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Fitzgerald, C. & Mills, A.J. (2012). , Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 20(1), 13-27.
Human Resource Management a Function of the Past: A Content Analysis of the First Edition Canadian Introductory Human Resource Management Textbooks
Current day Canadian Human Resource Management (HRM) textbooks had their beginnings during 1973-1984, when a number of United States (U.S.) authored and focused textbooks were adapted (or ‘Canadianised’) for the Canadian higher educational market, and one or two original Canadian texts were developed. The fundamental structure of the first Canadian edition introductory HRM textbooks continue to be adapted within educational and business environments three decades later, illustrating their significant influence on the education and discipline of HRM in Canada. This paper examines the intentions and approaches taken by the first Canadian textbook authors and their attempts to address what they saw as a relative lack of research to deal with issues facing Canadian personnel and the lack of material representative of the Canadian context, values, culture and working people. The paper reports on the results of a content analysis approach and compares each author’s intentions with the actual written content to reveal that despite author intentions the textbooks contained limited Canadian research, theories, context and culture. Also noted was the contents were focused on a narrowly functional perspective rooted in American theoretical developments that served to exacerbate the problem of Canadian content and perspective. This functional framework laid the foundation for current Canadian HRM textbooks.
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 History of Canadian HRM Education
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). Moreover, there were large numbers of students taking personnel courses in Canada, suggesting that the profession had achieved deserved recognition (Dessler & Duffy 1984).
Canadian Research in Crisis
Conditions in Canadian business schools during the 1970s did not support academic research and faced under funding as they struggled to be accepted as an academic discipline (Austin 1998). The Administrative Sciences Association of Canada (ASAC) and the Canadian Federation of Deans jointly sponsored a conference in 1979 to address the concern that Canadian management education and research was in crisis and was not able to keep pace with management events and pressures (Austin 1998). Jain (1974) stated that the consistent opinion among HRM experts was that Canada had very little objective research to comment on the implications of important issues facing personnel administration in Canada. Things began to change on a number of fronts from the mid 1980s onwards, including the fact that management faculties were gaining greater legitimacy in Canadian universities and in the scholarly field HRM was gaining some ground, becoming a new division of ASAC in 1991 (Austin 1998). The differentiation in the functional areas of Canadian business schools and their limited functional integration was reflected in ASAC (Austin 1998).
Growth of College and University HRM Programmes
A consequence of the 1970s endeavours was an intensification in HRM related activity. The growth in Canadian college and university HRM courses, programmes and degrees, the establishment of Masters and PhD programmes specialised in HRM, the increasing number of HRM job positions and the development of a Canadian HRM association with certifications and designations over the previous decade created an increased legitimacy and importance for HRM education. HRM education has now shifted away from the allied arts and science fields of economics, industrial sociology and organisational psychology and is housed in business departments where there is an emphasis on business subjects with perceived connections to the business community and employment opportunities. This move towards business departments has arguably, strengthened the philosophical perspective towards applied education over broad based interdisciplinary liberal education. Courses such as business history have been ‘dropped’ in favour of courses that meet industry certification requirements. Accounting is an example supporting this shift.
There is some contention business schools and graduates have been ‘cut off’ from critical, humanistic and ethical thinking. HRM programmes are organised within the business department as one of the several management functions to develop and retain a heavy emphasis on the functions of personnel management such as job analysis, legal requirements, recruitment and selection, orientation, training and development, performance management, compensation and benefits, occupational health and safety and labour relations. Popular Canadian textbooks are structured by chapters according to these functional areas perpetuating the overly narrow applied, vocational and administrative nature of HRM, yet the dominant message in the preface statements of the first and current Canadian textbook authors is that HRM requires a broader strategic holistic focus with synergy between the functional areas (Schwind, et al. 2010, Belcourt, et al. 2011). Canadian scholars and educators have gravitated toward applying the concepts and models from business strategy to the practice of HRM with a focus on how the functions of HRM interact to reach a common business goal, yet confined by functional framework throughout their textbooks (Schwind, Das & Wagar 2010, Belcourt, Bohlander & Snell 2011). It could be asked, what came first the course or the textbook because in educational practice the two are often integrally related.
In the late 1990s the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations (CCHRA) gathered input from Canadian HRM practitioners, academics and business leaders on the knowledge necessary for HR professionals. These required professional capabilities have been grouped into seven dimensions describing the HRM functions. These functional dimensions are the foundation of the HRM professional exams and certification. Current HRM textbooks mark the text topics relevant to the CCHRA required professional capabilities in the margins throughout the text emphasising the functional knowledge required to become a certified human resource practitioner.
