Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Research Trends in the South African Journal of Human Resource Management

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Research Trends in the South African Journal of Human Resource Management

Article excerpt


The question that guided this investigation concerns the nature of research published in the South African Journal of Human Resource Management (hereafter: SAJHRM) and what changes occurred since its inception 13 years ago. In addition to an analysis of certain demographic trends, some comparisons with a similar analysis performed for research trends in the South African Journal of Industrial Psychology (SAJIP) were also made.

Contrary to a review of specific subject matter areas and methodological aspects in its sister journal, the SAJIP, by Coetzee and Van Zyl (2014), as well as the recent review of the business coaching literature by Schutte and Steyn (2015) and of the review of professional human resource competencies by Schutte, Barkhuizen and Van der Sluis (2015), the present analysis was conducted with the aid of a four-fold framework of interrelated knowledge orientations. Janićijević (2011) is of the opinion that the understanding and management of complex phenomena could be augmented by expanding the array of research approaches currently in use in various disciplines.


The aim of the study is a typological review of research trends in the field of human resource management (HRM) in South Africa, specifically as reflected in the type of publications that appear in the flagship journal, the SAJHRM. Given this focus, attention was not directed to other outlets for HRM research, locally or abroad. No previous study, using the current broad typology of fundamental knowledge orientations, has been conducted on research published in the SAJHRM.

Literature review

There is a tendency in the field of HRM to divide the historical evolution of HRM into distinct stages (Ferris et al., 2007). Recently, Cleveland, Byrne and Cavanagh (2015), and Ulrich and Dulebohn (2015) distinguished among four consecutive phases in the development of HRM, namely (1) HRM administration, (2) HRM practice (the design of innovative practices), (3) HRM strategy (alignment of HRM practices to business strategy) and (4) HRM and context (connecting HRM to the broader context in which businesses operate). The anticipated fourth phase, according to Ulrich and Dulebohn (2015), is driven by an ever-increasing demand to add value to organisations. In future, HRM will only be relevant as a key organisational resource and role player by adopting ‘… an outside/inside approach where the external environment and stakeholders influence … is recognised’ (Ulrich & Dulebohn, 2015 , p. 188).

This evolution does not only place new demands on the practice of HRM in organisations but also has implications for research in HRM. The ever-increasing complexity of HRM has and will in future compel a change of focus in HRM (Stone & Deadrich, 2015). Articles published in scholarly journals, irrespective of a journal’s specific focus, not only provide evidence of the development of a discipline but also furnish insight into research trends and foci in a field of study (Casper, Eby, Bordeaux, Lockwood & Lambert, 2007 ; Watkins & Labuschagne, 1991). A number of recent reviews in the international arena are also beginning to pay attention to the relationship between research on and the practice of HRM (see, for example, Markoulli, Lee, Byington & Felps, 2017 ; Stone & Deadrich, 2015 ; Ulrich & Dulebohn, 2015).

A key issue that is frequently mentioned is that HRM practice in organisations, for the most part, does not inform academic research and vice versa (Björkman, Ehrnrooth, Mäkelä, Smale & Sumelius, 2014 ; DeNisi, Wilson & Biteman, 2014 ; Tenhiäla et al., 2016 ; Tucker & Lowe, 2014). Research findings are not implemented in practice because practitioners often do not have access to, or are unaware of, such findings (Deadrich & Gibson, 2009 ; Shapiro, Kirkman & Courtney, 2007). …

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