Module code: MANM485

Module Overview

In this module, we will describe and explain the environmental context of the practice of HRM. Specifically, we will explore, identify, and understand organizational responses to the business environment. A primary organizational response to managing uncertainty inherent in the business environment is the adoption and implementation of a competitive or business strategy. From an HR perspective, this entails the adoption of a strategic perspective to the management of employees in order to create the human resource capability to implement this business strategy and ultimately create sustained competitive advantage. The module is therefore intended to provide students with a holistic understanding of the changing organizational contexts that have significant effect on the HR function. Topics covered include the global economy, political, social, legal, demographic and technological developments as they define the competitive environment of organisations and their implications for the HR function. The module is therefore designed to equip a range of students who are seeking to develop a career in HR with the knowledge, competencies, and analytical skills to pursue a career in HR up to a senior managerial role.

Module provider

Surrey Business School

Module Leader

ARYEE Samuel (SBS)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 84

Lecture Hours: 22

Seminar Hours: 11

Guided Learning: 11

Captured Content: 22

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Over the duration of the module, we will introduce and discuss a wide range of topic areas relating to the staffing of organisations; a particular emphasis being placed on contemporary developments and debates in the field. In our sessions we will focus on the following:


  • analyse and critically evalaute organisational environments  

  • global economy and the external context of HRM

  • business strategy and HR strategy  

  • theoretical perspectives on SHRM

  • SHRM and organisational performance

  • demographic trends and labour market

  • technology and HR

  • government regulation and HR

  • ethics, CSR and HR

  • evaluating the HR function

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Individual Written Assignment (Reflective Essay) 40
Examination Online Examination (2 hours) 60

Alternative Assessment

Individual assignment 

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate that they have gained knowledge of the strategic management process, practical, analytical and critical skills with regard to their ability to analyse organisational strategy, identify HR strategic issues, critically evaluate alternative solutions to such issues and recommend a competitive strategic response.

In sum, the assessment strategy is designed to test the K+C+P+T skills that students have gained in the module.

The summative assessment for this module will be based on:

  • an individual written assignment (reflective essay) and an

  • end of semester examination. 

Formative assessment will take the form of in-class discussion exercises and by best practices of knowledge transfer such as constructive comments/highlights of specific cases and related common mistakes might encounter. The latter will be provided either verbally in class or virtually via SurreyLearn.

Module aims

  • enable you to effectively identify contemporary organisations and their principal environments so that you may constructively contribute to the formulation of responses which take into account contextual diversity, continuous change, and ethical ambiguities
  • enable you to identify and critically evaluate developments in the external business environment which are directly relevant to HR practitioners so they can provide informed advice to top management in terms of for example, developments in labour markets; amendments to employment regulations, etc
  • enable you to be informed about the business environment, its impact on management functions, and to think critically about how they can be addressed through formulating and implementing HR strategy
  • enable you to understand the strategic partner status of the HR function and acquire the skills and competencies to design and implement practices that foster the development and leveraging of human resource capability to create sustained competitive advantage

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Meet the learning outcomes contained in the CIPD's advanced diploma syllabus for resourcing and talent management KCPT
002 Analyse and critically evaluate contemporary debates and developments in the following areas of HRM: HR as a strategic partner, designing HR systems, evaluation of the HR function, Theories in SHRM KC
003 Engage critically with the published literature on strategic HRM KC
004 Explain the contribution made by the HR function to creating sustained competitive advantage KCP
005 Demonstrate that you are able to develop and argue an original case and justify your views CPT
006 Give line managers and colleagues appropriate and timely advice about implementgng HR programmes PT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The teaching and learning strategies are designed to enable students to gain knowledge and understanding of key theories and HR/business practices and problems relevant to the HR function.   (LO1), to develop an awareness of the relationship between between theory and practice (LO2), and to develop cognitive/substantive, professional and transferable skills, such as critical analysis, evaluation of evidence, and ability to undertake independent inquiry/research as understood and practised in the field of HRM (LO3, LO4). Collectively, these skills and competencies should prepare you to make a business case for HR programmes and offer HR-related advice to a range of stakeholders (LO5, LO6).

Teaching and learning methods include:

  • Lectures

  • Seminars

  • Guided learning

  • Case study discussions

  • Guided and independent learning

    • Reading

    • SurreyLearn

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: MANM485

Other information

This module promotes four of the main five Student Competency Framework Pillars as described below:

Global and cultural capabilities
Students on this module work collaboratively to discuss Strategic HRM issues faced by a range of organisations operating in different cultural contexts. The cultural diversity of students on the module and the resulting different perspectives they bring to addressing these issues make students aware of the role of culture in shaping responses to seemingly similar issues. Additionally, SHRM issues such as nature of business/competitive environment challenges, formulation of adaptive responses, and the role of the HR function in translating these responses into culturally appropriate HR practices equip students with a global perspective on how organizations adapt to their environments and the role of culture in shaping the effectiveness of HR practices.

This module is designed to equip students with the fundamentals of managing in a globally competitive marketplace. Recognition of the limitations of creating and sustaining competitive advantage through traditional sources such as technological developments have highlighted the importance of effective people management. The cases discussed in the module require students to identify, analyse and recommend adaptive HR responses to competitive pressures equipping them with new competencies such as capability builder, change champion, and strategic positioner. These competencies are not only critical to the effectiveness of HR departments but also enhance the employability of students.

Resourcefulness and Resilience
The case analyses and debates provide students ample opportunities to understand competitive pressures on organisations and adaptive responses to these pressures. Considering the competing demands on organisational resources, the HR function often does not obtain optimal resources to design and implement practices. Through the case analyses, students experience how to do more with less and be resourceful in creatively formulating solutions to emergent HR issues. Additionally, the readings complement students’ active learning from the case analyses (and real-life organisational issues) to promote confidence building.

This module promotes sustainability defined in terms of the sustainable management of human resources. It draws on the growing exhortation that organisations expand their exclusive focus on profits to include other stakeholders such as people and the planet. The module extends discussion of strategically-focused HR systems to include green as well as employee well-being-oriented HR systems. The penultimate topic ‘Evaluating the HR function’ provides an opportunity to evaluate the module against the triple bottom line.   

The module is designed to meet the Learning Outcomes of the CIPD unit – 7C001 Work and Working Lives in a Changing Business Environment:

1. Understand an open system perspective as a conceptual lens through which to understand organisations and their environments
2. Understand globalization and its implications for competitive environment and organizational strategies to adapt to their environments

3. Understand the role of business strategy in organisational adaptation and implications for the HR function as well as key SHRM theories.

4. Understand demographic trends and labour market as well as HR responses to technological developments, government regulations and changing societal values

5 Understand accountability in the HR function including the implications of HR programmes for organizational performance

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Human Resources Management MSc 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2025/6 academic year.