Hard HR and Soft HR is One Better and the Other Worse?
Human Resource Management (HRM) is about working with people and encompasses a diverse number activities and organization skills in order to successfully accomplish the tasks of a human resource manager. HRM requires attracting qualified employees, training, offering career opportunities within an organization and other types of factors so that employees can do their jobs well and reliably. A human resource (HR) manager needs to understand labor laws and how to comply with regulations internal and external to the company. Many management theories like Lean Sigma Six, Agile and are designed to be flexible enough for managers to apply in a variety of circumstances. Two main categories of management are Hard HR Management and Soft HR Management. This essay introduces management theories and the frameworks that support HRM. Hard and soft HR management are compared and contrasted. The essay proposes to take an initial look at whether hard HR is better than soft HR when matched with Lean, Lean Six Sigma, and Agile Management theories.
Management Theories and Frameworks
Popular management theories can adapt to all kinds of different HR managers circumstances; some of the names are famous they are so popular like Agile, Lean, and Six Sigma. Professor David Ulrich highly recommends that the HRM department needs to monitor their practices and measure them to keep track of the practices that work and those that do not work. The reason is because “better deployment and use of HR practices should correlate with higher business results” (Ulrich, 1998: 303). No matter what the management strategy, the HR manager can compare years end results using HR metrics and also compare HR metrics to competitors (Ulrich et al., 2012).
Lean Management (LM)
The head of one bank subsidiary thinks that using Lean Management (LM) is good for tailoring to the needs of a company because LM is adaptable, but remains resilient (McKinsey, 2014). For example Mr. Bin Tarraf, explains that he wants to adapt LM to into a “robust management systems that are hard for other to copy” (McKinsey, 2014, p. 91). He explains that his company Tanfeeth is going to grow into a “talent institute” and that is a soft HR strategy (McKinsey, 2014, p. 91). In fact, he is not worried that too many highly qualified employees will be hired because that will make sure that the company will have excellent employees into the future (McKinsey, 2014, p. 91). Tanfeeth puts transparency as a very important factor in the business; transparency and openness are another soft HRM strategy (McKinsey, 2014, p. 91). Characteristics of successful LM practices result in the following features for the organizational culture. LM is not only a strategy for HRM some managers say that it is an “organizational culture (Bortolotti et al., 2015; James, 2006).
Arguments and problems are less, and
Future goals are the focus of LM (Bortolotti et al., 2015).
Lean Sigma Six
Lean Sigma Six includes a combination of LM and Sigma Six management. Five main steps are needed to manage Sigma Six models (James, 2006).
Step two is to develop the design plan for the HRM,
Step three requires implementing the plan,
Step four needs benchmark tests to find out if the plan is completed, and
Step five is not only one step, but it is to continually monitor HR strategies so they can be updated when necessary (Bortolotti et al., 2015).
The priority of Lean Sigma Six management is to make sure that quality is the more important quality over quantity (Bortolotti et al., 2015).
Bersin (2012) the CEO and founder of Bersin & Associates introduced a type of agile management called the Agile Enterprise. He designed the plan for management to meet the modern needs of HRM departments (Bersin, 2012). Bersin (2012) calls the Agile Enterprise a new model for Management. The three main features are “highly connected virtual teams, collaboration to meet customer needs rapidly, and using data to make decisions” (Bersin, 2012, p. 11). Agile uses the method SCRUM to make sure projects stay on course and everyone knows what is going on in a project. A SCRUM is a daily face-to-face meeting with members of team to encourage good communication and that everyone is still working towards the same goal (Majahan, 2012). Mahajan (2012) pointed out that the best way to build a successful Agile organization is hire employees with right attitude to fit into the organization.
Hard and Soft HRM
This part of the essay compares and contrasts hard and soft HRM. The two managements are described first and then the impact on employees is compared.
Hard HRM is not person friendly because the employees are regarded as resources. The employees are like the raw materials, equipment and furniture that are necessary to keep the business on track to make profits. Large corporations are most likely to consider employees as resources without look at the individual needs and plans they have. Management evaluates employees in the same categories as materials; the human resources skills, talents and the number, needed, how to hire high quality employees and what will it cost for salaries, pensions and benefits for each employee.
The point of view of the HRM department is from the top down. The business needs a workforce to carry out certain tasks and processes so the company will do well. That means that employees probably do not have any say in how long they are employed or where they will be located. An employee can be expected to work at the location where the corporation tells them to work. Corporate headquarters can be in different city or even a different country, but workers are expected to relocate if it will help the business. On the other hand, a person can be fired even if their work is excellent; it all depends on the needs of the business. Typically minimum wage or the least amount of salary possible is paid, because a company will have more money to budget as profits. Employees are not empowered with hard HRM and personnel reviews are probably mainly a list of good and bad items related to the person’s work functions. At the top of the hierarchy of the corporations is a leader who takes their job as the ‘boss’ very seriously. That means a boss will be autocratic, the opposite of democratic. (See table 1)
Soft HRM is hard HRM turned upside-down. Soft HRM takes a perspective from the employees’ point of view and a company treats them like an asset or a significant resource, even the most important asset of a company. Because employees are viewed as very important to the success of the company each one is treated based on their personality, their working style and the types of needs they have. In other words, they are treated as individuals not one mass of raw materials. Therefore the focus of soft HRM is totally different from the hard HRM’s focus on profits. A soft HRM strategy takes time to evaluate employees in reference to their roles in the company, rewards that will motivate them and their other needs. In a company with soft HRM communication and openness are considered highly valuable strategies. Employees are paid according to a schedule competitive with similar companies. Innovation and taking responsibility in their work are rewarded. (See table 1)
Another characteristic that soft HRM implements is to make sure employees are trained for the job they are doing. Also opportunities are made available so they can develop their career by going to workshops and conferences to gain knowledge (Davenport & Prusak, 1998). The definition of knowledge is that it is a “framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information” (Davenport & Prusak, 1998).
Soft HRM is used to improve employee performance by maximizing their potential (Itika 2011). On the other hand, hard HRM only considers employee performance if it will help profits grow. The hard HRM focus is on the business, but soft HRM is focused on both the business and the employees because employees are considered essential to business success. A review of LM, and Lean Six Sigma and Agile management shows that all three are match with soft HRM, but do not work with hard HRM.
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