Authors: Paul Higgins, Ian Roper and Sophie Gamwell
The professionalization of human resource management (HRM) is a pertinent domain of research undertaking traversing the literature on professions and employment relations. However, it also has a broader remit in that different sources of legitimacy-gaining provide competing routes to institutionalization in the context of the prospect of new managerial professions. This paper centres on three such sources of professionalization: strategic assets, independent expertise and public policy. The attribute of strategic assets is uniquely ascribed to managerial professions and therefore characteristic of HRM also. Independent expertise refers to the application of knowledge for the benefit of clients and/or the public interest while public policy concerns the corporate adherence to law. Drawing on a combination of Hong Kong (HK) and the United Kingdom (UK)1 based documentary, case study and survey evidence this paper examines the empirical manifestation of each source of legitimacy and finds that although all three dimensions make a potential contribution to the professionalization of HRM the implementation of public policy has potential to yield both coercive institutional pressure over society, but is also a means to override the independence of the profession and stifle the aspirations of the market.
Keywords: professional, human resource management; public policy; strategy, independence.