HRMU9RA: Contemporary Issues in Human Resource Management

Semester: Spring

Level: 10

Credit Value: 20

Module Coordinator: To be confirmed, Management, Work & Organisation Division

Contact Hours: 2 hours lectures, 8 hours seminars

Assessment: 50% Examination; 35% Coursework; 15% Seminar Participation

Module Overview:

This module examines two related issues influencing contemporary HR policy that can impact upon individual workers. These are, firstly, factors that could lead employees to believe that the employment relationship they hold with their organisation has been violated and, secondly, employee resistance to organisational change. The course critically examines the limitations of best practice traditions in HR management in the light of recent changes to the structure, content and stability of UK work and employment and the effects these may have on the employee’s psychological contract. Students examine and evaluate the effects of change on contemporary HR policy areas like career systems, and the use of psychological testing in selection and assessment. Hitherto neglected issues like organisational misbehaviour, unemployment, social identity and employee ownership are also examined in the present context to elaborate understanding of the challenges facing the HR function’s attempts to design and manage new organisational forms. In the light of these organisational change and policy problems, the second part of the course focuses on the management of change and the practices involved in Organisational Development. Most weight is placed on the concepts and findings offered by critical research into the assumptions and effectiveness of HR practices and management behaviour, and the effects of these practices and behaviours on individual employees, especially when related to organisational change.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the module students should be able to understand and evaluate:

  • The extent to which recent changes to work and employment have undermined confidence in the effectiveness of established good practice HR policies and practices
  • The arguments and evidence for and against managing the employee psychological contract as central to current HR policy and practice
  • The career, work and employment challenges currently facing professional employees and employers: 
The case for and against career employability and self-managed careers. How careers are affected by the UK’s ‘skills agenda’.
  • Employee ownership as a contemporary organisational form
  • How organisational misbehaviour can represent expressive and retaliatory employee responses to organisational change and the enforcement of new psychological contracts
Why management is often reluctant and limited in its responses to organisational misbehaviour.
  • Explanations for the differential effects of unemployment and the role of HR managers in reducing its effects on the workforce
  • The importance of Social identity in understanding employee resistance and cooperation when faced with change
  • Basic Concepts and Processes of Organisation Development (OD)
  • Overcoming Resistance to Change
  • The HR Practitioner’s Role in OD
  • Processual and Structural Change Interventions

Reading Lists:

Arthur, M. B. (1994). The boundaryless career: A new perspective for organizational inquiry. Journal of organizational Behavior, 15(4), 295-306.

Burnes, B. (2009). Managing change. Pearson Education.

Burnes, B. (2004). Kurt Lewin and complexity theories: back to the future?. Journal of change management, 4(4), 309-325.

Burnes, B., & Cooke, B. (2012). Review Article: The past, present and future of organization development: Taking the long view. Human Relations, 65(11), 1395-1429.

McKee-Ryan, F., Song, Z., Wanberg, C. R., & Kinicki, A. J. (2005). Psychological and physical well-being during unemployment: a meta-analytic study. Journal of applied psychology, 90(1), 53.

Okay-Somerville, B., & Scholarios, D. (2014). Coping with career boundaries and boundary-crossing in the graduate labour market. Career Development International, 19(6).

Okay-Somerville, B., & Scholarios, D. (2013). Shades of grey: Understanding job quality in emerging graduate occupations. Human Relations, 66(4), 555-585.

Zhao, H. A. O., Wayne, S. J., Glibkowski, B. C., & Bravo, J. (2007). The impact of psychological contract breach on work‐related outcomes: a meta‐analysis. Personnel Psychology, 60(3), 647-680.


This module information is representative of what is included in the module in a given year. Details of actual reading, lectures and coursework may vary year to year and will be available at the beginning of the semester.

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