Some academics believe that, yes, it is a new approach which differs itself from the traditional personnel and industrial relations management by means of integration. On the other hand, many other academics view HRM as simply new terminology which describes the next stage of the evolutionary process of people management, that it is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. However, it is undoubtedly true and agreed upon that the 1980's is most defiantly the era at which HRM, whatever its meaning, began to emerge, and, that there has been US influence in this emergence.
The US has helped shape and influence UK opinion. A large part of this influence is taken from the academic literature which is exemplified in the production of theoretical models. Models such as the Harvard model by Beer and Spector (1985) influenced UK academics such as Guest (1987, 1989) who produced his own model. An important feature drawn from the work of Guest, and others, is the notion of 'hard' and 'soft' HRM . Hard versions of HRM place emphasis on:
Soft HRM would appear to be more synonymous with service industries, where the product is generally intangible, customers often receive an experience provided by the 'human resource,' thus commitment is sought. The human resource is perhaps more valuable, their impact greater and they may not be as easily replaced as perhaps a production operative in the manufacturing industry.
Hard HRM relates back to the human relations movement from where personnel management can claim some of its origins and presents workers as a commodity, a resource to be exploited:
"to be used dispassionately and in a formal rational manner" (Storey, 1992, 26).
Hard HRM reflects the capitalist tradition, operating against workers' interests with no significance regarded to their well being, exploitation being paternalist and benevolent (Guest, 1999).
"Essentially workers are simply resources to be squeezed and disposed of as business requirements dictate" (Guest, 1999, 6).
Hard HRM evidently shows no distinguishable features pointing towards an initiative seeking to increase efficiency and control by effective use of the human asset. Prime example of hard HRM is human asset accounting / utility analysis which calculates in monitory terms the value of an organisations human assets. Proponents of the approach are of the opinion that:
" General managers and human resource decision makers need to be trained to think quantitatively about human resource interventions to be able to determine where investments in human capital are necessary to contribute to the organisations bottom line. Utility analysis is a tool that can help make this happen" (Sturman, 2003, 106).
Monks (1998) states:
"in the wrong hands HRM becomes both a sharp weapon to prise workers apart from their union and a blunt instrument to bully workers" (Monks, 1998) (cited by Guest, 1999).
Legge (1995) is very critical of hard HRM viewing it as the simple re-asserting of