Q. Trace out the growth of Human Resource Management in India.
Evolution of the Human Resource Management
The historical background to the management techniques of human resources are in vogue since ancient times. It’s only in the past 100 odd years that the techniques and study of human behaviour at work has become formal and structured with certain basic practices established as core and a host of other practices left to each organization to design and implement as per their individual business driven practices. As per Fisher, Schonfeldt and Shaw, in their book titled Human Resources Management, they have characterised the history of HRM as having evolved through four broad phases, the Craft system, the scientific system, the human relations approach and the prevalent organizational science-human resources approach.
The Craft system refers to early trends noticed in Egypt and Babylon, where skills based training was provided to people to ensure a steady flow of craftsmen required to build huge monuments. By the 13th century, subsequently the trend was noticed in Europe and later craft guilds evolved to ensure not only the skill acquisition but regulate the conditions of employment, level of skill and improved production techniques. Most relevant in the domestic industry where generations of skilled workers trained and became experts in a particular skill.
The Scientific Management approach was a key part of the industrial revolution typical of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. It was instilled in the principles of mass production and organization of work – simple work skills and supervisory/managerial skills. This rapidly emerged as the assembly line approach to managing workflow, which later Fredrick Taylor (1856-1915) pioneered based on the philosophy that employees wanted to be used efficiently and money being the primary motivator. Over a period of time this was proved wrong as employee dissent grew and union issues surfaced. It was during this phase that employee welfare as a key HR practice emerged which redressed employee issues like recreational facilities, medical program and employee grievance systems.
The Human Relations approach was an outcome of the famous studies undertaken by US social scientist Elton Mayo and Fritz Roethlisberger at the Western Electric’s Hawthorne plant in Chicago.
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 1932. 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 employees involved in the experiment enjoyed being the centre of attention; they reacted positively because management cared about them. The reason for the increase in the production was not the physical but the psychological impact of the employee’s attitude towards the job and towards the company. Such a phenomenon taking place in any research setting is now called the Hawthorne effect.
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.
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 analysis.
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.
Finally the Organizational Sciences approach to human resources management has brought the focus to the scientific process within organizations that can impact employee experience, and less on just the individual. Today’s organizations focus on building their processes and policies and compete to emerge as “preferred employers” (best employer). It is not uncommon for competing organizations to woo the employees through advertising more and better employee-friendly initiatives like work-from-home jobs, careers for married couples, global work assignments and internal job postings and world class workplace infrastructures from in-campus cricket grounds to gymnasiums for employee wellbeing. This is the HR that we now see around us.