Human Resource Management: A Critical Analysis and HIV/Aids-Related Policy


The term “human resource management” has been commonly used for about the last couple of decades. Prior to that, the field was commonly known as “personnel administration.” The name change is not just cosmetic. Personnel administration, which emerged as a clearly defined field by the 1920s, was mainly related to the technical aspects of hiring, evaluating, training, and compensating employees and was very much of a “staff” function in most organizations. The field did not generally focus on the relationship of dissimilar employment practices on overall organizational performance or on the organized relationships among such practices. The field also lacked a unifying paradigm.

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HRM developed in response to the considerable increase in viable pressures American business organizations began experiencing by the late 1970s on account of such factors as globalization, deregulation, and rapid technological change. These pressures bring about a better concern on the part of firms to engage in strategic planning–a process of anticipating future changes in the environmental conditions and aligning a variety of components of the organization in such a way as to support organizational effectiveness.

Despite the fact that the technical aspects of long-established personnel administration are still an essential part of HRM, strategy formulation and implementation has become its leading and integrating standard. Human resource (HR) managers are concerned with designing overall employment systems that are internal harmonizing and eventually contribute to the firm’s attainment of its major objectives. The function is also seen to be much closer to the strategic peak of the firm than personnel administration.

The strategic human resource management literature visualizes HR managers as utilizing, actually, a kind of toolkit of HRM methods that can be shaped into a general organizational HR system. Schuler (1988 pp.24-39), for instance, argues that the general organization strategies firms generate cause a need to endorse specific behaviors on the part of employees; HR strategies are then intended to obtain desired behavioral repertoires. Issues focused on in HR strategy formulation include:

  • Staffing: Does the firm rely mainly on internal against external sources in filling jobs? Are career paths broad against narrow? Is there a single or are there multiple promotion ladders? Are the standard used in making staffing decisions explicit versus implicit? Does the firm rely on extensive versus limited socialization? Are the staffing processes usually open versus closed and secretive?
  • Compensation: Does the firm pay normally low versus high wages in comparison to the market? Is there a stress on internal versus external equity in compensation decisions? Are there few versus many fringe benefits? Does the company utilize many against few performance incentives? Lastly, does the firm offer high employment security, coupled with a variable pay, versus low employment security, coupled with fixed pay?
  • Training and development: To what level does the firm engage in training and development efforts? If it does, are these short-term versus long-term in focus? Is training narrow versus broad and is the focus on improving output versus improving employee quality of life? Is training planned and systematic versus spontaneous?

The above are only some of the activities that serve as the design components of HR strategies; others include employee evaluation, job design, employee involvement, and labor-management relations. Obviously, HR strategy may contrast within organizations, depending upon the strategic objectives related to a specific component of the firm.

Critical Analysis

The development of Strategic Human Resource Management Research produced many opponents in its origins, as a result of the lack of theory in those first steps (Zedeck & Cascio, 1984 pp.461 – 519; Dyer, 1985 pp.1 – 30; Bacharach, 1989 pp.496 – 515), however as the time passed, the number of articles that proposed models for human resource management grew, mostly after the important theoretical revisions of Wright & McMahan (1992, pp.295 – 320), Jackson & Schuler (1995, pp.727-786) or the monographic issues devoted to this field by the International Journal of Human Resource Management (1997) and the Human Resource Management Review (1998). From that start point, the models gained complication, in a process of systematic expansion that included progressively conceptual and methodological inputs from different strategic, economic, organizational, and sociological theories (Jackson & Schuler, 1995 pp.727-786; McMahan, Viricky Wright, 1999 pp.99-122). This increase of the literature, still present in the specific publication contexts, needs a methodical analysis of the different elucidations that have been offered. In this sense, the objective of this paper is to review the actual state of the art in the field of human resource management research. Using the terminology presented by Jackson, Schuler & Rivero (1989, pp.727-786), Brewster (1995 pp.1-21 & 1999 pp.45-64) and Delery & Doty (1996, pp.802-835), four research viewpoints have been defined to categorize the literature: universalistic, contingent, configurational and contextual.

