in a particular
department, one needs to behave in a particular way or in a standardized way in order to deliver the
service or achieving a particular objective.

For example, a person, X, works in the front office and some clients come in. The very first reaction of X
is that he has to smile and break the ice. To be a company that wants to make a difference and achieve
its objectives, there is a need for behavioral commitment and employees who are committed.
The reward saystem emerged from task force whereby employees of all levels were concerned. At Levi
Strauss, the employees are trusted which make them feel highly committed to the business.
Thus they tend to behave as they are expected to. The HR allows people to take decisions in line with
the values of the company. If they make mistakes the first time it is okay, because that is how the
employee will learn. Moreover if an employee feels guilty for a mistake he did previously, he will work
harder so as not to make more mistakes thus commitment to the organization.
Moreover the AIDS incident with an employee will have made that employee feel valued because the
company did not relocate him but let him keep his place and position. As such all employees in the firm
would eventually feel valued and committed to the firm for any mishap could happen to them too in the
Flexibility is usually concerned with the capacity of the organisation and its employees to
adapt to the changing business and work environment and the ability to manage innovation. Flexibility
can be functional or numerical. Functional flexibility involves the development and the utilization of
skills of the main workforce while numerical flexibility has to do with the adjustment of the numbers of
direct employees- employees are employed only when their production is required and when their
labour is not required they are discharged.
People that we have in our organisation should be flexible. We need to have people that are multiskilled and who can do different tasks. By providing training, the company can ensure that employees
are multi-skilled by having job rotation or by enlarging their jobs. Multi-tasking provides a kind of getaway from routine jobs. Sometimes jobs are too routine, which makes employees lose their motivation.
By assigning a project to employees, it breaks the monotonous agenda and gives them something to be
motivated about. One can become flexible by learning new skills, by having opportunities to work on
different projects, though job rotation, job enlargement and job enrichment. All these are techniques
that HR has at its disposal and can use to make sure that the tasks evolve within the business, so as to
have a flexible workforce.
At Levi Strauss & Co.. Goyas job has ranged from recruitment and compensation, to equal employment
and currently is the senior vice president of human resources. Since she has been in Levi Strauss for 22
years in the Human Resources department only, it can be said that she forms part of the core employees
of Levi Strauss & Co. Moreover, her job has evolved that is, there has been functional flexibility in her
career. She is multi-skilled which a plus for Levi Strauss & Co.

HR personnel have opportunities to move into positions in other countries. They can move to other
departments which will help them in their development, or apply for jobs that are being posted in the
firm itself. Finally, it is flexibility in the business.
Flexibility also includes the flexible work-hours program that the HR department at Levi Strauss & Co has
designed for all their employees including the production line workers. Moreover, HR has designed a
child care voucher program. This would be an advantage for working mothers who will better focus on
the jobs that they do and feel valued that their employers do care about them. This would increase
There is flexibility in the sense that employees do volunteer to participate on tasks force or managers
recommend certain persons as that task will usually help them in their professional development. This
shows how the company itself is encouraging its employees to become multi skilled.
By flexible workforce, what D. Guest also means is that nowadays, people change jobs readily. Flexibility
is also about this element that people move jobs and the company needs to cater for this. The structure
of the business should be set in the context where people would become flexible to move. Some
organisations promote internal recruitment to ensure that people have the opportunity to expand
themselves and do other jobs. This is done usually for some core employees that the business cannot
afford to lose as they really drive the business and bring real value to the business. Internal recruitment
is more or less functional flexibility.
There are others who are in the peripheral side of the business. They usually feel a need to move. The
core employees have different benefits or are offered long term contracts while the peripheral
employees are offered temporary contracts because at some point in time they might leave because
there is not a need for them or the job itself might change.
Mac Donalds operate in that model. They have a core team and peripheral workers. For positions that
are on the front line such as cashiers, they will employ students, on a part-time basis to ensure that
there is flexibility. When some employees are on sickness leave, other peripheral employees in the
company itself can replace those people to make sure that the job is being done and they can still
deliver. This is also about the flexibility of changing and working with the valuable amount of people in
the organisation because the core team is still present. The fact that the peripheral employees can be
changed is known as numerical flexibility.
David Guest also mentions the goal of quality which focuses on the quality of image, the
quality of staff and the quality of performance. HR should deliver on having the goal of quality achieved.
For example, some time back, there was some news about State Insurance Company of Mauritius
(SICOM) published in the newspapers. Employees were complaining that their working conditions were
not proper and that they wanted to be unionized, which the management explicitly refused.

All these elements are HR matters and they are not supposed to go out to the public because this kind of
news directly affects the image of the company. Such problems in the organisation have to be dealt with
properly, so that it does not go the public. If somebody gets his pay on time, he will not do anything that
will cause the companys image harm unlike somebody whose company is late to pay him his salary.
Quality of image is also about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities and in any organisation; it
is the HR that looks after it. So, one has to make sure that the business and its people are contributing to
the community. Also, quality of image concerns issues like uniforms if the organisation has any. The
quality of image, finally, will be upheld by good health and safety mechanisms as well.
At Levi Strauss & Co, the human resources department has developed its own key strategies which
include the promotion of health, safety and well-being of all employees. This will enhance the quality of
image of the company in the eyes of the workers and the people who get to know about it.
Levi Strauss & Co. already holds a good image in the eyes of people who do not actually work in the
organisation. The driver said that he heard its a great place to work which implies that the company has
a good reputation in terms of a workplace.
The firm also offers its employees eight paid holidays a year which prohjects a good image for the firms.
Quality of staff will be about good recruitment of people. This enhances the quality of the organisations
staff. It ensures that the business has the right competence at the right time and at the right place.
Employees also travel to meetings field locations to home office for meetings. This will enhance the
quality of the staff since they will feel valued and do a good job on the field locations. And the staff are
not missing meetings which imply that they are always on the go, and always learning something new.
There is a reward system for performance that reflects aspirational behavior and supports the
aspirational behavior of others. This will make employees care for each other and share their knowledge
among themselves. This will lead to good quality of staff and eventually good quality of performance.
Quality of staff is also being maintained at Levi Strauss via training which began in 1989 till present.
Their training program is ongoing. This will keep quality of staff high. The employees also begin to think
about what they can bring to the business. also begin to think about
Quality of performance, though, is measured. The HR measures the performance of employees to
ensure that the employees know what is expected of them. When there is a performance management
system, the business needs to set goals and needs to make sure that the employees are being
monitored and all gaps are being bridged which eventually ensure the quality of management itself.
At Levi & Strauss, Goya, the senior vice president of human resources, mentioned that she still gets
involved with workers when they want to meet concerning some problems but that does not often
happen. This implies that Levi & Strauss care for their employees and make them feel valued which may
thus increase the quality of the staff and the same time increasing the quality of performance of the

Overseas training might have been provided; the education about the communicable disease was worth
it for employees are better educated now. There could have been more activities for employees.
However, there is not much to say in a negative eye about Levi & Strauss, since they value their
employees and they invest in training. Their employees are not treated like profit making machines but
like individuals- even the production line workers.