Employee Experience

Hard and Soft HRM Approaches: A Comparison

4 Mins read

Hard and Soft HRM Approaches are two different ways that HR managers take to operate the business and manage the employees. If you have ever wondered which approach best suits your managerial style, keep reading the following article to get informed on these two approaches, features, and advantages and disadvantages of both. 

What are hard and soft HRM Systems?

HR Managers often have personal managing styles that don’t always align with a certain system. But, if you want to switch to a hard or a soft system, check the definitions and key qualities as in the following and measure which style best suits your business needs.  

The hard HRM System

Hard System is focused on a more traditional business outlook. Following a hard system, the HR managers identify the workforce needs and act accordingly. The main features are: 

  • Low business transparency;
  • Lower income for employees;
  • Systematic changes in employee numbers;
  • No empowerment of employees;
  • An old-fashioned style of management and leadership.

The soft HRM System

The Soft HR System is greatly focused on the employee as a vital part of a business. Through this system, the employees are considered an important resource of the business, if not the most important one. The employees’ needs are thoroughly met, and there is often a strategy for reward, motivation, and recognition. The main features are:

  • High business transparency with the employees with great communication involved;
  • Higher-income and wages models, bonus packages, and other financial rewards involved;
  • A long-term plan for the employee’s numbers, teams, and departments;
  • Professional development and training opportunities for employees and an overall appraisal system;
  • A more modern and democratic leadership style. 

Why should HR Managers consider hard and soft HRM approaches?

HR managers can compare both soft and hard HRM techniques to see which elements best suit their organization. Although Millennials frequently favour companies that practice soft HRM, hard HRM components could be important for businesses to meet productivity and profit targets. Therefore, it’s crucial to think about which particular methods are practical for each firm at any given moment.

For instance, a reputable software company might use soft HRM techniques to increase engagement and retention. To ensure productivity and profitability, new small enterprises in the service sector may apply particularly strict HRM procedures.

Hard HRM System Advantages and Disadvantages

The main advantage of hard HRM is that managers hold control over the company. You can have a stricter management style depending on the team or department you’re managing. 

As a result, you can also take decisions quicker compared to other managers, and maintain cost-effective process implementation. 

On the contrary, the approach doesn’t seem as appealing to the employees. Since it’s mostly focused on micromanagement, employees frequently dislike it. Also, another disadvantage is that recruitment costs can often increase, due to the need of frequently replacing employees.

Hard HRM Approach

Soft HRM System Advantages and Disadvantages

Since with the soft HRM the employees feel more appreciated and supported, the high morale of the employees is the main advantage of this strategy. 

As a result of this strategy, the employees are more productive and motivated – which greatly increases the retention rates of your company. Similarly, there are fewer costs for recruitment processes (human resources, financial, etc.). 

Another in-direct benefit that comes from the soft HRM is that your company will have great word-of-mouth marketing from your employees. This will greatly improve the company culture and will help you recruit the best in the market. 

As a downside, there are a few disadvantages to this strategy. The training offered to the employees can often be costly. Also, there could be a delay in decision-making, as more feedback and involvement from each department and team is required.

Incorporating hard and soft HRM approaches into your company’s strategy

How an organization adapts HRM to meet its needs depends on the industry, business objectives, and company values. These procedures can be used by HR leaders to benefit from both soft and hard HRM:

  • Decide on a direction: Within a dynamic job market, an HRM strategy can act as a stabilizing force. HR leaders can choose which hard or soft HRM practices to employ by matching the HRM strategy with the business plan. A checklist can also assist HR leaders in choosing the course of the HR strategy.
  • Always keep your budget in mind: Whatever strategy HR leaders choose, it must be financially affordable. To make the chosen HRM strategy worthwhile in the long run, the business must have a strong return on investment (ROI).
  • Think about the sector: Every industry is unique. For instance, whereas soft HRM has taken off in the high-tech sector, it has not done so as swiftly in the industrial sector. What are job candidates and professionals expecting from their employer and position? HR management might look at rival organizations and current trends and ask this question. Usually, combining soft and hard HRM can attract potential new recruits, increase retention, and support corporate goals.

Conclusion – Enhancing your company culture with soft and hard HRM

The incorporation of soft and hard HRM can greatly richen the company culture. While the two systems are the ends of two opposites, using just one approach may not be feasible enough. The combination of the two approaches in practice brings the best results – as focusing on the employees increases their retention and satisfaction levels, but businesses also need to focus on their profitability and operations.

Further Reading:

Digital Employee Experience: The Complete Guide
Inappropriate Jokes in the Workplace
Strategic Performance Management

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About author
Fatjona Gërguri is the content writer for Employee Experience Magazine, covering the relevant topics about employee experience, organizational culture and general HR topics.
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