These modes of theorizing” (Delery & Doty, 1996 pp.802-835) support four different ways of approach to the same research question, stressing each of them in one of the distinct aspects that form the reality of the human factor in organizational strategies. This measure allows a complete categorization of the literature since the definition of the four perspectives is based on the same principles. Altogether they show and the spectrum that encompasses all the possible perceptions. Using this approach each research work can be classified and incorporated in the elucidation of the evolution of the discipline. In this sense, the study focuses on the extent to which each perspective is used nowadays, and which theoretical frameworks and research methodologies are fostering the development of the universalistic, contingent, configurational and contextual approach.

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Case study at Johnson Stores plc: An Analysis

Given the amount of time people spend at work, it should come as no surprise that work organizations are inflicted with pain and suffering (Frost, 1999 pp.127-133; Frost, 2003; Frost et al., 2000 pp. 25-45). People frequently carry pain from their personal lives with them to work. For case in point, Norman Smith being affected with AIDS affects how people feel at work. Equally, a vast number of work-related factors, such as hostile co-worker interactions, can lead people to experience intense and long-term pain.

Pain and suffering have critical implications for organizational performance and output. Employee grief, for instance, costs work for organizations upwards of 75 billion dollars yearly. The costs also extend beyond financial losses to include a variety of psychological, physiological, and interpersonal outcomes such as a diminished sense of self-worth, a weakened immune system, and workplace sabotage (Frost, 2003; Ryff & Singer, 2001). ‘Organizational members are often left without reliable opportunities to deal with their suffering, however, because of organizations’ typically limited capacity to acknowledge and respond to it’ (Frost, 1999 pp.127-133).

Organizational characteristics can both slow down and improve the extent to which members notice each other’s pain, view it as legitimate and worthy of attention and share their awareness with others. These characteristics include organizational policies and shared values that heighten members’ care for pain and provide a language with which to identify it, aspects of the organization’s physical architecture that make members accessible to each other and make it easier for them to see suffering in the organization, and organizational systems and technologies that facilitate communication about the presence of pain in the system. Each of these has the potential to influence the extent to which organizational members will be amenable to the presence of pain in those around them and the extent to which this awareness will be legitimated in the organization.

Cisco Systems offers an instance of an organization with policies that create such a capacity. John Chambers, a CEO, has a policy that he is to be notified of every instance in which a Cisco employee or an employee’s immediate family member falls seriously ill or passes away. This policy increases individual members’ awareness by encouraging them to be aware of pain: employees realize they need to be aware of a colleague’s grief. The policy also expresses shared organizational values that point out that people’s family circumstances are legitimate foci of concern, thus making it more likely that members will share painful family news. It also clearly expresses what pain is so members appreciate what to expect and know when they have seen it. Besides, Cisco also has a communication system called the Serious Health Notification System that enables such information to reach the CEO quickly. Employees to spread the word amongst members, thus alerting others to the presence of pain in the organization and allowing the collective acknowledgment of a colleague’s pain, also use it. Together, this policy, and the communication system and technology that support it serve to legitimate and propagate organizational members’ awareness of pain and their appreciation of its significance. Thus, they help to build the organization’s capacity for collective noticing.

Gwen Fine for the case in point would be in a better position if she could take the expert opinion of medical consultants in the serious ailment of Norman. No changes in working arrangements are necessary for HIV-infected workers. Alternative work arrangements should be made to help Norman stay at work.

