Human Resources is a field in development. The »personnel department » ‘s missions are continually extending. But how are these issues born? And how is it internationally regulated?
Human Resources from the beginning…
First it is essential to remind that, as soon as Human Resources is a wide field, composed with many different issues, each part of the function developed little by little to create what we currently call « Human Resources Management ». Training, Recruitment, Careers, Payment, Working Conditions, Health, Employee discipline, dismissal… HR professionnals have their work cut out for themselves!
Of course it is not possible to say when training issues began : Since Man evolved, he has needed to transfer his knowledge and skills. This let Humans’ way of living develop and get better through the centuries. Thus Human Resources issues could exist quite informally. As many Human Resources issues seem to be natural out of the professional context, they were not directly obvious in employer/employee relationships. The contract was quite simple : One provides money, one provides work. These are the basis of a labour contract.
In the nineteenth century, working conditions in the factories were very hard. In 1833 in the UK, the Factories Act was created to regulate the conditions of Industrial Employment. They appointed male factory inspectors. One of the first other consequences was that their hours of work were reduced to 60 hours per week. The following years have also seen the development of Trade Unions: The rules changed and from then on firms had negotiating partners. Many factories started to understand the importance of improving their employees’ working conditions: satisfied employees are the most effective. This observation brought Rowntree’s (an English firm), in 1896, to appoint an employee called Mary Wood to be a « social worker »: she had to watch over the health and behaviour of the workers. Later she was also asked to engage girls; then someone else other than the director was in charge of recruitment.
Many theoreticians also began to be interested in psychology at the workplace. Let’s name the unavoidable Taylor.F, Mayo.E, Maslow.A, Lewin.K, Weber.M, Herzberg.F, or McClelland.D, who formed basic theories about organizations and influenced the thinking of the field. During the First World War, many governments wanted to make a better use of their soldiers, and personnel management became more and more important in munition factories as well, especially the employment of a « welfare worker ».
The Second World War was a new step as well for Human Resources Management, the establishment of a personnel department with trained staff became quite necessary: Training, Recruitment and selection, Morale and motivation improvement, discipline, health and safety, and even wages policies were developed and had to be managed.
In the globalized context in which we are living, HR functions have to work with sophisticated HRIS (Human Resources Information Systems). Another consequence of the globalization is that companies have to manage several different cultural backgrounds. Many companies even develop a firm culture, and that is another way of managing Human Resources : This culture can be built and worked out;this is also a way to make workers identify with the company and to establish a real worker loyalty.
How are Human Resources regulated through the world?
Of course, each country has its own legislation, and there is no unique way to regulate Labour relations. But here we should mention an institution which seems unavoidable to us while speaking about worldwide Human Resources Management, namely the International Labour Organization. That institution was created in 1919, in order to guarantee social justice. The induced idea was that realizing this mission was the only way for peace to settle in the long term. The ILO’s constitution lists the following areas of improvement the ILO is in charge for (see ILO’s history) :
- Regulation of the hours of work including the establishment of a maximum working day and week;
- Regulation of labour supply, prevention of unemployment and provision of an adequate living wage;
- Protection of the worker against sickness, disease and injury arising out of his employment;
- Protection of children, young persons and women;
- Provision for old age and injury, protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own;
- Recognition of the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value;
- Recognition of the principle of freedom of association;
- Organization of vocational and technical education, and other measures.
The current issues the ILO is dealing with are for instance promoting apprenticeship, fighting undeclared work, developping job opportunities in Spain, or discussing Greek labour questions.
Picture : Anasebrahem, Blog, WordPress
Sources : Foot.M & Hook.C (1996) Introducing Human Resources Management. New York: Longman.
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