RESEARCH AND PRACTICE
IN HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Book Review:
Human Resource Management in Australia: Strategy, People, Performance
Authors: De Cieri, H., & Kramar, R.

De Cieri, H., & Kramar, R., (2003). (Adapted from Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart & Wright). Human Resource Management in Australia: Strategy, People, Performance, Sydney: McGraw-Hill Australia.

Reviewed by: Susan Mayson

Human Resource Management in Australia: Strategy, People, Performance by Helen De Cieri (Monash University) and Robin Kramar (Macquarie Graduate School of Management) is an extremely welcome text for anyone who teaches or studies an undergraduate or postgraduate human resource management unit. The text, an adaptation of Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart and Wright’s Human Resource Management, offers an Australian-focused, strategic and well-organised exploration of the theory and practice of managing people in a globalised and competitive world.

According to De Cieri and Kramar, the aim of the text is to provide an intellectual, strategic and practical approach to human resource management. This aim is well achieved. The text is founded on a solid theoretical and empirical foundation drawn from current academic knowledge in the area of human resource management. This is enhanced by expert contributions from academics in the areas of International Human Resource Management, Compensation and Industrial Relations. These contributions broaden the scope and add depth to the theoretical and empirical content of the text. The ‘Strategy, People and Performance’ framework used in the text directs readers’ attention to the broader strategic, social and business challenges (competing through globalisation, meeting stakeholders’ needs and the development of high performance work systems) to managing people in contemporary organisations. This framework emphasises the strategic role of human resource management as well as acknowledging the essentially contested terrain within which HR operates in the Australian organisational and institutional context.

From a teaching perspective, this book is suitable for undergraduate and postgraduate students. The content is clearly set out and although not presented in glossy high colour (something that undergraduate students seem to want), the content is presented in a range of formats. The challenges of globalisation, meeting stakeholders’ needs and developing high performance work systems are well explored using interesting and relevant stories, spotlights, case studies, discussion questions and Web links. These resources provide interesting stories and examples that challenge students’ assumptions about human resource management practice thereby giving them a deeper understanding of the topics as they move through the text. Each chapter starts with an introductory commentary that exemplifies a particular or issue relevant to the chapter topic and ends with a case study that encourages students to apply the chapter content to a practical, real world HRM problem or issue. These work as useful teaching tools.

The book is divided into five parts. Part 1, ‘Managing the Human Resource Environment’, lays down the theoretical and conceptual basis for the book by introducing the study of human resource management in Australia and how human resource management can help organisations manage the environmental challenges faced by employees and employers. It emphasises the strategic focus of human resource management by introducing the competitive challenges model - Competing Through Globalisation, Competing by Meeting Stakeholders’ Needs and Competing through Hight Performance Work Systems. The section includes chapters on Strategic Human Resource Management and the Legal Context of Human Resource Management. It provides the reader with the basic conceptual knowledge to understand these topics as well as a comprehensive discussion of emerging strategic and legal issues in human resource management including changes to Australia’s legislative and industrial relations context and surveillance and privacy issues.

Part 2, ‘Building Human Resource Management Systems’, focuses on developing human resource capabilities by building human resource systems through the design and analysis of work, human resource planning, the role of information technology in developing effective human resource management programs, recruitment, selection and placement and industrial relations. This section covers a lot of theoretical and conceptual territory, from the analysis and design of work to recruiting and selecting staff. The section discusses the role of information and communications technologies in not only shaping the work we do but also in how we apply for jobs via the Internet. This section includes a contributed chapter on Industrial Relations by Julian Teicher (Monash University) and Bernadine Van Gramberg (Victoria University) which reminds us of the industrial relations climate within which HR must operate and the conflicting interests and competing stakeholders’ needs human resource practitioners must negotiate.

Parts 3 and 4 focus on developing and rewarding human resources. This section starts with ‘Managing Diversity and Work-Life Balance’ which builds on the knowledge developed in Part 2. It then develops a picture of the demographic and social context within which issues of performance and reward management must be understood, negotiated and managed. This section contains a contributed chapter on Managing Compensation by Peter Holland which includes a timely section on trends and issues in executive pay in Australia.

Part 5, ‘Directions for Human Resource Management’, looks to the future of human resource management. The section covers a diverse range of topics including an introduction to International HRM concepts and frameworks written by Peter Dowling, a chapter on Managing Employee Retention and Turnover, and finally, the vexed issue of Evaluating and Improving the Human Resource Function.

Pedagogically, the text delivers what it promises, namely, a solid theoretical and conceptual foundation for those teaching, working in or studying human resource management. While many might criticise the unitarist assumptions that underpin many human resource management texts, this text offers a diverse selection of practical examples and critical commentaries that provide a useful source of current examples and challenges facing human resource management in Australia. As indicated, the chapters written by expert contributors broaden the scope of, and add depth to, the theoretical and empirical content of the text and offer insights into the essentially contested terrain of employment relations in Australia. One final comment, this text offers a valuable contribution to those who study, teach or practise in the area of human resource management in Australia but as someone who also teaches human resource management courses to students in South-East Asia and South Africa, I would welcome a Pacific Rim or South-East Asian edition of the text.

Dr. Susan Mayson
Monash University