Many flaws can be found with the classical approach, the birth of which is widely accredited to Fredrick Taylor, in particular how employees became bitter and angry with the levels of “managerial thuggery” (Rose 1988) that Taylor promoted. There already existed high levels of worker-management conflict, and Taylors approach merely heightened the tensions that it had set out to tackle.
Taylors view, and later, Henri Fayol’s view of how an organisation could be managed solely focused on the productivity of the worker and how efficiently work could be carried out. It did not take into account the morale of employees or any of their emotional needs, resulting in a workforce which became increasingly dissatisfied with their working environment.
Mayo and Maslow developed an approach which was more emphasized on the management of worker morale and leadership rather than merely viewing employees as “greedy robots” (Rose 1988). This theory, which would evolve into what is known as the Human Relations approach to management, was focused on the thought that a happy and satisfied employee was a more productive employee.
The classical approach to organisational management (1900-1930) emerged from the Industrial Revolution and was born out of a necessity to replace the “trial and error” approach, which was prevalent prior to this, with a more focused and consistent approach to how an organisation should be managed. This new approach was focused on the efficiency of an organisation and in improving the performance and output of its employees. The classical approach can be divided into three main areas, scientific management, bureaucracy and administrative management. . (_Managing Change. Bernard Burnes)_
Fredrick Taylor (1856-1917) viewed the management of organisations production efficiency as a science and he is accredited with being the father of scientific management. Taylors view was that there was “one best way” to perform a task and his approach focused on breaking down each task so that it could be performed in the most efficient way. His research was heavily influenced by the studies of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth(1914). While Taylor was determined to reduce the time it took to complete a task, the Gilbreths tried to reduce the number of motions taken to complete a task. Taylor’s opinion was that “_human beings are predisposed to seek the maximum reward for the minimum effort”_ _(Taylor 1911)_ and to counteract this, managers must closely supervise workers to ensure that each predefined step in a task is carried out correctly.
By breaking down each work process into smaller tasks controlled by the management, the knowledge required by workers about the work process is reduced. Workers become mere “cogs” in the machine that is the organisation, and can easily be replaced, as minimum training of a replacement worker is required. This in turn increases the managements control as the workers no longer have a monopoly of knowledge about the work process and cannot use their knowledge as a bargaining tool. Taylor, like the Gilbreths, believed that in order to increase a workers’ productivity, he should be motivated by monetary rewards for the amount of work he carries out.
“_When a naturally energetic man works for a few days beside a lazy one, the logic of the situation is unanswerable ‘Why should I work hard when that lazy fellow gets the same pay that I do and does only half as much work?’ “(Taylor 1911)_
While Taylor and the Gilbreths were focused on improving the productivity of individual workers at task level, Henri Fayol (1841-1925) with the administrative approach, was focused on efficiency at organisational level, top down as opposed to bottom up(Fayol, 1949). Fayols principles of organisation are; division of work, authority, discipline, unity of command ,unity of direction, subordination of individual interest to general interests, remuneration, centralization, scalar chain, order, equity, stability of tenure of personnel, initiative, and esprit de corps.(Mullins,1989:201-3).
Max Weber (1864-1924) developed the theory of bureaucratic management which, similarly to Fayols approach, was focused on the overall structure of an organisation. According to Weber a bureaucracy must have a number of distinct characteristics. It must have a hierarchical chain of command, where each employer is answerable to a superior, therefore power flows from the top down. Division of labour, where each task is broken down into smaller tasks, with different employees working on each separate part of the task. Each employee is selected on merit and qualification only with no bias shown to favourites. Formalised and detailed rules and regulations must be set out.
HUMAN RELATIONS APPROACH
The beginnings of the Human Relations approach can be traced back to studies on worker fatigue which were carried out while the scientific approach was still being established, and it is fair to say that both approaches overlap. Elton Mayo (1880-1949) expanded on these studies in the 1930’s, most notably with his Hawthorn experiments. (_Managing Change. Bernard Burnes)_
Mayo did not believe that workers were only concerned by monetary rewards, but instead suggested that by having their social needs met at work they would in turn be more motivated and their performance would improve. In his experiments he divided workers into groups and studied how their productivity responded to changes in the environment such as lighting and working conditions. To his surprise the worsening working conditions did not lead to worker productivity declining, in fact productivity increased. This led him to conclude that workers motivation was increased by better communication, as the workers were consulted with prior to, and throughout the experiments. It was also concluded that workers performed better when they were in a team, and when they were receiving greater attention from their managers.
Abraham Maslow (1908 – 1970) developed a management theory which is referred to as Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, as shown below.
Maslow believed that in order for a person to concentrate on the higher needs, first his lower, more basic needs must to be satisfied. He argued that once a person’s lowest level physiological and safety needs are met; the higher level needs become more important to them. For example in a management situation the physiological needs of an employee are things like adequate lunch breaks and sufficient wages. The safety needs are met when a safe working environment is provided. Social needs are satisfied when there is a sense of community in the working environment. The esteem needs of employees are the needs for recognition from superiors for work carried out and achievements. Self Actualisation is the need of an employee to reach their full potential, this need changes, as different levels of potential are met the employee then needs to attain a higher level.
