Original Research

Debunking the one-size-fits-all approach to human resource management: A review of human resource practices in small and medium-sized enterprise firms

Willard Nyamubarwa, Crispen Chipunza
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 17 | a1108 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v17i0.1108 | © 2019 Willard Nyamubarwa, Crispen Chipunza | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 August 2018 | Published: 27 August 2019

About the author(s)

Willard Nyamubarwa, Faculty of Management Sciences, Central University of Technology, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Crispen Chipunza, Faculty of Management Sciences, Central University of Technology, Bloemfontein, South Africa

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Orientation: This article argues that the best practice approach (BPA) to HRM fails to capture the peculiarities of HR practices in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The article instead articulates the view that the different and unique traits inherent in SMEs firms allows the firms to adopt distinct HR practices, which may not cohere with the prescriptive one-size-fits-all view which BPA advocates.

Research purpose: The article aims to further the thesis that the long-held BPA approach to HRM does not always apply to SME firms given their unique characteristics which renders HR prescriptions applied in large firms invalid in SME firms.

Research approach/design and method: As a theoretical article, a systematic literature review was conducted to draw findings and conclusions.

Main findings: The article concludes that the eclectic nature of SME HR practices complicates the extent of generalisability of such practices across organisational settings, thus showing that HR practices that work in SME firms cannot be applied in large firms with equal success.

Practical/managerial implications: The findings provide a platform to enhance the understanding surrounding managing human resources in SME firms by revealing the differences between people management in SME firms as compared to their larger counterparts.

Contribution/value-add: The article is groundbreaking as it has opened new avenues in the quest to understand the nature and contribution of HRM in SME firms.


best practice approach; human resource management; small and medium-sized enterprises; recruitment; training; performance management; rewards management


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