In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section State of the Field of Strategic Human Resource Management

  • Introduction
  • HRM Systems
  • HRM Partnerships
  • Multiple Stakeholders
  • Textbooks
  • Reference Sources
  • Journals
  • Antecedents of HRM Systems

Management State of the Field of Strategic Human Resource Management
Susan E. Jackson, Kaifeng Jiang, Randall S. Schuler
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 January 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0034


Human resource management (HRM) professionals use the term “strategic human resource management” to convey their thinking that effective strategic HRM contributes to business effectiveness. While many HRM scholars have this understanding of what “strategic HRM” means, the meaning of this term has varied across time, between cultural contexts, and as reflections of the diverse disciplinary identities of strategic HRM scholars. Nevertheless, a grand unifying aspect of scholarship on strategic HRM is the assumption that further insights about managing human resources can be gained through research that treats the many activities involved in managing the workforce as a set of activities that, if properly aligned with the needs of the business, can result in many positive consequences. Thus the field in the early 21st century generally defines scholarship on strategic HRM as the study of sets of HRM elements and their interrelationships with other elements comprising an organizational system, including elements in the organization’s internal and external environment as well as the multiple stakeholders who evaluate the organization’s effectiveness and determine its long-term survival. Central to this definition are three essential constructs: HRM Systems, HRM Partnerships, and Multiple Stakeholders.

HRM Systems

Scholars of strategic HRM view organizations as complex systems of interrelated elements, such that each element influences the system’s functioning and is affected by at least one other element in the system. Among the elements included in an HRM system, as described in Schuler 1992, are (1) overarching HRM philosophies, which specify the values that inform an organization’s management approach, (2) formal HRM policies, which are statements of the organization’s intent, serving to direct and partially constrain the behavior of employees and their relationship to the employer, (3) specific HRM practices, which are the daily enactment of human resource philosophies and policies, and (4) the associated technological and social processes through which HRM philosophies, policies, and practices are established, modified, and terminated. Together, these elements form an HRM system. Although made up of discrete, identifiable elements, an HRM system functions as an indivisible whole that is more than the sum of the parts. Strategic HRM acknowledges the multilevel nature of management systems, as well as interrelationships between the HRM system and other elements of an organization. Finally, scholarship on strategic HRM also recognizes the interdependence of HRM systems with an organization’s external environment, including political, social, cultural, and economic elements of that larger system. The embedded nature of HRM systems is described in detail in Jackson, et al. 2014.

  • Jackson, Susan E., Randall S. Schuler, and Kaifeng Jiang. “An Aspirational Framework for Strategic Human Resource Management.” Academy of Management Annals 8 (2014): 1–56.

    DOI: 10.1080/19416520.2014.872335

    This is a major paper that traces the evolution of the field of strategic HRM, provides an incisive review of the previous thirty years of research, identifies several challenges in doing more research in the field, and concludes with suggesting several themes for work in the future.

  • Schuler, Randall S. “Strategic Human Resources Management: Linking the People with the Strategic Needs of the Business.” Organizational Dynamics 21.1 (1992): 18–32.

    DOI: 10.1016/0090-2616(92)90083-Y

    This paper defines strategic HRM as linking HR activities with strategic business needs, introduces the “5 P’s” of human resources (philosophy, policies, programs, practices, and processes), and describes the functions they perform to create alignment between business needs and the HRM system.

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