Employee Relations

Question : Trace the development of Personnel/Human Resource Management in Ireland. The Development of Personnel/Human Resource Management in Ireland Introduction Human resource management or HRM is essentially the management function of the people that work in organisations. HRM is perhaps the hardest of management functions within an organisation because of the human factor, the reason for this is that people are all different; some of these differences are physical, cultural, psychological, abilities, aptitudes, and temperaments.

Effectively we all are different and this means we need to be managed differently, therefore making HRM a tough task. This essay will look at the historical background of this complex management function in Irish society. It will examine how personnel management or HRM has developed and evolved to what we now term HRM or Personnel Management. The Birth of Personnel Management/HRM 18th century Brittan saw the start of the industrial revolution, Ireland was governed by the UK and most of the people were poor tenant farmers.

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The industrial revolution that took place in Brittan and later spread to Ireland causing the beginning of what we call HRM. At this time the factory system needed a new way of organising people. These factories used new machinery to produce goods and materials. These machines needed had to be installed, maintained and operated. This meant that people needed to be organised and managed in order for the owners of these factories to generate as much profit as possible.

With many factories opening up this caused competition between the factory owners and to be competitive they subjected the workers or labour force to long working hours, low pay and dangerous working conditions. We can point to two important developments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century which critically impacted upon the development and evolution of HRM, particularly in regard to the emergence of the specific HR function. These were (i) the welfare tradition and (ii) scientific management (Niven 1967: Foley and Gunnigle 1994). As cited in Gunnigle, G. Heraty, N. , Morley, M. (2006) The Welfare Tradition This refers to a series of ideas taken in some organisations to help improve working conditions, pay and hours; this task was undertaken by welfare officers, mainly from Quaker owned organisations. These employers often influenced by their cultural and religious backgrounds took action to improve conditions for its workforce. The early 1900s saw the appointments of welfare officers in Irish companies, such as Jacobs and Maguire & Paterson in Dublin (Byrne 1988) as cited in Gunnigle, G. , Heraty, N. , Morley, M. 2006) The welfare tradition of caring for the working people is still evident today in many organisations, some of these traditions or HR practices would be health and safety counseling services and employee assistance programmes. However these welfare officers were often viewed by senior management as middlemen representing employee interests rather than the employer’s interests. The modern HRM practices do not operate like this today but are more of an integral part of the senior management team representing employers rather than employees interests.

This is why in the 1800s we saw the emergence of unions whose primary focus was on representing the employees. Scientific Management, Behavioural Science & Post WWII This is an important evolution on HRM practices or what became know as ‘Taylorism’ the main elements of his theory was to improve the labour force’s productivity by using systematic approaches to job design, employment and payment systems (Taylor 1947). By studying the approaches in different environments of the workforce and measuring productivity output.

This meant that the HR function became more complex in recruitment, selection, remuneration, industrial relations, training and shifted more towards the ‘efficiency/profitability’ of management. Industrial Relations The growth of trade unions and membership of them in Ireland was expanding; employees now had a strong voice been represented externally, larger organisations had a ‘Shop Stewart’ representing the workers internally, this forced the role of HRM to up skill, so that they could negotiate with the unions and Shop Stewarts for better conditions.

These HRM practices became specialist personnel managers with major emphasis on industrial relations, dealing with what became know as ‘Collective Bargaining’. Gunnigle, G. , Heraty, N. , Morley, M. (2006) The HRM role was expanding in dealing with wage agreements, productivity arrangements and employment legislation. The early seventies also witnessed the introduction of an unprecedented wave of employment legislation, which was to impinge on the industrial scene and significantly impacted upon the role of the HR practitioner.

Gunnigle, G. , Heraty, N. , Morley, M. (2006) 1980s-1990s During the depressed economy of the 1980s, HRM or personnel departments had to work under tighter budgets while still performing the tasks as outlined. There was high unemployment and increased competition; employers were forced to look at pay levels, practices and structures and ‘generally to reclaim managerial prerogative, which they felt had been eroded by trade unions heretofore’. Gunnigle, G. , Heraty, N. , Morley, M. 2006) The arrival of foreign direct investment (FDI) by multinational corporations (MNCs) to Ireland, particularly US firms has had an important impact on the development of HRM. MNCs have been associated with innovation in areas of high-performance work systems (Mooney 1988) With the arrival of these organisations we saw the arrival of new practices and structures relating to HRM. Some of these practices are Organisation Strategy, Employee Resourcing, Employee Development, Reward Management, Employee Relations and Administration. As cited by Gunnigle, G. , Heraty, N. , Morley, M. (2006)

Taking a larger organisation for example, the HRM process can be more formal and the extent of its activities more sophisticated than that of a small company although the basic principles and procedures of HRM are the same. During the 1990s and 2000s Ireland saw a significant increase in the levels of employment due to higher levels of economic growth, Foreign Direct Investment, better education, a stronger EU, better living standards and the introduction of computer technology. This had a huge impact on the development of the HRM process. The Irish Labour market was more educated and skilled than ever before.

Due to the favorable market environment and as a result of higher employments levels, more money was available in the economy, companies were experiencing greater profits and were offering higher salaries and benefits to attract employees. Quality skilled labour became short, this meant more competition between employers for skilled labour, and so more emphasis was placed on employee development, commitment, communication, incentives, and conditions. Summary The development of personnel/human resource management in Ireland since the 1800s has been shaped and reshaped to where we are today.

The traditional approaches taken are evident today in HRM policies across many Irish organisations. HRM, either in large or small organisations were driven by both internal influences and external influences and the current market condition at that time. The arrival of technology, open markets, better education, FDI, higher skill levels, emerging economies and economic growth have impacted how Irish HRM operates today. Organisations change with market conditions as do people change with more skills, thus, the HRM functions will evolve and adapt to change. Bibliography Byrne, T. 1988), ‘IPM in Ireland 1937-1987’ , IPM News vol. 3, no. 2. Niven, M. , (1967) , Personnel Management 1913-1963, London: Institute of Personnel Management. Foley, K. , and Gunnigle, P. (1994), ‘The personnel/human resource function and employee relations’ in Gunnigle, P. , Morley, M. and Turner, T. Continuity and change in Irish employee relations, Dublin: Oak Tree Press 1994. Gunnigle, G. , Heraty, N. Morley M. (2006) Human Resource Management in Ireland, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 2006. Mooney, M. (1988), ‘From industrial relations to employee relations in Ireland’, unpublished PhD thesis, Trinity College, Dublin.

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