Prelude to human resource development


It would give more clarity if we can recollect the environment in which workers were operating before describing the human relations movement. Factory workers of the Industrial Revolution were uneducated, unskilled, having no discipline and starving peasants straight from farms. These peasants did not like factory jobs except for the fact that it was essential for them otherwise starvation was the consequence.

Factory managers developed rigid controls to force workers to work hard. This legacy of a work environment structured around rigid controls carried over into the 1800s and early 1900s. The management philosophy then was the assumption that workers were to be given jobs, where in turn they would work hard and efficiently.

Towards the mid 1900s, a realization dawned on the job-givers that, workers deserved to be treated as human beings, while on their respective jobs. The human relations movement began under the guidance of then human relations development experts at the Hawthorne, Illinois, plant of the Western Electric Company in the 1927-1932 period

The Hawthorne Studies were initially begun by industrial engineers and were aimed at determining the optimal level of lighting to get maximum output from workers. When these studies produced confusing results about the relationship between physical environment and worker productivity, the researchers realized that human factors must be affecting productivity. This was perhaps, the first time that researchers and managers alike, recognized that, psychological and sociological factors affected not only employee motivation but their productivity as well.

The term human relations refer to the ways in which managers interact with their employees. When people in management stimulate more and better work, the organization has effective human relations; when morale and efficiency deteriorates, its human relations are said to be ineffective. The human relations movement arose from early attempts to systematically discover the social and psychological factors that would create effective human relations.

These early human studies relations studies and experiments, soon gave way to a broad range of research into the behavior of workers in their work environment. Peter Drucker and others disseminated to industrial managers, a basic understanding of workers and their attitudes towards their work. Not that a total understanding of how best to motivate employees has been obtained, but research was on to discover ways to better utilize the unutilized energy and capacities of workers.

Adam Smith is more typically cited by economists for his contributions to classical economic doctrine, but his discussion in The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, included a brilliant argument on the economic advantages that organizations and society would reap from the division of labor (also called work specialization).

Smith concluded that division of labor raised productivity by increasingly each worker’s skill and dexterity, by saving time that is commonly lost in changing tasks, and by encouraging the creation of labor-saving inventions and machinery. The extensive development of assembly-line production processes during the twentieth century was undoubtedly stimulated by the economic advantages of work specialization cited over two centuries ago by Adam Smith.