Tracing the History and Evolution of Human Resource Management

By Published September 15, 2017

One or two centuries ago, the human resource management department – often referred to as just “labor welfare” or “personnel” was primarily associated with tasks like keeping employee records; ensuring companies followed the rules and regulations; determining wages, compensation packages and other benefits. Since the days of labor office during Industrial Revolution in 19th century Europe to the advent of Artificial Intelligence in the 21st century, human resources have come a long way.

With the passage of time, the domain has undergone several changes – rather an HR transformation has happened in the real sense of the term. While certain basic tasks continue to remain the same, the realm has succeeded in adding several feathers to its core and has evolved as a strong competitor in the market that can stand beside organizations and businesses.

In fact, over the last ten years, human resources went on to emerge and be recognized more like an industry than a just a department. Along with the advent of technologies the idea of HR transformation, rather a metamorphosis is now in the process.

Let’s take a quick look at the history and evolution of the human resource management as an independent field

The Early Stages 1890s – 1913

The history of HR transformation and development can be traced back to the late 19th century Europe during the Industrial Revolution. The situation was somewhat like – daily laborers even children are forced to work in factories for meager pay and harsh working conditions. They are often treated like animals. Government interferes and introduces statutory regulations especially in facilities working with daily laborers. It results in the development and introduction of a welfare officer who would solely be responsible for ensuring that workers are treated fairly within an organization. All these were an effect of the Industrial Revolution.

The World War Phase: 1914-1945

There is a gradual HR transformation – from typical welfare officers, the tumultuous economy following the two mighty World Wars as very different. Different kinds of organizations began to crop up demanding new kinds of skills from employees. During this time organizations had small departments, comprising hardly one or two personnel people who looked after the welfare and requirements of the workers.

Post Second World War Phase – till the 1970s: 1945-1979

This phase is one of the major changing times. This was the time when engineering and technology began to expand substantially, and the gradual corporate culture began to emerge. It goes without saying that the progressive HR transformation had already begun and thus a new era was ushered in the domain of workplace. Renowned American mechanical engineer named Frederick W. Taylor formulated principles of scientific management that eventually led to the evolution of scientific human resource management. Taylor’s theories focused on three major aspects:

• Training for workers
• Maintaining wage uniformity
• Focus on better productivity

Human Resource Management: 1980s – late 1990s

These were the times when information technology forayed in and the concept of multinational corporations began to grow in leaps and bounds. IT outsourcing began to grow, and this technology gradually led to a sound HR transformation. Human resource management (HRM) began to be started taken seriously by organizations and HRM went on to become an integral part of every organization at a global level.

New theories and strategies began to be implemented primarily for things like change management, motivation and towards team building. Concepts like job enrichment began to be applied in organizations and the HRM department was solely responsible for this.

HR Business Partner/ Human Capital: Early 2000s – till present

Now, since the beginning of the 2000s, the concept of HR transformation has been somewhat utterly drastic. The transformation has been so stark, that it can be compared to almost a metamorphosis. Foraying in of technology has given rise to many new aspects including an upsurge in HR leadership. The present day HR has become highly influential in certain regards and are working at par with business heads of organizations. The advent of analytics, big data, robotics, automation machine learning has been highly influential regarding HR transformation. Right from HR leadership to learning and development, and also definitely overseeing different aspects such as talent acquisition, employee engagement, and retention.

However, as times progress, experts are of the opinion that there’s a lot more to go and do. HR transformation has still a long way to go as technology changes at the speed of light traveling.

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