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History of HRM: Craft System & Human Relations Movement

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  • 0:02 Craft System
  • 0:57 Industrial Revolution
  • 2:30 Scientific Management
  • 3:07 Human Relations Movement
  • 4:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
Human resource management can trace its historical roots back to pre-industrial society. In this lesson, we'll explore the history of human resource management from before the Industrial Revolution up to the human relations movement.

Craft System

Before the Industrial Revolution, productive economic activity in Western Europe and the United States was based upon a craft system consisting of small shops owned by master artisans. Let's look at an example of how human resources were developed under the craft system.

Alfred is a cabinetmaker. He makes handcrafted furniture and operates in a small shop where he and his family also live. Alfred is part of a multi-tiered craft system of education and training. He is a master cabinetmaker, the most skilled class of artisan. He takes on an apprentice, Travis, who works for him in exchange for room, board and training.

Eventually, Travis will become a journeyman cabinetmaker, which is skilled artisan who still works under a master like Alfred. One day, Travis may even become a master cabinetmaker. As the master, Alfred is in control of all the training, development and welfare of his apprentices and journeymen.

Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution led to the decline of the craft system. Master artisans and their apprentices and journeymen were replaced with large factories that fundamentally changed the nature of work. Instead of highly skilled masters teaching apprentices a trade, most production shifted into large factories where the manufacture of a product was divided up between relatively unskilled workers.

Unlike the craft system, work was very specialized, where a complex task was broken down into a series of simpler ones. For example, one group of workers may cut boards for a piece of furniture, different sets of employees may put different parts of furniture together, a different group may paint or stain the wood and a final group may do any upholstering.

What did this mean for human resource management? A new class of employee appears in the workplace - the manager. Unlike under the craft system, managers were often not owners of the company. Some managers had responsibility for supervising employees in their work task. Unlike under the craft system, however, it was not necessarily the case that managers actually knew how to do the work they were supervising. Their role was to ensure employees did their work.

Other managers were responsible for administrative support functions, including what we know as HR functions. For example, workers needed to be selected for employment. Also, since workers in the factories were provided a wage in exchange for their labor, development of payroll systems and practices was required.

Scientific Management

In the late 19th and early 20th century, scientific management theory offered a systematic approach to employee management and development. Scientific management tried to improve a company's productivity by improving the efficiency of how work tasks were completed using scientific, engineering and mathematical principles.

For example, a study may have been undertaken to determine the most efficient manner for a worker to shovel coal into a furnace. The task would be broken down into distinct motions and the optimal number of motions would be determined. Employees would then be trained to shovel coal in the optimal manner.

Human Relations Movement

The next development in human relations started in the 1920s and sought to put the 'human' in human resources. The human relations school took a behavioral psychology perspective to managing people and was focused on finding ways to increase worker motivation and satisfaction to increase productivity. It was less impersonal than the technical approach taken by scientific management.

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