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The term Human Resource Management (HRM) is full of ambiguities. Legge (1995) contrasts the 'hard' and 'soft' schools of HRM and the 'rhetoric' and reality of the phenomena.

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Introduction

The term Human Resource Management (HRM) is full of ambiguities. Legge (1995) contrasts the 'hard' and 'soft' schools of HRM and the 'rhetoric' and reality of the phenomena. HRM was identified in the United States during the 1950's but wider recognition especially in the United Kingdom did not arrive until the mid 1980's. The 1980's saw the first British books written on the concepts of Human Resource Management, which created much scepticism about the new ways in which to organise labour forces. Academics such as Beardwell, Holden, Legge and Beaumont who introduced many supporting theories during the 1990's, demonstrated that HRM wasn't just a passing phase, but a new concept of how employees think and operate in the work place. Monk 1994 described HRM as a 'slippery concept that means different things to different people'. Guest 1987 referred to HRM as ' being people orientated throughout with an ethic of respect for the individual, maximising individual talent, well developed policies and practices, genuine consultation involvement, and clear challenging goals with feedback'. It could be argued that Guest's model does nothing to differentiate HRM from personnel, which was later supported by Legge 1989. Legge commented that 'successful companies guide and shape their company's culture to fir their strategy.' ...read more.

Middle

While both hard and soft models of HRM provide weight to linking strategy to the importance of people, different meanings are given to each and different assumptions made concerning human nature. Noon suggested that the dichotomy of hard and soft HRM manifests itself as a gap between rhetoric and reality (Noon 1994).Blyton and Turnbull (1994, p4) have quoted Skinner who addresses HRM as nothing more than good intentions and whistling in the dark'. This vision of HRM operating as a powerless theoretical model is supported by Argyris 1998. Could HRM rhetoric have outstripped the reality? (Blyton and Turnbull 1994). Theorists such as Truss et al 1997 found no pure examples of soft or hard HRM in rhetoric or reality and that the rhetoric adopted by many organisations appeared to abide by softer approaches, the reality experienced by employees as similar to the hard model. A study by Sewell and Wilkinson contrasted the rhetoric of employee and employer commitment with the reality of workers in a Japanese company in the UK, which concluded the close similarity of Japanese style to that of the hard versions of HRM. Womak et al 1990 brought particular attention to the lean production methods of Toyota who were functioning as a solely profit making and efficiency dominated organisation. ...read more.

Conclusion

Gill 1999 concluded to say that this has supported that HRM has facilitated the intensification of work and commodification of labour that re asserts management authority. Interestingly not all rhetoric has been identified as hard, as some organisations consistently invest in employee training and involvement, however this was often dependent on the performance of the bottom line. Organisations who introduced employee empowerment in attempts to increase overall production often failed to consider the actual employment needs of the individual. This becomes a fundamental failure of HRM theory itself, as it can no longer deliver maximum potential from employees to achieve business strategic goals. The work of Kane et al 1999 supported that of Gill 1999 in an attempt to identify the poor alignment of HRM with strategy, or the hidden agendas of organisations wishing to increase managerial control. This brings more weight to the work of Legge (1995 p.40) 'the contradictions embedded in HRM that have facilitated the development of a rhetoric that may simultaneously render strategic action problematic'. HRM theory has clearly suffered from constant undermining and non-commitment at senior management level, with the use of hard and soft HRM rhetoric only concealing the overall problem. An environment of disbelief and cynics has resulted in the creation of an environment that only fuels this air of distrust (Gill 1999). ...read more.

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