HRM as conceived in the 1980s had a conceptual framework consisting of a philosophy underpinned by a number of theories drawn from the behavioural sciences and from the fields of strategic management, human capital and industrial relations. The HRM philosophy has been heavily criticized by academics as being managerialist and manipulative but this criticism has subsided, perhaps because it became increasingly evident that the term HRM had been adopted as a synonym for what used to be called personnel management. As noted by Storey (2007: 6): ‘In its generic broad and popular sense it [HRM] simply refers to any system of people management.
Human resource management can be defined as a strategic, integrated and coherent approach to the employment, development and well-being of the people working in organizations. It was defined by Boxall and Purcell (2003: 1) as ‘all those activities associated with the management of employment relationships in the firm’. A later comprehensive definition was offered by Watson (2010: 919):
HRM is the managerial utilisation of the efforts, knowledge, capabilities and committed behaviours which people contribute to an authoritatively co-ordinated human enterprise as part of an employment exchange (or more temporary contractual arrangement) to carry out work tasks in a way which enables the enterprise to continue into the future.