MAINTAINING HUMAN RELATIONS WITH BUSINESS GROWTH: What is Human Relations?

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Dr. John Psarouthakis, Executive Editor of www.BusinessThinker.com, Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, publisher of www.GavdosPress.com.  Founder and former CEO, JPIndusries, Inc., a Fortune 500 industrial corporation

In this series of articles, we examine the human relations issue in the corporate environment for growth.  After a discussion on what is “Human Relations” it would be very instructive to browse through a set of questions in order to focus your thoughts on human relations in your own company.

Overall we will write articles on the following aspects of this major topic:

WHAT IS HUMAN RELATIONS?

ASSESSING YOUR HUMAN RELATIONS STRATEGY

IMPORTANCE OF THE HUMAN RELATIONS ISSUE

CHARISMA, CORPORATE CULTURE AND SHIFTS IN HUMAN RELATIONS

CHOICE OF VALUES

HOW FIRMS SHARE VALUES AND GOALS

EFFECTIVENESS OF HUMAN RELATIONS STRATEGIES

CHANGE IN THE APPROACH TO FOSTERING SHARED VALUES

RETAINING COMMITMENT TO MISSION WITH GROWTH

BUILDING CULTURE AT JPI

SOME GUIDELINES FOR EFFECTIVE HUMAN RELATIONS

 

WHAT IS HUMAN RELATIONS?

Effective human relations refers to the extent individual employees are willing to accomplish overall organizational objectives.1  We refer to willing here rather than to actual doing because many other factors come into play, in addition to employee predilection in determining actual performance–appropriate fit of skills and talents, accurate expectations, sufficient tools and assistance, and other factors beyond even the firm’s control.  Though they overlap somewhat, we look at five components of human relations effectiveness:  1) morale — overall job satisfaction and commitment of employees; 2) goal integration –consistency of organization and individual goals; 3) a consistent view of the mission by CEO and managers; 4) a consistent view of values; 5) how effectively values are shared.

The human relations movement can be traced back to the Hawthorne Experiments in the 1930s.2  Hawthorne researchers were originally interested in effects of light and noise on worker productivity in a sewing machine factory.  Their unexpected results showed no correlation between illumination and worker output.  In some trials, the darker it got, the more workers produced.  Obviously, light levels alone were not affecting performance.  Though a number of alternative explanations existed, they all pointed to “people” factors.  The results of the Hawthorne experiments and others by Roethlisberger and associates triggered systematic research into the connection between employee attitudes and performance.

The human relations movement can also be traced to motivation theorists include MacGregor, Likert, Herzberg, and Maslow–all of whom looked beyond the economic models of work behavior to more complex psychological needs workers desire from the workplace.3 These needs include praise, recognition, power, accomplishment, and pride from a job well done.

Our growing understanding of human behavior underscores the importance of providing opportunities  for people to fulfill individual and organizational needs simultaneously.  Without this link, the firm will experience increased absenteeism, turnover, vandalism, grievances, strikes and litigation.  Where human relations are poorly managed, people may quietly sabotage their work efforts or simply work in a sloppy manner.  Worker attitudes are also linked to the quality of output.   Committed employees feel more pride of workmanship.  How do firms foster such pride?  As many have discovered, no amount of pleading or threatening will improve employee performance as effectively as positive approaches. Today’s workers may not be better educated, but they certainly have higher expectations than their forebears and most won’t work for money and job security alone.    Empowering employees and managers to make decisions is far more effective than “idiot-proofing” jobs.

Despite 35 years of field research pointing to the worker’s importance in the overall company success, a major beating by the Japanese is what finally made this sink in.  Ironically, much of Japan’s success is traced to a U.S. citizen, Dr. Deming.  Known for his work in statistical process control,  Deming’s philosophy is grounded in early motivation theorist Douglas MacGregor and his Theory Y view of workers.  Theory Y asserts that the employee wants to do a good job, and does so when given the chance. 4  We now see more American companies implementing Theory-Y human-relations concepts, adding new twists as they go.  McDonald’s has demonsrated that these ideas even work in Russia!

Next article will be:  ASSESSING YOUR HUMAN RELATIONS STRATEGY

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