Soft and Hard Approaches to Human Resource Management *HRM)

hi there when we're looking at the

strategy a business takes towards its

people distinction can often be made

between ones known as soft and hard

approaches to human results management

so let's spend a few minutes looking at

the difference between these two

approaches quick reminder about what HRM

or human resource management is on the

screen there there's quite a formal

though quite effective definition of

what we mean by HRM and since it's all

about the strategies that our business

adopts in terms of how it approaches one

part of the resources in the business

its people how does it get the most out

of the people employed in the business

and it's quite a controversial topic in

many respects because the approaches

that businesses take to their stuff are

often in the news particularly

businesses that are accused of having

perhaps an overly hard approach to HRM a

couple of examples on the screen there

so let's take a look at the two and the

essential difference is this hard

approach thinking of it as a hard boiled

egg never was aware of them reminding

yourself the hard approach simply treats

employees as just another resource in

the same way that the the business has

fixed assets and stock machinery and

what have you

employees are simply another resource of

the business and therefore the key

objective of the hard approach is to get

the most out of those resources in terms

of their efficiency in terms of their

productivity how do we make sure that we

squeeze our employment resources to

minimize their cost in the business

compare and contrast that with the soft

approach the runny egg if you like which

takes a different perspective it

basically says employees are not just

another resource they are the most

important resource of the business and

potentially a source of advantage over

competition so the soft approach

considers questions like how they get

how the business gets the best out of

the employees how to get the right

employees for the business and how can

they be developed and motivated and

organized in order to help give the

business a compressed

edge so that's the essential difference

and how does that manifest itself if we

were looking at different organizations

or different businesses

well the key features of a hile approach

as we said it's about seeing employees

are just as another resource it's all

about efficiency productivity not

necessarily investing a huge amount in

the intangible assets of the people so

you typically see a business having

fairly frequent changes in employees

hiring and firing fairly fairly

frequently relatively little

communication and certainly a motivation

that is more focused on financial

rewards and perhaps in particular

rewards such as peace rate and

commissions and bonuses that are more

linked to performance other features of

Harlow proaches to HR and to look out

for if it's a a tall organizational

structure with a clearly defined

hierarchy if there's relatively little

employee empowerment

if responsibility isn't delegated

through the hierarchy those are key

features of a hard approach to HRM

compare and contrast with our soft

approach which as we said potentially

treats employees as a source of

competitive advantage and the kind of

things you see in organizations that

take a softer approach are much stronger

and frequent and two-way communication

pay of course important but often linked

to performance of the business as a

whole rather than rather than

individuals much greater use of

non-financial methods of motivation

including things like job

responsibilities empowerment delegation

you might link knack to Hackman and

Albans theory of effective job design as

a way of increasing job satisfaction

you also see businesses with a soft

approach to HRM having relatively flat

or flatter organizational stretches than

businesses with a hard approach and a

different leadership style so in a hard

approach an autocratic leadership

leadership style might be most

appropriate in the business with a soft

approach the leadership style is

typically much more democratic rather

than autocratic I

is there an answer to the question which

is better well I guess it depends isn't

it it depends on the situation the

business is in so for if you're making

the case for a hard approach to HRM you

might argue that it focuses on

productivity on efficiency and therefore

if you use your labor efficiently you

may have the lower unit costs therefore

you're more competitive and you might

argue that's exactly what happens in

some of those some of those retail

businesses we mentioned earlier it may

result in quicker decision making by

senior managers however there are some

downsides a hard approach as we've

mentioned is likely to result in a lot a

much higher degree of labour turnover

more people leaving the business perhaps

a higher degree of absenteeism people

who are working for the business but

don't set up a harder to keep hold of

people and maybe even harder to keep

hold of good people and I think the last

one there on the on the bottom of the

left-hand side is quite an important one

a hard approach if it gets out into the

public domain and customers see as being

a negative part of the business that has

potential damage to the business

reputation on the flip side the soft

approach well of course the danger of

treating employees as the most important

asset and rewarding them accordingly and

investing in them is that potentially

your employee costs are going to be

higher which might lead you to be at a


however there are lots of upsides almost

certainly higher levels of motivation

and therefore potentially productivity

driven by the use of empowerment and

delegation and higher job satisfaction

as well as hopefully strong financial

rewards and the flipside of not being

hard so lower absenteeism lower labor

turnover and higher employee retention

and to finish off with a reputation for

being great to work at it's potentially

a benefit to the business in terms of

building the business's reputation and

brand so there we go that's an overview

of a strategic approach to HRM which is

all about called soft and hard and

hopefully that's been useful