Book Review:
Strategic Human Resource Management: Contemporary Issues
Authors: M. Millmore, P. Lewis, M. Saunders, A. Thornhill, & T. Morrow

Millmore, M., Lewis, P., Saunders, M., Thornhill, A. & Morrow, T. (2007). Strategic Human Resource Management: Contemporary Issues, Harlow: Prentice Hall

Reviewed by: Cathy Sheehan

Although Strategic Human Resource Management: Contemporary Issues is a UK text it provides a thoughtful and valuable overview of key HRM issues that are relevant to the Australasian area. The content is extremely well researched and includes key ideas in the strategic HRM field. Despite the high theoretical content the authors have made a clear attempt to develop an accessible presentation style that should suit both students and academics.

Structurally the book is divided into two parts. Part 1 provides an overview of the strategic positioning of HRM. This section is made up of four chapters, the titles of which explain the content: ‘Strategy and human resource management’, ‘Strategic human resource management: a vital piece in the jigsaw of organisational success?’, ‘SHRM in a changing and shrinking world: internationalisation of business and the role of SHRM’ and ‘Evaluating SHRM: why bother and does it really happen in practice?’. In line with the intention to use these chapters as an overview of the area of SHRM the content draws from the classical strategy and SHRM literature base and includes for example the ideas of writers such as Mintzberg, Porter, Guest, Barney, Pfeffer, Boxall and Purcell, Schuler and Schein, to name a few. The discussion of these academic ideas is relieved with ‘In practice’ boxes that do give some good illustrations of how the theory is applied in the real world. Part 1 concludes with a case that brings together the related issues and focuses on the issues of match between strategy and HRM, HRM’s role in internationalisation and evaluation of HRM.

Part 2 of the text focuses on specific HRM interventions which the authors acknowledge as common areas for analysis in HRM text books. The coverage includes strategic HRM planning, strategic recruitment and selection, performance management, strategic HRD, strategic reward management and strategic employee relations. Other chapters include organisation structure, culture, diversity, and downsizing. In an attempt to reinforce the interconnectedness of HRM areas, regular cross references are made between chapters and content. Each of the chapters is also accompanied by a separate case that highlights the specific issues raised in the chapter.

Overall, true to the name of the book, the content has an ongoing strategic focus and constantly reminds the reader that HRM has to be tied to organisational goals. The content is specific enough to satisfy the undergraduate requirement of coverage of both HRM strategy and specific HRM activities. Other useful additions for this level include questions at the end of each chapter and a complete glossary at the end of the book. The regular inclusion of key concepts as embedded tables also assists in clarifying and understanding terminology and theoretical ideas. As a postgraduate text the book provides a comprehensive overview of relevant and current research. The suggestions for research topics at the end of each chapter also may provide students at this more advanced level with ideas for ongoing research projects.

Perhaps a drawback of the book is that although the title suggests that the text will be issues based the structuring of the book around the classical SHRM literature and the common HRM levers means that critical analysis of issues is at times restricted by that framework. For example, more could be said about HRM’s role in the effective management of workforce flexibility, HRM outsourcing, the rise of the service sector, emotional labour and talent retention. When purchasing the text, therefore, the potential reader needs to be aware that the intention of the text is to provide a comprehensive overview of the SHRM area with some discussion of contemporary issues rather than a complete focus on emerging HRM issues.

Cathy Sheehan
Monash University