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Human Resource Management and Personnel Management: Similarities

People often consider human resource management and personnel management to be the same thing labelled in different words. However both are significantly different in terms of their approach, their scope and their philosophy in management. Personal management is an approach of managing the employees of the organization through administration. The main tasks that are involved in personnel management pertain to managing payroll, and dealing with the employment law. The human resource management approach on the other hand is more broad and applies to managing the human resource at the organization including all the management, employees, staff and even those human resources that regularly come into contact with the organization. The human resource management approach incorporates the development of the human resource through motivation strategies, progressive compensation, training and career counselling. Human resource management involves the continuous development of the human resource and the various functions in the organization.

The case study depicts that the company Axioms is operating with a Personnel Function that is based on personnel management as the department does not currently undertake responsibility for the welfare of the employees in the organization or providing support within the organization. The orientation of the personal function as mentioned in the case study is more broad where it seeks to see the managers of the company as the customers which is somewhat along the lines of human resource management, however Axioms currently operates with predominantly personnel management objectives and cope.

Origins of Personnel Management

The concept of personal management came about after the Second World War. However personal management was more of a name change or the changing of the label of labour management as opposed to a new discipline or human resource function. The increasing employment of the female population during the Second World War led to a diverse employee base for companies which therefore changed their employee and labour management function to personal management. “In 1946 the Institute of Labour Management changed its name to the Institute of Personnel Management. It is argued that the name changes reflect the gender dimension to the discipline” (Bratton & Gold, 2001, p8). The new function still contained the same functions that were provided by labour management pertaining to administration of employees’ payrolls, as well as their compensation and benefits.

Origins of Human Resource Management

The concept of human resource management “emerged in the 1980s, in the times of Thatcherism and Reaganomics” (Koster, 2002). It was regarded as the field of managing the human resource at the company with a more strategic approach and a broader scope. Since its inception in the 80s however the human resource management approach has developed various niche based features that pertain to organizational management which includes managing the functions of the organization and providing them with the human resource support, personnel administration and personnel management that involves the administration aspects of the traditional personal management approach, manpower management and industrial management.

Human Resources Approach for Today’s Business Environment

In the face of mergers and acquisitions, multicultural environment, diverse human resource as well as different regions of operations, the management of the human resource at the company requires a perspective which is more out of the box than the one provided by the traditional personal management. The human resources approach is more appropriate for today’s business environment as it incorporates planning for affirmative action, managing diverse groups and teams, focuses on diverse organizational culture and policies for recruitment, selection, training, compensation, rewards and motivation, career counselling, job planning and development as well as success planning while taking into account the different kinds of employees that work in organizations. “Although there are certain similarities between HRM and personnel management, HRM is more explicit in both areas – in its analysis of business strategy and associated employment strategies, and exposition of an underlying philosophy. However the high commitment version of the HRM may be relevant only in certain circumstances. A more open approach is required which takes into account the variety of employment systems amongst organizations and within organization and the factors which sustain these. ” (Hendry, 1995, p19)

Strategic Human Resource

The strategic human resource is the orientation of the human resource management at an organization to contribute to the overall strategy and mission of the organization by providing the human resource and developmental support that is required by its various functions. The human resource approach seeks to conduct human resource based activities and tasks in such a manner that they contribute to the overall corporate strategy of the organization while reflecting the strategy as well (Pieper, 1990, p34). The aspects of human resource management that can be strategically applied in the organization pertain to staffing, rewards, employee development, employee maintenance as well as employee relations. The Michigan and the Harvard approach towards Human resource management are amongst the most widely applied approaches. The Michigan approach depicts that the components pertaining to planning selection rewards and development become relevant at different levels of management including strategic, managerial as well as operational. Here strategic selection takes the form of planning of human resources, recruiting and acquiring the human resource. Strategic appraisal takes into account orientation of the human resource at the organization while rating them according to the strategic priorities of the organization. Strategic rewards pertain to the motivational and the compensation / remuneration of the employees for meeting the strategic long term goals of the organization while strategic development aims at conducting future based training sessions and programs that aid in fulfilling future humans resource needs of the organization (Pieper, 1990, p33).

Role of Human Resource Practitioner

The theoretical proposition that is put forward by human resource management pertains to treating the employees in the organization as individuals that have varying and diverse objectives and requirements as a result they need to be assigned to jobs according to their objectives and abilities while encouraging organizational learning and development of the humans resource at the organization. Taking this into account the human resource management practitioner in a human resource based organization needs to take an innovative view and perspective of the company for workplace management. The practitioner should take practical steps to get to know the employees, take feedback form them pertaining to any issues that they might be facing or recommendations that they can provide to the management. This feedback can then be incorporated in the human resource management function at the company to facilitate appropriate recruitment, selection, orientation, training motivational, compensation/ remuneration career development as well as the succession planning activities for the organization.

Role of Line Managers in Human Resource based Organization

The role that is played by the line managers in a true human resource management oriented organization pertains to the role of an agency with greater responsibilities and tasks that have a broad scope. The line managers are to provide the senior management with support by facilitating management of their respective functions. A research conducted on the European industry revealed that “responsibility for training and development by line management is increasing both in identifying training needs and in making or contributing to policy decision concerning HRD” (Mabey et al., 1998, p377).Some of the responsibilities that are taken by the line managers in a true HR based organization pertain to greater involvement in the operational HR activities. “The line managers are more heavily involved in recruitment, selection, training decision and in handling discipline issues and grievances.” (Armstrong, 2006, p96)

The only draw back of providing the line mangers with greater task and responsibilities is that sometimes they do not have the required skills and competency to carry out the new greater responsibilities. As a result the human resource management function in a HR oriented organization should seek to train and develop the line mangers in order to increase their skills, their persona as well as their competency to undertake their new role as line managers in the human resource management based organization.


Köster, M., 2002, Human Resource Management versus Personnel Management, Web.

Bratton, J., Gold, J., 2001, Human Resource Management: Theory and Practice, Ed. 2, Routledge.

Hendry, C., 1995, Human resource management: a strategic approach to employment, Butterworth-Heinemann Personnel Management and Human Resources, Tata McGraw-Hill.

Pieper, R., 1990, Human Resource Management: An International Comparison, Walter de Gruyter.

Armstrong, M., 2006, A handbook of human resource management practice, Kogan Page Publishers.

Mabey, C., Salaman, C., Storey, C., 1998, Human resource management: a strategic introduction, Wiley-Blackwell.


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