Brief History of Human Resources Management

Both management and leadership are not new terms. They both evolved with the rise of ancient civilizations. Ancient emperors were expected to reign communes, villages and first cities. The king had to collect taxes and provide the protection to citizens. They were unable to deliver these basic tasks without a proper management, leadership and the art of splitting roles and responsibilities.

They had to discover the art of efficient delegation. The history of Human Resources Management did not begin at the moment when Dave Ulrich published his first book about Human Resources. He discovered the importance of Human Resources Management for successful organizations but the people management was crucial even in ancient China. The HR history is about the evolution of first communes and growth of first ancient societies.

Unsurprisingly, the development of modern Human Resources Management practices comes with the military. The army was the first driver of innovations. A nation without a strong army was overtaken by neighbors, and it just made an importance of a strong army visible to each citizen. A successful command requires strong, brave and smart leaders who engage and share a vision of the victory.

It designed and developed first procedures for the outstanding selection of new hires and leaders. It had resources to invest in innovations. The first successful HR practices in the history can be found in ancient armies. They required a good work organization of jobs and tasks, even they used the workforce with no education and knowledge (more on Key Milestones in HR History).

Italian politician and philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli (the author of The Emperor and other books) was not writing just about the art of the power. He was writing about managing all kinds of resources including the people, reward and recognition and various leadership styles. He was clearly splitting roles in the society; securing the position of the emperor. That is a book about Human Resources Management. However, most recommended practices would not be allowed and preferred today. He has to be mentioned in the HR Management history. (more on the HR practices in ancient China till the beginning of 20th century).

We tend to recognize just the modern Human Resources Management as the best competitive businesses practice it today. However, we ignore the long list of successful organizations from the history. Many successful companies had been running impressive leadership development procedures to protect its future (and they were able to do so for centuries).

Nowadays, we know that a strong respected and widely recognized HR Organization makes a difference. It can create a great company that wins the market wars. The modern Human Resources Management is a business function, which manages, leads, facilitates and provides tools for the human capital management in the enterprise (more on Evolution of Human Resources).

A modern contemporary HR Organization designs and develops strategic processes and procedures; it runs difficult and complex communication campaigns as the organization attracts the best talents from the job market; it retains them with the attractive compensation packages, or it develops them in talent development programs. On the other hand, the British Honorable East India Corporation was running complicated procedures to identify new leaders who could conquer and lead business opportunities in new areas. It just followed inventions and innovations introduced by the British Navy in the 16th century.

HR Management History

The modern history of Human Resources as we know it starts with the British Industrial Revolution. The foundation of large factories increased a demand for the workforce significantly. It was in the 18th century, and it is the moment when the evolution of new people management practices begins. It is the important landmark in the history of Human Resources. The rapid development of new industrial approaches and new inventions to work changed the world dramatically. The quick and cheap production became a priority for many industries.

The factories hired thousands of workers, who worked up to 16 hours a day. Soon, many entrepreneurs discovered the fact that the satisfaction of employees influences the performance and productivity. Satisfied employees were more efficient than the rest of the workforce, and they can produce more products than depressed employees. As a result, many factories started to introduce voluntary programs for employees to increase their comfort and satisfaction. Moreover, the government began to intervene to introduce some fundamental human rights and the work safety legislation.

The second rapid development of Human Resources started at the beginning of the 20th century. Most organizations launched the Personnel Management (more on Personnel Management), also you can find out more about the Personnel Management in Communism). The personnel department had large responsibilities however it was still a service department. It was dealing with all employee related issues, and it was responsible for the full compliance with the newly introduced law requirements.

It had the responsibility for the implementation of different social and workplace safety programs. Everything was focused on the productivity of employees. The regular productivity increments were the key measure for the management of employees. The significant change was introduced after the 2nd World War because armies developed many training programs for new soldiers. After the Second World War, the Training Department became a widely recognized and respected unit in the Personnel Management Department.

Moreover, the trade unions evolved almost at the same moment as the Personnel Management. The trade unions changed the rules of the game. So far we are not sure about the positive impact of trade unions. However, they played a significant role in improving the role of employees in the organization.

The employer got a reliable partner to discuss with. Trade unions introduced many improvements at no significant costs for the business. Today, trade unions are not as strong as they were used to be, but many organizations still benefit or suffer from a strong presence of trade unions in their factories.

The introduction of the HR Management has begun in 70’s of the 20th century (more on Early HR Management). New technologies allowed the growth of large multinational organizations; that was the moment when the new wave of globalization has begun. The Personnel Departments turned into Human Resources Departments. They started to manage processes and procedures around the globalized workforce. From that times, most HR Functions are running complex HRIS solutions, which make information about employees available anywhere and anytime to HR Professionals.

The second significant change in the history of the HR Management was the introduction of the HR Business Partnering Model (more on Advanced HR Management), HR Roles and Responsibilities and HR Model). The demand of the organizations changed dramatically as economies of the wealthy western countries shifted towards the services economies.

The role of Human Resources has changed significantly because the Leadership Development and Succession Planning became crucial processes securing the future of the business. Also, the quality of provided HR services became the significant competitive advantage.

Nowadays, managers and leaders have to think globally; they have to understand employees coming from completely different cultural backgrounds. They have to manage the global corporate culture. They have to find values that energize employees around the Globe.

The corporate culture cannot be country specific anymore; it has to reflect employees with many nationalities work for the organization. This is a fantastic opportunity for Human Resources. However, it is also a pressure. The International HR Management drives global HR processes and procedures in different countries. It has to make sure that they produce similar and comparable results.

The future of Human Resources is full of new challenges (more on Future of Human Resources). The globalization will continue; even local businesses will hire new talents from other continents. The shortage of skilled employees will push Human Resources to introduce global recruitment policies and practices.

The international relocation of employees will become a standard HR service. The organizations become less country specific, and they cannot identify themselves with one country. The lose their face, and Human Resources has to help to identify and introduce the new corporate culture.

Tablets and smartphones change the way we work. They will bring a new wave of changes in Human Resources, as well. Leaders and managers can access data about the organization anywhere, and HR Big Data will become the next big topic. Human Resources collect many pieces of information about employees, and it has to connect its data with other departments.

The commute working is quite a standard today, but it will become a norm. The technology will connect employees as they would sit in the next cubicle. On the other hand, it will create another pressure on Human Resources. New assimilation procedures will be required. The networking will be still important for the successful career. The future of Human Resources will be about new networking methods and processes how to make commute employees know each other.

Today, Human Resources runs many processes, which are crucial for the modern organization. We cannot believe that the successful business could exist without the Recruitment and Staffing, Compensation and Benefits, Training and Development or the Leadership Development. However, the story of Human Resources Management has started in ancient China. In the past the companies and nations did not use many the HR value added processes; they used just procedures they needed to be successful.

The story of the modern Human Resources started as evidence of all employees. It dealt with issues and requests. Later, the negotiations with Trade Unions were added as a strategic relationship of the organization. Over time, Human Resources evolved into a strategic business partner, and it makes the HR Management History fascinating.