Good texts should meet a number of criteria. These include comprehensive content, learning objectives at the beginning of each chapter, case studies, business examples, review exercises and answers, graphics, chapter summaries, and further reading and references. Readability is key.
Introducing Human Resource Management by Margaret Foot and Caroline Hook and A Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice by Michael Armstrong cover the traditional areas of human resource management comprehensively with each having learning objectives clearly outlined.
Foot and Hook use business cases to reinforce learning points and offer excellent review questions at the end of each chapter (suggested answers appear at the end of the book). The books provide many graphics and flowcharts to explain the learning issues and Foot and Hook also supply chapter summaries.
Both are good in terms of readability, with Armstrong offering larger print and Foot and Hook breaking up the pages with bold print and clear headings. The latter also provide excellent "pause for thought" questions and "did you know?" boxes to add interest and help learning.
There is a fairly comprehensive guide to employment law in Foot and Hook's offering and, while this is useful to the student, legislation is continually being updated and revised so the book could quickly become outdated. the entire text is fully referenced with a suggested further-reading list and extremely useful website addresses.
Both texts are excellent in content but perhaps cater for different markets. Foot and Hook's book may be more appropriate as an introduction to human resource management as a subject, while Armstrong's would be suitable for more advanced studies: final-year business undergraduates and those studying for the Institute for Professional Development examinations. Armstrong covers human resource management in much greater depth and from a more strategic viewpoint.
For those familiar with previous Armstrong works, this seventh edition incorporates new chapters on the employment relationship, the psychological contract, selection interviewing, performance management and organisational culture, with updates on employee relations; new partnership agreements and trades unions.
Randall Schuler and Susan Jackson's Strategic Human Resource Management is most appropriate at postgraduate level as it brings together previously published papers by different authors on strategic human resource management.
It is divided into 24 chapters in five areas encompassing an overview of strategic human resource management, the linking of people to business strategy, stakeholder interests, the global dimension and the role of the human resources department. It should be studied by those with a thorough grounding in the material covered by Foot and Hook, and Armstrong.
The text requires careful and detailed study and is not for the fainthearted but will greatly assist those exploring strategic issues in depth for dissertations or research degrees. Each chapter has an introduction and contains flowcharts and diagrams relevant to the content, concluding with a summary. There are no review points or cases to assist learning but there is constant reference to real organisations, their issues and approaches.
Change and change management is one of the main challenges for the human resources practitioner and thus a "need to know" area for the student. It is rather surprising, therefore, that both Schuler and Jackson, and Foot and Hook give this scant attention, although Armstrong offers a section in a chapter on organisational development devoted to this topic.
Fortunately, Managing Change: A Human Resource Strategy Approach by Adrian Thornhill et al fills this gap. It explores comprehensively the relationship between strategic human resource management and the management of change by dwelling on the key human resources functions: organisation structure and culture, recruitment and selection, development, reward management and employee relations and how they contribute to effecting change in the organisation. The text provides excellent practical case studies as examples and case studies with questions for the reader. There are also extremely useful self-check questions throughout.
Managing Change meets the criteria suggested at the start in that it provides learning objectives at the beginning of each chapter, charts, graphs and diagrams, cases already mentioned and chapter summaries and is fully referenced throughout.
The text would be an ideal complement to Armstrong's and particularly useful for those studying human resources at a more advanced level or on general business programmes, such as the MBA, who need to understand the "people implications".
Change and its management is a continuing feature of business so it is essential that employees in organisations are prepared for continual developments in technology, legislation, the environment and in society as a whole. John Walton in Strategic Human Resource Development offers incorporates a chapter on managing change through training and development.
The whole text encompasses current thinking and practice. It offers emerging themes, organisation-wide learning issues and the subject's contribution to the development of the organisational value base of ethics, commitment, managing diversity and the environment. Interestingly, it offers something on the small and medium-sized enterprise, an area all too often ignored. Bearing in mind that most businesses in the United Kingdom fall into this category, this is a welcome extra.
Each chapter starts with learning objectives and a general introduction to the theme being addressed and concludes with a summary of the key points. There are theoretical and business-based cases but, unfortunately, no review questions or other learning reinforcement.
Full references are at the end of each chapter rather than at the end of the book, thus offering immediacy for further reading.
Students on masters programmes or those studying for the Institute for Professional Development qualification will find this a comprehensive exploration offering frameworks and guidelines. It should be studied alongside Armstrong.
In summary, all five books offer something to everyone, from the beginner to the masters-level student. They cover the subject areas comprehensively, are eminently readable at the level for which they are intended, and offer opportunity for reflection and further study.
Richard Underwood is senior lecturer in human resources, University of Wolverhampton.
Managing Change: A Human Resource Strategy Approach
Author - Adrian Thornhill, Phil Lewis, Mike Millmore and Mark Saunders
ISBN - 0 3 63065 2
Publisher - Financial Times/Prentice Hall
Price - 314
Pages - £23.99