Difference Between Hard and Soft HRM

Hard vs Soft HRM

Human resource management is a vital function of any organization as people constitute an invaluable asset that needs to be harnessed to further the goals of the organization. Two contrasting theories of HRM have been put forward as an approach to tackle work force in a company that are called Hard HRM and Soft HRM. People are often confused between these two approaches as they lie on two extremes of management. This article will differentiate between the two styles of human resource management, hard HRM and soft HRM, with their pros and cons to enable managers to adopt a style that is a good mix of both.

In fact HRM seems to be a vague concept, mostly because of conflicting views and theories proposed to define it. However, the good thing is that whether Hard or Soft HRM, both accept that human resources are critical for the success of any business. An organization gets competitive advantage over others only when it utilizes its human resources effectively, making use of their expertise, keeping them sufficiently motivated to achieve organizational goals.

It was Storey in 1989 who elaborated on the Michigan and Harvard models on management (1960). Harvard and Michigan propounded theory X and Theory Y to explain two different styles of HRM. Theory X is a classic distrust approach of management where people are viewed as lazy working on their self interests. This approach says that the interests of company and employees are completely opposite and it is the duty of management to induce changes in the behavior of the employees to further company’s goals. This is essentially a carrot and stick policy. Theory X focuses on the nature of the organization without paying any attention to the nature of the employees who are labeled as lazy. This approach regards people as machinery and it is the task of the management to make best use of them. This is Michigan model or Hard HRM.

Theory Y is totally opposite to Theory X and perceives men as having emotions, feelings and motivations. They are not mere machines and take active interest in work as they achieve personal realization through work. Managers must try to keep their motivation high and enable them to realize their potential. This approach says that people are not inherently lazy and are in fact self responsible. They can be proactive and creative and management must encourage, and not coerce them to further the goals of the organization. This approach of HRM is called the Harvard model or Soft HRM.

Unfortunately, neither of the two approaches of HRM work perfectly as neither represents reality because people can behave in different ways and cannot be categorized as machines or responsible fellows merely. This means that a good manager must adhere to a style of his own taking some points from Hard HRM and some points from Soft HRM to have an approach that is a good mix of the two and suits his requirements and personality.

Hard HRM vs Soft HRM

• Hard and Soft HRM are two contrasting styles of HRM

• While Hard HRM focuses on the organization, Soft HRM focuses on the interests of the employees

• Hard HRM sees people as lazy and merely resources to be utilized to further the goals of the organization. On the other hand, Soft HRM sees people as responsible and having feelings, emotions and motivation

• Unfortunately neither approach works perfectly in reality and a good mix of both the styles must be adopted.