London BUIRA Book Launch


Where’s the ‘Human’ in Human Resource Management? Managing Work in the 21st Century


Michael Gold and Chris Smith


Tuesday 9 May 2023: 4.30pm for 4.50-7.00pm (Tea/coffee from 4.30pm, followed by drinks until 7:30)



Room LA103, University of Westminster Business School, 35 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LS (opposite Madame Tussauds and nearly opposite Baker Street tube)


To reserve a place, please use this link:


For further information, email Linda Clarke ( or Fernando Duran-Palma (



4.30-5.00pm: Tea/ coffee/ refreshments

5.00-5.10: Welcome: Linda Clarke (Chair)


5.10-5.25: Michael Gold

Where’s the ‘Human’ in Human Resource Management? Why We Wrote the Book

What’s the point of Human Resource Management? Who are we teaching it to? Why are we teaching it? Most students taking courses in business and management don’t want to become Human Resource managers, though we teach HRM as if they do. The textbooks we use generally take the form of instruction manuals on how to recruit, promote and pay people fairly, with sections thrown in on ethical management, international HRM and the gig economy. They contain case studies that invariably reflect management perspectives towards the workforce. Our book argues we need a serious rethink about how we teach HRM because most of our students experience or live HRM rather than actually ever practise it. As employees, we remain subject to all the pressures and frustrations of HRM until we retire. So, our approach sees the employment relationship as structurally uneven and contested. The book reflects worker perspectives towards HRM, aiming to provide insights into our treatment at the workplace, in the context of fragmenting labour markets, migration, diversity and the development of digitalised work control methods, among much else.


5.25-5.40: Chris Smith

Managing Work in the 21st Century

Most HRM textbooks do not adequately address the profound changes that work and employment are undergoing. This is because they are generally still based on a model of employment within traditional, hierarchical organisations, with formal full-time jobs considered the norm. Such a model still of course exists, but our book recognises that HRM takes place increasingly in ‘post-bureaucratic’ settings with multiple diversities amongst workers, which it tackles head on. Today employees may work on a wide variety of contracts and through agencies where even the identity of the manager is unclear, as well as across numerous time and spatial boundaries. Our book adopts a coherent approach towards explaining fragmented work environments by focusing on the way labour costs, productivity and survival fundamentally shape HRM policy and practice. It guides students through these complexities, and integrates key issues that are underplayed in many textbooks, including conflict and resistance, the ‘new’ unitarism, the gig economy, migration and the challenges of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. Trade unions remain key actors, and the book illustrates its points with numerous globally relevant examples and case studies to bring the subject to life.



Damian Grimshaw:

Jean Jenkins:

6.10-6.45pm: General discussion


6.45pm: Close (followed by drinks until 7.30pm)


The speakers:


Michael Gold is Emeritus Professor of Comparative Employment Relations at Royal Holloway University of London. He started out as a journalist but later became a Lecturer at the University of Westminster and Senior Research Officer at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. Michael’s research interests cover industrial relations theory, European employment relations, the history of British industrial relations and self-employment. His most recent articles, with Chris Rees, focus on the regulation of employee participation in cross-border takeovers.


Chris Smith is Emeritus Professor of Organization Studies and Comparative Management, Royal Holloway University of London. He has taught at Aston University and held various visiting positions at Universities in Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong and China. Research interests include labour process theory, knowledge transfer through transnational firms, comparative analysis of work and professional labour. He has written extensively on work organization in the Japanese overseas company. He recently published China at Work (Palgrave, 2016, with Mingwei Liu) and is currently researching employment relations and the labour process in the UK logistics sector.


The discussants:


Damian Grimshaw is Professor of Employment Studies at King’s College London and Associate Dean for Research Impact. Previously he was Director of the Research Department at the International Labour Organisation in Geneva (2018-19) where he was responsible for the flagship World Employment and Social Outlook reports and introduced future of work research on the digital economy, inequalities and the green economy. Prior to 2018 he was Professor at the University of Manchester and Deputy Director of the Work and Equalities Institute. He currently leads ESRC projects on skills and innovation strategies in ‘frontier firms’ and on green business growth among SMEs.


Jean Jenkins is Professor of Employment Relations at Cardiff Business School, Head of the Management Employment and Organisation Section and a Co-Director of the Wales Institute for Social and Economic Research Data (Wiserd) at Cardiff University, Wales, UK. Her research focuses on labour conditions in the international garment sector and precarious and low paid work more generally. She is currently Commissioner for the Wales TUC’s Commission on Standards of Work and Devolution in Wales.