Vol. 23 No. 4, 2001, pp. 318-336.
MCB University Press, 0142-5455
Received November 2000
Revised March 2001
Accepted March 2001
The state of human resource
management: evidence from
employees' views of HRM
systems and staff
Department of HRM, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK
Human resource management, Employees, Staff, Systems analysis
Recent research exploring a range of arguments about trends in human resource
management (HRM) provides contrasting evidence in evaluating the state of HRM. Methods
using either fit with ``best practice'' or fit with contingencies as ways of evaluating the state of
HRM have been foremost. Investigating the employees ``point of view'' has been proposed as an
alternative in some recent studies. The research reported here is based on this alternative method.
It describes employees views of HRM in their organisations based on a survey of 2,632 employees
in 73 companies. The findings are that employees report areas of strength in HRM that include
training and development, rewards, and levels of personal motivation. Employees also rate the
performance of HR staff highly across a range of services. Noticeable areas of weakness in HRM,
in employees' estimations, exist in the management of staffing levels, aspects of recruitment and
retention, communication, and with levels of morale in the organisation as a whole. These
findings justify a mixed but overall positive picture of the state of HRM. The problems of
analysing employee views of HRM in this type of study, to address arguments with evidence, are
considered in conclusion.
Issues in evaluating HRM systems and staff
The concern is with obtaining evidence to evaluate arguments about the state
of human resource management (HRM) in companies and its relationship to
performance. This has recently been called the ``black box'' problem (Purcell
2000); assuming that there is a relationship between success and
HRM systems, how does that come about, what is actually happening in
organisations to get results? HRM here refers to the totality of people
management practices found in organisations, not to a particular and
distinctive approach to the philosophy and practice people management.
Evaluation is concerned with making judgements about the merits and value of
HRM systems and HRM staff.
This concern has come to be manifest in different interpretations about the
extent to which contemporary HRM is being well or poorly practised.
Interpretation is concerned with explaining the causes and effects of the
strengths and weaknesses of HRM which are argued to exist. The rationale for
this is a dual one; on the one hand it is directed towards analysing the
contribution of HRM to overall company performance (Woods, 1999; Purcell,
1999; West and Patterson, 1998). On the other hand it is about evaluating HRM
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