Human Resource Management (HRM) can be
defined as managing an organisation’s most valued assets, its people. The workforce
individually and collectively contribute to the achievement of the business objectives.
The terms “human resource management” and “human resources”
have largely replaced the term “personnel management” as a description
of the processes involved in managing people within organisations.
In simple terms, HRM means employing people, developing their capabilities,
utilising, maintaining and providing compensation for their services.
Highlight the steps of HRM development
HRM has evolved throughout history and can
be sourced back to before the industrial revolution. Pre-Industrial Revolution,
the economy was primarily agriculture based with limited production. The
skilled workforce was very limited and was usually carried out by the master
craftsmen and assisted by apprentices. Internal
communications were limited.
During the Industrial Revolution (1760 to
there was a change of momentum in the economy moving from agricultural to
industrial based. Modernisation and an increased means of communication gave
way to industrial setup. A personnel department was set up to manage the worker’s
welfare, wages and other related personnel issues.
An important event in industrial
revolution was growth of Labour Union (1790) – The workforce working in
the factories were subjected to long working hours for little wages. With growing
unrest , workers across the world started to protest and this led to the
establishment of Labour Unions. To deal with labour issues at one end and
management at the other Personnel Management departments had to be capable
of politics and diplomacy.
Post Industrial revolution – The term
Human Resource Management saw a major evolution after 1840. Various studies
were released and many experiments were conducted during this period which gave
HRM altogether a new meaning and importance.
A brief overview of major theories release
during this period is presented below
Frederick W. Taylor gave principles of
scientific management (1857 o 1911) led to the evolution of scientific human
resource management approach which was involved in
Maintaining wage uniformity
Focus on attaining better productivity.
Hawthorne studies, conducted by Elton Mayo
& Fritz Roethlisberger (1927 to 1940). – Observations and findings of
Hawthrone experiment shifted the focus of Human resource from increasing
worker’s productivity to increasing worker’s efficiency through greater work
Douglas McGregor Theory X and Theory Y
(1960) and Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs (1954) – These studies and
observations led to the transition from the administrative and passive Personnel Management
approach to a more dynamic Human Resource Management approach
which considered workers as a valuable resource.
As a result of these principles and
studies, Human resource management became increasingly line management
function, linked to core business operations. Some of the major activities of
HR department are listed as-
Recruitment and selection
of skilled workforce
Motivation and employee
Training and development
salaries and appraisals
Role of the line manager
Front-line managers as defined by
Hutchinson and Purcell
are managers who are responsible for a work group to a higher level of management
hierarchy, and are placed in the lower layers of the management hierarchy,
normally at the first level.
They tend to have employees reporting to
them who themselves do not have any management or supervisory responsibility
and are responsible for the day-to-day running of their work rather than
Hutchinson and Purcell noted that in their
research, the most common people management activity handled by frontline managers
was absence management. This could include not just monitoring absence and
lateness but also phoning (and even visiting) absent staff at home, conducting
back-to-work interviews, counselling staff and conducting disciplinary hearings.
Other people management activities were coaching and development, performance
appraisal, involvement and communication (thus providing a vital link between
team members and more senior managers), and discipline and grievances.
The CIPD research on employee well-being
and the psychological contract
recognised that too many line managers are failing to motivate and improve the
performance of the people they manage. Under half of respondents to the CIPD
survey reported that they were regularly motivated by their line manager, only
45 per cent were happy with the level of feedback they received and just 37 per
cent said that their manager helped them to improve their performance.
This suggests that the organisations
concerned were failing to get managers to understand their role in motivating
people and were also failing to manage performance as effectively as they
The most appropriate line for HR
specialists to take is that of emphasizing that they are there to help line
managers achieve their objectives through their people, not to do their job for
In practice, however, some line managers
may be only too glad to let the HR department do its people management job for
them, especially the less pleasant aspects like handling discipline and
grievance problems. A delicate balance has therefore to be achieved between providing
help and advice when it is clearly needed and creating a ‘dependency culture’
that discourages managers from thinking and acting for themselves on people
matters for which they are responsible. Managers will not learn about dealing
with people if they are over-dependent on HR specialists.
