Human relations refer to the study of how companies manage and interact with their employees in order to improve the overall employee and organisational effectiveness. It is a field of study which includes topics such as leadership, organisational structure, power centres, and delegation of authority. This particular case would deal with the relationship between human relations and leadership. Human relations also deal with issues that are related to motivation at workplace, fulfilling the needs of individuals or group and improving the quality of life.
Leadership is an element that varies from one situation to another. Leadership, in a small company is quite different from Leadership in a huge organisation (Bill P. Leadership: Debunking the Superhero Myth). The leaders of large and multinational organisations need to build teams that can effectively accomplish the organisation’s strategic objectives. Organisations need dynamic and charismatic leaders who can easily work in different business environments and succeed in their endeavours.
A small background information on Human Relations
During the early part of the 20th century, several management experts devoted their time and efforts in studying the relationship between science and the company workforce. They applied scientific principles to the work activities and this study gave rise to ‘Scientific Management Movement’, in which, the overall production process was broken down into smaller processes and workers were trained to perform specific tasks. These workers were motivated by incentives and performance standards were established. The ‘human relations movement’ was one step ahead of the ‘scientific management movement’, as it considered importance of treating workers as ‘individuals’ first.
Although money is the big motivator for workers, there are several other ways in which managers can motivate their employees to work harder. In fact, many organisations place tremendous importance to employee-motivation activities. The origin of this thought can be traced back to early 20th century.
Key Concepts theories and practices in Human Relations
Hawthorne Studies: In 1927, Elton Mayo and a group of researchers began to study the relationship between employee productivity and working conditions. This study became famous as ‘Hawthorne Studies’. In this study, the researchers varied the intensity of light available to the female workers. When the light was reduced, instead of a fall in productivity, the output actually increased! This revealed that money and security were not the only source of motivation; motivation also depended on feeling important and being appreciated. The female workers, who worked at inferior lighting conditions, had found stability and a sense of belonging in the organisation (Chase, S. 1941).
Motivation in employees: Prior to Hawthorne studies, organisations used to place more importance on money as the main way of motivating its workers. Hawthorne study does not underplay the importance of money in employee motivation, but also gives importance to other factors affecting employee motivation. Every individual is motivated to fulfil his needs. A ‘need’ is therefore an important aspect of motivation.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow devised a list of human needs based on the assumption that people want as much as they can get and their needs keep on increasing. A need that is met does not motivate a person, only those needs that have not been met can act as a source of motivation. Once a need has been satisfied, another one comes up and that demands satisfaction (Maslow, A. 1943, pp: 370-396). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is as under:
Physiological Needs: They are the basic needs like need for shelter, food and clothing. These needs must be satisfied before other higher needs be considered.
Safety Needs: This is the second level and it includes job satisfaction, safety and avoiding unexpected situations.
Social Needs: Once the physiological and safety needs are met, the social needs come up which includes the desire to be accepted by the society, family and various groups.
Esteem Needs: They include higher level needs such as recognition, status, respect from others and responsibilities.
Self Actualization Needs: This is the need that is present at the top of the hierarchy, it includes the desire to realise one’s own potential, and utilizing one’s own talent and capabilities. This is the highest stage of motivation, where a person can dream of reaching the greatest heights of success. Organisations work very hard to make sure that its employees realise their self actualization needs by working in teams and achieving their desired goals. One of the best examples of this is Google, which provides its employees with several facilities and opportunities to bring out innovation and excellence in their work.
Theory X and Y: Psychologist Douglas McGregor introduced a concept of theory X and theory Y, describing the different assumptions that managers make about the employee behaviour (McGregor, D. 1960, pp 33-34). The typical ‘theory X’ managers view employees as being lethargic, having dislike for work and requiring close supervision. ‘Theory Y’ managers assume that the employees want to satisfy their higher level needs (social, esteem and self actualization needs) by working hard and remaining motivated. Theory Y is a more practical way of functioning and is being used in several organisations today such as Apple and Microsoft.
