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The Changing Roles of Personnel Managers: Old Ambiguities, New Uncertainties

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  • Raymond Caldwell

Abstract

There have been notable attempts to capture the changing nature of personnel roles in response to major transformations in the workplace and the associated rise of 'HRM'. A decade ago Storey (1992) explored the emerging impact of workplace change on personnel practice in the UK and proposed a new fourfold typology of personnel roles: 'advisors', 'handmaidens', 'regulators' and 'changemakers'. Have these four roles changed now that HRM has increasingly become part of the rhetoric and reality of organizational performance? If Storey's work provides an empirical and analytical benchmark for examining issues of 'role change', then Ulrich's (1997) work in the USA offers a sweeping prescriptive end-point for the transformation of personnel roles that has already been widely endorsed by UK practitioners. He argues that HR professionals must overcome the traditional marginality of the personnel function by embracing a new set of roles as champions of competitiveness in delivering value. Is this a realistic ambition? The new survey findings and interview evidence from HR managers in major UK companies presented here suggests that the role of the personnel professional has altered in a number of significant respects, and has become more multifaceted and complex, but the negative counter-images of the past still remain. To partly capture the process of role change, Storey's original fourfold typology of personnel roles is re-examined and contrasted with Ulrich's prescriptive vision for the reinvention on the HR function. It is concluded that Storey's typology has lost much of its empirical and analytical veracity, while Ulrich's model ends in prescriptive overreach by submerging issues of role conflict within a new rhetoric of professional identity. Neither model can adequately accommodate the emergent tensions between competing role demands, ever-increasing managerial expectations of performance and new challenges to professional expertise, all of which are likely to intensify in the future. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2003.

Suggested Citation

  • Raymond Caldwell, 2003. "The Changing Roles of Personnel Managers: Old Ambiguities, New Uncertainties," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(4), pages 983-1004, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:40:y:2003:i:4:p:983-1004
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    Cited by:

    1. Iskra Panteleeva, 2013. "Changing roles and behaviour of human resources managers in the industrial businesses," Economic Thought journal, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences - Economic Research Institute, issue 3, pages 82-96.
    2. repec:spr:busres:v:10:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s40685-016-0039-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Iskra Panteleeva, 2014. "On the roles of the human resources' managers in industrial business organizations," Economic Thought journal, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences - Economic Research Institute, issue 1, pages 80-94.
    4. repec:aia:aiaswp:wp69 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Elaine O'Brien & Carol Linehan, 2014. "A Balancing Act: Emotional Challenges in the HR Role," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(8), pages 1257-1285, December.
    6. J Dawson & Neal Knight-Turvey & Andrew Neal & M West, 2004. "The Impact of an Innovative Human Resource Function on Firm Performance: the Moderating Role of Financing Strategy," CEP Discussion Papers dp0630, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    7. repec:spr:manint:v:52:y:2012:i:4:d:10.1007_s11575-011-0126-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:taf:oabmxx:v:3:y:2016:i:1:p:1245939 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Knight-Turvey, Neal & Neal, Andrew & West, Michael A. & Dawson, Jeremy, 2004. "The impact of an innovative human resource function on firm performance: the moderating role of financing strategy," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19962, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    10. David Guest & Christopher Woodrow, 2012. "Exploring the Boundaries of Human Resource Managers’ Responsibilities," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 111(1), pages 109-119, November.
    11. Stephen Frenkel & Karin Sanders & Tim Bednall, 2013. "Employee perceptions of management relations as influences on job satisfaction and quit intentions," Asia Pacific Journal of Management, Springer, vol. 30(1), pages 7-29, March.
    12. repec:bla:jomstd:v:54:y:2017:i:5:p:613-646 is not listed on IDEAS

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