Human Resource Management as a Strategic Science

According to Bratton and Gold’s book ‘HRM in practice’, human resource management (HRM) models make reference to performance. This is reasonably supported by the HRM theories that exist. The theories have an underlying overall purpose or goal for HRM, which is performance. Human resource management theories include: The Strategic HRM theory, which denotes that for an organization to have optimum performance, it has to rely on a few key aspects, like workforce skills, commitment, dedication and productivity (Caldwell 2003, p. 3). Human Resource Development Theory, which is at times called the Training and Development theory. This theory represents the model of improving on employee skills through group-based training or other development initiatives for the employees (Caldwell 2003, p. 3).

Organizational Culture Development theory that basically advocates for understanding employees and responding on the feedback they give at work (Caldwell 2003, p. 4). Knowledge Management theory, which proposes that organizational performance considerably relies on the understanding and skills of its employees (Caldwell 2003, p. 6). Therefore, as stated by Bratton and Gold, Human Resource Management can be defined as a strategic approach to employment relationships management that focuses on supplementing employee’s performance and capabilities (Bratton & Gold 2012). This is very important for gaining competitive advantage. In other words, a general definition of HRM would be the framework of policies, practices, philosophies and procedures for the management of the employee and employer relationship (Bratton & Gold 2012).

Human Resource Management has progressively developed to fit modern day needs of organizations. In addition, it continues to restructure and modernize employment relationships (Thompson & McHugh 2009, p.25). The main disparity between human resource management and personnel management is that personnel management takes a conventional approach while human resource management takes a modern approach to manage people in an organization (Francis & Keegan 2006, p. 15). For example, conventional manufacturing units had personnel managers while the modern day service firms have HR managers (Kelly & Kelly 1991, p.20).

Personnel Management may be considered as outdated but it is very important to note that it served its purpose as a management function. When contrasting human resource management with personnel management, it is realized that the latter is a mainly an administrative function that purposes to establish and maintain fair terms and conditions of employment (Nienhüser & Warhurst 2012, p. 20). The former integrates the conventional functions to corporate goals and modernized strategies (Caldwell 2003, p. 15). Other considerable differences exist between HRM and personnel management especially in terms of approach, scope, and function (Fox 1966, p.56).

Dr. Nienhueser, in his paper Empirical Research on Human Resource Management as a Production of Ideology, claimed that HRM mainly focuses on economic aims and employer objectives in comparison with employee’s interests (Nienhueser 2011, p.12). On the contrary, the introduction of resource focused on organizations in the recent years has made it very important for companies to consider the employee’s needs firstly before other priorities (Nienhüser & Warhurst 2012). This has been done, however, the organizational focus on management objectives of optimizing return on investment is still maintained (Nienhüser & Warhurst 2012, p. 27).

The result of this is a modern day HRM function that is basically centered on the realization of management goals but at the same time ensuring proper satisfaction of resource / employee needs (Nienhueser 2011, p.32).In the article ‘The changing face of HRM’ by Francis and Keegan, it is noted that ideas of business partnership and the strategic function of HRM govern how HR professionals view their roles. However, the authors note that the model fails to effectively consider the ‘human’ aspect of HRM and this is of great concern since employee’s well–being should go along with strategic concerns (Francis & Keegan 2006, p. 8).

Human Resource Management is a strategic science (Balnave et al. 2007, p. 30). Business models give a deeper understanding and meaning of employment relationships but they offer no solutions to most employment relationships problems (Balnave et al. 2007, p. 30). This does not match well with the requirements of the modern organization. HRM focuses on the planning, monitoring, evaluating and control functions of resources in the view of corporate goals and strategies. HRM is also resource centered (Nienhüser & Warhurst 2012, p. 35).The functions of HRM professionals have become more complex and comprehensive. Caldwell’s article in the Journal of Management Studies highlights the role conflict, tensions, and uncertainty faced by HR professionals (Caldwell 2003, p. 9). This ambiguity and complexity have been created by escalating managerial expectations of the HRM functions to contribute immensely to better organizational performance.

Modern day Human Resource Management recognizes the functions fulfilled by trade unions like collective bargaining, agitation for promotion of union members and political representation of employees( Thompson & McHugh 2009, p.15). HR managers deal with the indeterminacy of labor and change in the economical environment both internally or externally by influencing decisions on strategy and structure of the organization Thompson & McHugh 2009, p.31). The decisions made are influenced by factors like the economic environment, trade unions and the legal system (Thompson & McHugh 2009, p.32).

In conclusion, it is clear that Human resource management centers on an organization’s strategic management and control of its employees. Similar to other aspects of business management, HRM covers a broad set of principal theories, which purposely deal with basic ideas regarding how effectively to use employees in order to achieve organizational objectives, how employees should be trained and motivated, and finally, how organizational resources should be properly utilized.


Balnave, N, Brown,J, Maconachie, G & Stone, R 2007, Employment Relations in Australia, Wiley & Sons Australia, Queensland.

Bratton, J & Gold, J 2012, Human Resource Management: Theory and Practice, Macmillan Press Limited, London.

Caldwell, R 2003, ‘The changing roles of personnel managers: Old ambiguities, new uncertainties.’ Journal of Management Studies, Vol 40 no.4, pp 983–1004, Web.

Francis, H & Keegan, A 2006, ‘The changing face of HRM: In search of Balance.’ Human Resource Management Journal, Vol 16 no.3, pp 231–249, Web.

Fox, A 1966, Industrial Sociology and Industrial Relations, HMSO Publishing, London.

Kelly, J & Kelly, C 1991, ‘Them and Us: Social Psychology and The New Industrial Relations’, British Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol 29 no.1, pp 4-9.

Nienhueser, W 2011, Empirical Research on Human Resource Management as a Production of Ideology, Web.

Nienhüser, W & Warhurst, M 2012, Comparative Employment Relations: Definitional, Disciplinary and Development Issues. Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd, Aldershot, Hampshire.

Thompson, P & McHugh, D 2009, Work Organisations, Palgrave Macmillan Ltd, Hampshire.