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International Handbook of Entrepreneurship and HRM

International Handbook of Entrepreneurship and HRM

Elgar original reference

Edited by Rowena Barrett and Susan Mayson

This invaluable reference tool has been designed in response to the growing recognition that too little is known about the intersection between entrepreneurship and human resource management. Paying particular attention to the ‘people’ side of venture emergence and development, it offers unique insights into the role that human resource management (HRM) plays in small and entrepreneurial firms.

Chapter 6: The Formality and Informality of HRM Practices in Small Firms

Rowena Barrett and Susan Mayson

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, human resource management


6 The formality and informality of HRM practices in small firms Rowena Barrett and Susan Mayson Introduction The nature of human resource management in small firms is understood to be characterized by ad hoc and idiosyncratic practices. The liability of smallness (Heneman and Berkley, 1999) and resource poverty (Welsh and White, 1981) presents unique challenges to managing human resources in small firms. The inability to achieve economies of scale can mean that implementing formalized HRM practices is costly in terms of time and money for small firms (Sels et al., 2006a; 2006b). These, combined with small firm owner–managers’ lack of strategic capabilities and awareness (Hannon and Atherton, 1998) and a lack of managerial resources and expertise in HRM (Cardon and Stevens, 2004) can lead to informal and ad hoc HRM practices. For some this state of affairs is interpreted as problematic as the normative and formalized HRM practices in the areas of recruitment, selection, appraisal, training and rewards are not present (see Marlow, 2006 and Taylor, 2006 for a critique). However, a more nuanced analysis of the small firm and its practices in their context can tell a different story (Barrett and Rainnie, 2002; Harney and Dundon, 2006). In this chapter we contribute to our understanding of small firm management practices by investigating a series of questions in relation to HRM in small firms. The purpose is to understand what HRM practices are used in small firms and how they are applied. In light of the debates...

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