Key Milestones in HR Management History
In the Human Resources History, we can clearly recognize four key milestones, when the priority of the people management has significantly changed. These milestones were usually about the competitive advantage and securing the position of the organization or the state. In the first stage, the emperor had a simple requirement to turn inhabitants to organized citizens who respect basic rules of the power and wars. In the second phase, the new industrial organizations needed to staff factories and train employees to conduct the job. The corporations required increasing the productivity when they passed the third HR history milestone. Finally, after the fourth milestone in Human Resources history, new organizations require employee engagement.
The history of Human Resources began as the simple, crucial future-securing requirement of the emperor to organize tasks, jobs and the delivery of requested results. This was the first challenge to be addressed by the ancient predecessors of managers and Human Resources specialists. The majority of citizens was illiterate; they were not able to follow written orders. There was an urgent need to organize the people to ensure the proper delivery of results. This was the first milestone in Human Resources Management history (more on HR Leadership Development).
The army requested trained soldiers who understand their roles in the battle. The inhabitants were usually split into smaller groups, and the commander was fully responsible for the delivery of all standard procedures and training sessions (kind of). It was the moment when first training appeared on the scene. The emperor organized mass army training to ensure that soldiers can act on the battlefield effectively.
The requirement to organize small groups and build large teams from them was a real challenge. The daily leadership of unskilled workers and soldiers was the first strategic management question of the history. The emperor with the better-organized army had an advantage that allowed him to conquer new cities and areas. Moreover, it was a matter of the survival.
The second milestone in the development and history of Human Resources was about the right staffing and educating the new workforce. This requirement emerged quickly during the British Industrial Revolution. The new industries requested thousands of new employees each year, and they had to accept unskilled workers coming from villages. This challenge was not just about organizing small teams; it was about the induction training of thousands of new employees every year.
New factories required many new workers to sustain the growth. However, most applicants coming from villages to cities were not educated properly. Factories invested large sums of money to the education of the workforce (more on Training and Development Goals). They simplified all work steps to the required minimum so that new employees can become efficient as soon as possible.
Later, the products got more sophisticated, and factories also required more skilled employees. They were needed to bring innovations and design new products to grab additional market share. It was the second challenge for early Human Resources Specialists. The recruitment process has become crucial; the advertising of specialized jobs in newspapers became a norm. The right staffing started to be a sign of the successful business.
The third milestone in Human Resources History is about the productivity of the workforce. It was the moment when the large multinational organization needed to manage and increase the performance and productivity of employees. The higher productivity allows to increase the profit margins and secure its position on the market.
Large organizations digitized many HR value added processes to ensure they work with relevant data and information. They invested large sums of money into the Talent Management, Global Workforce Mobility, and Performance Management. Some companies also implemented the Forced Distribution. However, its impact on the overall performance and productivity is still under investigation.
The fourth HR Management milestone is about employee engagement. The job market has changed dramatically over past twenty years. The job applicant is the one who chooses the organization. Employees do not feel engaged with the organization, and they change jobs quickly. They feel no commitment, and the company can lose the business know-how virtually in minutes.
From this moment, Human Resources acts as the critical business partner. It trains managers to delegate tasks and decision making, provoke innovations and build diverse teams. Human Resources does not focus on single employees; it spreads the best practices through managers and leaders.
The organization that passed the fourth HR milestone has a different HR Organization. It is mature and contributes to meeting the strategic business goals. Human Resources shares the full responsibility with the leadership team and designs the internal environment that keeps employees are empowered and engaged.