Historical Development of the Human Resource Function

By Kuch Khaas Hai Saturday, June 15, 2013 0 comments


Industrial Psychology- The primary concerns of industrial psychology is which the basic relations in industry between worker and machine and the organization. It is the application of the concepts and methods of experimental, clinical, and social psychology to industry.

Industrial Welfare Movement-attempts by employers during the late 1800’s to improve conditions for employees, both in the workplace and in their lives away from the job.

Laissez-faire Capitalism- capitalistic philosophy holding that business owners were entitled to complete control over employees.

Merit System-appointments to government jobs based on character and fitness, with removals made only for cause.

Pendleton Act of 1883- political and personal favoritism are the basis for determining the duties and pay of public employees- merit system employment. It established the US Civil Service Commission which was composed of three bipartisan commissioners appointed by the president. It required open competitive examinations, probationary periods, and protection from political pressures (merit system procedures). Authorized the commission to supervise the conduct of examinations. Authorized the president to extend merit system coverage by executive order.

Reform Movement-was a political movement during the mid- to late-1800’s designed to end the Spoils System of appointing people to government jobs.

Spoils System- also known as a Patronage System is the practice of giving appointive offices to loyal members of the party in power. The political party winning the election rewards its campaign workers and other active supporters by appointment to government posts and by other favors. The corruption and inefficiency bred by the system reached staggering proportions in the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, and reaction against this helped bring about civil service form, which was inaugurated by creation of the Civil Service Commission in 1871. The spoils system has continued for many federal offices and is even more prevalent in state and local governments.

Welfare Secretaries- Members of business firms who helped workers with education, housing, medical care, and other personal matters.



1)      Recruitment from all segment of society based on knowledge, skills, and abilities
2)      Fair and equitable treatment
3)      Equal pay for the work of equal value
4)      High standard of ethical conduct
5)      Efficient utilization of the work force
6)      Retention and separation based on performance
7)      Education and training
8)      Protection from political pressures
9)      Protection of “whistle blowers”


1)      The Era of “Gentlemen,”  1789 – 1827
z         Limited to the “gentry”
z         Nepotism
z         Patronage
2)       The “Spoils Era,” 1827 - 1883 
z         Andrew Jackson and populist politics
z         Full blown patronage
z         Strong executive leadership
z         The Pendleton Act of 1883
3)       The New Civil Service System, 1883-1978
z         Corruption incompatible with government efficiency
z         Separation of politics and administration in keeping with Frederick Taylor’s theories of scientific management
z         Expansion of the merit system
z         American Society for Public Administration founded in 1939
z         Federal Service Entrance Exam established in 1955
4)       The Reformed Civil Service System, 1978 - Present


I.                   File Maintenance: Prior to the 1960’s was period of file maintenance – emphasis on screening applicants, training or orienting employees, data collection and storage, and social organizer
II.                Government Accountability: 1960’s to 1980’s was period of governmental accountability. Laws , court rulings, and accountability proliferated. Dealt with equal employment opportunities, environmental protection, employee health and safety, urban renewal and development, and community relations.
III.             Organizational Accountability: Mid-1980’s to present is a period of gaining and sustaining a competitive advantage. Emphasis on social consciousness, controlling costs, enhancing competitiveness, adding value to organizational products, and balancing use and conservation of natural resources
IV.             Strategic Partner in late 1980’s to Present: Development and implementation of mission, vision and goals for the organization. Human resources participates in the assessment of internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats effecting the organization.

In the 70’s and 80’s the coverage of all major EEO laws and regulations was extended to the public Sector. In 1985, the US Supreme Court brought all functions of local government under the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act established employment right for citizens with physical and mental disabilities.


Frederick Taylor-father of scientific management believed that all tasks should be analyzed and that management had the responsibility to determine how each task can be performed in the “one best way” for each worker. Scientific management emphasized the planning and simplification of tasks. His system of industrial management has influenced the development of virtually every country enjoying the benefits of modern industry.

Frank and Lillian Gilbreath-pioneered time and motion studies

Henry Gantt-developed the Gantt Chart which is used for scheduling based on time rather than quantity, volume or weight.  The third well-known pioneer in the early days of scientific management was Henry Gantt. Gantt worked for Frederick Taylor and is to be remembered for his humanizing influence on management, emphasizing the conditions that have favorable psychological effects on the worker.

The Production Assembly Line

From the doctrines of Taylor and the Gilbreths, there followed rapid developments in machinery and technology and with the improvement of materials came the moving assembly line. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the internal combustion engine was invented, leading to the development of the motor car. There was a move towards streamlining production, and the first assembly line method of manufacture can probably be attributed to the mail order factory of Sears and Roebuck of America.
More famous was Henry Ford. His car factory in the United States is the best example of the change to modern assembly-line techniques. Before the 'line' was set up each car chassis was assembled by one man, taking a time of about twelve and a half hours. Eight months later with standardization and division of labor the total labor time had been reduced to just ninety-three minutes per car. (It is interesting to note that the idea of assembly line came to him when he was watching a moving conveyor of carcasses in a Chicago slaughterhouse. A similar creative innovation to Gutenberg's conception of the printing press.

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