Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Human Resource Management: Dynamics of Personnel Management

Human resource management (HRM), personnel management (PM), human capital management (HCM), human capital development (HCD) are terms that have been associated with discussions on the most valuable assets in the organisation (employees).

Among the above-mentioned terms, human resource  management and personnel management have generated so much controversies.  Some writers carefully draw the curtain between these concepts, and others completely ignore such a categorization. Modern writers however, use the concepts interchangeably.

My goal is not to establish cut and dried yardsticks. It is not to put personnel management and human resource management in watertight compartments. But to generate ideas, throw light or possibly resolve the controversies.

 The terms personnel management and human resource management are both concerned about the most valuable assets in the organisation—the people, and about the functions that facilitate the effective use of these working people so as to achieve organisational and individual goals.

Personnel management is ineffective 
if it cannot articulate the views and
aspirations of the workforce.

The emergence of personnel departments in firms is traceable to the drastic changes in technology, the growth of organisations, the rise of unions, and the government concerns and interventions regarding working people. Notably was the conflict between management and employees. Such conflicts bordered on workers interests. As a result, early personnel administrators called welfare secretaries/welfare officers emerged.

Their job was to bridge the gap between management and workers, that is, they were to speak to workers in their own language and then recommend to management what to be done to get the best results from employees. The welfare/personnel officers were frequently labeled “management – union pacifier,” “buffer zone” between labour and management, “third force” in the industry, and “social workers” among others.

These early personnel administrators were mainly blue-collar category or operating employees.

Following the growth in the size of employing organisations and emergence of specialisation in management levels as well as on the shop floor, personnel work expanded. This expansion includes staffing, careful selection, training and placement. At this stage, technology as well as an approach developed. There were well established personnel departments occupied by qualified personnel.

This trend heralded a preoccupation with corporate effectiveness and concomitant commitment among organisational members to the inherent corporate objectives.

From this angle, personnel management is seen as workforce centered, directed mainly at the organisational employees—finding and training them, arranging for them to be paid, explaining management expectations, justifying management actions, satisfying employees work related needs, dealing with their problems, seeking to modify management actions that could produce unwelcome management response. Personnel management is ineffective if it cannot articulate the views of the workforce.

Human resource management assumes a rather different orientation in the work setting. It is directed mainly at organisational needs for human resources –the totality of knowledge, skills, talents and capacities of an organisation (not necessarily employees). There is great emphasis on planning and monitoring, rather than mediation. Attention and efforts are concentrated on overall management activities, which are relatively distinct from the workforce as a whole.

Human resource management reflects the organisation's strategy regarding people, profit, and overall effectiveness. The organisation is seen more as a social system. Opinions on these issues are many and varied.

Some authorities posit that there has been the tendency for the term “human resource” to be adopted as an alternative to “personnel” simply for a change, or to move away from assumptions characterized by previous era. Without creating further semantic jungles, the following should be noted:

  • In contemporary businesses, the functions of the personnel manager and human resource manager are similar. In some organisations, these functions are discharged by the same person.
  • Scholars and organisations, sometimes use both terms interchangeably. Lastly,
  • In some contexts, the term human resource manager is seen as a mere business fad, a fashion, merely an elegant contraption to elevate the personnel manager.
It was mentioned at the outset that the goal of this article is to create an awareness of a problem, a controversy, a contention, generate ideas and throw light or possibly resolve the conflict. On these premises, we shall regard human resource management as a new concept born out of a response to the dynamics and challenges of the new environment of personnel management.