A Traditional Approach to Human Resource Management
written by: N Nayab
• edited by: Jean Scheid
• updated: 5/18/2011
The human resource management traditional approach focuses on personnel functions such as recruitment, performance appraisals, payroll administration, and the like, with some employee-centric development initiatives such as training and development interventions, motivation initiatives, and others.
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Industrial and Salaried Model of Traditional Human Resource Management
The industrial model of the human resource management traditional approach, applicable to blue-collared factory workers, is a controlled work atmosphere marked by narrow, rigid job definitions and detailed workplace rules and procedures. Workers have much autonomy and deviating from the written policy and procedure attract disciplinary action, with discretion remaining an exclusive prerogative of management. The trade union dominates collective bargaining settlements define pay scales, and seniority decides promotion opportunities.
The salaried model of the human resource management traditional approach, applicable to white-collar jobs have less rigid terms of employment and broadly defined job descriptions, but the basic concept of a tightly defined work structure in terms of written job responsibilities and sticking to the brief, with only top managers considered competent to take major decisions remains. Merit, as determined by the performance appraisal procedure and educational qualifications, ranks paramount in deciding promotions and pay fixation.
The major characteristics of the human resource management traditional approach common to both the industrial model and salaried model focus on functional activities and process orientation, control activities, and reconciliation between management and workforce.
Image Credit: geograph.org.uk/Simon Johnson
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Focus on Functional Activities and Process Orientation
Human resource management traditional approaches focus on functional activities such as human resource planning, job analysis, recruitment and selection, maintaining employee relations, performance appraisals, compensation management, and training and development.
The traditional approach toward human resource management also focuses on establishing policies, procedures, contracts and guidelines, and attempts to drive employee performance and achieve organizational goals by making employees adhere to such carefully crafted documents.
For instance, the recruitment and selection activity strictly follows laid down norms such as undertaking a job analysis first, advertising the vacancy based on the job specifications and job requirements, collecting resumes, conducting written tests, interviews and any other selection method, as well as creating a rank list based on the published selection criteria.
Such clear rules and written procedures extend to all gamuts of human resource activities. It usually remains standardized and inflexible, and considers the fulfillment of corporate strategic goals only marginally. It does, however, remain resilient to incorporate trends such as Total Quality Management.
The focus on functional activity and process orientation leads to the establishment of an institutionalized workforce management effort with fixed grades and restrictive movement from one grade to another.
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A major activity of a traditional human resource management approach is monitoring and supervision of the workforce to ensure compliance to the established rules, procedures, guidelines, and contracts.
The key driver in the formation and maintenance of such rules and regulations is group negotiation and collective bargaining rather than individual facilitation. The contracts, grades, and benefits tend to remain standardized rather than individualistic.
The human resource traditional approach aims at motivating the workforce through direct methods such as pay, incentives, rewards, job simplification, and the like to drive performance. This approach works on the premise that improved job satisfaction leads to improved performance, and does not consider the modern motivational approaches such as challenging work or application of creativity.
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Reconciliation Between Management and Workforce
A major role of traditional resource management is reconciling the interests of management and the workforce. The traditional approach presumes management and workers having distinct and conflicting goals and needs, with the goal of human resource managers being to effect a reconciliation to drive the organization.
The traditional resource approach takes a resource-centered perspective, directed at ensuring that the organization has adequate and suitable resources for its needs. At the same time, they do not totally identify with management interests and strive to understand and articulate the aspirations and views of the workforce to the management, just as sales representatives understand and articulate the aspirations of the customers to the management.
A striking application in this dilemma is the controlled access to training offered in traditional resource management. Training and development interventions in human resource management traditional approaches usually confine to developing employee skills that benefit the employees’ role in the organization.
The reconciliation between the management and the workforce leads to the industrial relations component, a major activity in traditional resource management. The industrial relations component extends far beyond overseeing the implementation of labor laws.
In the eventuality of employee-management conflict, human resource managers first try to persuade both parties to reach a common ground that sets the stage for negotiations. Failure of negotiations usually entails the human resource team attempting to implement managerial decisions with legislative backing and by adopting punitive measures such as disciplinary actions on erring workers and the like. The counter-reaction of the workers on the refusal of management to entertain their views could lead to employee discontent, strikes, work slowdowns, or other forms of protest, which the human resources team tries to negate through various industrial relations tools.
Image Credit: flickr.com/pingnews.com
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Traditional human resource management remains a staff function, and the exclusive responsibility of the human resource department. Since the 1980s, the concept of strategic human resources has gained ground, which entails a greater linkage of the human resources function to the organization’s strategic goals.
The strategic human resource management approach focuses on people management programs and long-term solutions, and stresses organizational development interventions, achieving employee organizational fit, and other aspects that ensure employees add value to the organization. This contemporary approach integrates human resource management as a line function and focuses on developing the employee as a whole and in turn, benefiting the organization, rather than the other way round. Strategic human resource management also responds more effectively to changes in the external environment.
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Tripathi, P. C. (2002). Human Resources Development, Sultan Chand & Sons, New Delhi
Gomez, Meija (1998). Human Resource Planning, Pearson Education Canada.