Soft And Hard Hrm Essays For Scholarships

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HRM, soft and hard model. Human resource management is a distinctive approach to employment management which seeks to achieve competitive advantage through the strategic deployment of a highly committed and capable workforce, using an array of cultural, structural and personnel techniques (Storey J. , Human Resource Management - A Critical Text) First of all it should be noted that human resource management, or HRM, emerged as a practiced personnel function, promising flexibility, responsiveness and a marked increase in the value of the employee. Furthermore, with the reduction in heavy industries and increase in services and high technology, HRM promised to put emphasis on the individual and the longer-term strategic issues. The apparent push towards this seemingly ideological approach to personnel increased in the late eighties, arguably, due to increasing competitive pressures, increased globalization and a generally harsher business environment. It is these factors that caused managers to want to enhance internal corporate effectiveness and thus improve external competitiveness. This entailed the maximization of all resources, including the human resource.

However, the failure of personnel management to adequately promote to others the benefits of effectively managing people at work is also cited as a reason for the need for a new approach, a fact stated by Skinner (1981). Legge (1978) however suggested that the failure occurred at an even more fundamental level; personnel management as an activity has failed to develop an appropriate theoretical base, resulting in piecemeal textbook interventions, usually out of context with the needs of the organization. In order to understand the concept of hard and soft HRM one has to remember that the HRM deals with the following issues in the organization: HRM covers all the decisions, strategies, factors, principles, operations, practices, functions, activities and methods related to the management of people as employees in any type of organization (including small and micro enterprises and virtual organizations); HRM is engaged in all the dimensions related to people in their employment relationships, and all the dynamics that flow from it (including in the realization of the potential of individual employees in terms of their aspirations); HRM works towards adding value to the delivery of goods and services, as well as to the quality of work life for employees, and hence helping to ensure continuous organizational success in transformative environments. One should also understand that HRM should not be understood to consist of a single dry-and-cut coherent approach. Indeed, I believe and find support in literature, there are a number of diametrically opposed ideas and practices contained under the heading. These oppositions are clearly elucidated, for example, by Storey in his (1987 original) distinction between 'soft' and 'hard' aspects of HRM.

As Storey (1992: 17) proposes, 'harder' aspects of HRM '... place emphasis on the idea of resource that is, something to be used dispassionately and in a calculative, formally rational manner'. Speaking about Hard HRM approaches, I would like to note that they focus on systems and procedures, employee-control, and labor- maximization. An 'ideal type' of 'hard' HRM, in my opinion, can be seen in classical 'Taylor ist' approaches to 'scientific management'.

In this connection, it can be observed that PA itself could be included as an early variant of hard HRM. Speaking about 'soft' HRM, I would like to note that it focuses on stress, human relationships, qualitative aspects of working life, employee development, worker 'empowerment'; and an emphasis on commitment, communication, leadership and motivation (Storey 1987: 6). While, as Storey (1992: 17) notes, it is striking that a single term can signal such contrasting approaches and ideas, a great deal of the literature on the development of HRM (for example, Ball (1993), would suggest that it is the greater emphasis on these 'softer' aspects outlined above that is one of the defining features of HRM. Nonetheless, Storey's distinction between hard and soft aspects of HRM serves to highlight at this early stage in the paper an inherent tension between the harder 'resource-allocation' and softer 'human-developmental' components of HRM. It is evident that this inherent tension between 'hard' and 'soft' aspects of HRM has implicitly driven a great deal of conceptual and strategic development within the field (and one which perhaps has contributed to the somewhat 'faddish' character of the subject area). Speaking about the major issues that both soft and hard HRM currently faces on in the modern settings I would like to note the following ones: HRM people need to understand general management and the nature of the business, and line management need to understand about HR management HRM strategy needs to be a guiding component of business strategy to provide competitive advantage Shifts in roles: line management take on HRM roles corporate HRM functions have shifted to national and sector policy development, corporate strategy, compliance management, specialist services traditional HR manager replaced by performance consultant staff become self-reliant re transactional HRM functions increasingly HRM functions are outsourced to Some technology allows centralisation of "personnel department" the boundaries between traditional silos (functional divisions) are eroding with no clear alternative demarcation rather "virtual" teams with limited life span HRM practitioners inside organisations have to be generalists; specialist services are outsourced rigid HRM systems need to be replaced by leadership role Speaking about the evolution of HRM one should not forget to note that the definition of hard and soft HRM originated in the United States but has been most debated in the British Literature since the development of a normative model of HRM by Guest and others in the mid 1980 s.

