The overall purpose of human resource management (or people management) is to ensure that the organization is able to achieve success through people. Ulrich and Lake (1990: 96) remarked that: ‘HRM systems can be the source of organizational capabilities that allow firms to learn and capitalize on new opportunities’. The following policy goals for HRM were suggested by David Guest (1991: 154–59):
- Commitment: behavioural commitment to pursue agreed goals and attitudinal commitment reflected in a strong identification with the enterprise.
- Flexibility: functional flexibility and the existence of an adaptable organization structure with the capacity to manage innovation.
- Quality: this refers to all aspects of managerial behaviour that bear directly on the quality of goods and services provided, including the management of employees and investment in high-quality employees.
- Strategic integration: the ability of the organization to integrate HRM issues into its strategic plans, ensure that the various aspects of
HRM cohere, and provide for line managers to incorporate a HRM perspective into their decision making.
Commitment, as defined by Guest, is similar to the more recent concept of engagement.
The policy goals for HRM identified by Caldwell (2001) included managing people as assets that are fundamental to the competitive advantage of the organization, aligning HRM policies with business policies and corporate strategy, and developing a close fit of HR policies, procedures and systems with one another. Boxall and Purcell (2003, p 11) stated that the economic goals of HRM are ‘cost effectiveness, organizational flexibility, short-run responsiveness and long-run agility’.