Accuracy of HRM Textbooks
The dissemination and sharing of HRM information is becoming increasingly important for Canadian businesses as they continue to be challenged with economic, demographic, social, and technical environmental factors. HRM textbooks, whether in print or online, are a primary source of current HRM research and information for HR professionals. The content of Canadian HRM textbooks is an indicator of what information is considered important for HR practitioners, students, instructors and researchers in the field. The importance of the reliability and validity of information, if it is used for educational purposes, is fundamental to the discipline. The theories and content in these textbooks are used to establish Canadian university and college HRM programmes and Canadian HRM professional designation competencies. The theories and references included guide the direction of further academic and industry research studies. These textbooks are clearly the foundation for advanced and future study. Unlike other disciplines it is common practice for business educators to consult to industry increasing the importance of Canadian scholarly research and supporting publications such as textbooks. Often, it is argued, if not assumed, that textbooks should be held at a high standard of accuracy and quality incorporating the best and most current thinking in the field because of their lasting impact on the textbooks’ learning audience.
A longitudinal study by Gibson and Glenn (1982) found the content and primary focus of communication textbooks remained consistent across two decades. Other textbook studies conducted by Wrege and Perroni (1974), and McQuarrie (2005) have disclosed errors and omissions in business textbooks, yet these inaccuracies have continued in subsequent editions reinforcing the point that later editions may have minimal modifications over time, even when new information and theories are discovered. McQuarrie (2005) noted the reasons for this may be due to the lack of questioning of experienced established academic authors, reliance on secondary sources, assumptions that historical information is accurate in its original version, lack of time of users to check references for accuracy and tolerance of lower scholarly standards for introductory courses. Reasons as to why introductory comprehensive HRM textbooks are updated, but rarely completely revised, range from extensive publishing costs and time to limited intensive research and writing resources. Original published HRM textbook edition content and context could go unchanged in subsequent versions or revisions. It can be assumed for decades that the material in the HRM textbooks is accurate and representative of the Canadian theories, research and context particularly if the textbook is a leading seller and is written by an established university academic. Indeed, it was invariably bestselling U.S. textbooks that were Canadianised.
Numerous scholars have documented the differences in values and culture between Canadian and American lives ranging from history and politics to sociological and legal philosophies (MacLennan 2000). There is research that supports the idea that Canadian business and HRM practices differ from other societies (Wright 1994). Murray (1974) speculated that there are clear cut relationships between the unique conditions of Canadian society and the success and failure of specific personnel policies and practices. Murray (as cited in Jain 1974) also stated that the
the dominate characteristic of a society reveal themselves in the nature of its economy, the structure of its political, educational and religious institutions and the content of its laws. These characteristics combine to create a context within which the general process of management (including the specific processes of personnel management) take place. One of the most elusive yet potentially significant manifestations of the environmental context of organizations is the dominant cultural values of the people who make up the organization and those it deals with (p. 366-377).
Textbooks are different from other texts or books. They are presented as tools for engaging student learning through the relevance and transference of the new information. It is through the ‘real life stories’ and examples that students can make sense of and apply the concepts learned. Fairclough (2001) provides another way of understanding this learning process by distinguishing between two dimensions of textual coherence. He refers to a text’s internal sense and that the parts of the text must be linked to each other and that the text must fit into the learner’s previous experience of the world if the text is perceived by the learner to be coherent. If a textbook does not appeal to the audience it may be rejected. A fundamental problem occurs when textbook content portrays information that is out of the Canadian context creating a flawed foundation in HRM textbook publications.
A search for the first edition Canadian HRM textbooks was conducted through the Canadian National Library’s online catalogue (AMICUS) which lists all the holdings of libraries and archives across Canada. Legal deposit is the means by which a comprehensive national library collection is gathered together as a record of the nation’s published heritage and development. All publishers in Canada are required to send a copy of all publications. Several library database searches were conducted to locate the original American HRM textbooks editions which were adopted by three of the Canadian authors and publishers. Informal communication a Canadian HRM textbook publisher indicated that the Dessler and Coe HRM textbook is current market leader followed by the Schwind, Has and Wager HRM textbook, two of the three first Canadianised HRM textbooks. A lack of publications is presented as Table 1.
