module specification

HR7134 - Contextualising Management (2020/21)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2020/21
Module title Contextualising Management
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School Guildhall School of Business and Law
Total study hours 200
138 hours Guided independent study
62 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Unseen Examination 40%   Unseen Examination, Duration One and a Half Hours
Coursework 60%   Industry and Company Report (3.000 Words)
Running in 2020/21
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Tuesday Evening
Spring semester North Tuesday Evening

Module summary

It is increasingly acknowledged that many organisations are functioning in what are turbulent and uncertain environments.  Significantly, the CIPD in its position paper People Management Matters placed the role of changes in external markets and associated competitive pressures at the forefront of factors seen to be exerting an influence on organisations, managers and the management of people.  Such an approach has also influenced recent academic treatment of people management and is increasingly reflected in government policy towards product and labour markets and in legislation affecting the management of people.

Perhaps as significant as the developing competitive context for organisations has been the growing importance of Europe and specifically the European Union. There is little within the people management area, which is not affected to some degree by actions taken by the EU. Of particular importance is the role of EU-inspired legislation in the people management area and this, along with domestic legislation, is combining to bring about significant changes to the personnel/HR role in many organisations.

Much of what is covered in this module is to take these and other broader contextual issues such as demographic and technological changes and attempt to analyse them in some depth and then explore their implications for organisations, specifically those of strategy and structure, and the management of staff. That is to examine and analyse the contexts in which organisations operate and then to examine how management responds to contextual diversity and continuous change in devising and implementing appropriate strategies for survival and growth.

Finally, the module engages with the whole area of corporate governance, including CSR but with particular focus on how organisations are owned and controlled and how this plays out in terms of the role and status accorded to people management.  This connects with the importance of issues such as shareholder value, and how HR adds value to an organisation, which in turn leads into consideration of the need for HR to be financially aware and to be able to argue its case in accounting and financial terms.

Module aims

This module has four specific aims.  First, to bring together those factors that are relevant to any consideration of ‘management in context’, and specifically those areas within the external and internal environments that impinge upon and influence management decision-making.  Second, to develop a more integrative and systemic overview of these influences than is customary in a module of this nature, both within the module itself and between this and the ‘Leading, Managing and Developing People’ module.  Third, and in conjunction with the ‘Leading, Managing and Developing People’ module, to emphasise the dynamic and complex nature of the environments that management operates within, changes within which have different effects on organisational stakeholders. These effects in turn impact on the power balance and resources available to managers and the essentially political context in which they have to operate.  This point is reinforced in the fourth, and final aim: the role of management in fashioning the strategic direction of the organisation in the context of competing stakeholder interests.

To contribute to the academic and professional development of the student this module, along with the other core modules of the course, has been designed to incorporate digital and information literacy competences and dispositions, as outlined in the Open University’s Digital and Information Literacy Framework  (DILF).
Particularly, this module develops level 7 (postgraduate) competencies in the areas of:

  • Understanding and engaging in digital practices
  • Finding information


  • The Changing Contexts of People Management
  • The Organisation in (Historical) Context: the UK economy, de-industrialisation and the rise of the service economy
  • The Economic Context: the nature of the economic problem and its resolution: Markets and competition, implications for HRM
  • Globalisation – the internationalisation of business and its implications for organisations and people management
  • The Political Context: the EU and the regulation of work and employment
  • The Legal Context: HRM, the law and the employment relationship
  • Social Change and Labour Markets
  • The Technological Context: implications for organisations and HRM and HR applications
  • The Governance Context: Ownership, control and corporate governance
  • The Financial and Accounting Context: tools of financial analysis
  • financial control and the HR function
  • Organisations and the Organisational Context: Strategy, Structure, and Culture relationships
  • Business and HR Strategy
  • • Strategy, HR and Performance

Learning and teaching

Reflecting our view of learning and teaching as a collaborative process that involves students’ active contribution and participation, this module is based on a combination of class-based and parallel independent study including online tasks and activities. The former utilises a wide mix of learning and teaching methods, including lectures, seminars, discussion groups, live and historical case studies and industry reports which are included as a basis for discussion and analysis and as a means of embedding learning in a set of particular organisational, industry, sectoral and geographic contexts.

The key emphasis, however, is on learning through participation. Students will therefore be encouraged to draw on professional experience as well as reading/other preparation and participate with other students in a variety of discussion-based and on-line tasks and activities. These are designed and structured to enable students to develop digital literacy skills and to  deepen and extend their understanding of the changing context of organisational decision-making and their implications for the HR function/HRM policies and practices. The emphasis throughout will be on introducing and exploring concepts and ideas, assessing their implications for practice in organisations and raising awareness of the ways in which HR can seek to influence process and outcomes.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module you will be able to:

