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By Michael Armstrong

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But this emphasis on commitment has been criticized from the earliest days of HRM. ’ and Fowler (1987) has stated: At the heart of the concept is the complete identification of employees with the aims and values of the business – employee involvement but on the company’s terms. Power in 14 ❚ Managing people the HRM system remains very firmly in the hands of the employer. Is it really possible to claim full mutuality when at the end of the day the employer can decide unilaterally to close the company or sell it to someone else?

HRM promises more than it can deliver Noon (1992) has commented that HRM has serious deficiencies as a theory: It is built with concepts and propositions, but the associated variables and hypotheses are not made explicit. It is too comprehensive… If HRM is labelled a ‘theory’ it raises expectations about its ability to describe and predict. 16 ❚ Managing people Guest (1991) believes that HRM is an ‘optimistic but ambiguous concept’; it is all hype and hope. Mabey et al (1998) follow this up by asserting that ‘the heralded outcomes (of HRM) are almost without exception unrealistically high’.

It is argued by Hendry and Pettigrew that ‘better descriptions of structures and strategy-making in complex organizations, and of frameworks for understanding them, are an essential underpinning for HRM’. A distinction was made by Storey (1989) between the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ versions of HRM. The hard version of HRM emphasizes that people are important resources through which organizations achieve competitive advantage. These resources have therefore to be acquired, developed and deployed in ways that will benefit the organization.

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