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Critical examination on the assertion that the human resource function contributes to the development of a stable workforce and a healthy organization

1. Introduction

According to Guest (1987), HRM is a long term strategy that is integrated with business strategy and general management of an organisation. It proposes senior management to carry out cultural leadership to create a vision and work environment for employee commitment, innovation, and development, and relies on line managers to accomplish the HRM functions. The organisational structure that is desirable for HRM is decentralised, flexible and organic, and pursues a non-union and individualised employee relationship (Guest, 1987). The ultimate purpose of HRM is to win the employee commitment and release their best performance for the organisation. A 'Healthy Organization' is the one which has effective performance, and provides an environment that sustains the health and well being of people inside or outside the organization in terms of both physical and psychological (Newell, 2002).

All the above concepts are pursuing suitable employee relations through HR functions. Theoretically, there are two major perspectives on employee relation styles: the unitary perspective and pluralistic perspective. Scholars and practitioners (e.g. Fox 1974, Purcell 1987, Story and Bacon 1993, and Guest 1997 and 2000a) have different perception and interpretations on these two perspectives. By critically examining these theories, there will be a clearer picture on how HR functions can contribute to the development of a stable workforce and a healthy organization.

Moreover, long-term plans must have preparation for turbulent and dynamics, forces from the legal and institutional aspect and pressures from clients and industry bodies are all strong enough to reshape the organisation's existing HRM policy (Marchington and Wilkinson, 2005). The dynamic of labour market may alter the talent pool, and in turn change the recruitment and selection methods of the organisation; market competition may force the organisation to reduce remuneration and benefit for its employee. Therefore, organisation should learn constantly from its own or other organisation's experience and be ready to alter its HRM policy and strategy to the direction that 'best' fit its people and benefit.


Table 2 illustrates in general what workers' perceived inputs and rewards are. It is believed that the fulfilment of the perceived reward will contribute to the maintenance of stable and effective workforce in the organisation. There are many routes to accomplish such kind of fulfilment, and it will depend on how management perceive employee and manage the relations with them. As have been reviewed in this paper, there are unitary and pluralist perspectives (Fox, 1974), and individualism and collectivism dimensions (Purcell et al.) as major direction for further research in management style. The choice of HR practices and the implementation of HR functions should be in consistence with the existing management style and operational condition in the organisation. It is also believed that, the two perspectives/dimensions should not be concerned as mutually exclusive, because managers will face more dynamic condition in practice than in theory and normally a combination (or 'bundle') of various approaches may be more appropriate for resolving work-related problems.

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