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Irene M Chimoga

Creso University, Zambia

13 April 2014



Human Resource has evolved from many terms and functions such as human capital, laborers,

personnel and currently human resources. The few changes in these terms also mean changes in

the way human resource managers plan their strategies in managing employees. The evolution of

Human Resource Management has progressed through the ages from times when people were

abused in slavery working conditions to the modern environment where people are valued and

respected and viewed as strategic partners to business.

To understand the evolution of human resource management, it is important to first fully

understand the definition of human resources and human resource management. Human

resources is a term with which many organizations describe as the combination of traditionally

administrative personnel functions with performance, employee relations and resource planning

Sharma (2009, p 17). Human Resource Management (HRM) are the policies and practices

involved in carrying out the “people” of human resource aspects of managing position, including

recruiting, screening, training, rewarding and appraising Dessler, (2005; p 4).

The shorter meaning of HRM is the act of managing the process of recruitment and selection,

compensation and benefits as well as employees safety and health in an organization. Haslinda

(2009 pg 1).

Therefore, from the stated meanings above, it is clear that changes in management practices

come about as organizations seek new ways to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

History of the Origins of Human Resource Management (HRM)

The origins of HRM can be dated back to the 18th century in Western Europe and United States

of America when the Industrial Revolution laid the basis for a new and complex industrial

society. This period saw the USA shifting from Agricultural economy to an industrial economy.

In the historical context of HRM, the first two to be noted for classical management perspective,

began by Robert Owen, a British Industrial reformer and Charles Babbage an English

Mathematician; they noted that workers were important resources in an organization and

expressed concern for their personal welfare. Griffin Ricky (2007, pg 12). Being a

mathematician, Babbage emphasized the division of labour because this would bring about

specialization of employees which would result in perfect work. The division of labour aspect

had a drawback that if an employee is down, then the station of work would also be down.

In the early 19th century, productivity grew in businesses and as businesses were expanding,

there was a short fall of sufficient labor. Factory owners forced employees to work long hours

under difficult conditions with little pay. Employees were treated as production machines whose

main priority was to meet profit targets. The industrial revolution began with the substation of

stem power and machinery for time consuming manual labour. In response to this need, experts

began to focus on ways to improve the performance of individual workers. This work led to the

development of Scientific Management advocated by Frederick Taylor and others. ibid (2007, pg


Scientific management looked at how the performance of individual workers can be measured

scientifically and not by the judgment of a supervisor. Taylor stated that scientific observation of

employees would reveal one best way to do any task. In this study, skills needed for a particular

job were identified and workers were hired and trained to perform that particular job and were

rewarded with a piece rate system. Taylor supervised by a method he he called soldiering

employees’ deliberately working at a pace slower than they were capable of because they were

paid for what the piece of job that was measured for them. Scientific management dealt with jobs

of individual employees and as a result this caused the working conditions, social patterns and

the division of labour to diminish because these changes of work patterns led to widening the gap

between workers and factory owners and there was no work relationship.

Around the late 18th century a branch of classical management perspective that focused on

managing the total organization, called administrative management was contributed by Henri

Fayol and others. Using his own management experience he tried to systematize the practice of

management to provide guidance and directions to other mangers. Fayol was the first to identify

the common managerial functions of planning, organizing, leading and controlling. Griffin

(2009, pg 13). Faylor’s contribution created bureaucracy in organizations and a barrier to open

communication between employees and management and as a result barred efficiency in the

work system.

The Hawthorne studies of around the late 19th century merged the Hawthorne researchers near

Chicago, USA led by Elton Mayo who demonstrated that employee productivity was affected

not only by the way the job was designed and the manner in which employees were rewarded

economically but also by certain social and psychological factors. Carrell Michael, Elbert

Norbert, Van der Schyf Surette (1996 pg 8-9). Therefore the Hawthorne study concluded that
payments for work was not the best incentive to motivate employees to work but that social

acceptance played a major role in employee performance. From the Hawthorne studies, grew the

Human relations movement proposed that workers performed better if their social conditions are

satisfied. The study was later improved by other popular theories that went along with Mayo’s

theory, McGregor’s theory X and Theory Y, Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Victor

Vroom’s Expectation theory. (Thiche M, Kavanagh MJ, Johnson R, -- pg 8).

