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Exploring Different Perspectives of HR Management

written by: N Nayab • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 5/18/2011

Five different perspectives of human resource management (HRM) include the normative perspective, the critical perspective, behavioral perspective, systems perspective, and agency or transaction cost perspective.

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    The Normative Perspective

    Different Perspectives of Human Resource Management The normative perspective of human resource management bases itself on the concepts of “hard HRM” and “soft HRM,” on which the foundations of human resource management rest.

    The concept of “Hard HRM” is the basis for the traditional approach toward human resource management. This concept traces its origins to the Harvard model that links workforce management to organizational strategy. Hard HRM stresses the linkage of functional areas such as manpower planning, job analysis, recruitment, compensation and benefits, performance evaluations, contract negotiations, and labor legislations to corporate strategy. This enforces organization interests over the employees' conflicting ambitions and interests. It views the workforce as passive resources that the organization can use and dispose at will.

    Soft HRM is synonymous with the Michigan model of human resources and is the bedrock of the modern approach to strategic human resource management. This model considers human capital as “assets” rather than “resources” and lays stress on organizational development, conflict management, leadership development, organizational culture, and relationship building as a means of increasing trust and ensuring performance through collaboration. This approach works under the assumption that what is good for the organization is also good for the employee.

    Image Credit: flickr.com/ken lund

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    The Critical Perspective of Human Resource Management

    The critical perspective of human resource management is a reaction against the normative perception. This highlights some inherent contradictions within the normative perspective.

    This perspective espouses a gap between rhetoric, as organizations claim to follow soft HRM policies when they actually enforce hard HRM. A study by Hope-Hailey et al. (1997) finds that while most organizations claim employees to be their most important assets and make many commitments for their welfare and development, in reality employers enforce a hard HRM-based strategic control, and the interests of the organization always take priority over the individual employee.

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    The Behavioral Perspective of Human Resource Management

    The behavioral perspective of human resource management has its roots in the contingency theory that considers employee behavior as the mediator between strategy and organizational performance. This theory holds that the purpose of human resource intervention is to control employee attitudes and behaviors to suit the various strategies adopted to attain the desired performance. This perspective thus bases itself on the role behavior of employees instead of their skills, knowledge, and abilities.

    For instance, an organization aiming to innovate will require a workforce that demonstrates a high degree of innovative behavior such as long-term focus, cooperation, concern for quality, creativity, propensity for risk taking, and similar qualities. The role of human resource management in such a context is to inculcate and reinforce such behavioral patterns in the workforce.

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    The Systems Perspective of Human Resource Management

    The systems perspective describes an organization in terms of input, throughput, and output, with all these systems involved in transactions with a surrounding environment. The organized activities of employees constitute the input, the transformation of energies within the system at throughput, and the resulting product or service the output. A negative feedback loop provides communications on discrepancies.

    The role of human resource management in the systems perspective is

    1. Competence management to ensure that the workforce has the required competencies such as skills and ability to provide the input needed by the organization.
    2. Behavior management through performance evaluation, pay systems, and other methods to ensure job satisfaction, so that employees work according to the organizational strategy, ultimately boosting productivity.
    3. Setting up mechanisms to buffer the technological core from the environment in closed systems.
    4. Facilitating interactions with the environment in open systems.

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    Agency or Transaction Cost Perspective of Human Resource Management

    Different Perspectives of Human Resource Management Among the different perspectives of human resource management is the agency or transaction cost perspective, which holds the view that the strong natural inclination of people working in groups is to reduce their performance and rely on the efforts of others in the group. When one person delegates responsibility to another person, conflicts of interests invariably arise.

    The major role of human resource management in such a context is to promote alternative ways of controlling behavior to reduce the effects of such conflicts and minimize the cost to the organization. The two major approaches include

    1. Monitoring employee behavior and preventing shrink of work by establishing effective control systems and improving productivity.
    2. Providing employees with incentives such as rewards, motivation, and job satisfaction to increase their individual performance.

    The human resource department needs to adopt the approach that minimizes transaction cost to the organization.

    Image Credit: www.flickr.com/skilledwork

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    References