Michael Armstrong has observed : “HRM is regarded by some personnel managers as just a set of initials or old wine in a new bottle. It could indeed be no more or no less than another name for personnel management but as usually perceived at least it has the virtue of emphasizing the need for treating people of top management, as part of the strategic process of the enterprise”.
It can, therefore, be viewed that HRM relates to a strategic and coherent approach to the management of the people in an organization contributing towards the fulfillment of the business goals. It involves a set of interrelated policies with ideological and philosophical orientation and forms a business focused approach to manage people towards competitive advantage.
HRM emerged in the mid-1980’s when two models were evolved by the academicians in the USA. a) The Matching Model b) the Harvard Framework. The Matching Model specifies that HR system and the organizational structure must match with the organizational strategy. The founders of the Harvard Framework stressed the need for coherence in HRM policies.
They first pointed out that HRM belonged to the Line Managers. The problems of personnel management can only be solved when managers demonstrate a mindset of how they intend to see employees involved in and developed by the enterprise, and upto what extent HRM policies and practices may facilitate these goals.
In a similar way R.E.Walton, a Harvard professor, observed that HRM model is composed of policies and practices which promote mutuality i.e. mutual goals, mutual respect, mutual influence, mutual rewards and mutual responsibility. Thus the “Harvard Framework” model specifies that HRM is a concern for management in general rather than the personnel function in particular.
HRM models have also been divided into the following by eminent personnel management experts.
i) Prescriptive model – This in effect instructs the practitioners on how they ought to proceed. This can also be called as a normative model. Personnel management as a field of study has been dominated by prescription, with little concern given either to the validity of the basis from which the confident prescriptions arise or with how actual personnel management is practiced in the real world.
At this juncture, it is worthwhile asking ourselves whether prescriptive models of HRM contain anything distinctive when compared to the prescriptive accounts of personnel management. Although it has often been felt that there is not much difference between personnel management and HRM yet some differences between the two have been pointed out by some personnel management theoreticians like Legge when he talks of the three key shifts of emphasis while subtly distinguishing HRM from personnel management :
a) Personnel Management is oriented almost totally to the management of subordinate, non-managerial staff. HRM at the normative level focuses on the development of management teams.
b) The role attributed to line managers differ; in the personnel management normative models it tends to be merely the “implementation” of the specialist personnel procedures, whereas under HRM line managers are centrally responsible for devising and driving integrated business management and people management strategies.
c) HRM normative models, unlike personnel, posit the management of the organisational culture as a central activity for most of the senior management.
ii) Descriptive Model – Our focus will now be made on the Second Variety of HRM model i.e. the descriptive one. This model, in fact, reports on the actual developments in the field. As a method it paves the way for research. In order to begin isolating the kind of variables upon which study should be concentrated and on which data should be collected, requires some initial framework of analysis.
If the research is not purely exploratory but aims, if only in part, at contributing to ongoing debate, then some kind of conceptual framework of analysis is required. This requirement directs our attention to the third category of model : Conceptual model.
iii) Conceptual Model
This model attempts neither to describe what kind of HRM is in existence nor does it recommend what should exist. To put it in simple words, it is neither prescriptive/normative not descriptive in character. The Question, which we are now posed with is wherefrom then a conceptual model of HRM be produced?
We may at this juncture examine a number of approaches, one of the options is to distil the practices of companies claiming to practice HRM. Another approach could be to extract the genesis from studies of successful companies.
Another alternative as opined by a HRM theoretician named Quest is to develop theory by borrowing from the Social Sciences. The conceptual modeling in the Social Sciences has a rich heritage but it does not in itself offer any singular path.
The HRM Model has been conceived and diffused at a time when considerable change is being sought. The battery of ideas revolving around competencies (training, development, flexibilities) and attitudes (communication and leadership) gain their significance as signposts for multitudinous line managers and general managers who are aware that they are expected to gear their work forces for change but who also know that the precise ways in which they are supposed to proceed are unlikely to be spelled out from corporate levels.
A theoretical model would go further by indicating possible connections between Key Variables. A diagrammatic representation of such a theoretical HRM model is furnished.
HRM as a phenomenon has a number of faces but two in particular are notable: The “Soft” and “Hard” approach. The “Soft” version is the one where HRM connotes a style of approach whose touchstones are the careful nurturing of and investment in human stock.
The second approach is shown to emphasise the calculative and business-like treatment of labour with the accent being upon it as a “resource” like any other to be deployed and disposed of in an economically rational way with impatience towards institutional arrangements or procedures which interfere in that process.
This version is called the “hard approach”. However, both versions share the presumption that decision about human resources deserve strategic attention because both start from the premise that the way in which the resource is managed will be critical to the success of the business plan.