If I am not mistaken, it was Peter and Waterman's (1982) publication of In Search of Excellence that rediscovered the importance of the human side of enterprise. In this was the discovery of competitive advantage through "excellence syndrome", or the idea that personnel policy must be linked to strategy and people are an asset (Keenoy, 1990). These concepts combined tight controls on results with autonomy in priorities, decisions and actions (Legge, 1995) These propositions were academically developed by Harvard University in its MBA program by Beer and others in 1985 and Michigan University by Fombrun and others in 1984. The ideas have been critically reworked since the late 1980 s by Guest and Storey and Sisson (Drucker, White, Hegewisch & Mayne, 1996). The Harvard model, drawing on human relations school, emphasized communications, team work and the utilisation of individual talents (Poole & Mansfield, 1994). The Michigan school is a more strategic approach with a unitarian outlook, which endorses management's views (Hendry and Pettigrew, 1994).

Another HRM scientist, Guest draws on the Harvard model, associated with soft HRM and the Michigan model, which proposes the hard HRM approach. He acknowledged the differences between these approaches he incorporates both in to the all embracing normative HRM (Noon, 1994). The concept of normative HRM has been adopted by many organizations and has two common themes. 1. HR policies, regardless of their hard or soft nature, should be integrated with strategic business planning and used to reinforce or change an appropriate organizational culture. 2. Human resources are valuable and indeed present a source of competitive advantage and are tapped most effectively through policies that promote commitment (Legge, 1995). Here I would like to draw the readers attention to the fact that normative HRM proposes that there is a simple, linear relationship between strategy and HRM.

However, there are problems in the integration of HRM policy with business strategy and evidence indicates that HRM is more ad hoc than strategic. Even as employment practices are changing there is doubt about the strategic focus of these changes. Current developments do not have a great deal of coherence and logic and initiatives are piecemeal (Blyton & Turnbull, 1994; Drucker et al. , 1996; Storey, 1987). Ironically, Legge (1995, p. 40) explains that it is "the contradictions embedded in HRM that have facilitated the development of a rhetoric that may simultaneously render strategic action problematic." Hard HRM stresses the "resource" aspect of HRM, Legge refers to this as "Utilitarian Instrumentalism." This hard model stresses HRM's focus on the crucial importance of the close integration of human resource policies, systems and activities with business strategy. From this perspective human resources are largely a factor of production, an expense of doing business rather than the only resource capable of turning inanimate factors of production in to wealth. Human Resources are viewed as passive, to be provided and deployed as numbers and skills at the right price, rather than the source of creative energy (Legge, 1995, p. 66 - 67).

Hard HRM is as calculative and tough minded as any other branch of management, communicating through the tough language of business and economics. This emphasis on the quantitative, calculative and business-strategic aspects of managing the "headcount" has been termed human asset accounting (Storey, 1987). The hard HRM approach has some kinship with scientific management as people are reduced to passive objects that are not cherished as a whole people but assessed on whether they posses the skills / attributes the organisation requires (Legge, 1995; Vaughan, 1994; Storey, 1987; Drucker et al, 1996; Keenoy, 1990). Soft HRM stresses "human" aspect and is associated with the human relations school of Herzberg and McGregor (Storey, 1987). Legge refers to this as "Developmental Humanism" (Legge, 1995, p. 66 - 67). Whilst emphasising the importance of integrating HR policies with Business objectives, the soft model focuses on treating employees as valued assets and a source of competitive advantage through their commitment, adaptability and high quality skill and performance.

Employees are proactive rather than passive inputs into productive processes, capable of development, worthy of trust and collaboration which is achieved through participation (Legge, 1995, pp 66 - 67). The soft HRM is seen as a method of releasing untapped reserves of human resourcefulness by increasing employee commitment, participation and involvement. Employee commitment is sought with the expectation that effectiveness will follow as second-order consequences. Walton (1985, p. 79) suggests that "a model that assumes low employee commitment and that is designed to produce reliable if not outstanding performance simply cannot match the standards of excellence set by world-class competitors" and discusses the choice that managers have between a strategy based on imposing control and a strategy based on eliciting commitment. It is evident that HRM does not provide a consistent set of policies and procedures, the distinction between hard and soft forms of HRM offer management two sharply contrasting alternatives within a supposedly single approach. Whilst hard and soft HRM both give weight to a link with strategy and the importance of people, different meanings are attributed to these components and different assumptions of human nature underlie each.

