Human Resource Management
Past and Present

Rajendra Prasad Koirala

According to Vincent Obedgiu, an HR management scholar, human resource management (HRM) is a result of the early twentieth-century human relations movement which emphasized the creation of commercial value through strategic personnel management. Human resources used to be dominated by transactional work like payroll and benefits administration. But as a result of globalization, company consolidation, technological advancement, and more research, the function has shifted to strategic initiatives like mergers and acquisitions, talent management, succession planning, industrial and labor relations, diversity and inclusion, and, most importantly, post-Covid management. Human resource functions are performed by a few skilled experts or even non-human resource workers in startup organizations. In larger companies, an entire functional group is usually dedicated to HRM, with people specializing in particular human resource responsibilities and functional leadership engaging in strategic decision-making across the organization. Institutions of higher education, professional groups, and enterprises have devised programs of study dedicated specifically to the obligations of the function to prepare practitioners for the profession.

Historical Background 
The term “human resource management” has been widely used in the last two decades. Previously, HRM used to be referred to as “personnel administration.” This change in terminology actually carries a much broader sense.

Personnel administration, which became a clearly defined field by the 1920s (at least in the United States), was primarily concerned with the technical aspects of hiring, evaluating, training, and rewarding personnel, and was a “staff” job in most businesses. Traditionally, the field did not focus on the impact of discriminatory hiring practices on overall organizational performance or the systematic linkages between such practices.

In addition, the field lacked a unifying paradigm. HRM arose in response to the significant increase in competitive pressures that American businesses began to face in the late 1970s as a result of issues such as globalization, deregulation, and rapid technological progress. Due to these challenges, businesses have been more concerned about strategic planning, which is the act of anticipating future changes in the environment (both the nature and level of the market) and aligning the various components of the organization to promote organizational effectiveness. HRM, often known as people management, refers to all of the operations carried out by a company to ensure that employees are used effectively to achieve individual, group, and organizational objectives.

Chukwunonso, Franklyn states in his article,”   The Development of Human Resource Management from a Historical Perspective And its Implications for the Human Resource Manager” that throughout history, the name of human resource management has changed several times. Throughout history, the name change occurred primarily due to changes in social and economic activities.

Industrial Welfare:
The first kind of human resource management was industrial welfare (HRM). The factories act of 1833 mandated the presence of male industrial inspectors. A 60-hour workweek was enacted in 1878 to control the hours of work for children and women. During this period, trade unions began to emerge. The first trade union congress was held in 1868. It was at this point that collective bargaining began. In 1913, as the number of industrial workers grew, Seebohm Rowntree hosted a symposium. The Welfare Workers Association was renamed the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development after it was founded.

Selection and Recruitment 
It all began when Mary Wood was asked to begin courting females during World War I. Personnel development developed throughout WWI as a result of government attempts to encourage the optimal use of employees. In 1916, it became mandatory for explosive factories to have a welfare worker, and it was recommended in munitions factories. The army forces put up a lot of effort in this area. The military concentrated on how to measure talents and IQ, as well as other human factors study at work. The National Institute of Psychology was founded in 1921, and the findings of studies on selection exams, interviewing procedures, and training methods were published.

Other Personnel Acquisition Activities
Recruiting and selection, followed by training, improved morale and motivation, discipline, health and safety, joint consultation, and salary policies were all priorities throughout the Second World War. This necessitated the establishment of a personnel department with qualified workers.

Relations Between Employers and Employees
During the war, there was more consultation between management and the workforce. This meant that personnel departments were in charge of organizing and administering it. The focus shifted to health and safety, as well as the necessity for professionals. The necessity for industrial relations specialists was recognized, thus the personnel manager served as the organization’s spokeswoman during conversations with trade unions/shop stewards. Industrial relations were crucial throughout the 1970s. The tense atmosphere of the time emphasized the significance of a specialist role in labor-management negotiations. The personnel manager was in charge of negotiating wages and other collective bargaining concerns.

In the 1970s, employment legislation became more stringent, and the personnel function became a specialist advisor, ensuring that managers did not break the law and that disputes did not end up in labor tribunals.

The Ethos of Flexibility and Variety 
Due to a growth in the number of part-time and temporary contracts, as well as the advent of distance working, a major trend occurred in the 1990s where businesses sought more flexible arrangements in the hours worked by employees. Traditional recruitment strategies are becoming obsolete as the workforce and work patterns diversify. In the year 2000, the increased use of the internet signaled a shift to a culture that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This resulted in the creation of new jobs in e-commerce while positions in traditional industries such as shops were eliminated. This meant that employees would have more opportunities to work from home. Organizations must consider the issues that these developments raise in a strategic manner. As time passes, the job of HR managers will shift.

Information Technology (IT) 
Systems for e-recruitment, online short-listing of applicants, developing training strategies online, psychometric training, payroll systems, employment data, recruitment administration, references and pre-employment checks are just a few examples of how IT is assisting HRM. IT assists HR managers in offloading regular activities, allowing them to devote more time to solving complicated problems. IT also means that a larger amount of data is available for decision-making.

Milestones in the Development of HRM
1890-1910: Frederick Taylor expands on his scientific management concepts. Taylor is a proponent of scientific worker selection based on qualifications, as well as incentive-based compensation systems to inspire staff.

1910-1930: Many businesses have departments dedicated to ensuring the well-being of their employees. The field of industrial psychology starts to take shape. With the outbreak of World War I, industrial psychology advanced resulting in developments in job assessment and selection.

1930-1945: The Hawthorne Studies’ interpretation begins to influence management theory and practice. The social and informal aspects of the workplace, which affect worker productivity, are being given more attention. Increasing worker job satisfaction has been suggested as a way to boost productivity.

1945-1965: Between 1935 and 1950, there was a huge increase in union membership in the United States, which led to a stronger emphasis on collective bargaining and labor relations within personnel management. As unions negotiate paid vacations, paid holidays, and insurance coverage, compensation and benefits administration become more important.

1965-1985: With the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the civil rights movement in the United States achieves its pinnacle. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, or national origin, has a significant impact on the personnel function. Equal employment opportunity and affirmative action became significant human resource management duties in the years after the CRA’s passage.

1985-present: Three trends have a significant impact on HRM. The first is that the labor force is becoming more diverse in terms of age, gender, race, and ethnicity. From EEO and affirmative action to “managing diversity,” HRM concerns develop. A second trend is business globalization, which is accompanied by the technology revolution. Transportation, communication, and labor markets have all changed dramatically as a result of these causes. The concentration on HRM as a “strategic” role is the third trend, which is related to the first two. In order to cope with rapid change, fierce competition, and push for enhanced efficiency, HRM concerns and concepts must be integrated into the firm’s overall strategic planning. And after 2019 (with the Covid-19 pandemic) HRM has been going through a tough time. Let’s hope that the situation will normalize with the ongoing global vaccination drive.

Koirala is a PhD scholar. He can be reached at 

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