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Hard and soft

There are two distinct conceptions of HRM: hard and soft (Foot et al. 2016).

Hard HRM: The primacy of business needs means that human resources will be acquired, deployed and dispensed with as corporate plans demand. Little regard is paid to the needs of these resources and the emphasis is purely on quantitative aspects.

Soft HRM: In order to gain a competitive advantage through the workforce, regardless of whether they are full-time or part-time, temporary or contract staff, all potential must be nurtured and developed, and programmes that pay attention to the behavioural aspects of people at work are developed.

In hard HRM, managers focus on the profits and treat employees as sources of business, no different from machine and tools. While in soft HRM, employees are considered as valuable assets and sources of competitive advantage for the organisation (Collings and Wood 2009). Employers treat employees as individuals and concentrate on the employees’ needs and development accordingly. Hard HRM can contain elements of soft HRM.

They are equally routes to work intensification and greater demands on the employment relationship by the organisation at the expense of the employee.

(Beardwell and Thompson 2014: 5)

Your task

Reflect on your own work experiences. Which form of HRM did your employer adopt?

Post your own opinions on which form of HRM works best for business and why.


Beardwell, J., and Thompson, A. (2014) Human Resource Management: A Contemporary Approach 5th edn. Pearson Higher Ed

Collings, D.G., and Wood, G. (2009) Human Resource Management: A Critical Approach. Routledge, Abingdon

Foot, M., Hook, C., and Jenkins, A. (2016) Introducing Human Resource Management. 7th edn. Pearson Higher Ed

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This article is from the free online course:

Introduction to International Human Resources Management

Coventry University