Human Resources: Automation vs. Human Touch - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1866 Words
Date:  2023-02-27


Human Resource for time immemorial has been recognized and is still recognized as the most important resource in any organization. Even in a business world where both the service and goods industries are embracing automation of processes. Rapid technology may bring automation as a more effective and efficient means of operation, but some things simply cannot be automated. A good example is services like Salon and Barber services, even in the most technologically advanced countries of the world, this service is still delivered by human hand.

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The topic is Hard and Soft approaches to Human Resource Management. So, the first step is to find out what Human Resource Management means. Human Resource Management is the systematic coordination and structuring of people in an organization to steer them towards the achievement of the goals and objectives. It involves activities like; recruitment, short-listing, training, appointment, remuneration, performance assessment, etc. The most recent synonym of this concept is called Strategic human resource management. (Mello, 2014).

It is worth noting that with the great technological advancement, the world is fast becoming a 'global village.' Business practices and cultures are being shared all over the globe. Human resource management practices are borrowed from one organization to another, and this is not limited to national borders, especially among multinational corporations. We are now talking about strategic human resource management on an international scale. (Williams, Howe-Walsh & Scott,2013).

My main focus concerns the hard and soft approaches that are used to carry out this important role. I will also cover the various features of human resource policy and systems that indicate that a certain organization is making use of either a hard or soft approach to human resource management. The features that are associated with both of these approaches to human resource management will be put down clearly. To make it clearer, I will also make use of examples of companies and organizations that are known multinationals (MNCs).

To compare and contrast the approaches, I will give their individual definitions and make an outline of what conditions each approach is characterized by.

Hard Approach

A hard approach to Human resource management is whereby the employees are seen as either a good/valuable or detrimental/unprofitable resource to an organization. It's about employees being under strong strategic control of the employers, and it goes hand in hand with Theory X of man's economic model. (Truss, Gratton, HopeHailey, McGovern & Stiles, 1997).

Characteristics are:

There is little to no communication between the levels in the hierarchy between the seniors and the subordinate staff. The relationship between the two is like that of a servant and master. No wonder this type of management is termed as 'autocratic.' Employees barely know their bosses.

A theory that could justify this is the concept of Dunbar's number by Robin Dunbar, a professor of Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Liverpool, who theorized that Humans are not able to sustain close relationships that exceed 150 in number. The argument being that the variables of time and memory cannot sustain this. That you can't remember everyone and also it is impossible to have adequate time for everyone. (Mac Carron, Kaski & Dunbar, 2016).

When it comes to performance assessment, the basis is on judgment or feelings of the employer and not on solid facts that would provide a bias-free conclusion about the productivity of the employees.

The changes made by the employees are made in view of the short time frame. Since employee turnover is not uncommon, the management rarely invests in the employees as a long-term project. They look at them as resources that come and go.

Salaries and wages are kept to a minimum, and the aim is to have just about enough promise of monetary gain that will both attract and retain employees. This makes sense since with this type of approach, among the overriding aims, is to increase profits.

Employees are rarely getting the chance to be empowered, e.g., training, learning, and development are rare, and delegation, a tool for learning from each other, is not a priority. The management does not see the importance of developing and nurturing its workforce and improving their skill set or abilities.

Soft Approach

The Soft approach is the exact opposite of the previous approach; it sees the human resource as the most vital resource and handles it with care. Control over employees is gained by the commitment and building trust, not by coercive force or aggression. It follows the Theory Y principles of man's economic model.

Characteristics include:

There is a free line of communication between the seniors and the subordinate staff. Almost like an 'open door' policy where employees are free to speak their mind without fear of reprimand or victimization.

Employees are considered a vital resource above all the other resources. As such, they are empowered through various platforms of learning and development. This is why organizations that have embraced this practice are sometimes called learning organizations. They are also enlightened on the power of delegation, a vital tool that breeds a sense of responsibility and teamwork in the execution of work.

Planning on the future of the workforce is thoroughly and strategically carried out with a long-term view in mind. Matters like, how the employees are going to adapt or evolve with rapidly changing internal and external business environment, are considered. The necessary actions are then taken.

The remuneration structure is competitive, and there is a system of rewards or commendations based on performance. This entails issues like; equal sharing of profits as if borrowing from Karl Max's theory of conflict where an assumption is that profits should be shared equally among all the people involved in an income-generating activity.

