In this chapter we discussed recent and ongoing ways in which the human resource management function is changing - perhaps more radically than ever before. The HR function and its activities are being examined in microscopic detail in many large organizations. Human resource processes, especially those involving the collection and dissemination of information, are being computerized and automated, potentially eliminating routine clerical activities. HR information and knowledge is being linked and integrated with other information systems, breaking down departmental barriers.
As HR processes become more easily measurable, the need for justification and the means to do so become more obvious. Concepts such as the high performance organization and knowledge management offer HR specialists the chance to push HRM to the fore. HR processes and their outcomes are central to these concepts and the introduction of technology allows more exact methods of determining whether or not human resource initiatives do affect the 'bottom line' and shareholder value.
Yet there is some cynical scepticism coming from HR practitioners and academics, some of it associated with dogged technophobia, together with justifiable questioning of the methodology, rationale and, not least, the capabilities of the systems and concepts we have discussed.
Karen Legge provides a carefully reasoned critique of the high commitment/performance
concept and its links to HRM in a chapter of John Storey (ed) (2001) Human Resource
Management: A Critical Text. In the same book, John Storey and Paul Quintas provide
a thorough overview of knowledge management and its implications on HR in their chapter
on the topic. How to Measure Human Resource Management (2001) (3rd edition) by
Jac Fitz-Enz and Barbara Davison, published by McGraw-Hill, contains practical
information on measuring elements of HR. If Only We Knew What We Know: The Transfer
of Internal Knowledge and Best Practice (1998) by Carla S. O'Dell and Nilly
Essaides (published by the Free Press) provides a good explanation of how applying
the ideas of Knowledge Management can help employers identify their own internal best
practices and share this intellectual capital throughout their organizations.
Case study for discussion and analysis - High-Quality Workplaces in the Health Services