Human resource management (HRM) is a term which is now widely used but very loosely defined. In this paper it is argued that if the concept is to have any social scientific value, it should be defined in such a way as to differentiate it from traditional personnel management and to allow the development of testable hypotheses about its impact. Based on theoretical work in the field of organizational behaviour it is proposed that HRM comprises a set of policies designed to maximize organizational integration, employee commitment, flexibility and quality of work. Within this model, collective industrial relations have, at best, only a minor role. Despite the apparent attractions of HRM to managements, there is very little evidence of any quality about its impact. Furthermore very few UK organizations appear to practise a distinctive form of HRM, although many are moving slowly in that direction through, for example, policies of employee involvement.