The Concepts Of Hrm And Personal Management

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The concept of Human Resource Management [HRM] is much broader today and its activities have become more revolutionary but is it the same as Personnel Management [PM]? This is the question on the lips of every student, academic or practitioner of HRM. This debate about its differences, if any, has been on for a very long time and has never been won, as academics, practitioners and students alike have different views and perspectives on the issue.

HRM's meaning and its difference from PM have been the topic of numerous articles, texts and conference papers to which this course work is no exception.

HRM and PM, Is there a synergy? An answer was postulated to this by Armstrong [1987] he says ''HRM is regarded by some personnel managers as just a set of initials or old wine in new bottles. It could indeed be no more and no less than another name for PM ''

First we have to understand the meaning/concepts of HRM, but attempts to define HRM precisely have resulted in confusion and contradiction rather than clarity [Price, 1997]. However, I like the one given by Storey [2001] which says ''HRM is distinctive approach to employment which seeks to achieve competitive advantage through the strategic deployment of a highly committed and capable workforce using an array of cultural, structural and personnel techniques''. One can therefore say HRM encompasses those activities, tasks and duties, designed and performed to provide for and coordinate human resources, so we can assume that PM is an integral part of HRM but not the same.

Personnel Management on the other hand involves managing people with their emotions, their instincts, their moods, aspirations and problem and the art of making people happy and keeping them so is not easy, personnel management harnesses the HR of its company in such a way that the objectives of the company is achieved with the greatest economy in time, resources and money. Cole [1997] re enacts the Institute of Personnel and Development's definition of PM as a main guide; ''Personnel Management is the responsibility of all those who manage people as well as being a description of the work of those who are employed as specialists. It is that part of management which is concerned with people at work and with their relationships within an enterprise. PM achieves both efficiency and justice, neither of which can be pursued successfully without the other. It seeks to provide fair terms and conditions of employment and satisfying work for those employed.''[IPM 1963]'' He goes further to say that PM's role in an organisation is in caring for employees as well as contributing to their success in achieving business aims but HRM's role is less likely to take account of employee care, since its emphasis would be on business success where customer care instead of employee will be given priority.

For some academics and practitioners, HRM is a management theory with practical problems whilst for some it just remains an uncertain notion and there seems to be lack of clarity as to what HRM means for both parties. For example, at practitioner level there are a lot of organisations that are merely changing the name plagues on their personnel manager's door to HR manager [Armstrong, 1987], like wise there are some organizations that have always used HRM type policies but still persist in describing the practices as PM and a good example is Marks and Spencer in the UK [Blyton and Turnbull, 1992]. To academics too, confusion is abound as some books are changing their titles from PM to HRM without any change in their content [Blyton and Turnbull, 1992] But academics in the US use the HRM term more liberally and use them interchangeable with PM which suggest there is little difference [Blyton and Turnbull, 1992].

We can therefore choose to agree with Price [1997]'s idea that we are comparing the theory of a young form of people management which is HRM with the practice of an older variety which is PM.

Legge [1989], Fowler [1987], Armstrong [1987] and Keenoy [1990a], all support that perhaps HRM is the same as PM. Fowler [1987] even stated that ''HRM represents the discovery of personnel management by chief executives''.

Legge [1995] however, did a close comparism that shows the similarities btw the two. She suggests that HRM and PM emphasize the importance of integrating personnel/HRM practices with organisational goals; that both vest personnel/HRM firmly in line management and they both emphasise the importance of individuals fully developing their abilities for their own personal satisfaction to make good contribution to the organisational success; Also both models identify placing the right people into the right jobs as an important means of integrating personnel/HRM practice with organisational goals including individual development.

However, from a another perspective, HRM and PM might be different and the first difference that comes to mind is the fact that PM is old and HRM is new.[Sparrow and Marhington, 1998] and some people even think HRM is superior to PM. A lot of writers like Beer and Spector [1985], Guest [1989], and Storey [1992], have identified differences in the two terminologies in terms of how they are viewed according to the physiological contract, locus of control, employee relations, organizing principles and policy goals. Among which are the following;

The most conceived belief is that Personnel management is mainly aimed at non-managers, while HRM treats management level.

In terms of the types of contract these two under go ,there seems to be a difference in that PM has a careful declination of written contract while HRM likes to aim beyond a written contract, also PM thrives on rules but HRM likes a 'can do attitude and has little tolerance for rules. PM relies on procedures for management actions and its behaviour are in line with customs and norm, but HRM will have non of that, business and customer needs, flexibility and commitment are its guide when it comes to management, also its behaviour is always in line with the values and mission of the company.

In PM, the managers monitor while in HRM they nurture. As regards key relations, labour management is taking more into consideration in PM while in HRM customers are. PM has piecemeal initiatives but HRM's initiatives are integrated .The corporate plans are marginalized and the speed of decision is slow in PM while that of HRM is central and fast.

Furthermore, In PM, management role is transactional and its key managers are industrial and industrial relation experts with negotiation skills but HRM managers perform transformational leadership with line managers who have facilitation skills. PM pays more attention to personnel procedures while HRM focuses on cultural and structural issues and personnel strategies.

Selection is of marginal importance and pay is based on job evaluation in PM but in HRM, selection is an integrated and key task with the pay being performance based. There is a restricted flow of communication in PM while there is none in HRM. PM believes in division of labour but HR prefers team work. Conflicts in PM are handled on a temporary basis but HRM believes in managing culture and climate.

We have seen the similarities and also the differences, and it is quite obvious that the difference out weighs the similarities which points to the fact that the terms might indeed be different. Hence, one may conclude that giving meaning to HRM and PM comes down to a matter of opinion or vested interest as there is no wrong or correct answer, after all, a term means whatever one chooses it to mean.


Armstrong, M. [1987] 'Human resource management: a case of the emperor new clothes?', Personnel Management, Vol. 19, No. 8, pp. 30-35.

Beer, M. and Spector, B. [1985] 'Corporate wide transformationsin human resource management', in Walton, R.E. and Lawrence, E.R. [eds] Human Resource Management Trends and Challenges. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

Cole, G.A. [1997] Personnel Management: Theory and Practice, 4th edn. London: Letts education, pp. 1.

Fowler, A. [1987] 'When chief executives discover HRM', Personnel Management, January, p.3.

Guest, D. [1987] 'Personnel and Human resource management: Can you tell the difference?', Personnel Management, January, pp. 48-51.

Keenoy, T. [1990a] 'HRM: a case of the wolf in sheep's clothing?', Personnel Review, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 3-9.

Legge, K. [1989] 'Human resource management: a critical analysis', in Storey, J. [ed.] New Perspective on Human Resource Management. London: Routledge, pp. 19-40.

Legge, K. [1995] HRM: Rhetorics and Realities. Basingstoke: Macmillan Business, pp. 108.

Price, A. [1997] Human Resource Management in a Business Context, 2nd edn. London: International Thomson Business, pp. 22-25.

Sparrow P. and Marchington M. [1998] Human Resource Management: The New Agenda. London: Financial Times Pitman. pp. 26.

Storey, J. [1992] Development in the Management of Human Resources: An Analytical Review. London: Blackwell.

Storey, J. [2001] 'Human resource management today: an assessment', in Storey, J. [ed.] Human Resource Management: A Critical Text, 2nd edn. London: Thomson Learning.