State of the Public Service Series

This report provides an overview on human resource management (HRM or frequently abbreviated to HR). The term first emerged in the 1980s in the United States. Against a backdrop of increased pressure on firms because of globalisation and technological developments, academics from a number of disciplines began to consider people and how they are employed and managed in organisations from a new perspective. A convergence of this thinking evolved into what became known as human resource management.

Drawing on the theoretical underpinnings of HRM in strategic management and organisation behaviour, the goals of HRM have been identified as to (Armstrong and Taylor, 2015):

  • Support the organisation in achieving its objectives by developing and implementing HR strategies that are integrated with business strategy
  • Contribute to the development of a high-performance culture
  • Ensure that the organisation has the talented, skilled and engaged people it needs
  • Create a positive employment relationship between management and employees and a climate of mutual trust
  • Encourage the application of an ethical approach to people management.

From the 1990s, the term strategic HR became popular rather than simply HR. This is done to emphasise the objective of aligning HR policies and practices with the interests of the organisation more generally. However, according to some commentators this has resulted in an imbalance across the many roles HR is expected to perform with a greater emphasis on ‘being strategic and a ‘business partner’ at the expense of being a ‘people partner’ that actively engages with and listens to the needs and concerns of managers and employees in general.

A perennial challenge for HR is the importance of showing that the application of good HR practices contributes to better organisation performance. The motivation has been to prove that HR rather than being a cost to the organisation ‘adds value’. Most of the research in this area is based on the premise that good HR practices enhance the motivation and commitment of staff which in turn impacts positively on productivity and performance.

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