In this century the practice of people management is very different to that of the 20th century. The results of four surveys co-ordinated by the Cranet Network and conducted in Australia between 1996 and 2008–09 show there have been strong trends of HR management policies becoming more calculative and individual. Flexible working practices were on the increase as were greater use of performance appraisals, the development of policies such as career planning methods, career break schemes and targeting older workers and women. The representation of human resource managers on boards increased between 1996 and 2008–09.
The senior HR manager who completed the surveys typically had between 12 to 15 years’ work experience in HR at each survey period and was recruited from outside the organisation. In 2008–09, 59 per cent of HR managers were recruited from HR positions outside the organisation and 11 per cent were recruited from non-HR positions outside the organisation. This compared with 46 per cent and 7 per cent respectively in 1996. At the same time, there was a marked increase in the number of female heads of HR (up from 41 per cent in 1996 to 62 per cent in 2008–09).
The four surveys using the Cranet surveys in Australia indicated that HR policies were increasingly linked to achieving organisational outcomes, the focus of HR policies was increasingly on the individual and the influence of trade unions was declining, more effective HRM practices were being used and the role of HR professionals and the delivery of HR services was changing.
Although there was evidence HRM practices were increasingly linked to longer-term organisational outcomes, there was a decline in the use of written mission statements, business/service strategy and personnel/HR strategy between 1996 and 2008–09. In addition, despite a much greater percentage of HR managers sitting on the board in 2008–09 than in 1996, the surveys indicate that the involvement of the HR manager in the development of corporate strategy has declined between 1996 and 2008–09. Only 46 per cent of HR managers reported being involved in the development of strategy from the outset in 2008–09 compared with 50 per cent in 1996.
The Cranet surveys indicate that Australian HRM was becoming more individually calculative. This was reflected in the use of particular HRM policies such as performance appraisals, performance-based rewards and, increasingly, flexible working arrangements which would appear to support employer requirements rather than employee needs. At the same time, the declining influence of trade unions and of JCCs and increasing communication between senior managers and employees, particularly through workforce meetings, reinforces the individual nature of the HRM’s focus.
The surveys, particularly the one in 2008–09, suggest HRM policies were being developed to deal with a tight labour market. In 2008–09 staffing levels and internal recruitment had increased, the use of policies to develop internal employees and the use of career break schemes were more widespread. As mentioned previously, women returnees and older workers were being targeted in recruitment, training and promotion.
A further development involving the declining use of techniques to reduce staff between 1999 and 2008–09 from 43 per cent to 17 per cent also suggests a labour shortage. It indicates that HR managers are performing the role of a human capital manager. However, although there is evidence there could be a labour shortage, the percentage of organisations viewed as operating in a growing market declined between 1996 and 2008–09 from 61 per cent to 54 per cent, while the percentage operating in a ‘same’ market increased from 27 per cent to 40 per cent.
The role of the HR manager and the delivery of HRM services were also continuing to evolve. A greater proportion of HR managers sat on the board of their organisations. Although employees in the four categories specified in the survey were increasingly sought for positions within an organisation, during the survey period the HR managers were increasingly sought from outside the organisation than from within.
There is little opportunity in the survey or evidence from the results that the HR manager performs the role of employee advocate. The decline in workplace childcare from 12 per cent in 1996 to 3 per cent in 2008–09, the declining availability of home-based work between 2005 and 2008–09, the dramatic decline in action programs for people with disabilities, for women and ethnic minorities, and the decreasing use of JCC suggests employee needs are not assessed.