Douglas McGregor (1906-1964) stated that there are basically two types of manager, one who had a negative view of his employees and the other who had a more positive view. In his concept he called the negative view Theory X, and the positive one Theory Y. Theory X assumes that employees do not like work, and a threat of punishment is required to ensure that they perform to required standards. It is also of the assumption that workers do not have any ambition and will avoid responsibility; they are primarily interested in security.
Theory X could be used to describe the Classical approaches to management. Theory Y managers on the other hand take the human relations approach and assume that work is natural to people and can be a source of satisfaction to them. Theory Y managers believe that workers will seek responsibility and are motivated to meet goals. McGregor believed that managers who adapted the Theory X approach created an environment where workers were only motivated by financial or material gain, whereas Theory Y managers created a workplace where employees were more responsible and more willing to contribute. McGregor came to the conclusion that organisations needed to adapt the approach set out in Theory Y, which is essentially the human relations approach_._
_(Burnes. Managing Change)_
For the purpose of this essay extensive research was carried out on the approaches that modern industries take regarding management. Information gathered from an interview with an employee of ESB Ireland, an electricity supplier which is one of the largest employers in Ireland, gave a unique insight into how this particular organisation continues to put into effect many facets of the human relations approach.
Eoghan, who is employed as an electrical engineer, provided documentation and described how at the beginning of each year all employees have a one to one meeting with their manager to discuss and agree upon goals which they then attempt to achieve throughout the year. The employee is provided with guidance from their manager regarding the work processes on a continuous basis. The diagram shown below, which is taken from the ESB’s performance and development document, illustrates how formal and informal communication between manager and employee is seen as essential and is maintained throughout the year.
_(Performance and Development Document ESB 2014)_
Coaching is also provided on a one to one basis with employees when it is required.
_”Coaching is a proven means, carried out in a confidential manner, by which more individual potential can be unlocked to achieve higher levels of career and business performance”_
_(ESB Performance and Development Document 2014)_
Through researching a case study carried out on building materials group CRH, similar approaches to performance management were identified. The CRH approach to performance management is broken down into three areas which are almost identical to those taken at ESB, these are; planning, coaching and reviewing.
As is the case at ESB the work processes are carefully structured and discussed with the employee in the planning stage. Coaching is also carried out for each employee’s specific needs which in turn increases knowledge and improves communication. In the review stage each employee is assessed individually and given the opportunity to respond to feedback.
_”Self-assessment, collection of information, appraisal and a review meeting all drive performance improvement”_
CRH are of the view that it is essential that employees are capable of working on their own initiative or as part of a team, as they state in their candidate requirements that candidates must have;
_”Ability to work on own initiative and as part of a team_
_Ability to analyse situations and develop innovative solutions_
_Problem solving ability”_
It’s understood that the most important asset of any organisation is its employees, and trying to retain the services of these employees. The classical approach to management does not take this into account and instead is solely concerned with increasing productivity and extracting the maximum labour from its workers. It can be argued that the classical approach increases productivity and raises the output of each employee; however, in the long run it does not lead to a satisfied and contented workforce. This approach is dated when it comes to the fast paced business environment that exists today. In most modern workplaces it is essential that workers are capable of working on their own initiative and making important decisions themselves, the classical approach to management does nothing to promote or nurture these skills, and in fact it discourages them.
The classical school of thought is that there is “one best way” for all organisations to be structured and operate _(Burnes. 2004)_, however, as established through this research, the approach that ESB takes disproves this theory, as each employee is treated as an individual and encouraged to provide opinion on how the work process should be structured and best performed.
The meetings and one to one contact with managers gives the employee a clear understanding of what is expected of him and improves communication between the employee and management, which is one of the core aspects of the Human Relations Approach. These initial meetings as well as the guidance which is provided throughout year to the employee by ESB management is clearly influenced by Mayo’s conclusions following the Hawthorn experiments that employee morale and performance increased with better communication and prior consultation to the work process. _(Burnes. 2004)._
The coaching sessions which are provided at ESB help to improve skills and self-confidence in employees as well as providing management with the assurance that their workers are competent and performing to a high standard. This type of approach to coaching and continuous improvement and learning is in direct contrast to the ideals of the Classical Approach, and particularly to Fredrick Taylors.
Taylor believed in reducing employee’s knowledge about the work process rather than encouraging learning and understanding. By reducing the workers knowledge he believed that management had a greater control over their employee’s (_Burnes. Managing Change)._ The view taken by ESB is completely different, as they believe that the more skilled and confident that an employee becomes, the greater an asset to the organisation he will be. By providing training and coaching to employees ESB are investing in human capital, which means the more skilled an employee becomes the greater his economic value is to ESB_._
There is a quote from CRH that appears in the case study which was researched which proves that their organisation embodies almost every aspect of the Human Relations approach;
_”The challenge for CRH is to be a Group that attracts and retains people_
_not just because it is an industry leader but also because it provides a_
_culture and working environment which creates opportunities for all_
_employees to grow personally and professionally.”_