|Jain, H. (1974). Contemporary issues in Canadian personnel administration. Scarborough Ontario: Prentice-Hall of Canada Limited.|
|Srinivas, K. (1984). Human resource management: Contemporary perspectives in Canada. Canada: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited.|
|Dessler, G. (1981). Personnel management. (2nd ed.). Virginia, USA.: Reston Publishing Company.|
|Dessler, G., & Duffy, J. (1984). Personnel management: Canadian Second Edition (note: first published Canadian edition). Scarborough, Ontario: Prentice-Hall Canada.|
|Dessler, G., & Cole, N. (2011). Human resources management in Canada. (11th ed.). Toronto: Pearson Canada Inc.|
|Werther, W., & Davis, K. (1981). Personnel management and human resources. U.S.A.: McGraw-Hill Inc.|
|Werther, W., Davis, K., Schwind, H., Das, H. & Miner, F. (1982). Canadian personnel management and human resources. Canada: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited.|
|Schwind, H., Das, H., & Wager, T. (2011). Canadian human resource management. (9th ed.). Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd.|
|Stone, T., & Meltz, N. (1983). Personnel management in Canada. Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and Winston of Canada, Limited.|
|Stone, T. (1982). Understanding personnel management. New York: Dryden Press.|
The contents of 10 personnel and HRM texts were examined. The first Canadian HRM readings text was compiled by Harish Jain, from McMaster University in 1974. The second Canadian HRM readings text was published by 15 Canadian scholars in 1984. The first three Canadianised editions of HRM textbooks originally published in the U.S. were published from 1983-1984. All three texts had several subsequent editions, with two (Dessler & Cole 2011, Schwind, et al. 2011) continuing to be the most used textbooks in over 200 universities and colleges across Canada today. A total of 25,000 Canadian students per year take an introductory HRM course (Pinard 2012). What is significant is that there are now many introductory Canadian HRM textbooks, yet the current market leaders were also the first Canadianised textbooks. These two current texts were analysed.
Other Canadianised textbooks entered the Canadian market in the late 1980s. These textbooks were not included as they entered several years after the initial five textbooks. Three HRM case books were published between1986 and 1987. These were not included in this analysis although they were another popular approach that Canadian university and college professors were using to bring Canadian content into the classroom (Crocker 2011) through case studies. There were also many Canadian government publications produced during this time. It is uncertain whether this information made it to college and university classrooms.
The two first and only published Canadian HRM textbook editions and the three first Candianised editions have been analysed with a focus on examining the Canadian literature, HRM theoretical framework(s) involved, Canadian HRM researchers and theories, and Canadian historical culture context. Was there a functional or strategic theoretical framework? Was there a Canadian HRM research gap? To what extent was the text representative of Canadian content, context and culture? The Canadian textbooks have been analysed and if Canadianised, compared with the original U.S. texts, uncovering Canadian content and context through the textbooks prefaces, titles, theoretical framework, content organisation of chapter headings and subsections, contributing authors, cited references distinguishing between theoretical journals and technical reports, illustrated figures distinguishing between theoretical models and technical processes, audience and chapter cases.
A systematic content analysis (Bryman, Bell, Mills & Yue 2011) revealed the structure of the textbook and the relationship between the intended and actual messages. The prefaces of the textbooks provide clues to the intentions of the authors. They describe the historical situation, existing problems and catalyst for writing the textbooks. An analysis of the textbook prefaces or introductions allows a comparison of the author’s intentions with the actual written content.
An analysis of the first question posed; to what extent were the first edition Canadian HRM textbooks authors able to incorporate Canadian literature and portray a strategic focus in their textbooks was conducted by analysing the textbooks preface, title and content organisation. The prefaces were reviewed to uncover the author’s intended theoretical frameworks. The textbooks titles were compared to distinguish between the different HRM traditions. The Canadianised textbooks table of contents main and sub headings with the corresponding number of pages dedicated to each topic area were analysed assessing variations in topic content, sequencing and concentration compared to the U.S. editions. The development of Canadian chapter content was reviewed looking for significant differences from the original American textbook content. The percentage of Canadian content was calculated. Since the two reading textbooks were not Canadianised, the percentage of Canadian content was calculated by counting and averaging the number of Canadian and U.S. chapter authors. The eight textbooks table of contents main and sub headings were further examined according to three areas of content concentration; functional, strategic or organisational behaviour (human relations). The number of chapters that focused on these themes were counted, averaged and compared.
An analysis of the second question posed; to what extent was Canadian HRM theoretical and empirical research presented in the first Canadian editions. The project was conducted by reviewing the author’s intentions in the preface, counting the contributing Canadian authors, cited Canadian references, distinguishing between theoretical journals and technical reports, and Canadian illustrations distinguishing between theoretical models and technical figures. The average counts of the texts were computed. This analysis was designed to distinguish not only between Canadian and American research, but also between Canadian and American technical and theoretical content. It is important to distinguish between theoretical references in recognised journals and technical reports, as the later does not represent empirical research. Contributing Canadian authors reflect Canadian scholarly influence, expertise and experiences to the writing of the textbooks. The textbooks’ cited references and illustrated figures can reflect research, theories and scholarly activities impacting the education and field of HRM. Reference notes also guide the readers to more detailed research purposes. The textbooks contributing authors and cited theoretical references help uncover the degree to which Canadian research and theory was included in the first Canadian edition HRM textbooks to discover Canadian HRM scholarly activities and leading researchers.
