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Human Resource Management; Hard or Soft?

Most entrepreneurs and successful managers are aware of strategies and tools to be used in order to achieve business success. I myself have put a lot of effort into understanding business success with the help of strategic analysis many of which you may have already read. This time, it is going to be a much different approach. Human resource management. Many entrepreneurs do it without even realizing.

What is human resource management? Is it as simple as we think?

Before I go on about Hard HRM and Soft HRM, let us first understand what HRM really is. Human resource management, is an act of managing the work force of an organization. HR managers, in order to complete their duties must not only act as key figures in Hiring new employees and carrying key elements of the hiring process but they also have to understand the nature of their current employees. Moreover, HRM requires one to do analyses of the performance of employees and give them awards or warnings accordingly, called appraisal. An HR manager needs to anticipate future changes in work force, example 20 more workers needed for a project starting 1 month from now etc.

Now so far I have been talking about Human Resource managements and the so many things that are part of it. However, there can be countless ways of talking to employees, motivating them and managing them.

Situation: Let’s suppose A is an HR manager of a company XYZ. He has an employee named B. B has been showing poor performance since last few weeks and since A is a smart manager, he has been able to keep a check of it. As the manager, A does his duty and talks to B about his performance. B says that he had some family problems, which disturbed his performance. Now A can handle the situation is 2 ways. He can say:

“You need to boost your performance or I will have to fire you”.

On the contrary he can say

 “Go on a day vacation. Once you overcome your issue and are able to focus better, we will resume on how to improve your performance”

Of course there can be many more things that could be said, but the approaches can be only 2. Hard or Soft. The first one Is an example of Hard HRM, where the manager treats the employee like an ordinary resource. The second one is an example of Soft HRM, where the manager tries to make the employee understand his value and takes a more encouraging route to boost the performance. Naturally, one would say Soft HRM is better. Seldom, that is not always the case.

Hard HRM leads to one-way communication and supports a more autocratic leadership style. Managers are often more likely to achieve their short term goals if they use Hard HRM because there is no delay in conveying of information and the employee is unlikely to ask questions. The managers tend to quickly get rid of employees who lower their performance, before it harms the organization. It is almost like replacing one machine with another if first one gets a defect!

On the other hand, is the Soft HRM. In organizations where it is used, managers allow workers to consult and ask questions about orders. There is almost always 2-way communication, which maybe slow, leads to innovative ideas. Being on the opposite pole to Hard HRM, in Soft HRM long term goals are more likely to be fulfilled. With a motivated workforce, the need to replace workers is rare, but even if the worker needs to be replaced it will take too long because of the nature of this approach.

Either way both are different approaches, many successful businesses use each. Google is much more towards Soft HRM, while they provide comfortable working environments and support out of the box approach. Samsung, a South Korean company is much more towards hard HRM. They often make their workers do long tough hours of shift and everything is very mechanical and systematic. Regardless both businesses have enjoyed huge success.

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About Qudrat Qureshi

Qudrat Qureshi
A Bachelors student at Sungkyunkwan University, South Korea majoring Global Business Administration. Native from Pakistan Qudrat has certain levels of proficiency in 5 languages including Urdu, Hindi, English, German and Korean. He started working as a Freelancer writer for the language services company IGMI Ltd. and within two months continued managing the Customers Service Department and taking part in the company’s Business Development decisions.

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