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Beyond human resource management in co‐operatives

Peter Davis (Management Centre, Leicester University, Leicester, UK)

Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal

ISSN: 1352-7606

Article publication date: 1 January 2006




This paper seeks to critically review developments in the literature spanning personnel management, HRM, learning organization and intellectual capital approaches to employee utilization and development. The purpose being to identify the benefits, limitations and lessons for the management of people in the co‐operative and mutual sectors.


The problem of inadequate Personnel or HRM systems in the majority of co‐operatives has been established by the author over a period of seven years, field work with co‐operative organizations including the international co‐operative alliance (ICA), asian confederation of credit unions (ACCU), and the British society for co‐operative studies. Direct interviews and a sample of HRM and Membership Relations audit forms developed as part of the ongoing field research and special project work have been applied to various co‐operative contexts in all the regions of the ICA.


The findings are that co‐operatives generally are lagging behind the private sector in their application of all four approaches. Mostly smaller co‐operatives lack effective basic personnel systems and few of the larger co‐operatives go beyond HRM. This failure to develop clear programs for the utilization and development of their people is a missed opportunity.

Practical implications

The membership base and its roots in a community of shared interests means that, whilst co‐operatives have lessons to learn from all four approaches, they can and must go beyond them if they are to optimize their people‐centered business advantage in the marketplace.


The paper suggests a new strategy for co‐operatives of Co‐operative Social Capital Management to help them compete, whilst retaining their co‐operative difference.



Davis, P. (2006), "Beyond human resource management in co‐operatives", Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 69-95.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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