The approach of human relations was the opposite of Taylors and seemed to work best for

employees. Maslow proposed that people are motivated by a hierarchy of needs, including

monetary incentives and social acceptance and McGregor’s theory X and Theory Y model best

represents the essence of human relations movement. Mayo, Maslow and McGregor’s research

have shown that employees’ feelings, emotions and sentiments were strongly affected by such

work conditions as group relationships, leadership styles and support from management.

Personnel Management

Along with government interventions these theories led to the enactment of new legislations that

guaranteed workers’ more rights. It was at this point that the personnel management department

was created to deal with employee caretaker functions. Personnel management was not very

involved with the company’s strategy and operations, instead it tried to convince workers of the

business interest. At this point, personnel management was limited in its functions as it was still

not encompassing all the diversified needs of employees. There was still need for a department in

organizations that would carry out a holistic, strategy-centre approach to employment


Many different writers, such as Cornelius N (2001), Haslinda A (2009), Reed S and Gusdof M

(2010) and others, have written that Human resource management is not a completely new

phenomena but a renaming of personnel management which changed because of change in social

and economic activities. The term or label ‘personnel management’ as stated above indicate that

it performed narrow and limited duties that primarily took the task of looking after employee

welfare and not that of the firm. Hence, since the 1980s the nature of Personnel management is

undergoing change and personnel functions shifting the focus in the term to that of Human

Resource management (HRM).

Human Resource Management

The term Human resource management has to a larger extent replaced the term personnel

management from around the late 20th century emerging from the development and

introduction of new theories such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As earlier defined by

different writers, HRM is the set of organizational activities directed at attracting, developing,

and maintaining an effective workforce.

Human Resource Management (HRM) is a modern term for what has traditionally been referred

to as personnel administration or personnel management. Byars L, Rue, Leslie (2000, pg 3).

HRM transformed from personnel management with the goals of carrying out the overall

strategy of seeking to provide Human resource management policies and practices that

reinforced the organizations’ policies and culture.

This meaning is based on the understanding that human resources are uniquely important in

sustained business success. An organization gains competitive advantage by using its people

effectively, drawing on their expertise and ingenuity to meet clearly defined objectives. Stephen

Bach (2005:3). Therefore, HRM is aimed at recruiting capable, flexible and committed people,
managing and rewarding their performance and developing key competencies. The current role

of human resource management encompasses more than just taking care of employees. It is also

a strategic partner with the organization carrying out the functions of management with greater

emphasis on planning, monitoring and control rather than on problem solving and mediation.

Organizations now realize that the effectiveness of their HR functions has an important impact

not only on top managers, but on all other employees as well.

The changing Roles of Human Resource Management

Today’s dynamic work environment has also enacted dynamic responsibilities for Human

Resource managers. The human resource manager’s job is not longer that of hiring, paying and

firing, it includes more broader and more strategic responsibilities. As the world becomes a

global village, it means the human resource manager also has become a global manager and

more globalizations means more competition and more completion means more pressure to be

‘world class’. Dessler (2004, pg 10-11). Therefore to Achieve this, the HR manager is now

expected to be a productive and an alert person in the affairs of employees and that of the

organization. The HR manager also has to be conversant with the country’s labour laws in which

she or he operates from and this means to be able to formulate regulations and guidelines for the

organization that are competitive. The HR manager has to be sensitive to the needs of the

diversified group of employees and understand their social culture backgrounds while at the

same time uphold the standards of the organization.