An analysis of the third question posed; to what extent were the Canadian authors of the first edition textbooks able to shape the content to include Canadian culture and context. This issue was conducted by reviewing the author’s intentions in the preface, counting and averaging the number of cases, project ideas or original essays that highlighted Canadian organisation HRM issues and examples. End of chapter cases were selected for analysis in three of the textbooks as they are a primary learning technique used in business schools. Two of the textbooks did not include cases but incorporated ‘real life’ situations through the use of project ideas or original essays.
An analysis of the fourth question posed; to what extent have current day HRM textbooks been influenced by the functional framework of first edition Canadianised HRM textbooks. Pursing this theme was conducted by analysing the textbooks preface, title, authors and content organisation. The prefaces and titles were reviewed to uncover the authors intended theoretical frameworks. The contributing authors were calculated by counting and averaging the number of Canadian and U.S. authors. The Canadianised textbooks table of contents main and sub headings with the corresponding number of pages dedicated to each topic area were analysed looking for variations in topic content, sequencing and concentration. The two textbooks were examined according to three areas of content concentration; functional, strategic or organisational behaviour (human relations). The number of pages that focused on these themes were counted and averaged and then compared to the two first editions.
Results and Discussion
The factors and results in the analysis of the first edition Canadian introductory HRM textbook are presented in Table 2.
|Jain (1974)||Srinivas (1984)||‘Canadianised’ (1982-1984)|
|Title||*All included Canadian||Personnel administration||Human resource management||Personnel management (2)
Personnel management & HR(1)
*includes .02 international
|Organisational behaviour (.17)||.21||.18||.15|
*includes .02 international
*includes .02 international
*includes .03 international
|Research studies (Theory)|
|% CDN (.25)||.42||.16||.22|
|% CDN (.75)||.58||.84||.78|
*includes .01 international
|% CDN (.04)||.14||.00||.03|
|% CDN (.96)||.86||1.0||.97|
*includes .02 international
*includes .02 international
An American Functional Tradition
An analysis of the Canadian textbooks showed a mix of titles portraying different management traditions. Three used Personnel Administration/Management, one used Personnel and HRM, and one used HRM indicating the beginnings of the shift that was taking place away from the scientific principle of people management towards a human relations management approach. Every title was worded slightly different indicating that there was a range of labels for the field with no clear consensus of whether the field was administrative, strategic or both. There may have even been an absence of the meanings of the polarised terms. The three ‘Canadianised’ textbooks added Canada or Canadian edition to the original American edition title. Four of the five Canadian titles included personnel perpetuating a narrow, vocational and administrative subject.
The authors used three structural approaches to incorporate Canadian content into their first edition textbooks each portraying very different philosophical foundations. One approach distinguished between HRM processes and structure as the basis for applying Canadian content to the American content, three retained the textbooks original American framework and rewrote sections to reflect Canadian content, what they referred to as ‘Canadianisation’ (Stone & Meltz 1983), and one used a consortium of Canadian scholars.
The first approach, by Jain, in 1973, was to make a distinction between HRM processes (functions) and structure (environment) and used this distinction as the basis for distinguishing Canadian content. The author’s intended message in the preface was that the text would analyse personnel problems through systems terms. Jain (1973) further stated in his preface that studies by researchers, Woodward (1965), Lawrence and Lorsh (1967), and Perrow (1970) at that time supported the distinction that the processes and techniques of carrying out such tasks as staffing, training, appraising, motivating, compensating, negotiating was much the same in North American industrial societies and that it is the structural characteristics and environmental conditions (economic, cultural and social) that must be taken into account in the unique conditions of Canadian organisations. The textbook incorporated these distinctions and was sectioned into nine parts; each part began with sections describing the technical personnel function followed by sections that described how that personnel function applied to the Canadian context. The content was 52 per cent Canadian, 46 per cent American, and two per cent international. The theoretical framework was two per cent strategic, 77 per cent functional, and 21 per cent HR focusing on the technical applied aspects of HRM. The inclusion of original articles by American behavioural science researchers such as McGregor, Vroom, Deci, and Herzberg (Jain, 1974) indicated the value placed on the American behavioural science theoretical developments. The unintended message was that there were American best HRM practices (functions) that were universal and that these practices could be applied to the Canadian context. The evolution of American HRM education and textbooks, which included a functional focus with some inclusion of new behavioural theories, seemed to flow into the first Canadian textbook.
