This week we focused on the human relations approach/human resources department and how essential this department is to an organization. The human resource department is one of the most critical functions of an organization as it manages the organization’s most valuable resource: people. The HR department supports many aspects of a business from hiring and on boarding, performance management, training/development, employee benefits, employee safety, compliance, and employee satisfaction. As businesses become more complex, so must the HR functions. Theorists such as Maslow, Mayo, McGregor and Likert developed theories and principles for the original human resources movement and these theories are still in effect in today’s organizations.
I will illustrate a few key points about the changes of HR , based on a case study below:
A Human Relations Case Study: “What about Melissa?”
The year is 1990. Simmons Insurance Group is a small, highly respected, A-rated subsidiary of a large British conglomerate. The company is traditionally structured with four departments including marketing, financial, sales, and claims. At one time, Simmons had over 200 employees, but today it has been cut back to about 50.
Melissa, a bright, highly motivated individual, has worked for the Simmons Insurance Group for four years. She started as a summer intern right after college graduation working across departments learning the basics about coverage, investigations, liability, damage assessment and settlement of claims. Melissa was a star performer and, at the end of her internship, she was hired full time as a claims associate. Within a year of her hire date, Melissa was promoted to senior claims associate. Although she works long hours, Melissa enjoys her job for the variety of skills it requires. She is well liked by her coworkers in all departments, particularly for her willingness to lend a hand with any problem that arises. Melissa has hopes of being promoted to claims manager soon. However, due to cutbacks, the claims department recently experienced substantial downsizing and Melissa’s group has already been cut in half.
Fearing that her job is next on the chopping block, Melissa approaches senior management with the idea that a new position be created for Melissa. Melissa witnessed problems arise when there was miscommunication between departments. Seeing a need to break up the silos of the organizational structure, Melissa suggests that her job title be Director of Internal Support and that her job responsibilities would include supporting all departments with whatever needs arise but most importantly to bridge departments to ensure consistent, open communication and excellent customer relations. Senior managers are wary of the new position, particularly given budget constraints. They meet to discuss the matter.
The human relations approach emphasizes the interpersonal and social needs of individuals (Eisenberg, et al., 2010, 75). Mayo stressed limits of individual rationality and importance of interpersonal relations (Eisenberg, et al., 2010, 72). Mayo and a group of associates introduced the Hawthorne Effect as a series of research, by examining the physical and environmental influences of the workplace (brightness of lights, humidity) and later, moved into the psychological aspects (breaks, group pressure, working hours, managerial leadership (Clark, 2010). What Mayo learned from the study was that increased attention raises productivity.
Individuals are swayed by group norms and do not act alone only in accord with their self interests , and individual decisions are not entirely rational but are influenced by emotions (Eisenberg, et al., 2010, 72). In the case study, Melissa is fearful of job security which leads to her proposal of the new position: Director of Internal Support. Although Melissa is proven to be a strong asset to the team, her proposal can be seen as premature of such a request (as she has only been full time with the company for a year) and also may not align with the budget of the company. The managers may feel that her suggestion is an ultimatum and that if she doesn’t get the position she will not stay with the company or that her performance may slip due to fear of losing her job. The reaction of the managers depend of their willingness to trade profitability for employee well being (Eisenberg, et al., 2010, 73).
In order to retain a bright and skilled worker , The Simmons Insurance Group may have to adjust the company budget and their company structure. However, Melissa’s job proposal does brings up a good point, the miscommunication within the workplace is something that she noticed and her new position can make a positive change in the organizational environment of the company. I believe every company should operate with some form of the human relations approach, not just HR but actually a department that cares about employee wellbeing. At the company I work for, they offer counseling, therapy and child care as part of an employee assistance program.
The factors to determine the managers’ decision would be her tenure, the skills she brings to the company, the prediction of company’s budget for the new position, training and development for the new role as well as her salary and benefits. I would recommend that Melissa present her idea with a business plan detailing : what her goals are, how she will accomplish these goals in this new role and how it will benefit the company so the managers can have an idea of what changes this new position will bring to the company and they can visualize this new change. If she does obtain the Director of Internal support position, Melissa will be able to align her personal development goals with customer service and based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, this new role can be a “reward” to Melissa and lead to growth and self actualization (Eisenberg, et al., 2010, 76).
When the managers make the decision, Likerts’ principle of supportive relationships should come to mind. Likert believed that all interactions within an organization should support individual self-worth and importance (Eisenberg, et al., 2010, 78).
The pros of the human relations perspective are definitely in favor of the employee. Self actualization, personal development and employee benefits and participation. However managers may believe that some cons of human relations perspective could entail giving the employee too much freedom which could limit the employees’ productivity and cause them to lose focus on the organization’s goals.
As explained by Eisenberg and Goodall, employees want to feel that the work they do is worthwhile, Melissa gaining her new role in the company would be a source of personal significance and fulfillment which would lead to job satisfaction and productivity (Eisenberg, et al., 2010, 21-23).
The human relations movement opened doors for companies that excel in corporate culture and employee engagement , such as Google. Google appreciates and implements the value of individual creativity and satisfaction of employee’s needs and almost follows Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to a tee–Google provides food, security , belonging , salary and opportunities to their employees while creating a fun and productive work environment. I will be conducting a performance analysis of Google’s employee engagement for my final project in this course.
In conclusion, I personally think the Simmons Insurance Group would oblige to Melissa’s offer and create the position due to her proven success at the company and the need to improve customer relations in the business. What do you think will happen to Melissa? If you were a manager at Simmons Insurance Group, would you take her up on her proposal for her new role? Can you think of any improvements needed in your workplace that would require a new position?
*Images courtesy of Google Images*
Clark, D. (2010). Hawthorne effect. Retrieved from http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/history/hawthorne.html
Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall Jr., H. L., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (6th ed). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.