5 Human Resources Models Every HR Practitioner Should Know

HRM model (or HR framework) is a term which stands for an organisation’s strategic scheme designed to help administer and coordinate business functions regarding human capital. This article outlines five models every HR practitioner should know.

The goal of creating HRM models is to help companies manage their workforce in the most efficient and effective manner possible, in order to achieve the established objectives.

Human resource management is often defined as a concept that includes two possible approaches, or forms. A hard approach to HRM is characterised by its distinct focus on performance management and the emphasis it puts on the instrumental approach to the management of employees.

A soft approach to HRM, on the other hand, focuses on empowerment, motivation, and trust in dealing with employees, considering individual contributors the most important resource an organisation can have.

In her book “Strategic Human Resource Management: Corporate Rhetoric and Human Reality” Lynda Gratton, a British organisational theorist, consultant, and Professor of Management Practice, concludes that “…even if the rhetoric of HRM is ‘soft’, the reality is almost always ‘hard’”.

HRM models often combine principles of soft and hard HRM, but with more emphasis put on one of these two approaches. Here are the five most significant HRM models every HR practitioner should know of.

The Harvard Model

One of the most significant and most influential models of HRM, the Harvard model, was initially developed by several experts lead by Michael Beer in 1984 at Harvard University. The Harvard Model is operating with five significant components: situational factors, stakeholder interests, HRM policies, HRM outcomes, and long-term consequences the organisation is set out to accomplish.

According to this HR framework, the correlation between situational factors and stakeholder interests strongly affects and helps shape HRM policies, which should be implemented to lead to the desired HR outcomes (commitment, competence, congruence, and cost-effectiveness).

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According to the creators of this HRM model, aspiring to improve these four Cs will lead to favourable consequences for individual well-being, societal well-being, and organisational effectiveness.

The Harvard Model nurtures cooperation and motivational practices and empowers general managers to get involved in the HR aspect of the business.

It is established on the belief that human resources can give any organisation a significant competitive advantage, so, therefore, the employees should be treated as assets rather than the costs.

The Warwick Model

The Warwick HRM Model was constructed by the researchers Chris Hendry and Andrew M. Pettigrew at the University of Warwick in the early 1990s. Developed from the Harvard Model, this HRM framework represents an analytical approach to HRM.

Similarly to the Harvard Model, the Warwick framework focuses on five different elements:

  • The outer context (which includes political, technical, and competitive factors, among others);
  • The inner context (concerning the structure, leadership, culture, task-technology);
  • Business strategy content (representing company objectives, product market, and general strategy);
  • HRM context (including role, definition, organisation, HR outputs);
  • HRM content (HR flow, reward systems, employee relations, work systems, and other aspects).

Essay writing service contributor for the topics focused on HR and organisational matters, Sam Michaels, explains the Warwick model as a “framework focused on achieving performance and company growth by reaching the appropriate balance between internal and external context”, utilising HRM context and HRM content elements that adapt to the changes in the process.

The 5P’s Model

The 5P’s HRM Model is a form of strategic HRM developed in 1992 by Randall S. Schuler, a praised scholar dedicated to the matters of global HRM, strategic HRM, the function of HRM in organisations and the interface of business strategy and human resource management.

As its name suggests, The 5P’s Model is based on five constitutional aspects: purpose, principles, processes, people, and performance. According to this framework, aligning and balancing these five principles leads to achieving company success.

The 5P’s Model defines;

  • Purpose as the organisation’s vision, mission, and primary objectives;
  • Principles are defined as operational protocols set to lead to achieving a purpose;
  • Processes include organisation architecture, systems, and methods of operation;
  • People are the vital HR resource performing tasks in line with the appointed principles and processes;
  • Performance, ultimately, is a result that can be measured by the appropriate standards.

5P’s Model used by M. G. Pryor, C. White, and L. Toombs in 1998, as a tool for the long-term continuity and progress of the businesses, operates with the same components. Strategy prompts the system, the system affects staff behaviour, and staff behaviour triggers the performance.

Shortly put, according to the 5P’s HRM Model, organisational performance directly depends on the performance of people engaged in processes and guided by organisation purposes and principles.

human resource models

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The Ulrich Model

The Ulrich Model (or the Business Partner Model) was first introduced in 1995 by Dave Ulrich, “the father of modern HR.” In his book “Human Resource Champions”, published in 1997, Ulrich elaborated the idea further.

The Ulrich Model falls under the creative HRM and focuses on organising all HR functions into four central roles: strategic partner, change agent, administrative expert, and employee champion (or employee advocate). Rather than focusing on processes and functions, this model is centred around people of the organisation and the roles they play in the grand scheme of things.

Ulrich emphasised that remodelling HR doesn’t rely primarily on HR automation functions, however. He stressed that CEO, together with senior management, also has a significant part to play in the process.

Although the Business Partner Model is causing much debate when it comes to determining if it’s still valid today, it represents an important milestone in HRM history and is still in use in many organisations.

The ASTD Competency Model

The ASTD Competency model was developed in 2004 by the American Society for Training and Development, after a conference and research process conducted by ASTD, DDI, and Rothwell and Associates.

The model delivers a roadmap of success that lays out performance against a credible set of descriptors. Two slight modifications to the model were made since then: first time in 2008/09, and then again in 2010/11.

This framework is founded on three subsequent layers or blocks:

  • Foundational level includes essential competencies: personal, interpersonal, and managerial;
  • Focus level introduces Areas of Expertise (AoE) such as coaching, improving employee performance, social learning, career planning, and evaluating;
  • Execution level focuses on four crucial professional roles: learning strategist, project manager, business partner, and professional specialist.

The ASTD Competency Model considers professional development the key to personal and company success. It mainly focuses on providing an answer to the question: “What competencies should people possess and develop to succeed in their field and offer a valuable contribution to the organisation?”

In Summary 

Improved productivity and reaching the set company goals remain the main focus of all HR endeavours. Although no model created to this day offers a perfect solution for all HR efforts, understanding HRM frameworks in their diversity is crucial.

Similar in certain aspects, yet different in other, HRM models developed so far give HR teams and specialist a good foundation to design, adjust, improve, and new practices for the future.

Every organisation requires a specific approach in order to accomplish the ultimate goals of HRM: recruiting the best employees, providing quality and relevant staff training, monitoring performance in ways that generate reliable results, designing and implementing employee welfare measures, and managing applicable reports.


About the Author

Eugene Eaton is a British blogger. He is into stand-up comedy. His favourite comedians are Louis CK and George Carlin. A good morning laugh is what keeps Eugene upbeat and motivated through the day.

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