This dichotomy is reminiscent of McGregor's views on managerial control strategies. In 1960, he suggested that theory X managers believe that employees do not like work, whilst theory Y managers believe that "man will exercise self direction and self-control in the service of objectives to which he is committed" (Truss, Gratton, Hope-Hailey, McGovern & Stiles, 1997, p. 55). In a similar vein, Sullivan comments on Western Management theory that depicts two views of human nature. Modern man, who is law bound and must endure work in an exchange of value, whilst self bound hermeneutical man creates organisational reality and structures (rather than responds to them) in an exchange of meaning.

Noon suggests that the dichotomy of hard and soft HRM manifests itself as a gap between rhetoric and reality (Noon, 1994) From the practical application of the HRM and its soft and hard forms, I would like to note that Truss et al. (1997) examined the following factors to determine whether organizations were using soft or hard models of HRM. Please refer to the examples below. 1. Training received by employees and employee's perception of training and promotion opportunities (applicable to soft HRM) 2. Communication and trust between management and staff (applicable to soft HRM) 3. Integration of HR and business strategy including performance management techniques such as appraisal (applicable to hard HRM). 4.

Control over setting work targets (applicable to hard HRM) 5. Organizational flexibility (applicable to hard HRM) The above table identifies two scales: hard and soft. During the content analysis organizations can be high, low or mixed on either scale. An overall judgment is made about the status of rhetoric and reality by examining whether organizations have a consistent status on both scales. Consequently, if an organization is high on the hard scale and also low on the soft scale, it is viewed as having a hard overall rhetoric. Please refer to the table below for pictorial presentation of similarities and differences of soft and hard HRM.

Soft HRM Hard HRM Direct references to values of and practices to encourage: Employees as valued "human" assets and a source of competitive advantage. Employee involvement, participation and communication to derive commitment Training and Development to meet the needs of the individual and the organisation Actions which promote: Employees as valued "human" assets and a source of competitive advantage. Employee involvement, participation and communication to derive commitment. Training and Development to meet the needs of the individual and the organisation View the employee as a valued "human Direct references to values of and practices to encourage: Close integration of human "resources" with business strategy.

Employees as a cost. Employees as factors in the production process Actions which promote: Close integration of human "resources" with business strategy. Employees as a cost. Employees as factors in the production process In conclusion, there is evidence to indicate that there is a gap between rhetoric and reality in workforce management. Research has shown that HRM rhetoric is generally soft and reality predominantly hard. Even when implementation appears soft, such initiatives are often constrained by a hard framework.

Consequently we see that Total Quality Management whilst espousing empowerment delivers increased management control and job related training can increase without considering the development needs of employees required by the concept of 'employability' which has replaced organisational career paths. These dilemmas mirror the contradictions with the whole concept of HRM, which is unable to deliver its dual promise of maximizing the contribution of human resources to achieve business strategy and successful corporate management. LIST OF REFERENCES ARMSTRONG, M. (1987) Human resource management: a case of the emperor's new clothes? , Personnel Management, August pp. 28 - 35. BERRIDGE, J. (1992) Human Resource Management in Britain, (Employee Relations Vol 14 Issue 5). FOWLER, A. (1987) When chief executives discover HRM, Personnel Management, January pp. 3. GOSS, D. (1998) Principals of Human Resource Management, (London, Cassell).

GOVERN, P. et al (1997) Human Resource Management on the Line, (Human Resource Journal Vol 7 No 4). GUEST, D. E. (1995) Human resource management, trade unions and industrial relations, in: STOREY, J. (1995) Human Resource Management: A Critical Text, (London, Routledge). GUEST, D. E. (1989) Human resource management: its implications for industrial relations and trade unions, in: STOREY, J. (1989) New Perspectives on Human Resource Management, (London, Routledge).

GUEST, D. E. (1987) Human resource management and industrial relations, Journal of Management Studies, 24 (5) pp. 503 - 521. HARRIS, S. (1984) Hewlett-Packard: shaping the corporate culture, in: FOMBRUN, C. J. , TICHY, N. M. , and DEVANNA, M.

