The strategic role of the HR function in the banking sector of Pakistan: Analysis of evidence and influencing factors

  • Naukhez Sarwar

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis analyses empirical evidence of the state of the HR function and the presence of the strategic role of the HR function in the banking sector of Pakistan. The focus of analysis is on key components of the HR function that influence its role orientation, namely the patterns of devolution of HR responsibilities, the structure of the HR function and the skill-set of HR personnel. The extant literature on HRM and the role of the HR function is for the most part contextualized within Anglo-Saxon countries and as a consequence insufficiently highlights the idiosyncratic and embedded factors which influence the role and strategic direction of the HR function in developing countries. Also, while the literature suggests that different stakeholders are likely to report divergent views regarding the role of the HR function, few studies provide a thorough examination of this issue. To address these gaps in the literature, a qualitative case-study approach was adopted and interviews were conducted with 85 HR, senior and line managers in eight case-study banks. The data analysis largely fails to identify a significant presence of the strategic role of the HR function across the sample banks. It also indicates a generally low level of devolution of HR activities to line management, which has impeded the ability of HR managers to devote more time and resources to strategic initiatives. Even where devolution has occurred, it has not enabled the HR function to enhance its strategic contribution. The evidence also suggests that where organisations implemented structural changes to their HR function ostensibly, to enhance the strategic orientation, this did not result in meaningful outcomes and, moreover, the lack of requisite business acumen among HR personnel appears to have impeded their strategic contribution. In the context of Pakistan, these findings emerged because the HR function was in an early stage of development, the strategic HR role required a skill-set which had just begun to emerge and the underpinned reasons for changes in the structure were to attain better operational efficiency. Further, in the domestic case-study banks, the function faced challenges of an out-dated skill-set of incumbent employees and the ensuing legacy effects. These results suggest that in order to study the presence of a strategic role orientation, a broader analytical framework is required that both incorporates multiple elements within the HR function - especially its structure, extent of devolution of HR activities and skill-set of personnel - and responds to the multiple and conflicting perspectives of different stakeholders in a complex and fast-changing industry environment.  
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDamian Grimshaw (Supervisor)


  • Strategic HRM, Pakistan, banking sector

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