Relabelling or new Approach: theoretical insights regarding Personnel Management and Human Resource Management

Asta Savaneviciene, Zivile Stankeviciute


The business challenges like globalization, profitability through growth, technology integration, intellectual capital management, continuous change influence not only the way the organizations are structured and managed, but also determine the language of management. As a result some terms emerge and other terms are rejected. However, to what extent the development of the language signify the difference between old and new terms? The question concerning just relabeling or repackaging old things is relevant in the scientific literature.

A debate about changing the terminology from „personnel management“ to „human resource management“ attracted huge attention among scientists (Guest, 1987; Clark, 1993;  Legge, 1995; Henry and Pettigrew, 1990, Torrington, 1989; Armstrong, 2000; Cakar, Bititci & MacBryde, 2003; Boselie, Brewster & Paauwe, 2009) underlying the “rhetoric” of human resource academics and the “reality” in the organizations.

The paper starts with the development of human resource management concept, emphasising that the 1980s and 1990s are the time of the significant change in the context and content of the way in which people were managed. Drawing to the prior research, the paper identifies three main stages in the process of human resource management formation.

Acknowledging that human resource management concept is controversial (Storey, 1995), the paper presents two approaches as regards personnel management (PM) and human resource management (HRM): some scientists highlight the revolutionary nature of HRM (Legge, 1989, 1995; Keenoy, 1990; Storey, 1993; Guest, 1987, 1990; Hope-Hailey et al., 1997), meanwhile others (Torrington, 1989; Armstrong, 2000) deny the relevant difference in the concepts of PM and HRM.

Seeking to provide the answer to the question – does  HRM differ from PM? – the paper attempts to provide the definitions of HRM, however states that a widely acknowledged definition of HRM does not exits, although the definitions of HRM disclose four HRM dimensions: high commitment, high quality, flexibility and strategic integration.

To better reveal the nature of HRM, the paper provides some insights on the similarities of PM and HRM highlighting that some of similarities are viewed in the literature as differences also.

Finally assessing that the differences between PM and HRM can be seen as a matter of emphasis (Armstrong, 2006), the main differences of the concepts are presented in this paper. This brings to conclusion that in the scientific literature the distinction was made between PM and HRM and the term “human resource management” is now mainly used as synonyms for “personnel management”.



human resource management; personnel management; people management; human resource; models of human resource management

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Print ISSN: 1392-2785
Online ISSN: 2029-5839