Human Resource Management a Function of the Past: A Content Analysis of the First Edition Canadian Introductory Human Resource Management Textbooks

Article excerpt


The Canadian human resource profession is influenced by college/university education, which is in turn, is influenced by HRM textbooks. The 'functional' framework of the first Canadianisation of U.S. developed HRM textbooks continues to be adapted within education and business environments. Canadian authors intentions and current research suggests that HR professional roles should be strategic not technical and service function oriented (Belcourt 2011), yet operators perpetually educate and evaluate HRM competencies based on HRM functions (CCRP 2012). Scholars teaching HRM often doubt the functional framework of the textbooks and syllabi they use in their classrooms, and, consequently, it becomes increasingly problematic when the human resource (HR) programmes and business programmes themselves are distinguished by functions. A criticism of current industry HRM practices is that they are not strategic or integrated, and the core HRM issues of today do not always fit the narrowly functional perspective defined by the current day content HRM textbooks. Perhaps it is the textbooks' cultural history that has prevented the shift to strategic or other HR frameworks and approaches.

This paper encourages a dialogue and further exploration on the extent of influence the first edition Canadian textbooks have had on the current education and practice of HRM. The paper poses four questions: To what extent were the first edition Canadian HRM textbook authors able to include Canadian literature and portray a strategic focus in their textbooks? To what degree did Canadian based scholarly theoretical and empirical research contribute to the first edition Canadian HRM textbook content? To what extent were Canadian authors able to shape the initial Canadian textbook content to include Canadian culture and context? And to what extent have current day Canadian HRM textbooks been influenced by the functional framework of the first Canadianised textbooks? The HRM textbook functional framework has largely gone unquestioned. This paper will help HRM educators to make sense of this continued functional framework and begin to think critically and creatively about future HRM frameworks. Four further sections form the basis of this paper: aspects of the literature concerning the history of Canadian HRM education and the accuracy of HRM textbooks, content analysis methodology, results with discussion, and a conclusion.


The First Canadian HRM Textbook

According to Kaufman (1993) the first American personnel textbook was published in 1920 by Ordway Tead and Henry Metcalf and was aimed at U.S. university and college courses and American students. This first textbook and other American pioneering personnel textbooks covered all the functional areas of personnel and were heavily applied with the absence of a theoretical base (Kaufman 1993). Personnel was viewed by industry as administrative and nonstrategic with fragmented specialisations (Mahoney & Deckop 1986). The rise of the so called HR movement in the 1950s and the emergence of organisational behaviour research grounded in the discipline of psychology during the WWII period provided a theoretical base for personnel researchers. During this time the view of employees as organisational assets or human resources emerged. The continued decline in the unionised sector of the U.S. and Canadian economies and the shift toward nonunion work systems in the 1970s gave way to a fundamentally different philosophy and approach to HRM suggesting an interdependent, integrated and strategic focus to the management of human resources (Kochan, Katz & McKersie 1986). It was at this time that the first five Canadian introductory HRM textbooks were published (1974-1984), in response to the growth in the number of universities offering programmes in personnel as well as student's and educator's criticisms about the lack of Canadian textbooks that dealt with the unique Canadian business environment ranging from increasing Canadian legislation to industrial relations issues (Jian 1974). …