Human Resource Management or HRM operates under the principle that “people are the most valuable asset of any [organization]” (Gibbs, 2000). This view stems from one of the founders of Industrial Psychology, Lillian Moller Gilberth, who remarked from a male-dominated meeting of industrial engineers in 1908 that despite the importance of people in the industry, they are not receiving the attention that it needs (Muchinsky, 1987). She concerned herself “the human aspects of time management,” recognizing that stress and fatigue are critical in the work environment. She called attention to psychology as a measure to improve not only productivity, but also the welfare of the workers. Through this, she was able to advance the humanistic side of Psychology and its application to the industry.
Among the key domains where HRM is oftentimes applied and executed are Performance Management, Motivation and Leadership. In these domains, HRM is able to exercise its goal of developing people skills and helping them work efficiently in order to improve organizational productivity. In the area of Performance Management, HRM strategically develops and improves performance through policies that emphasize customer needs and service quality through systematic monitoring, evaluation, rewarding, and instilling a sense of accountability among individuals and teams. In Motivation, HRM helps in identifying concrete steps to determine the primary motivators of the workers and to provide these motivators to ensure optimum performance of duties. Paul J. Meyer is known to have identified five warning signs for waning motivation, and he subsequently formed a 5-point plan to correct motivational problems and to help in maintaining its momentum. Finally, in Leadership, HRM helps leaders develop proper communication within and beyond the organization, establish an aware and responsive culture among its members, and promote high standards through setting examples (Gibbs, 2000).
HRM goals should be in line with organizational goals, yet it should keep up with the needs of the individual workers and the constantly changing environment of the workforce, in response to the changing supply and demand. HRM models serve to outline the relationship of the essential elements needed to provide effective HRM, at least to grant concrete structure all throughout the face of continuing changes, and to guarantee that the basic aspects are being met. The traditional HRM Model by M. Hanada Keio involves a four-way system of grading – through rewards, training, assessment, and staffing. In this model, rewards and assessment are independent of each other but connected both with staffing and training, and conversely, staffing and training are independent of each other but connected both with rewards and assessment. All aspects are then unified with grading (Hanada, n.d.). From this model, an overly simplistic process of HRM is portrayed, neglecting even the attitudes of the workforce in their assigned tasks and duties. It is because of this and the emerging humanistic philosophy during the early nineties that HRM models are classified as either soft or hard. Hard models focus on the resource side of human resources (Storey, 2001), and demand that performance is measured objectively and in consonance with the numerical or quantitative requirements set forth by the management. Soft models, however, stresses the “human” aspects of HRM. Communication, motivation and leadership take the center stage in improving productivity (Storey, 2001). The Michigan and Harvard models are accordingly good examples of the difference between the two types. The Michigan Business School model holds that employees are resources and therefore should be treated just as how other material resources are basically dealt with. This treatment is evident from the HR processes performed in this model: selection, performance appraisal, rewards and skills development (Fombrum, Tichy and Devana, 1984). There is no evidence of concern over the general welfare of the workforce; thus, HRM function is reduced to organizing and developing the workers to meet the behavioral requirements of the management, not motivating and maximizing their potentials, or cultivating a sense of belongingness to the company. The Harvard model, on the other hand, similarly views humans as business resources, but of a different kind, and therefore cannot be managed the same way (Beer at al, 1984). Parallel with Japanese people management, this model recognizes the element of mutuality among the bosses and the workers, and thus, they are viewed as stakeholders in the organization (Beer at al, 1984). Because workers are humans just the same, the model incorporates the recognition of their individual needs and concerns, much like the people they actually serve – customers. Because of this, they should also be handled with care, and their fundamental needs and concerns be actually provided to them, to say the least. The policy areas include human resource flows (recruitment, selection and placement), reward systems (pay systems and other forms of motivation), employee influence (delegated levels of authority, responsibility and power), and work systems (work design and people alignment). These policy areas in turn lead to the Four C’s of HR policies, namely, Commitment, Congruence, Competence and Cost effectiveness (Beer & Spector, 1985). Clearly, the model assumes that workers have more active role in realizing organizational goals. The Michigan and Harvard model, however, are not foolproof. Just like the traditional model, they received various criticisms and marked debates. Among the alternative models suggested were Randall Schuler’s (1993) and David Guest’s (1989, 1997). Schuler et al (1993) modified the Michigan model by adding additional technical scopes such as technology, organizational structure and size, unionization, and industry sector. Alternatively, Guest, believing that HRM is distinct from traditional personnel management, revamped existing models. He particularly criticized the Harvard model in its assertion of the relationship between commitment and high performance. Although the critique may be outdated, Guest’s significant contribution in the field of HRM stems from his posited six dimensions of analysis: HRM strategy, practices, outcomes, Behavior and Performance outcomes. Indeed, his analytic structure is continuously applied by contemporary HR managers in theory and in practice. In line with the rise of alternative models, alternative classifications also emerged. Among the popular ones are Legge’s (2005) and Tyson’s. Legge’s 4-way classification system divides existing models into: normative, descriptive-functional, descriptive-behavioral, and critical evaluative. Tyson’s 3-way breakdown involves types of normative, descriptive and analytical. Both classifications are based on the function of the models in HR practices.
A growing concern with the distinction between “hard” and “soft” HRM models is the rapidly growing literature that they are not only based on divergent views on “human nature” and “managerial control strategies” (Truss, Gratton, Hope-Hailey, McGovern & Stiles, 1997), they also “illustrate the gap between rhetoric and reality in workforce management” (Gill, 1999). Truss et al (1997) found out through organizational case studies that there is no evidence of pure hard and soft models in practice. Instead, as management tries to adopt a soft model, the employees nevertheless perceive management to be “hard.” One of the suggested reasons why reality does not reflect the rhetoric model is because the foundation of the program rests upon the prevailing interest of the organization over the individual. From this, the authors suggested that these differences must be considered by the management during HRM conceptualization. However, the distinction may not lie from the difference between the plan and the implementation; rather, the difference may lie from the weight of importance allocated to the individual and the organization. Until HRM is grounded on impartiality,
where the individual and the organization have equal importance, this division among HRM models will remain to be irreconcilable from each other.
Different tendencies arise from different places. The Office of the Employment Advocate and (OEA) and the Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business (DEWRSB) in Australia has claimed that integration between the hard and soft HRM models is already being reflected in Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs); however, Roan et al (2001) concluded after reviewing AWAs submitted from March 1997 to June 1998 that the trend is towards minimizing costs and maximizing hours flexibility, a fashioning for hard HRM. However, in the United Kingdom, particularly in the construction industry, Drucker et al (1996) reports that there are restricted evidences of change to training expectations and future employee development, despite the increased awareness that hard HRM applies to manual workers, while soft HRM is suitable for non-manual workers. However, despite the heightened emphasis on adopting soft HRM, cultural differences among nations, races, and geography, leadership style and the nature and status of the organization account for the differences in the type of model used. Consequently, adopting effective HRM model stems from extensive research in the actual workplace from where the program will also be applied.
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Drucker, J., White, G., Hegewisch, A. & Mayne, L. (1996). Between hard and soft HRM: human resource management in the construction industry. Construction Management and Economics, 14(5), 405-416(12).
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Gill, Carol. (1999). Use of hard and soft models of HRM to illustrate the gap between rhetoric and reality in workforce management. Working Paper Series WP99/13.
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