Griffith Academics provide innovative analysis of the evolution, challenges and emerging developments in HRM internationally

In the recent book The SAGE Handbook of Human Resource Management, edited by Adrian Wilkinson from Griffith, Nick Bacon from Nottingham, Scott Snell from Darden School and the lateDave Lepak, several members of Griffith’s Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing (WOW) demonstrate that how employees are managed has a significant impact on organisational performance.

The field of Human Resource Management (HRM) continues to evolve in today’s organisations, in part due to the economic, technological, and social realities that influence the nature of business. In a global economy, a wide range of factors—varying from global sourcing and labour arbitrage to regional trade agreements and labour standards to cultural differences and sustainability to strategic alliances and innovation—all point to the vital nature of HRM.

This is in large part because from a strategic standpoint, observers have noted that traditional sources of advantage, such as access to capital, protected markets, or proprietary technologies, are rapidly eroding, and that survival often depends on the ability to innovate, adapt, learn, and transfer that learning globally. As one might guess, these capabilities rest squarely on the management of people.

However, while few will argue against the premise that HRM issues are critical in today’s organisations, the mantra “people are our most value asset” has largely been a rhetorical one that research evidence has not supported. 

Historically, organisations have not rested their fortunes on human resources. The HRM function remains among the least influential in most organisations, and competitive strategies have not typically been based on the skills, capabilities, and behaviours of employees. 

In fact, the harsh reality is that labour is still often viewed merely as a cost to be minimized, particularly in tough times.  Executives have more often tried to minimize the impact of employees on performance by substituting capital for labour where possible and designing bureaucratic organisations that separate those who think, from those who do the work. 

But is this changing? The science of HRM has provided compelling evidence to show a positive association between organisational performance and a bundle of complementary HRM practices. This universalistic “best practice” perspective in HRM indicates “high performance work systems” should be implemented on a worldwide scale and that good people management matters everywhere.

However, this is not an uncontested view in the academic and business worlds.  An alternative theory proposes effective HRM practices are context specific, whereby firms need to consider practices that “best fit” with aspects of the context in which they operate. From this perspective, competitive advantage is gained by aligning HRM practices with aspects of the organisation’s internal context (e.g. size, business strategy, technology) and external context (e.g. societal cultures, economic and business systems, laws/ regulations, labour markets, and industrial relations systems).

Most recently, there is growing emphasis on a firm’s ability to manage multiple HR systems simultaneously, either as part of a multifaceted architecture or as a foundation for achieving ambidexterity, agility, and organisational learning.

Griffith academics authored several chapters in this book which reveal new HRM insights that are essential to the progression of HRM study and practice:

Professors Michael Barry and Adrian Wilkinson examine multiple fields of study to explain how the regulatory context informs the development and application of employer choices in organisations. 

Professor Wilkinson and Dr Paula Mowbray adopt a life-cycle perspective to examine factors that affect the birth and initiation of employee involvement and participation schemes and their outcomes for employees.

Associate Professor Rebecca Loudoun demonstrates that while some industrialised nations have achieved declines in occupational deaths and injuries, work-related injuries and illnesses are still at an all-time high.

Professor Fang Lee Cooke, an adjunct of the WOW research centre, conducts a comparative analysis of HRM across various countries.

The book has also been commended by inter/national HRM experts:

 “This handbook offers powerful, convincing and authoritative accounts of current debates in the field of Human Resource Management as well as mapping out likely future developments. It provides an indispensable source of material for the next generation of scholars, practitioners and students in the field.” – Kim Hoque, Professor of Human Resource Management, Warwick Business School.

“The new edition brings together many of the world’s leading academic experts on HRM to provide 32 high quality chapters addressing all the contemporary issues in HRM. The outstanding set of contributors to this volume provide a state-of-the-art analysis of the evolution, the challenges and the emerging developments in HRM within an international context. Anyone looking for thoughtful and authoritative accounts of all the important areas of HRM will find them here.” – David E. Guest, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Human Resource Management, King’s College London.