Procedural changes About AIDS & The workplace Policy Issues:

  1. Management should develop a workplace policy on HIV/AIDS, which could be incorporated into existing contract language.
  2. Employers should utilize the expertise of non-governmental and community-based organizations when developing such a policy.
  3. Employment or pre-employment testing or screening for HIV/AIDS is unnecessary and should not be required.
  4. Information on whether someone is infected with HIV or has AIDS must be kept confidential.
  5. Workers should not be obligated to inform their employers about their HIV/AIDS status.
  6. No changes in working arrangements are necessary for HIV-infected workers. Alternative work arrangements should be made to help a worker stay at work if he or she becomes impaired by an illness related to HIV.
  7. HIV infection is not a reason for terminating employment.
  8. Information, educational programs on HIV and AIDS, and counseling and appropriate referrals are important in the fight against AIDS.
  9. In any situation requiring first aid in the workplace, precautions need to be taken to decrease the risk of transmitting bloodborne infections.
  10. Employers should establish initial and periodic training programs for workers in jobs that place them endangered of exposure to HIV-infected materials.


Human resource management is concerned with designing overall employment systems that are internal harmonizing and eventually contribute to the firm’s attainment of its major objectives.

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In many workplaces, management has worked to develop a policy on HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses. If such a policy is developed, it should be circulated widely and all management and workers should understand it. The policy could be incorporated into the existing contract language.

When developing HIV/AIDS-related policies and educational programs for the workplace, employers should utilize the expertise of any relevant non-governmental and community-based organizations. This type of collaboration can save time and effort by helping to share knowledge and procedures that are known to be effective


Bacharach, S 1989, “Organizational theories: Some criteria for evaluation”, The Academy of Management Review, 14, pp.496-515.

Brewster, C 1995, “Towards a European Model of Human Resource Management”, Journal of International Business Studies, first quarter, pp.1-21.

Brewster, C 1999, “Strategic Human Resource Management: the value of different paradigms”, Management International Review, 39 (3), pp.45-64.

Delery, JE & Doty, DH 1996, “Modes of Theorizing in Strategic Human Resources Management: Test of Universalistic, Contingency, and Configurational performance predictions”, The Academy of Management Journal, 39 (4), pp.802-835.

Dyer, L 1985. “Strategic Human Resources Management and Planning”, In Rowland, KM & Ferris, GR (Eds.) Research in Personnel and Human Resource Management, Greenwich, JAI Press, pp.1-30.

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Frost, PJ 1999, “Why compassion counts”, Journal of Management Inquiry, 8, pp.127-133.

Frost, PJ 2003, Toxic emotions at work: How compassionate managers handle pain and conflict. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Frost, PJ Dutton, JE Worline, MC & Wilson, A 2000, Narratives of compassion in organizations, In S. Fineman (Ed.), Emotion in organizations, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, pp. 25-45.

Jackson, SE & Schuler, RS 1995, “Understanding Human Resource Management in the context of organizations and their Organizational characteristics as predictors of personnel practices”, Personnel Psychology, 42, pp.727-786.

Jackson, SE Schuler, RS & Rivero, JC 1989, “Organizational characteristics as predictors of personnel practices”, Personnel Psychology, 42, pp.727-786.

McMahan, GC, Virick, M & Wright, PM 1999, “Alternative theoretical perspectives for strategic human resource management revisited: progress, problems and prospects”, Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, supplement 4, pp.99-122.

Rogers, EW & Wright, PM 1998, “Measuring organizational performance in strategic human resource management: problems, prospects and performance information markets”, Human Resource Management Review, 8 (3), pp.311-331.

Ryff, C & Singer, B Eds 2001. Emotion, social relationships, and health, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schuler, R 1988. Human resource management choices and organizational strategy, In R. Schuler, S. Youndblood, V. Huber (eds.) Readings in Personnel and Human Resource Management, St. Paul, MN: West Publishing, pp.24-39.

Wright, PM. & McMahan, GC 1992 “Theoretical Perspectives for Strategic Human Resource Management”, Journal of Management, 18 (2), pp.295-320.

Wright, PM & Sherman, WS 1999, “Failing to find fit in strategic human resource management: theoretical and empirical problems”, Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, supplement 4, pp.53-74.

Zedeck, S. & Cascio, W 1984. “Psychological Issues in Personnel Decisions”. Annual Review of Psychology, 35. pp.461-519.

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