Although HRM can be described generally in terms of the characteristics listed above, many HRM models exist, and practices within different organizations are diverse, often only corresponding to the conceptual version of HRM in a few respects. Dyer and Holder (1998) have pointed out that HRM goals vary according to competitive choices, technologies, characteristics of employees (eg could be different for managers) and the state of the labour market. Boxall (2007: 48) remarked that: ‘Human resource management covers a vast array of activities and shows a huge range of variations across occupations, organizational levels, business units, firms, industries and societies’.
Hard and soft HRM
As an illustration of this diversity, a distinction was made by Storey (1989: 8) between the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ versions of HRM. He wrote that: ‘The hard one emphasizes the quantitative, calculative and business-strategic aspects of managing human resources in as “rational” a way as for any other economic factor. By contrast, the soft version traces its roots to the humanrelations school; it emphasizes communication, motivation and leadership.’ The human relations school referred to by John Storey was founded by Elton Mayo (1933) but its leading exponent was Douglas McGregor (1960). His ‘theory Y’ stressed the importance of recognizing the needs of both the organization and the individual and creating conditions that would reconcile these needs so that members of the organization could work together for its success and share in its rewards.
However, it was pointed out by Keenoy (1997: 838) that ‘hard and soft HRM are complementary rather than mutually exclusive practices’, and research in eight UK organizations by Truss et al (1997) indicated that the distinction between hard and soft HRM was not as precise as some commentators have implied. Their conclusions are set out below.
Source review Conclusions on hard and soft models of HRM – Truss et al (1997: 70)
Even if the rhetoric of HRM is ‘soft’, the reality is almost always ‘hard’, with the interests of the organization prevailing over those of the individual. In all the organizations, we found a mixture of both hard and soft approaches. The precise ingredients of this mixture were unique to each organization, which implies that factors such as the external and internal environment of the organization, its strategy, culture and structure all have a vital role to play in the way in which HRM operates.