The second approach was to adapt the American HRM textbook editions by retaining the textbooks original framework and rewriting sections to reflect Canadian content. This approach was taken by Werther, Davis, Schwind, Das, and Miner (1982), Stone and Meltz (1983), and Dessler and Duffy (1984). There was minimal differentiation between the Canadian and U.S. edition textbooks in terms of table of contents, main and subheadings topic content, sequencing and concentration. Imitation of the American textbooks was reflected in the content of the first three Canadianised HRM textbooks. In the Canadianisation of the American textbooks the authors most often used direct substitution translating the American content into terms that were understood by a Canadian audience while keeping the structure of the content and the majority of wording the same. Examples include changing contexts such as county board to municipal council and company names from Western Equities to TransCanada Minerals. The American chapters that covered the legal environment of HRM; human rights, labour relations and health and safety replaced American legislation with Canadian legislation keeping the majority of the content the same. The Canadian content in the Canadianised textbooks was approximately seven per cent with the majority of content almost entirely the same as the American textbooks. Although the results in Table 2 already show a very low percentage of Canadian content in these three textbooks the process of straight forward substitution, suggests an even lower percentage of Canadian content. The three Canadianised textbooks were not only very similar to the original American editions, but were also very similar in content to the other Canadianised HRM text books supporting current research that suggests that institutional pressures and publication production processes result in the homogeneity among textbooks covering the same topic (Levitt & Nass 1989, Perlmutter 1997).
The Canadian and American authors of the Canadianised textbooks stated in the preface or introduction a range of ideals. Claims were that the text content coverage would explore well established American core concepts, theories, and principals and practices “… an explication of the functions and functioning of the personnel process in the United States.” (Stone & Meltz 1983: xii), and that many of the HRM issues are the same in the U.S. and Canada (Dessler & Duffy 1984). These authors further stated that the focus of the texts was on practical application and technical skill development. The intended message was that in the field of HRM there were American best practices that were universal, and that these practices could be applied to the Canadian context. The authors further stated in the preface or introduction HRM content would be presented as a system of many interdependent activities and within the context of its contribution to organisational effectiveness including economic, legal and social factors and that the various personnel functions would be integrated throughout the textbook (Stone & Meltz 1983). Dessler and Duffy (1984) stated that maintaining performance and developing a personnel management philosophy would be used as integrating themes. Werther, et al. (1982) used a model to illustrate how the personnel management activities form an interconnected system. The authors’ intentions were to portray the personnel functions as coordinated and integrated activities. The unintended message is that HRM functions are universal, transcend international boundaries, and are organised around specific functions and activities that occur analogous with the flow of human resources into and through an organisation portraying segmentation over integration. The Canadianised textbooks theoretical frame 15 per cent HR – incorporating American research on motivation, and just a mention of strategic HRM. The result was that the textbooks were fundamentally American, focusing almost entirely on the personnel management functions and processes. The textbooks transformation process leaned more towards simple substitution than the subtle complexities of adapting an American textbook to a Canadian context.
The third approach, by Srinivas (1984) was to write a Canadian textbook using a consortium of 15 scholars across Canada. All the content was written by Canadian academic researchers. In the preface the author stated that the textbook was not written to a single framework in order that students would not be led into thinking that HRM was a clear cut framework, yet the textbook content was divided into 17 chapters based on HRM functions. The theoretical framework was 82 per cent functional, focusing on the technical operational aspects of HRM, and 18 per cent HR. The organisation of the textbook by HRM functions illustrates the influence of American HRM textbooks and reinforces the fragmentation of HRM into functional specialisations. The content was written by Canadian scholars and the authors’ intentions to address the problem of the lack of Canadian HRM material was achieved to a degree through the Canadian authors screening, selection and inclusion of Canadian and American content that ranged from labour market information and legislation to ‘real life’ examples unique to Canadian businesses.
The statements in the preface of the authors of the first edition Canadian textbooks were wide ranging. Their contentions support the changing HRM theoretical framework and philosophy occurring in the U.S. during this historical period, which was building on the core functions of HRM while incorporating an integrated and strategic approach to HRM. An analysis of the textbook titles and organisation of content sent an unintended message to Canadian educators and students that there were American best HRM practices that were universal and that these functions could be applied to the Canadian context. The authors discussed the importance of strategic HRM, but were not able to portray this integrated and interdisciplinary nature throughout their textbooks. The content of the first Canadian editions was shaped by American HRM scholars and authors. It seems subsequent editions of textbooks continue to maintain the same organisational structure even when new frameworks and content are acknowledged by leading Canadian researchers. An early American functional perspective has laid the foundation of current Canadian introductory HRM textbooks and education as well as an understanding of HRM as a discipline.