A. (1984) Strategic Human Resource Management, (New York, John Wiley HOPE-HAILEY, V. et al (1997) A Chameleon Function? HRM in the 90 s, (Human Resource Journal Vol 7 No 3). KEENOY, T. (1990) HRM: A case of the wolf in sheep's clothing? , Personnel Review, 19 (2) pp. 3 - 9.

LEGGE, K. (1995) HRM: Rhetoric, reality and hidden agendas, in: STOREY, J. (1995 a) Human Resource Management: A Critical Text, (London, Routledge). LEGGE, K. (1989) Human resource management: a critical analysis, in: STOREY, J. (ed. ) (1989) New Perspectives on Human Resource Management, (London, Routledge). LEGGE, K. (1978) Power, Innovation and Problem Solving in Personnel Management, (London, McGrew Hill) in: HOPE-HAILEY, V. et al (1997) A Chameleon Function? HRM in the 90 s, (Human Resource Journal Vol 7 No 3).

MILLER, P. (1992) Integrating strategy and human resource management, in: TOWERS, B. (ed. ) (1992) The Handbook of Human Resource Management, (Oxford, Blackwell Publishers). MILLER, P. (1989) Strategic HRM: what it is and what it isn't, Personnel Management, February. MILLER, P. (1987) Strategic industrial relations and human resource management - distinction, definition and recognition, Journal of Management Studies, 24 (4) pp. 348 - 361. MILLWARD, N. (1994) The New Industrial Relations? , (London, Policy Studies Institute).

NOON, M. (1992) HRM: a map, model or theory? , in: BLYTON, P. and TURNBULL, P. (1992) Reassessing Human Resource Management (London, Sage Publications Limited). KESSLER, S. and BAYLISS, F. (1998) Contemporary British Industrial Relations, (London, Macmillan Press Ltd). SISSON, K. (1989) Personnel Management in Britain, (Oxford, Blackwell). SKINNER, W. (1981) Big hat, no cattle: managing human resources, in: ROBOTHAM, D. (1995) HRM: Still a Case of the Emperors New Clothes? , Journal of Industrial Affairs STOREY, J. (1992) HRM in action: the truth is out at last, Personnel Management, April pp. 28 - 31.

STOREY, J. (1989) New Perspectives on Human Resource Management, (London, Routledge). Storey J. , (2002 reprint) Human Resource Management (McGraw hill). WICKENS, P. (1987) The Road To Nissan: flexibility, quality, teamwork, (London, The Macmillan Press Limited).


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Research essay sample on Hrm Soft And Hard Model

Hard and Soft Models of Human Resource Management Essay

1547 WordsJan 28th, 20127 Pages

Human resource management has frequently been described as a concept with two distinct forms: soft and hard. These are diametrically opposed along a number of dimensions, and they have been used by many commentators as devices to categorize approaches to managing people according to developmental-humanist or utilitarian-instrumentalist principles (Legge 1995 b).
The terms have gained some currency although, from a theoretical point of view, the underlying conflicts and tensions contained within the models have not been sufficiently explored and, from a practical perspective, available empirical evidence would suggest that neither model accurately represents what is happening within organizations (Storey 1992; Wood 1995). This leads us to…show more content…

Guest (1987) and Storey (1992) in their definitions of soft and hard models of HRM view the key distinction as being whether the emphasis is placed on the human or the resource. Soft HRM is associated with the human relations movement, the utilization of individual talents, and McGregor's (1960) Theory Y perspective on individuals (developmental humanism). This has been equated with the concept of a 'high commitment work system' (Walton 1985b), 'which is aimed at eliciting a commitment so that behaviour is primarily self-regulated rather than controlled by sanctions and pressures external to the individual and relations within the organization are based on high levels of trust' (Wood 1996: 41). Soft HRM is also associated with the goals of flexibility and adaptability (which themselves are problematic concepts, as we shall see in more detail later), and implies that communication plays a central role in management (Storey and Sisson 1993).
Hard HRM, on the other hand, stresses 'the quantitative, calculative and business-strategic aspects of managing the "headcount resource" in as "rational" a way as for any other factor of production', as associated with a utilitarian-instrumentalist approach (Storey 1992: 29; see also Legge 1995 b). Hard HRM focuses on the importance of 'strategic fit', where human resource policies and practices are closely linked to the strategic objectives of the organization (external fit), and are coherent among

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