ABSTRACT

During the 1950s and the 1960s there was a clear separation between industrial relations and administrative management, especially in large organizations and public administration. The two decades spanning the 1960s and the 1970s were characterized by the increasing ascendancy and dominance of the industrial relations function. During this period, a debate originated about the state of British management and the implications for competitiveness of poor management practice. It was considered that British management needed to be professionalized. The professionalization encompassed all management areas, including industrial relations (collective relations and the management of conflict) as well as other aspects of the employment relationship (personnel and administration). This issue was addressed by the Wilson Government, most notably through the establishment of the elite management business schools and a network of regional management centres, and coincided with an expansion of the activities of the Institute of Personnel Management (IPM), later to become the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). In the 1980s, there was a move towards an increasingly integrated personnel

function around industrial relations (later termed employee relations), manpower planning (later termed employee resourcing), and training (later termed employee development). This decade also saw the emergence of the concept of human resource management (HRM), originating in the USA, in British business schools. The growth of business education provided a platform for the dissemination of HRM ideas and the promotion of a strategic view of management (Bach and Sisson, 2000: 13). The significance of HRM can be linked to the broader political and economic context of the period, a context of declining incidence of trade unionism and intensified competition, and the continuing concerns with the state of British management. In practice, HRM had relatively little impact on the personnel function in

the 1980s or the 1990s. According to Sisson (2001: 93), the impact had been partial at best with limited changes in employment practices, and some recognition of the importance of the management of people, the integration with business strategy and the professionalization of the function. Few organizations

were pursuing the high-commitment model. In addition, HRM practices were more likely to be found in unionized than in non-unionized workplaces (Cully et al., 1999: 110). The shift then from an operating to a strategic role, from control to commitment, and from collectivism to individualism, advocated by proponents of HRM, did not occur to any great extent. WERS constitutes one of the few sources of nationally representative data

able to shed light on these aspects of the management of employment relations.1 By the late 1990s, it was possible to map and reflect on some changes, notably: the growth in managers with employment relations-specific job titles, including ‘human resource managers’; the ‘feminization’ of the profession and its movement towards a more formal, qualifications-based footing; the changing roles and responsibilities of employment relations managers; and the contours of the employment relations function at workplace level and above, including the time and staff devoted to managing employment relations (Millward et al., 2000). This chapter returns to these issues to examine how trends have developed since 1998 and considers whether employment relations management has become more strategic. The chapter makes use of several indicators to measure the degree of integration of personnel management into wider business goals, and explores the workplace characteristics associated with a strategic approach to the management of employees. Much of the analysis in the chapter is based on information provided by

managers interviewed on site, thus excluding information on a small minority of workplaces where the management interview took place elsewhere in the organization, generally at a higher level in the organization.2 The reason for this exclusion is that data relating to individual respondents, such as gender, job tenure and job title, cannot be related to workplace characteristics where the respondent is based elsewhere in the organization. Where these considerations are not relevant, analyses are based on all respondents.