Employment Relations (ER) is closely related to two other fields of practitioner and academic endeavour, namely Industrial Relations (IR) and Human Resource Management (HRM), and is increasingly also linked to the field of Organisational Studies (OS).
ER provides a new paradigm which is better placed to consider the dynamic relationship within workplace settings between participants and other stakeholders.
The study and practice of IR has tended to concentrate on the conflict arising from the contract of employment, and been predominately concerned with systemic issues, although the nature of IR study and practice itself has undergone significant change in line with a movement towards enterprise based, rather than industry based agreements.
HRM, having not evolved until the 1970s, is less clearly defined. However, it is generally considered to incorporate a more strategic approach than the operational and administrative approach of Personnel Management.
IR considers collective efforts and responses, and HRM focuses on individual employees and organisations. ER is best able to examine the employment relationship in the context of a range of complex internal and external environments, and offers an umbrella concept to the worker focused IR and the employer focused HRM, and provides the best means of incorporation the concerns and interests of other stakeholder groups.
More recently, developments such as the shared services model involving the devolvement of functional roles in HRM and IR to line managers and the re-emergence of the Resource Based View of the firm as a significant theory, have led to a further broadening of our understanding of the broad field of employment relations. The increasing role of line managers and the individualisation of the employment relationship in many organisations has resulted in the term people management becoming increasingly common.
The developments have also seen a recognition of the need to broaden the scope of ER from a focus on collective institutions on the one hand and HR functions on the other, to also include the analysis of broader aspects of organisations, including organisation culture, structure, teamwork and devolution of decision making. An example of this is Boxall and Purcell’s HR Value Proposition, in which they specifically include both traditional HR (and in their definition of HR, also IR) practices, and also what they describe as Organisation Process Advantage, which included the broader aspects of OS listed above.
IERA has embraced the continuing redefinition of our field of study, as reflected in the banner statement of our home page.