HR and the line work together
Research into HR management and the line
conducted by Hutchinson and Wood
highlighted the following areas:
Both HR and line management were involved
in operational HR activities. Line managers were more heavily involved in
recruitment, selection and training decisions and in handling discipline issues
and grievances. HR were still largely responsible for such matters as analysing
training needs, running internal courses and pay and benefits
There is an underlying concern that line
managers are not sufficiently competent to carry out their new roles. This may
be for a number of reasons including lack of training, pressures of work,
because managers have been promoted for their technical rather than managerial
skills, or because they are used to referring certain issues to the HR
The research conducted by Hope-Hailey
et al in eight UK-based organizations revealed that all of them were shifting
responsibility for people management down the line.
In practice, this often meant that
responsibility for decision-making on HR issues had been devolved to line
managers, but that the HR function continued to be responsible for operational
functions such as recruitment and pay systems.
The Line Manager’s Role In Implementing Hr
HR can initiate new policies and practices
but it is the line that has the main responsibility for implementing them. In
other words, ‘HR proposes but the line disposes.’ If line managers are not
disposed favourably towards what HR wants them to do they won’t do it, or if
compelled to, they will be half-hearted about it. As pointed out by Purcell et
al, high levels of organisational performance are not achieved simply by having
a range of well-conceived HR policies and practices in place. What makes the
difference is how these policies and practices are implemented. That is where
the role of line managers in people management is crucial: ‘The way line
managers implement and enact policies, show leadership in dealing with
employees and in exercising control come through as a major issue.’ Purcell et
al noted that dealing with people is perhaps the aspect of their work in which
line managers can exercise the greatest amount of discretion.
Performance management schemes often fail
because of the reluctance of managers to carry out reviews. It is, as Purcell et
al point out, line managers who bring HR policies to life.
A further factor affecting the role of
line management is their ability to do the HR tasks assigned to them.
People-centred activities such as defining roles, interviewing, reviewing
performance, providing feedback, coaching and identifying learning and development
needs all require special skills.
to Improve Front-Line Managers as People Managers
The following suggestions were made by
Hutchinson and Purcell (2003) on how to
quality of front-line managers in people management:
Front-line managers need
time to carry out their people management duties, which are often superseded by
other management duties.
They need to be carefully
selected with much more attention being paid to the behavioural competencies
They need the support of
strong organizational values concerning leadership and people management
They need a good working
relationship with their own managers.
They need to receive
sufficient skills training to enable them to perform their people management
activities, such as performance management.
Strategic Human Resource Management
With increase in technology and knowledge
base industries and as a result of global competition, Human Resource
Management is assuming more critical role today. Its major accomplishment is
aligning individual goals and objectives with corporate goals and objectives.
Strategic HRM focuses on actions that differentiate the organization from its
competitors and aims to make long term impact on the success of organization.
Front-line managers are crucial to the success of HR policies and
In many organizations, recruitment and selection was also carried out
by line managers, often in conjunction with HR. Thus in all these
managers were carrying out activities that traditionally had been the
and butter of personnel or HR departments. These people-management
were larger and encompassed more responsibilities than the traditional
 Vani, G., 2011. Evolution of Human
Resource Management. Review of Management, 1(2), p.127.
 Toynbee, A. and Jowett, B., 1902. Lectures
on the Industrial Revolution of the 18th Century in England: Popular Addresses,
Notes and Other Fragments. Longmans, Green.
 Armstrong, M. and Taylor, S., 2014. Armstrong’s
handbook of human resource management practice. Kogan Page Publishers
 Hutchinson, S and Purcell, J (2003) Bringing
Policies to Life: The vital role of front line
people management, CIPD, London
 Guest, D E and Conway, N (2005) Well-being
and the Psychological Contract, CIPD,
 Hutchinson, S and
Wood, S (1995) Personnel and the Line: Developing the Employment
 Hope-Hailey, V,
Gratton, L, McGovern, P, Stiles, P and Truss, C (1998) A chameleon
function? HRM in
the ’90s, Human Resource Management Journal, 7(3), pp 5–18