Werner Nienhueser: Empirical Research on Human Resource Management as a Production of Ideology
The article is published in the Special Issue of Management Revue on “Progress of Knowledge in Human Resources Management” (edited by Albert Martin, see also his introduction: “Mixed Impressions: Respectable Work and Slow Progress in the Science of Personnel Management within German Speaking Countries” ).
“The article argues that empirical research on Human Resource Management creates a one-sided, distorted image of the reality of work and thus generates ideology. Such an ideology legitimises HR practices and favours the interests of entrepreneurs and managers. This assertion is illustrated and discussed using the case of empirical research in HRM in German-speaking countries, although the ideology assertion should also be valid for Anglo-Saxon countries. It is shown that HRM research mainly follows employer objectives; it primarily analyses performance-related variables. The surveyed HR practices focus on “High Performance Works Systems”, while other HR practices are largely ignored. Mainly organisational elites (managers, experts and other highly qualified employees) are surveyed as personnel and provide information about the situation in companies. Empirical research paints a unitaristic picture; depicting the employer and the role of HR management positively. Deviations from an employee-friendly HR strategy are overlooked or seen as relatively rare anomalies.”