Critical Nature Of A Flexible Workforce Business Essay


Human resource management (HRM) "is the strategic and coherent approach to the management  of an organization's most valued assets - the people working there who individually and collectively .contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the business.

Human Resource management emphasises on developing the "Human Assets" of the organisation, and aiming to attain the maximum efficiency required from them.

Flexibility is defined in dictionary as "susceptible of modification or adaptation". (Random House Dictionary, ©) While for HRM it holds a slightly varied meaning, and flexibility in human resource management has remained a highly discussed topic.

Flexibility in human resource management is considered in two different contexts.


Labour Market Flexibility- It is in context to rigidity and consequent ability of the job market to grow and accommodate the workers accordingly.

The Flexible firm model-

This model was developed in the 1980's by the Institute of Manpower Studies in the UK. It divides the workforce into the "Core" workers and the "Peripheral Workers". The core workers are the permanent employees who have all the benefits and job security, While the Peripheral workers contingent low/highly skilled workers who are employed on a short term, usually a contract.

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Core Workers- They are the workers who form the primary labour market, they are well paid and have a higher demand. Core workers are related to those activities that are specific to the companies and characterize it. The core workers are highly skilled and career oriented.

Peripheral Workers- These are the workers that are employed only and when their need arises,

(Atkinson's Model of the Flexible Firm. (Source: J. Atkinson (1984) 'Manpower strategies for flexible organisations')


What is flexible employment?

Nowadays the concept of flexible employment is catching up in the Industries and Business houses. Especially in the developed and highly commercial economies, it is very popular.

"Flexible employment Said increasingly to characterize the industrial firms and economies of the post-industrial world, it assumes two forms. Functional flexibility (or post-fordism) means the adaptation of work organization, skills, and machinery, so as to cope with the constantly changing market and technological environment of the global economy of the late twentieth century. So-called flexible firms are also said to adopt numerical flexibility, using non-standard forms of employment to allow rapid changes in labour recruitment and discharge, in the face of product-market fluctuations. Only equivocal empirical evidence exists of flexible employment growth; likewise, that it is due to long-term change, rather than relatively short-term cyclical influences"

(GORDON MARSHALL. "Flexible employment." A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998. (March 22, 2010).)

It is clear with this definition that flexible employment deals with the "change" in an organisation regarding its employment of human and non-human (machineries) resources. It is regarding the need to constantly change so as to keep up with the changing global scenario. The flexibility may be in terms of the number of employees the organisation employs or it may be the policy of employment and recruitment that it adopts. And flexibility in human resource management is a long term strategy rather than a short lived plan.


Types of Flexibility

Financial flexibility

Functional flexibility

Numerical flexibility

(Hegwisch A, & Brewster C, 1993, European Development in HRM, Kogan Page Ltd., London)

These types are aimed at explaining the following key areas of flexibility:

Financial Flexibility: Incorporating two-elements, first tying basic pay rates to labour market conditions rather than traditional comparability, e.g. new 'low pay' grades in some banks; and second, building a flexible pay element into the compensation package, such as the use of bonus or incentive payments based on a measure of individual or company performance.

Functional Flexibility: Incorporating multi-tasking skills, whereby workers would develop a wide range of skills and agree to carry out work across usual skill limitations.

Numerical Flexibility: Incorporating core-periphery employment patterns and using peripheral groups as a buffer to protect the core from the detrimental effects of changes in market conditions.


Locational Flexibility: The ability to relocate the resources and core/peripheral workers, to achieve the desired output levels, and providing freedom to the employees, it is a physical/geographical factor. E.g.

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Allowing employees to complete pending work at home, instead of doing overtime at the work place.


Flexibility in current scenario:

As discussed previously, the Flexible firm concept is gaining more popularity and practical implication in the firms and organisations in the developed economies. There is no paradigm shift or mass diversions towards the flexible policies in Human resource management but there are cases where it is clearly noticeable, it is taking place gradually and the changes are asymptotic in nature.

To keep up with the constantly changing Global scenario, Flexibility holds a great importance, Flexibility in Human Resource management allows rapid changes to be made in employ recruitment and managing. Thus it is a long lasting process, and not a short lived a goal.