Borrowing American Research
The second objective was to examine whether any Canadian research and theories distinctive of Canadian HRM emerge from the scrutiny of these first Canadian textbooks. Several statements by the authors and by industry leaders in the preface of the first Canadian editions support the concerns expressed by the management University Deans and management professional research associations during the late 1970s and early 1980s of the need for Canadian centred material and foci. For example, Jain (1974) stated in the preface that “Since it was impossible to find relevant, well-written Canadian material on some topics, several well-known scholars were invited to contribute to this volume” (p. xviiii). John Crispo was quoted in Jain’s preface as stating that “… relative to the industrial relation situation in the United States, Canada is woefully under researched’ and the Economic Council of Canada in 1968 was quoted as suggesting that “… Canada appears to be particularly far behind the U.S. in the relative scale of resources devoted to business education and research (as cited in Jain 1974). Sriniva’s (1984) preface stated that “… managerial education in Canada, with respect to human resource utilization, has suffered from a lack of Canadian material.” (1984: viii). Stone and Meltzs (1983) addressed students in their preface stating that “The personnel field is eclectic, interdisciplinary and has very few grand theories or principles that provide practical and insightful ways of organizing its information. The few you will encounter are borrowed from psychology, sociology, economics and statistics.” (p. xvi). It was the expressed intention of the Canadian authors that their textbooks would contribute to filling this Canadian research gap (Jain 1974) and the HRM educational material void (Srinvas 1984).
The analysis of the textbooks contributing Canadian authors, the cited Canadian scholars, and illustrated Canadian theoretical models supports the statements by the ASAC, the Canadian Federation of Deans, and industry leaders that there was a gap in HRM research during these early years (Austin 1998). Canadian pioneering authors relied heavily on American research as presented in Table 2. The total percentage of contributing Canadian textbook authors was 62 per cent and the percentage of cited Canadian referenced material was 32 per cent of the five textbooks analysed. A total of 24 per cent of the total cited references were Canadian technical business and government reports, statistics and legislation and eight per cent were Canadian journal and textbook references, with the remaining 67 per cent of the total references were American and one per cent was international. Of the total Canadian cited references 75 per cent were business and government reports and statistics with 25 per cent journal and textbook references. The total percentage of Canadian illustrations was 41 per cent of the five textbooks analysed. Some 47 per cent of the total illustrations were Canadian technical figures and only nine per cent were Canadian models. Of the total Canadian illustrations 96 per cent were technical figures and only four per cent were models. Of the 32 per cent of total cited Canadian references less than nine per cent reflect empirical Canadian research. This moderate percentage of contributing authors, the low percentage of Canadian theoretical references combined with a minimal percentage of Canadian illustrated theoretical models indicates that a very limited amount of Canadian theory and research was present in the first Canadian introductory textbooks. The use of cited Canadian referenced technical business and government reports and illustrated technical HRM figures and processes over theoretical cited references and models, not only represents a significantly low amount of Canadian theory, but illustrates a more technical functional HRM perspective over a theoretical and research HRM perspective. Canadian scholars had a limited influence on the first edition Canadian HRM textbooks and future HRM education and industry practices.
In the three Canadianised American textbooks the cited referenced material was 75 per cent American and 25 per cent Canadian. The 25 per cent of the Canadian citations were achieved through a process whereby American references were substituted with Canadian references. In some instances American research studies were removed and replaced with generalised statements that had the effect of reducing the total research content in the Canadian textbooks. The Canadian authors also chose to include additional American references to the Canadian text, which also reduced the potential for Canadian content. The elimination of American information often included information that ranged from legislation and surveys to compensation and labour market statistics. In some cases there was a significant amount of American references removed. This information was not always replaced by Canadian information, leaving gaps in the text content. These gaps in first edition texts could go unnoticed in subsequent texts as discussed earlier in this paper. Specific Canadian content that was added ranged from legislation, government surveys, and business reports to labour market statistics and environmental challenges. The authors often used direct substitution translating the referenced American researchers name to a Canadian researcher’s name while keeping the original American text wording the same. In some cases the authors referenced their own research while using the original American text wording. There were also instances where Canadian research was referenced with the American research, again using the exact wording of the original American edition text without adding any new content. Some American references were replaced with alternative American references with the American text wording remaining the same. In some cases, American theoretical references were replaced with Canadian business reports; again reducing the theoretical content. In doing this the Canadian authors were not presenting the original work of Canadian researchers, but rather the undisclosed original research of American researchers. The ideas from American research are presented as Canadian. Although the results in Table 2 already show a low percentage of Canadian references, most of these Canadian references used substitution techniques suggesting a significantly lower percentage of Canadian content. The research roots and theoretical developments in the first Canadian HRM textbooks are to a significant degree American. The author’s intentions were to incorporate Canadian research into the textbooks to deal with the lack of Canadian research content by augmenting the American theoretical developments. The untended outcome was a misrepresentation to HRM instructors, students and industry practitioners that a HRM textbook is Canadian when its theoretical roots are American (i.e., based on a mindset that reflects realities and thinking in the U.S. rather than in Canada).
