Development of the Human Resources Management (HRM) concept

The basic philosophy of the “soft approach to human resource management (HRM)” is based in part on the work of McGregor (McGregor, 1960), who, according to Truss (1999), actually used in his terminology such characteristics as ” hard ”and“ soft ”to describe the form of management control.

According to Walton (1985), the essence of McGregor’s theory X is to describe the management model of “control”, and his theory Y emphasizes the importance of combining organizational goals and individual needs of workers based on the principle of interdependence. Reference: “Objectives of Human Resources Management (HRM)“,

In its full form, the concept of human resources management (HRM) appeared in the mid-80s against the background of the characteristic for this decade rapid activity of the authors in the field of popularization of management ideas. Among others are scientists such as Pascale and Athos (1981) and Peters and Waterman (1982), in books that offer the characteristics of successful companies developed by the authors.

In general, the representatives of the then popular “school of perfection” had a significant impact on the formation of managerial thinking in line with the justification of the need to create a strong culture and attachment (two components of HRM models), and according to Guest (Guest, 1993) , these authors were “too right and therefore wrong”. Reference: “Human resources management concept“,

The process of developing the concept of human resource management

The process of developing the concept of human resources management (HRM) can be divided into these main stages:

  1. Initial ideas developed by American authors in the 80’s.
  2. In the further development of these ideas by British authors in the 80’s and 90’s, who are often skeptical about the possibilities for practical application of these ideas, as well as the moral conditionality of the process.
  3. Introduced the concept of Human Resource Management in the traditional personnel management system. Reference: “Get a Human Resources Manager certificate with a good training course”,

Two primary concepts of HRM have been dubbed the “compliance model” and the “Harvard model” (Boxall, 1992).

Correspondence model

One of the first formulations of the concept of HRM was proposed by the Michigan School (Fombrun et al, 1984). They suggested that HRM and the management of the organizational structure should be consistent with the organizational strategy

(hence the name “conformity model”). The authors further explained that the human resources cycle (shown in an adapted form in Fig. 1.1) consists of four types of processes or functions performed in each organization, namely:

  1. Selection – search for optimal compliance of human resources with different waters of work. Reference: “How to make a Human Resources plan for our organization”,
  2. Evaluation – performance management.
  3. Remuneration: “remuneration system – the least effective and correctly used management tool of those used to increase the efficiency of companies.” Remuneration should be based on both short-term and long-term performance of workers, taking into account the fact that “companies must work in the present to succeed in the future”.
  4. Formation of highly effective associates.

Fombrun et al. Suggest linking the HRM function to the linear structure of companies through the following actions: creating a quality HR database, encouraging senior managers to thoroughly research HR issues, and evaluating the contribution of HR staff. in the strategic, administrative and operational-economic sphere of activity of the organization. Reference: “Human resource management plan in project management practices”,

Harvard model

Another group of founding fathers of the HRM concept is the Harvard School, led by Beer and co-authors (Beer et al, 1984). At the heart of this approach is the belief that the problems of traditional personnel management can only be solved by:

“Full awareness of top managers about the desired degree of involvement of employees in the organizational process, the necessary conditions for their training and development and what principles and methods for HRM could help achieve these goals. Without a fundamental ideology or strategic vision – factors based solely on the work of senior managers – HRM risks remaining just a set of fragmented actions of people, each of whom will be guided by their own practice.

Beer and his colleagues suggested that “today, solving many problems requires a broader, comprehensive and strategic perspective on human resources.” These problems have led to the realization of the need for a “special approach to people management – an approach calculated for the long term, as well as the need for people to be perceived as potential assets and not as variable costs”. It was these authors who were the first to formulate the postulate that HRM should be a function of line managers. Reference: “Methods for human resources and personnel management“,

The authors also noted that “the field of HRM includes all management decisions and actions that affect the nature of the relationship between the organization and its employees – human resources.”

The Harvard School gives HRM two distinctive features: 1) line managers assign more responsibilities for coordinating the organizational strategy with the personnel policy; 2) the human resources department is guided by a mission to establish a policy that would determine the development of the internal integrated human resources system. Reference: “Example of Human Resources plan of an IT / Software company”,

According to Boxall (1992), the advantages of this model are:

  • Recognition and coordination of a wide range of interests of different stakeholders;
  • Recognizing the importance of trade-offs, both overt and covert, between the interests of the organization’s own and the interests of its employees, as well as between the interests of the various stakeholders;
  • Expanding the context of HRM by including aspects of “strengthening the influence of workers”, improving the organization of work and studying the accompanying issues related to management style; Reference: “Human resources policies in the field of social protection”,
  • Recognition of the influence of a number of external factors in the process of choosing an organizational strategy and the proposal to combine the factors of the commodity market with socio-cultural factors;
  • Emphasis on priority active strategic choices, not subject to situational or external choices.

The Harvard model has had a significant impact on HRM theory and practice, especially given the fact that HRM is an area of ​​application for the efforts of all company executives, not just HR managers.

Another representative of the Walton School of Harvard (Walton, 1985), developing the concept, stressed the importance of preserving the principles of affection and reciprocity:

“The new HRM model is based on a policy that encourages reciprocity: mutual goals, mutual influence, mutual respect, mutual remuneration, mutual responsibility. In theory, the policy of reciprocity should help to strengthen the attachment of workers to their company, which in turn should lead to better economic results and better development of the human factor.

The commitment-based human resource management (HRM) model is associated with the ideas of the flexible approach discussed above.