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Evolution of the Human Resource Management

The historical development of human relations knowledge applied to

job setting warrants some attention in any book about human relations.
Any history of the application of systematic knowledge about human
behaviour to the job must use some arbitrary milestones. For instance,
the crew chiefs concerned with constructing the Egyptian pyramids
must have had useful informal concepts of leadership available to them.

The Hawthorne Studies: As described in virtually every book written

about management, the human relations or behavioral school of
management began in 1927 with a group of studies conducted at the
Hawthorne plant of Western Electric, an AT&T subsidiary. Curiously,
these studies were prompted by an experiment carried out by the
company’s engineers between 1924 and 1927. Following the scientific
management tradition, these engineers were applying research methods
to answer job-related problems.

Two groups were studied to determine the effects of different levels of

illumination on worker performance. One group received increased
illumination, while the other did not. A preliminary finding was that,
when illumination was increased, the level of performance also
increased. Surprisingly to the engineers, productivity also increased
when the level of illumination was decreased almost to moonlight
levels. One interpretation made of these results was that the workers
involved in the experiment enjoyed being the centre of attention; they
reacted positively because management cared about them. Such a
phenomenon taking place in any research setting is now called the
Hawthorne effect.

As a result of these preliminary investigations, a team of researchers

headed by Elton Mayo and F.J. Roethlisberger from Harvard conducted
a lengthy series of experiments extending over a six year period. The
conclusions they reached served as the bedrock of later developments in
the human relations approach to management. Among their key findings
were the following:
• Economic incentives are less potent than generally believed in
influencing workers to achieve high levels of output.
• Leadership practices and work-group pressures profoundly
influence employee satisfaction and performance.
• Any factor influencing employee behaviour is embedded in a
system. For instance, to understand the impact of pay on
performance, you also have to understand the climate that exists
in the work group and the leadership style of the superior.

Leadership Style and Practices: As a consequence of the Hawthorne

Studies, worker attitudes, morale, and group influences became a
concern of researchers. A notable development of the nature occurred
shortly after World War II at the University of Michigan. A group of
social scientists formed an organization, later to be called the Institute
for Social Research, to study those principles of leadership that were
associated with highest productivity.

Based upon work with clerical and production workers, an important

conclusion was that supervisors of high-producing units behaved
differently from those of low-producing units. Among the differences in
style noted were that supervisors of productive groups in comparison to
their lower producing counterparts were:

• More emotionally supportive of subordinates.

• More likely to pay a differentiated role – plan, regulate, and
the activities of subordinates, but not become directly involved
in work
• More likely to exercise general rather than close or light

-The origin and progress of the human relations movement

(particularly in U.S.A.) has been due to certain social and
cultural forces working there, such as Recognition of the dignity
of the individual and his personality. The individual has a lot of
freedom of choice and the idea of decision- making by oneself is
deep-rooted in the national tradition.

-A child is brought up to value independence and encouraged to

think on his own and not to be dependent on parents.

-Virtual disappearance of owner managers and the growth of

professional managers capable of managing according to
professional code.

-Strong organizations of labour, at all levels, calling for higher

skills in communication and participative behaviour on the part
of the management.

-Shortage of labour led to skilled labour being treated as nearly

irreplaceable. Hence, much greater care in utilising this scarce
and valuable resource had to be thought of in the form of
“Human Relations.”

-Higher standards of living of American labour. Since their

physical and security needs were generally satisfied, increased
participation alone could satisfy their emerging social and ego

-The possible weakening of work ethics, requiring managers to

develop new attitudes towards labour.

-The changing work environment-greater specialization and a

large scope of operations – which require a greater degree of
managerial effectiveness with and through workers.

-A significant increase in the general educational level of

workers who, as a result, demanded more from their employers.

Concurrent with the growth of human relations in work organizations,

has been the burgeoning of techniques and programmes to foster human
growth off the job. In the last two decades, millions of people seeking
personal growth (or sometimes simply emotional arousal) have
participated in programmes such as encounter groups, marriage
enrichment groups, seminar training, couples groups, and transactional

During the early 1970s, the human potential (meaning development of

one’s potential) movement began to appear in work settings.
Management awareness training and assertiveness training represent
two other techniques related to the development of human potential.
Both are designed to deal with the problem of job discrimination against
women. In management awareness training, managers are made more
sensitive to their sexist attitudes (such as thinking of all engineers are
male) and in changing their attitudes.

Assertiveness training has been widely used to help women to be more

direct in making known their demands for equal opportunity.

Career development programmes in industry are more prevalent today

than at any time in the past. Although varying widely in content, all
these programmes are designed to help the individual make career
decisions that will move him or her toward self- fulfillment. In the
process, it is assumed that the person will make a better contribution to
the organization.