The human resource manager is expected to embrace technological advances as most

organizations are involved in technology in the way they transact business such as the training

processes. The HR manager must embark on improving in technology everyday in the daily tasks
of the organization such as preparing manuals and specifications for work schedules and

expectations. These can range from the hiring process, the interview process and the training

process. The nature of work for the HR manager is changing everyday because jobs are more

technologically demanding from production to the sale point. Therefore, employees need

professional computer training skills to achieve these demanding and changing jobs.

Strategic Human Resource Management

The 21st Century approach is that of Strategic Human Resource which aligns employee

individual goals and objectives with corporate goals and objectives rather than enforce rules or

dictates terms, acts as a facilitator and promotes a participative approach. Dessler (2007, pg 73)

states that strategic management is the process of identifying and executing the organization’s

mission by matching its capabilities with the demands of its environment. Therefore main

differences between strategic human resource management (SHRM) approach and HRM

approach is increased reliance of performance based on short term contracts instead of long term

employment; as well as new dimensions of training and development function by encouraging

and facilitating innovation and creativity.

The origins of strategic human resource management are evidenced from the late 20th century.

Lewis Philip, Millmore Mike and Morrow Trevor (2007, pg 10). As a result the 21st century

era demands that the human resource manager should think strategically in the way functions

are executed in the organization’s business. Strategic Human Resource management requires

that the manager uses strategic plans of an organisation’s resources to achieve the

organizational goasl. Previously employees just needed to know that there was a

personnel/human resources manager in the department and they would focus their attention to
that department for problem solving. This is not longer the case because employees now have

diversified needs that require the HR manager to manage more strategically. As a result this has

given rise to the parallel development of HRM theories and practices which require planning

and making decision that pertain to the mission of the organisation’s purpose of existence.

Advocates of HRM saw it a natural development of more traditional approaches to personnel

management that teamed with strategic imperatives facing organizations in the late 20th and early

21st century (ibid).

Distinguishing features have been pointed that differentiate HRM from personnel management

such as devolvement of HR activities to line managers so that they can become more accountable

for the performance of those that they manage. Corporations have partnered with HR specialists

so that they can aim at achieving greater understanding of business needs. This will create

employee relations between owners, managers and employees and discourage collective thinking

like those of Trade Unions. Establishing these relationships will also establish a route to

securing greater organizational commitment and unity.

Fred David (2001, p 77) has established an overview of a Strategic Management Process for the

HR manager to understand the evolving roles of HRM. The overview begins with the process of

translating the business, developing the vision and mission statement and ends with measuring

and evaluating employee performance that match with strategic goals of the organization.

Understanding this process will help the HR Manager to implement strategies that will in turn

solve human resource issues and increase the competitive advantage of the organisation.


As noted, the term Human Resource management has progressively evolved through the

centuries mainly replacing personnel management. The few changes in these terms have brought

about changes in the way human resource managers function. Personnel management was

viewed as a department that carried out rules and regulations of the employee welfare. Today

Human resource management is viewed more than that, it looks at working conditions to the

modern environment where people are viewed as strategic partners to business and are valued

and respected because they bring profit to the organization.

The human resource management approach remains integrated to the organization’s core strategy

and vision, and seek to optimize the use of human resource for the fulfillment of organizational

goals. This strategic and philosophical context of human resource management makes it more

purposeful, relevant, and more effective compared to the personnel management approach.


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Byars l, Rue, Leslie (2000), Human Resource Management 6th ed. Irwin McGrwa-Hill, St Lous,
Dessler, Garry(2005), Human Resource Management, 10th ed. Pearson – Prentice Hall, USA

Fred David (2001, p 77), Strategic Management, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, USA

Griffin Ricky (2007), Principles of Management, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, USA

Haslinda A, (2209), Evolving Terms of Human Reosurce Management and Development, A

Journal of International Social Research, Vol 2/9, University Putra, Malaysia.

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Lewis Philip, Millmore Mike and Morrow Trevor (2007), Strategic Human Resource Management,
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Thite Mohan, Kavanagh Michael, Johson Richard, (2009) Evolution of Human Resource
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