  • Identify and assess the external factors – economic, political, legal, social and technological – impinging upon organisations, the content of work and the employment relationship and the implications of these for effective management, organisational processes and decision-making.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the importance of wider social responsibility, corporate governance, stakeholder interests and the relevance of ethical issues to organisations and their effectiveness.
  • Provide examples of how strategy contributes to organisational effectiveness; undertake analyses that contribute to strategy formation and that facilitate and inhibit the implementation of strategy and demonstrate how effective people management can contribute to organisational performance.
  • Assess the appropriateness of structural, cultural and systems forms for differing organisational contexts and in contributing to organisational effectiveness.
  • Demonstrate the main features and importance of information systems, their critical factors and the contribution they can make to effective management.
  • Assess the importance of financial contexts to organisations. Demonstrate an understanding of finance and budgeting at department and organisational levels and establish appropriate financial and non-financial performance standards and control systems.
  • Access, collate, structure, interpret and present data, including financial data, from a variety of sources using appropriate technologies.
  • Appreciate the importance of a considered and planned approach to the management of change and contribute to an effective change management programme.
  • Additionally, in line with the DILF (level 7) students will be able to:
  • Apply digital techniques to conduct and share research.
  • Demonstrate the ability to search independently and fluently across a comprehensive range of information sources in any medium, including specialised information such as archives, data sets, special collections, colleagues and contacts in research networks.
  • Produce an independently conducted thorough literature search in a specific subject area, making effective use of advanced search techniques such as citation searching.
  • Identify the most effective ways to use research outputs (e.g. reports, conference proceedings, journal articles) to create impact.

Assessment strategy

Assessment is integral to the learning process and a means of supporting and enhancing student learning. The formative and summative assessments for this module are accordingly designed to enable students to both reflect on and demonstrate that they have met the specified learning outcomes.
There are two elements of summative assessment, one piece of course work and an examination:

  • Coursework: A report (c. 3,000 words) focused on environmental change and its impact on a particular company within a specified industry. The assignment will be designed to encourage and reinforce student recognition of the ways in which the wider context, influences, shapes, constrains and facilitates managerial decision-making and HR policies and practice. The coursework will comprise 60% of the total assessment.
  • A 1 hour 30 minutes unseen examination comprising 40% of the total module assessment.


Recommended Texts
Farnham, D. (2015), Human Resource Management in Context, 4th ed., London, CIPD Kew, J., Stredwick, J. (2013) Human Resource Management in a Business Context, 2nd ed., London, CIPD
Marchington, M. and Wilkinson, A. (2012) Human Resource Management at Work, 5th ed., London, CIPD
Erickson, M., Bradley, H.,Stephenson, C. and Williams, S. (2009) Business in Society, Cambridge, Polity
Other Business/HR Context
Boxall, P., Purcell, J. and Wright, P.  (eds.) (2008) The Oxford Handbook of Human Resource Management, Oxford, Oxford University Press
Bratton, J., Gold, J. (2012), Human Resource Management: Theory and Practice, 5th ed., Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan
Gilmore, S and Williams, S. (2009Human Resource Management.  Oxford, Oxford University Press
Porter, K., Smith, P. and Fagg, R. (2006) Leadership and Management for HR Professionals, 3rd ed., Oxford, Elsevier/BH
Wetherly, P. and Otter, D. (2013) The Business Environment, 3rd ed., Oxford, Oxford University Press
Finance and Information
Bee, R. and Bee, F. (2005), Managing Information and Statistics, 2nd ed., London, CIPD
Bedward, D. & Stredwick, J. (2004) Managing Information, Oxford, Butterworth-Heinemann
Davies, D. (2005), Managing Financial Information, 2nd ed., London, CIPD
Mott, G. (2008) Accounting for Non-Accountants, 7th ed., London, Kogan-Page
Organisations and People Management
Grey, C. (2005) A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Studying Organizations, London, Sage
Lynch, R. (2006) Corporate Strategy (4th edition), Harlow, FT/Prentice Hall
Thompson, P., McHugh, K. (2009), Work Organizations (4th.edition), Basingstoke, Palgrave, MacMillan
Work Patterns and HRM
Baldry, C., Bain, P., Bunzel, D., Gall, G., Gilbert, K., Hyman, J., Lockyer, C., Marks, A., Scholarios, D., Taylor, P. and Watson, A. (2007) The Meaning of Work in the New Economy, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan
Bratton, J., Callinan, C., Forshaw, C., Sawchuk, P. (2010), Work and Organizational Behaviour: Understanding the Workplace (2nd edition), Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan
Cappelli, P. (ed.) Employment Relationships: New Models of White-Collar Work, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
Felstead, A., Jewson, N. and Walters, S. (2005) Changing Places of Work, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Grint, K. (2005) The Sociology of Work (3rd edition), Cambridge, Polity.
Rubery, J. and Grimshaw, D. (2003) The Organization of Employment, Basingstoke, Palgrave
Thompson, P., McHugh, K. (2009), Work Organizations (4th edition), Basingstoke, Palgrave, MacMillan
White, M., Hill, S., Mills, C. and Smeaton, D. (2004) Managing to Change British Workplaces and the Future of Work, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

Employee Relations
Equal Opportunities Review
Harvard Business Review
Human Resource Management Journal
Human Resource Management Review
Management Today
People Management
Personnel Today
Strategic Management Journal 
Work, Employment and Society

Online resources and useful websites