The History Of Human Resources Management


1. The history of Human Resources management can be traced back to the times immemorial. The earliest footprint of the HRM can be linked back to selection of tribal chieftains among the ancient civilisations. From then on development of mankind continued with simultaneously development of the Human Resource Management. The Chinese are known to be the first to use employee screening techniques, way back in 1115 B.C and the Greek and Babylonian civilizations, could be credited with the development of "the apprentice" system ages before the medieval times. Similarly in the Aryan society, the establishment of 'Varna System' too was a step towards the establishment of a specialised society based however not on skills but based on birth criterion.

The Development

2. However, it was the industrial Revolution which gave it the right impetus and brought the HRM to the forefront of the management studies. The industrial revolution changed the agricultural based societies into the industrial societies, bringing about large scale influx of immigrants. Thus paving a way for the new researches and development of new techniques in the HRM. Initially the concept of Human resources was much centred around social welfare and improving the productivity. The main aim behind these programs was to assist immigrants in learning English and acquiring housing and medical care. Also, these techniques used to promote supervisory training to ensure an increase in productivity.

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It was arrival of trade unions in early nineteenth century that revolutionised the theories of the management. The two feats that were quintessential to the importance of HR were (Accel Team. (2004)}

(a) The fact that it was the HR department that got the management and the labour unions to come on common grounds. They basically worked on getting the management to see things from the labour perspective and grant them medical and educational benefits.

(b) The other was Frederick W. Taylor's (1856-1915) Scientific Management. This book had tremendous impact on attaining better productivity from low-level production workers.

Defining Human Resources

4. Although there exist numerous definition of the Human Resource Management yet the two mentioned below are among the most precise ones:

'Human Resource Management is a distinctive approach to employment management which seeks to achieve competitive advantage through the strategic deployment of a highly committed and capable workforce, using an integrated array of cultural, structural and personnel techniques'

(Storey, 2007)

'HRM includes anything and everything associated with the management of employment relationships in the firm. We do not associate HRM solely with a high commitment model of labour management or with any particular ideology or style of management'

(Boxall and Purcell, 2008)

Evolution of HRM from the Personnel management.

5. Initially most businesses had predominant unitarist view, and considered "Management as the sole source of authority that safe guards the interest of managers and the workers, where the trade unions were regarded as interfering in the harmonious relationship". Hence it was Personnel Management which was practised in general. It was only in 1980s and 1990s that non unionised companies such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM brought about a fresh approach to the management by practising HRM. "The popularity of the term HRM came to symbolize not only a belief that major changes in product markets required a fresh management approach, but also the conservative government reforms of the labour market allowed managers to exercise an unprecedented degree of strategic choice in shaping organisational employment practises."- Stephen Bach ch 1 pg 5- the evolution of HRM. At the heart of the new approach was the belief that the management of people gives an organisation competitive advantage. This lead to an evolution of the human resource management from the personnel management.

Contemporary Human Resource Management.

6. In modern day, the Human Resources Management function is as complex as the organisational structures. It is no longer a case of mediation between the trade unions and the management and has resulted in the formation of Human resource departments/divisions in companies to handle this complex function. As reflected by paper developed by, Professor Andy Smith National Centre for Vocational Educational Research (NCVER),in Supporting vocational education and training providers in building capability for the future. The Human resource function has become a wholly integrated part of the total corporate strategy. The function is diverse and covers many facets including Manpower planning, recruitment and selection, employee motivation, performance monitoring and appraisal, industrial relations, provision management of employee benefits and employee education training and development.

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7. In more recent years, attention has switched from what practices constitute human resource management to the broader impact of human resource management and its relationship to the strategy of the organisation. This has given birth to a whole new concept - The Strategic HRM. All the research evidence now strongly suggests that human resource management has a very positive impact on organisational performance. A key element in effective human resource management is its alignment with the strategy of the organisation. Researchers now believe that it is not enough to simply implement a series of "best practices" but that human resource management needs to be tailored so that it "fits" with the organisation.


8. The history of Human Resource Management has progressed through the ages from times when the workers were abused in the slave like working conditions to the modern environment where the people are viewed as assets to business. Infact today the productivity itself is seen as a by product of a good human resources management. Thus we find that Human Resources Management will become increasing dynamic in future and this process of evolution will continue.