For them the views of workers provide: a more credible source (of information about the impact of HRM) than those with a vested interest in sustaining the rhetoric of HRM on the one hand, and those who will always be ideologically suspicious of managerial strategies on the other. In particular, we need: criteria which authentically tap the strength of feeling, the sense of justice or injustice, the perceptions of gain and loss as articulated by those in the lower reaches of organizations. There are two further reasons for a greater focus on employee reactions to HRM. The ® rst concerns some of the developments in HRM that have been attracting most attention. As noted earlier, a series of studies in both the US (Arthur, 1994, Becker and Gerhard, 1996, Huselid, 1995) and the UK (Patterson et al , 1997) have reported a link between HRM and performance. However, these ® ndings are both provocative and somewhat unsatisfactory. Driven by the management agenda referred to earlier, they have succeeded in showing that the adoption of certain policies and practices is associated with positive productivity and financial outcomes. This, therefore, makes the case for the adoption of HRM more compelling. But it does not shed much light on why HRM has a positive link to performance. To return to the previous discussion, do these ® ndings re¯ ect `hard’ HRM, with business performance achieved through intensi ® cation of effort, or a `softer’ HRM resulting in higher motivation, greater skill usage and greater contribution through Human resource management ± the workers’ verdict 10 HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL ± VOL 9 NO 3
involvement of various sorts to facilitate change, quality improvement and innovation? The second approach may re¯ ect gains for both workers and business. A third reason for the greater interest in employee outcomes re¯ ects the changing spirit of the times and the growing interest in various circles in the ideas of partnership and stakeholding. In the UK, part of this interest re¯ ects changes in the political climate, part can be attributed to the in¯ uence of Europe and some is a response to the search for a new role for trade unions. Whatever the reasons, a partnership or stakeholder perspective gives greater priority to the outcomes of interest to a wider range of participants than just managers. Indeed, worker reactions become not just a means to an end in understanding linkages between practice and outcomes but an end in themselves. In other words, they provide a third emphasis alongside the views of workers as objects and as means; workers concerns now become a legitimate focus of study for their own sake ± an end in themselves. If we accept the need to study workers’ reactions to HRM for the variety of reasons outlined above, how are we to establish criteria to make sense of what they say? Legge (1998) has advocated the use of an ethical perspective and outlines three possible standpoints which overlap with the views of the worker within HRM outlined above. The ®
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