Human resource management is defined as a strategic and coherent approach to the management of an organization’s most valued assets – the people working there who individually and collectively contribute to the achievement of its objectives.
Storey (1989) believes that HRM can be regarded as a ‘set of interrelated policies with an ideological and philosophical underpinning’. He suggests four aspects that constitute the meaningful version of HRM which are:
- a particular group of beliefs and assumptions;
- a strategic thrust informing decisions about people management;
- the central involvement of line managers; and
- reliance upon a set of ‘levers’ to shape the employment relationship
The overall purpose of human resource management is to ensure that the organization is able to achieve success through people. ‘HRM systems can be the source of organizational capabilities that allow firms to learn and capitalize on new opportunities.’ Specifically, HRM is concerned with achieving objectives in the following areas.
Distinctive human resource practices shape the core competencies that determine how firms compete. HRM strategies aim to support programmes for improving organizational effectiveness by developing policies in such areas as knowledge management, talent management and generally creating ‘a great place to work’. This is the ‘big idea’ as described by Purcell et al (2003), which consists of a ‘clear vision and a set of integrated values’. HR strategies can be concerned with the development of continuous improvement and customer relations policies.
Human capital management
Human capital can be regarded as the prime asset of an organization and businesses need to invest in that asset to ensure their survival and growth. HRM aims to ensure that the organization obtains and retains the skilled, committed and well-motivated workforce it needs. This means taking steps to assess and satisfy future people needs and to enhance and develop the inherent capacities of people – their contributions, potential and employability – by providing learning and continuous development opportunities. It involves the operation of ‘rigorous recruitment and selection procedures, performance- dependent incentive compensation systems, and management development and training activities linked to the needs of the businesses. It also means engaging in talent management – the process of acquiring and nurturing talent, wherever it is and wherever it is needed, by using a number of interdependent
Knowledge management is ‘any process or practice of creating, acquiring, capturing, sharing and using knowledge, wherever it resides, to enhance learning and performance in organizations’ .HRM aims to support the development of firm-specific knowledge and skills that are the result of organizational learning processes.
HRM aims to enhance motivation, job engagement and commitment by introducing policies and processes that ensure that people are valued and rewarded for what they do and achieve and for the levels of skill and competence they reach.
The aim is to create a climate in which productive and harmonious relationships can be maintained through partnerships between management and employees and their trade unions.
Meeting diverse needs
HRM aims to develop and implement policies that balance and adapt to the needs of its stakeholders and provide for the management of a diverse workforce, taking into account individual and group differences in employment, personal needs, work style and aspirations and the provision of equal opportunities for all.
Bridging the gap between rhetoric and reality
The research conducted has found that there was generally a wide gap between the sort of rhetoric and reality. Managements may start with good intentions to do some or all of these things but the realization of them is often very difficult. This arises because of contextual and process problems: other business priorities, short-termism, limited support from line managers, an inadequate infrastructure of supporting processes, lack of resources, resistance to change and lack of trust. An overarching aim of HRM is to bridge this gap by making every attempt to ensure that aspirations are translated into sustained and effective action.