Human Resource Management
In its broadest sense, human resource management is a widely used term coined to encapsulate management policies and practices concerned with the supply and utilization of the labor resource required for the firm to meet its commercial objectives. To do so, the employer has to be able to compete within the labor market and meet basic requirements of social legitimacy relevant to the society in which the firm is located. The employer needs to be able to attract and keep labor and ensure that labor power is utilized for productive purposes relevant to its business objectives. It is by no means certain how best to proceed in this endeavor. This uncertainty in the context of inevitable resource constraints-whether financial, cognitive, or the capacity for control-make both the meaning and practice of human resource managementdifficult and ambiguous.
Human Resource Management as a Function
Human resource management as a new label for the personnel function and as a descriptive term for labor policies was developed in the United States in the early 1980s.
The work of Harvard academics was especially influential, as seen in the book by Michael Beer, Bert Spector, Paul Lawrence, D. Quinn Mills, and Richard Walton. The usage of the term spread rapidly in the Anglo-American world and beyond. At the same time, it attracted widespread criticism for its excessive managerialism and seeming exclusive concern with the management prerogative and the achievement of shareholder value to the neglect of other stakeholders. The critical question then, as now, is whether human resourcemanagement was a new approach to labor management or merely a new label on an old bottle. This relabeling of the personnel function is itself of interest, since it reveals one of the conceptual problems with the term and points to the...