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The Evolution Of Human Resource Management Practices Over The Years

Human resources management

Human resource management history.

From Dryopithecus to Ramapithecus to Australopithecus, Homo Erectus, Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis, and Homo Sapiens Sapiens. We all know that this is the evolution of human beings, right? But were you ever curious about the evolution of human resource management?

Evolution Of Human Resource Management

Let us address that curiosity today. Here is how human resource management has evolved throughout the years:

  1. Slavery: The Oldest (Most Cruel) Practice To Manage The Manpower.

Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Ten Commandments, Hunger Games, and K.G.F Chapter 1. What is common among these movies? Slavery. Slavery has been prominent throughout history. It was the most popular way to manage the workforce in almost every ancient civilization. Treating people like commodities by selling and purchasing them for a very little price was considered a luxury – making the royals feel their superiority. People of higher ranks like rulers and royalty, the landlords, wealthy traders, tribal chiefs, and rich businessmen were the main purchasers of the slaves. These purchasers were given complete control over them. The ‘masters’ (as the purchasers liked to call themselves) took a variety of laborious tasks from them. Be it carrying heavy loads, rowing boats or ships, constructing buildings and temples, rearing cattle, digging canals, or tilling the soil; you name it, the slaves were forced to do it.

The poor servants were given food, clothing, and shelter in exchange for such draining tasks. The practice of slavery has, by far, been the cruelest way to handle the manpower. A mistake would cause them to be punished, usually with physical tortures (sometimes by mutilating their limbs or giving a death sentence).

  1. Serfdom – Evolution From Slavery, But Was It Really?

As the time evolved and the practice of slavery started to be frowned upon, people started doing their own work except for landlords who needed people to work on their farms. In the medieval era, the peasants were the poorest people that lived in small villages and towns. The poverty-ridden among the peasants were those without a roof were the ones who sought shelter on the farms of the landlord for whom they worked. These people were called serfs and were considered the property of the farms’ owners.

In exchange for their hard work for them, the landlords offered them a piece of land to stay and cultivate crops for themselves. A pitiful sum of money is what the serfs would get in order to keep them from going away or leaving their masters. The serfs, as well as their family members, were required to serve the landlords. The only way out of the serfdom was to return the piece of land and all the advances with interest to the master.

Unlike slavery, there was actually a little personal relationship between the landlords and the serfs. The landlords would try to solve the grievances of the servants and would offer some help to those who were in need. Many masters would reward them with an additional supply of food grains and money for their good behavior and productivity.

Despite being based on the concept of authoritarianism, serfdom still had the element of human treatment between the servant and the master’s relationship. This practice of managing the human capital died with the abolition of the feudal system; however, it can be seen in the rural areas even today.

  1. Industrial Revolution –  The Actual Start Of Evolution

The late eighteenth century brought the trend of managing people at the workplace, along with the industrial revolution. There were rarely any large organizations before the industrial revolution; however, with the unfolding of the new technology, the factory structure started developing. The work environment during this era was highly unfavorable for the employees as they worked long hours for trifling pay in conditions that were more dangerous than they were harmful.

By the closing of the 19th century, famous companies like the UK’s ‘Cadbury’ appointed officers to refine the working conditions, set up payment schemes for sickness, and provide housing at a subsidized price.

In the early twentieth century, FW Taylor introduced scientific management that put forward the idea that there was ‘one best way’ to address every job efficiently. Taylor broke down the jobs into components called job specialization. He believed that people can be trained to become an expert at any specific portion of the job. However, the fact that people may get bored doing the same job every day was not acknowledged by them. This practice was called Taylorism, and it was widely adopted by the fast-food companies and the famous automobile manufacturer – Ford. It benefits Human Resource Management with the tools such as job analysis and training and selection methods.

  1. The World Wars – Greatest Transitions

Women recruitment all over the world started during the world war. This was to fill the gaps created by men going to the war. The companies had to make agreements with the unions to recruit the unskilled women to replace the craftsmen. Research of the experts in the late 1930s indicated that motivation can have its effects on performance management. This encouraged the firms to increase the employee benefits post-war to refine employee recruitment, retention, and motivation.

With the second world war, the full-time working practices were brought back, thus creating a bureaucratic image of the emerging professions. In the 1960s, after the industrial relations were developed, the employers, unions, and human resource managers were criticized for the lack of negotiation skills. The 1960s and 70s were a time where the social sciences were inspiring the personnel theories at large. By the 90s, when the world was facing a global recession, the employers realized the importance of the human resources. This was the beginning of the greatest transition in the history of human resources, where the consideration of employees as just workers was replaced by considering them as a ‘resource.’

  1. Post World War – The Now

HR now is more complex than it has ever been. Constantly updating technology has shifted the focus from managing the personnel and doing their administrative tasks to increasing the employee engagement and building up the company culture. The attention is paid to how happy the employee is at work, and will he continue to work for the company in the future.

In the current times, understanding the needs and motivations of a diverse workforce consisting of a multi-generational workforce is what allows the organizations to attract more talented employees.

In short, today, Human resource management simply means supporting the employees at every stage of the employee life cycle from hiring till their retirement.

What Does The Future Hold?

Experts explain that the next-gen HR leaders would be expected to be better thinkers, tech-pro, and tactful to deal with an increasingly flexible and expectant workforce. HR leaders will need to be flexible and responsible for dynamic employee needs. Leaders who understand HR’s immense value in the workplace will have a better view from the perspective of the company and the employees.

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Jason Skidmore

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