Example Business Essay: Personnel Management Transition to Human Resource Management

Example Business Essay: Personnel Management Transition to Human Resource Management
One view of the distinction between personnel management and HRM is offered by Bloisi (2007: 12) who sees personnel management as workforce centred and operationally focused. Tasked with recruitment, selection and administrative procedures in accordance with management’s’ requirements, they are functional specialists rather than strategic managers, often with little power or status, acting as a bridge between employer and employee, required to understand and articulate the needs of both.
Redman and Wilkinson (2006: 3) see the rise HRM as talking place over the last 20 years, firstly in the US and later in the mid-1980’s in the UK. The 1990’s saw the appearance of HRM journals and university courses, with the then Institute of Personnel Management, the main professional body for personnel practitioners, re-launching its journal People Management with the subtitle the magazine for Human Resource Professionals. After 2000, the professional body became Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), emphasising the transition. Redman and Wilkinson (2006: 4) argue that the rise of HRM reflects changing concerns of management and changing power balance in the workplace with declining trade union membership and management concerns turning towards efficiency and productivity. There is also the influence of organisational change attempting to adjust to global competition with downsizing, de-layering and decentralisation. Organisations are more flexible, less hierarchical and have been subject to continuous change programmes such as business process re-engineering, performance management, culture change and the concept of the learning organisation, all areas where HRM has become involved.

Armstrong (2006: 19) summarised major differences by noting HRM places more emphasis on strategic fit and integration with business strategy, based on a management and business oriented philosophy. HRM attaches more importance to organisational culture and the achievement of commitment, and places greater emphasis on the role of line managers as the implementers of HR policies. HRM is a holistic approach concerned with total organisational interest, while recognising those of individuals, but as subordinate to the total. HR professionals are expected to be business partners as opposed to administrators and treat employees as assets and not as cost overheads.

P2, M1

Armstrong (2008: 9) states that the overall role of HRM is to ensure organisational success through its employees, noting that Caldwell (2004) identified the role in the form of goals to be achieved. These included the management of people as assets fundamental to the competitive advantage of the organisation, aligning HRM policies with business policies and corporate strategy, creation of flatter and more flexible organisational structures capable of rapidly adapting to change, encouraging teamwork and cooperation, empowering employees to manage their own self-development and learning, and improving employee involvement. Also development of reward strategies designed to support performance, building employee commitment, and increasing line management responsibility for HR policies. Foot and Hook (2008: 30) offer a comprehensive list of tasks and activities of the HR practitioner. These include recruitment and selection, learning and development, human resource planning, provision of employment contracts, policies on fair treatment, equal opportunities, managing diversity, managing performance improvement, employee counselling, payment and reward policies, health and safety, employee discipline, grievance, dismissal, redundancy, negotiation, ethic and corporate responsibility and change management among others.


While HRM can initiate policies and practices Armstrong (2006: 97) acknowledges the line manager has implementation responsibility. If line managers feel indifferent or disagree with HR policies, and are compelled to implement them, they do so reluctantly and ineffectively. Purcell et al (2003) pointed out that high levels of organisational performance are not achieved simply by the existence a range of HR policies and practices and any difference made lies in how these are implemented. A factor affecting the line manager role lies in their ability to carry out HR tasks. Special skills are needed to perform people-oriented activities such as defining roles, interviewing, conducting performance reviews, providing feedback and coaching and identifying learning and development needs. Some managers have them and some do not possess these skills, or the organisation fails to provide training. Redman and Wilkinson (2006: 211) argue that line management responsibility for HR issues is not new, as they were always held responsible and accountable for managing people at work. There has been devolution of some HR work to the line partly due to pressure of organisational costs, and to provide a more comprehensive type of HRM arguably best achieved by devolving HR tasks to those managers responsible for implementation.

A frequent criticism of line management is their lack of soft, or people skills, and Torrington et al (2008: 205) state that many voluntary resignations are explained by dissatisfaction on the part of employees with supervisors. People are frequently promoted into supervisory positions without adequate experience of training.

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