Generalising and Mentally Translating the American Experience
The third objective was to examine the extent to which the Canadian authors of the selected textbooks were able to shape the content to include Canadian culture and context. As highlighted in the textbook prefaces, it was the expressed intention of the authors that their university and college textbook would be presented in a highly readable and understandable form (Dessler and Duffy 1984) for students aiming for careers in management and personnel management. Srinivas (1984) stated in the preface that an attempt had been made to make the material relevant to the student. The intention of Stones and Meltz (1983) was to stimulate student interest in personnel related issues in a ‘real world’ context through the use of project ideas. Werther, et al. (1982) provided ‘real’ and invented case incidents drawn from case histories of organisations as they believed that “… an introductory personnel management text must be readable and teachable.” (p.xii).
A further analysis of the textbooks prefaces indicated the authors were striving to incorporate Canadian culture and context into their textbooks. Criteria for the selection of content in Jain’s textbook was its relevance to current Canadian issues and problems. John F, Bookout, President of Shell Canada was quoted saying:
Up until now most of the work in behavioural science come from other countries. Since little work as done in the field in Canada, results of work done in other countries have been used here on the assumption that they are valid in the Canadian milieu. We think that there are enough differences in the Canadian people to warrant Canadian research (Jain 1974: xviii)
Stone and Meltz (1983) stated that the application of HRM “… is influenced to an important extent by the laws, regulations, institutions, attitudes, and history- these are, of course the very areas in which this country differs from our neighbours to the south.” (p. xii). The authors’ and industry leaders’ statements expressed their concern that there are important and unique differences between American and Canadian students and businesses, and that Canadian historical and cultural differences needed to be incorporated into HRM education. They felt that their first Canadian textbooks could address this problem.
Cases, project ideas and original essays were analysed to uncover Canadian historical and cultural themes. The results on the analysis are presented in Table 2. Totals of 52 and 89 per cent of the cases included, respectively, in the two reading textbooks and five per cent of the cases in the Canadianised textbooks contained distinctly Canadian case history and cultural examples. Some 25 of the 48 original essays in Jain’s textbook were concerned with the structural characteristics of the economic, cultural values and public policy requirements and their influence on the nature and extent of HRM policies and practices within Canadian organisations. These sections were written by Canadian scholars and dealt with a range of issues concerning the Canadian context and environment in which HRM processes take place. The Srinivas (1984) cases were written by Canadian authors and were based on Canadian interviews, incidents and news reports. Both texts included discussions addressing Canadian HRM issues such as unemployment among native people and employment patterns in Quebec. A total of 95 per cent of the original American textbook cases remained in the Canadianised first Canadian edition textbooks. These were general cases with minimal direct substitution of Canadian names and terms and in some instances they referred students to American theories, journals and textbooks.
The analysis of textbook cases indicates that the author’s intentions to portray a Canadian culture occurred to a moderate degree in two of the textbooks, but not in the three Canadianised textbooks. An important consideration is that the adaption of American textbooks for a Canadian learning audience is more complex than simple substitution and generalising information so it becomes universal and transferrable between countries. The problem that occurs is the omission of Canadian history, cultural and context. An assumption is made that it is sufficient for instructors and students to read American experiences and then mentally translate them to Canadian experiences. The inclusion of American or general cases sends an unintended message that students and businesses are the same in the U.S. and Canada. A point to be highlighted is that the two textbooks that included Canadian cases were only published once and have not been updated for current university and college students and instructors use, a Canadian history lost or hidden from our students. The three Canadianised textbooks have had several subsequent editions, and two continue to be popular today.