Performance assessment is done by identifying where the employees lack in terms of skillset then putting in place the various measures that will ensure that the employees are well-equipped, e.g., drawing from the example of Personal Development sub theory under the System Development theory of Business Ethics, says that an action is good if it contributes to the overall improvement and holistic development of an individual.

The soft type of approach suits a democratic kind of leadership or management in an organization setting. It's the exact opposite of the hard approach, which embraces autocracy as the more suitable leadership style.

The above are the features to look out for when trying to make a quick conclusion as to whether an organization is making use of the hard or soft approach in the management of its employees as a resource.

Depending on their goals, there are several reasons why an organization would make use of or prefer one approach over another. The hard approach may seem more attractive or convergent with the objectives of a given firm and vice versa.

Reasons for Adoption of Hard Approach by an Organization

Some of the reasons why an organization would adopt the hard strategy would be:

It is much easier to monitor and control the staff as such a supervisor has an easier staying up to date on the activities of the employees, i.e., since the focus is on getting the job done and not other matters like; personnel issues.

Costs are minimized, thus potentially improving the profit margin since the extra costs associated with training, salary, and reward systems are not incurred in the hard approach.

Since human resource is not seen a long-term investment by the management, they can alter their level of production, according to market or economic forces, i.e., if they don't need many employees, they can dismiss some without a problem. This is why such organizations prefer non-unionised workers as they are easier to dismiss when there is a need for downsizing or reducing the workforce arises.

Process evaluation is much easier since they typically practice micromanagement. Every work output is constantly under scrutiny. This supports the Japanese principle of 'Poka-yoke,' which aims at fool proofing or zero defects.

Some of the reasons why other organizations may avoid this approach are because:

Lowered efficiency as the employees are constantly mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted from all the rigorous micro-management by the seniors. The work may prove hard to execute as the company will not have equipped them with skills through training.

Poor relations between the employees and their managers. The atmosphere is constantly under tension, and the employees usually work to get a poor paycheck, not out of passion or desire to develop their career.

High employee turnover rates. The possibility of losing valuable employees who leave for 'greener pastures.' Other organizations may attract them through the promise of a better salary and job description.

It may end up crippling competitive advantage goals. Employees leave, and with them goes the chance of an organization to gain a competitive advantage. Employees are the undisputed source of competitive advantage.

As for the Soft approach, the reasons why an organization may adopt it include:

A company stands a much higher chance of gaining a competitive advantage. The employees will be more motivated and enthusiastic by the fact that the working conditions are favorable. People are more productive and successful when they are motivated by the possibility of gain, i.e., monetary and non-monetary compensation.

Better relationships between the management and the staff. There is a free line of communication, and thus employees can speak their minds, including; sensitive issues, without the fear of victimization. Conflicts are solved easily, and the workplace becomes a home away from home

Creativity and innovation are boosted. Every employee is given an equal chance to share their ideas. Innovation is what separates the successful from the unsuccessful in a business environment that is increasingly becoming competitive.

Teamwork spirit is enhanced. Employers don't see each other as opponents but as valuable members of a team that is aiming at one goal.

Reasons Against Adoption

Reasons against adopting this approach by organizations include:

It is significantly costlier to sustain this method- the costs associated include; training, development, attractive salaries, and reward systems. The main aim of any profit-making organization is to reduce costs, and anything that increases costs is deemed detrimental to an organization.

The Decision- Making process may be time- consuming. This is because of long consultations and feedback routines so that every employee can give their input before a decision is executed.

Since there is a direct and active relationship between the Top levels with subordinate staff, middle managers may feel like they are under-appreciated or overlooked. This is because their role of being a link in between becomes vague.

There are the reasons why organizations may adopt or discard either one of the two approaches to human resource management. It is clear that both of them may be beneficial or detrimental depending on the goals and objectives of an organization. I will now highlight examples of organizations that have made practical use of these approaches. The first to go will be the ones that have adopted the hard strategy or approach followed by the ones that have opted for the soft approach.

Examples of Companies Taking Hard Approach

The examples of companies taking the hard approach include; IBM (International Business Machines) and Ryanair. A report was compiled in 201...

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Human Resources: Automation vs. Human Touch - Essay Sample. (2023, Feb 27). Retrieved from

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