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Driving Forces of HRM

Based on Chapter 24 of Human Resource Management in a Business Context (2nd Edition) by Alan Price - published by Thomson Learning

Pages 673-676 of Human Resource Management in a Business Context include a full discussion on this topic. (Very) short excerpts are given here

Whether as a label or a variable combination of specific initiatives, we can justifiably ask if the uptake of HRM has been driven by practitioners - people involved in practical people management - and then attracted wider attention; or if it is a creation of academics and consultants with some (and only some) practitioners following on? What is apparent is that the practitioners involved in the introduction of HRM are often line or general managers rather than personnel managers. Clearly, there are many 'stakeholders' in HRM:

  • Managerialists (...)
  • Senior managers (...)
  • Academics (...)
  • The personnel profession (...)

Armstrong (2000) contends that many so-called 'HRM' practices were in widespread use before HRM came on the scene in the 1980s. He argues that there has been no great revolution as a result of HRM theory. Instead there has been a process of evolution. The rate of change may have increased but, according to Armstrong, this is not attributable to the arrival of HRM as a philosophy. Rather, rapid changes in the business, political, economic and social environment have forced organizations to respond. Armstrong also points to increasing professionalism among personnel practitioners encouraged by bodies such as the UK's Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the dissemination of ideas about HRM by academics publishing in an increasing range of publications.

Rynes et al (2002) tested such claims on responses obtained from 959 human resource professionals, specifically focused on their agreement with various HR research findings. They found large discrepancies between research findings and practitioners' beliefs in a number of areas. This was particularly so in the case of employee selection where practitioners seemed to have considerably less faith in the use of intelligence and personality tests than HR research would recommend. Practitioners at higher levels, with SPHR certification and those who read the academic literature were more likely to agree with research findings. Shepherd and Mathews (2000) examined academic research on employee commitment, a central part of HR models, in relation to the views of practitioners. They surveyed 300 HRM managers and found wide recognition of commitment in terms of its desirability and benefits. But academics and practitioners conceptualised and measured commitment in entirely different ways. Practitioners adopted a subjective and ad hoc approach, generally ignoring the formal measuring tools and structured, "objective" approaches developed by academics.

Moreover, change initiatives - particularly business process reengineering - frequently lead to a questioning of the need for any personnel or human resource specialists. Storey (1995: 384) finds this to be a common theme at consultant-organized conferences. Of course, this is consistent with HRM models which place the responsibility for people management in the hands of line managers. Together with marketing and research, it is difficult to measure the effect that HR specialists have on the well-being of a company. Paperwork-obsessed personnel administrators, ignorant of wider business issues do not help. They make ripe targets for short-termists working to 'zero-based budgeting' and city analysts with no industrial experience.

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Overview of HRM


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