The fourth objective was to examine the structure of the two current day Canadianised textbooks to gauge the influence of the first Canadianised HRM textbooks. An analysis of the textbooks prefaces portrayed the author’s intentions. The textbook authors stated that the focus of their textbook was the strategic contribution of the human resource function in organisations. They further stated that they would achieve this outcome by emphasising the strategic importance of HRM activities throughout the texts functional topic chapters. The authors of one of the texts further stated that an explicit recognition of the relationship between HR strategies, tactics and systems has been incorporated into a model throughout the text material. Both textbooks state that the thrust and/or design of the textbook were to give a comprehensive review of HRM concepts, techniques, issues, practices and functions. There are attempts by the authors at integrating the HRM functions and developing a strategic theoretical framework. These current day authors’ intentions echo the pioneering author’s intentions of portraying HRM strategically, the dominant perspective that HR activities and/or work systems need to interact and be optimised to reach the organisation’s goal. An analysis of the two current Canadian textbooks titles showed that both changed their titles from personnel to HRM, and one added on, a strategic approach. The titles portray HRM as strategic and employees as resources or organisational assets to be managed. An analysis of the authors found that the leading Canadian textbook is authored by one U.S. author and one Canadian author. What is particularly significant is that the lead author of the leading Canadian HRM textbook remains an American author. Three Canadian authors contributed to the other textbook.
Current day authors retain the original Canadianised functional framework of textbooks that have been adapted from the American HRM textbook editions. The current Canadianised textbooks theoretical framework was 88 per cent functional, decreasing from the 85 per cent in the first editions, three percent HR decreasing from the 15 per cent in the first editions and nine per cent strategic which had only been briefly mentioned in the first edition textbooks. The authors discuss strategic concepts and their importance in the first chapter of the textbook, the first paragraphs or pages of several chapters and through the use of a model and/or highlighted theme boxes. This analysis relied on the preface and table of contents of the textbook and did not review the detailed tactical operational or strategic language or tone used in the documents. The result was that the textbooks continue to be organised according to functions following what some may feel it a logical structure, albeit with the significant drawback of appearing linear and fragmented rather than integrated and interrelated. The HR topics such as motivation and communication were included in one chapter or part of a chapter on employee relations, a reduction from the three chapters in the both first editions. The content of both current textbook has doubled since their first editions adding substantive content to each functional chapter, further reinforcing the HRM functional specialisations.
The core HRM issues of today do not fit the functional nature of the textbooks. Highly specific and specialised HR techniques fit highly predictable organisational environments, the environments, as seen of the first authored Canadian HRM textbooks. In other words, it might be expected that textbooks (of whatever discipline) would constantly seek to adapt to changed circumstances, shaping their focus and the dissemination of selected theories according to dominant themes of the time. But that would assume that a text’s underlying framework and philosophy had no other role than to reflect rather than shape the content of the field (Weatherbee, Dye & Mills 2008, Genoe McLaren, Durepos & Mills 2009). The underlying framework of Canadian textbooks in fact served to determine the content and in ways that are problematic for the field.
A content analysis of the first Canadian edition introductory HRM textbooks prefaces indicated the authors felt that HRM required more of a strategic focus and Canadian research, theory and context.
The limited extent to which authors’ intentions were realised can be seen in the fact that the written content largely emphasised a narrowly functional HRM perspective and American theoretical developments and culture. These unintended messages laid the foundation for the current HRM textbooks. The evolution of American HRM education flowed into the first Canadian edition introductory HRM textbooks having widespread and fundamental repercussions on the education and practice of human resource management in Canada.
Comparing the early content of the first edition Canadian textbooks helps to make sense of the current introductory HRM textbooks, their foundations and limitations. These comparisons heighten awareness of the continued influence of the first edition Canadian HRM textbooks, fragmentation of HRM into heavily emphasised functions, applied technical focus with a limited HRM theoretical base and influence of American theories and context on the education and practice of HRM in Canada. This paper urges HRM researchers, instructors, and professionals to critically assess the structured and rational HRM approach adapted in current HRM textbooks rather than simply accept its ‘functional’ framework and accuracy. This contention highlights the importance of uncovering Canadian theory, context and culture and ensuring its inclusion in introductory HRM textbooks.
The functional framework of HRM textbooks has gone unquestioned for three decades. Hopefully, educators and researchers in the HRM field will use this article for further dialogues on the limitations of the functional framework and a point of departure towards innovative discussions and research concerning new HRM frameworks. It is strongly contended it is time to change the organisation of content in HRM textbooks.
M.A. is a professor of Human Resources Managemnet in the Okanagan School of Business, Okanagan College, Kelowna. Her research interests include the study of various areas of human resources and organisational behaviour.
PhD is Director, PhD Business Administration (Management), Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax. His research interests include long term studies of the gendering of organisational culture and the development of management theory.
The term ‘Canadianised’ was very much developed and in use during this era (and since) and in colloquial understandings can come to mean an adaptation of a text that was authored by U.S. scholars for the higher education market in that country. A Canadianised textbook is very different from one that was written from the ‘ground up’ (i.e., from nothing). In Canada the Canadianised textbook is still the norm and likely reflects publishers’ interests in expanding their markets from their U.S. to their Canadian subsidiaries.
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