Human Resource Management

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From Personnel Management to HRM

Based on Human Resource Management, 4th edition, by Alan Price

From personnel to human resource management

HRM-type themes, including 'human capital theory' and 'human asset accounting' can be found in literature dating as far back as the 1970s. But the modern view of human resource management first gained prominence in 1981 with its introduction on the prestigious MBA course at Harvard Business School. The Harvard MBA provided a blueprint for many other courses throughout North America and the rest of the world, making its interpretation of HRM particularly influential (Beer et al, 1984; Guest, 1987; Poole, 1990). Simultaneously, other interpretations were being developed in Michigan and New York.

These ideas spread to other countries in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly Australia, New Zealand, parts of northern Europe - especially the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia - and also South and South-East Asia and South Africa. Today, the HRM approach is influential in many parts of the world.

Human Resource Management, 4th edition provides a discussion on why HRM seemed to be different - and preferable - to personnel management but also examine some common prejudices against the notion of HRM.

Points to consider

* At face value, HRM is strategic, involving top management, etc. - but only if we accept the rhetoric of HRM without debate. The question of whether or not there is a real difference between 'personnel management' and HRM is dealt with in more depth in the next section.

* Certainly, personnel management had an image problem - and for some people, HRM is no different. Why has personnel/HR had such a bad press? Why change the label from 'personnel' to HRM? Is there a substantive difference in philosophy, theory or practice? What are the motives of practitioners in adopting (or resisting) the change of label?

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