Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

Hard and soft

Exploring the two distinct conceptions of HRM: hard and soft.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

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 & 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 & Thompson, 2014, p. 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., & Thompson, A. (2014). Human resource management: A contemporary approach (7th ed.). Pearson.

Collings, D. G., & Wood, G. (2009). Human resource management: A critical approach. Routledge.

Foot, M., Hook, C., & Jenkins, A. (2016). Introducing human resource management (7th ed.). Pearson.

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
This article is from the free online

International Human Resources Management: An Introduction

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education