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Human Resource Management Paper

In: Business and Management

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Chapter 1


1. Background

Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM) has been, and remains, one of the most powerful and influential ideas to have emerged in the field of business and management during the past twenty-five years. Policy makers at government level have drawn upon the idea in order to promote ‘high performance workplaces’ and ‘human capital management’. Within business corporations, the idea that the way in which people are managed could be one of, if not the most crucial factor in the whole array of competitivenessinducing variables, has become a widely accepted proposition during this period. Many management consultancy firms – both large and small – have built substantial businesses by translating the concept into frameworks, methodologies and prescriptions. And, not least, academics have analysed, at considerable length, the meaning, significance and the evidence base for the ideas associated with SHRM.

The central idea – broadly stated – is that while for much of the industrial age, ‘labour’ was treated as an unfortunate ‘cost’, it became possible to view it in an entirely different light; as an ‘asset’. Economists and accountants routinely classified labour as one the main ‘variable costs’. Accordingly, procedures and managerial systems were aligned with this view. Labour was seen as plentiful and dispensable.

Little thought was given to its recruitment, little investment was made in its development, and the modes of ‘industrial discipline’ were based on direct command and control mixed occasionally with the strictures of performance related pay. ‘Hire and fire’ was a common term. In these circumstances, conflict was expected and industrial relations officers were employed in order to negotiate ‘temporary truces’ (otherwise known as collective agreements). These were considered successful…...

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