Leadership as a way of motivating people
People so what people see (Maxwell, 2013). In large organisations, human relations can receive a major boost by a right kind of leadership. Let us take an example of Procter and Gamble, whose former CEO, Bob McDonald, was a great example of a dynamic leader. P&G is a multinational consumer goods company and has been consistently ranked among the ‘most admired companies’. It has several popular brands under its product portfolio, such as Braun, Head and Shoulders, Gillette, Hugo Boss, Duracell, Puma, Pampers and Vicks. Bob McDonald became President and Chief Executive of P&G on July 1, 2009. He served as a company CEO for 4 years and retired on June 30, 2013. Under the leadership of Bob McDonald, the consumer retail giant’s sales increased by 3% every year and the company made several additions to its vast product portfolio. The Chief Executive magazine also recognised P&G with the “Best Company for leadership development” title. (www.pg.com).
Bob MacDonald’s vision, people centric skills and leadership strategy had propelled P&G to staggering heights. Today, P&G is one of the few companies in that is not only humongous in terms of sales but also globally respected for its fair policies, employee welfare, customer centric approach and corporate social initiatives. If we analyse its leader’s greatest strength, we find that:
- He was his people’s man who always encouraged employees to work hard, use innovation and excel at their workplace.
- He strongly believed in philosophy of “Social response Capitalism” that joined his company’s profits to its social responsibility. This helped P&G to build a brand that was trusted, recognised and revered all over the world.
- He practised ‘value based leadership’ that combined the best values of his organisation, employees, and customers, thereby creating a competitive advantage.
- He aimed at achieving the ‘self actualization needs’ of his employees. He also encouraged his employees to develop social skills and look for higher challenges.
- His form of leadership was very similar to ‘theory Y’ that was devised by McGregor.
- He placed a lot of emphasis on employee motivation and its relation to their performance at work.
Thanks to Bob McDonald’s employee driven initiatives, P&G, today, has a robust work culture along with tremendous sales record in all the markets where it operates.
How can we apply these concepts in our personal and professional lives?
It is very important to analyse those lessons that we have learnt from the theories of Human Relations. It would benefit us greatly, if we could apply some of these concepts in our personal and professional fronts. Some of the benefits that can be derived from the application of these concepts would be:
- Identifying our primary, secondary and higher level needs: A person will remain motivated if he or she recognised their self actualization needs. We need to identify what we want to achieve in this life? What do we want to become? What should be done in order to achieve this? What are the best ways of achieving our goals? How much efforts are we supposed to put in? Once, we answer these questions, we can identify our needs.
- Develop Motivation (Petryni, 2014): Once we know what our personal and professional goal in life is, we would be automatically motivated to achieve it. This motivation needs to be supplemented with constant hard work and determination.
- Improve our interactions with our family members and office colleagues: It is very important to develop appropriate soft skills in order to succeed in achieving our goals, since we require constant support and help of other people in succeeding in our endeavours. An empathising approach towards people would take us long way towards our goal. Group efforts must be encouraged.
- Observe great leaders and learn their ways of functioning: Great leaders such as Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Bob McDonald always believed in the potential of their own people and encouraged employee participation in all the company activities. Their style of function inspires thousands of managers. In my personal experience, we must observe these leaders and learn their human relation skills.
Today, many companies are putting efforts to improve the interpersonal skills of their employees. Apart from showing a good level of team participation, an employee is expected to communicate and express his ideas, issues and views to the top management. The overall idea is to improve the two way communication between the employee and organisation and to enhance this relationship. The ultimate purpose is to mould an employee to become a future leader. A leader who can solve conflicts, arrive at resolutions and steer the company towards the path of success!
Bill P. Leadership: Debunking the Superhero Myth. Retrieved from online.wsj.com/
Chase, S. (1941) Men at work. New York. Print.
Kotler, P., Keller, L., Koshy, A. (2009). Marketing Management. United States, Pearson, Print
Maslow, A. (1943) A theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review. Print.
Maxwell, J. (2013) Leadership principle: People do what people see. Retrieved from: http://www.success.com/article/leadership-principle-people-do-what-people-see
McDonald. (2011) What I Believe In. Retrieved from www.pg.com
Mc Gregor, D. (1960) the Human Side of Enterprise. McGraw Hill. New York. Print.
Petryni, M. Importance of Human Relations at Workplace. Retrieved from: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/importance-human-relations-workplace-23061.html
P&G Product Portfolio. (2014). Retrieved from www.pg.com