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A Concise History and Description of

Personnel Management and Human Resource Management


I. Introductory Remarks:

Stimulating motivation and ensuring effective organization of employees within any properly functioning business enterprise or governmental agency are two elements of utmost importance to the operating entity's reputation, quality performance, client-satisfaction quotient and/or ultimate profitability. One vital function of personnel management theories and practices, therefore, is to ensure optimal efficiency through proven motivational practices, and to do so at minimal cost and with acceptable results, "getting the work done" through a system of accountability and delegation of authority (Lachance, 1999). This, however, can be viewed as a modern version of what seem to be goals and priorities of ‘personnel management' operational and managerial practices on the threshold of the new millennium. The current day system, acceptably ethical, effective and respected, evolved gradually out of relative chaos, corruption, trial and error.

The history in France, in the U.K., and in the United States of Personnel Management as a distinct managerial science is not entirely divorced from the political and social trends of the last two centuries in these three prominent and innovative nations. Successive waves of governing bodies, over a period of more than a century, heavily influenced agencies, ministries and departments, with direct implications for the private sector, as well, which frequently followed suit, particularly in the early days of personnel and employee practices.

II. Brief History of Personnel Mgt. in France:

In France, the concept of Personnel Management is closely related (and since the time of Napoleon always has been) to governmental service under the title of La Fonction Publique, i.e. The Civil Service. Gradually, governmental agencies grew to enormous proportions and their impact was also felt in the private world of commerce and business. Today, after a century and a half of administrative evolution, 36% of all public employees in France are connected with vital services to the civilian population (F.P.-Gouv, 1999). As in both the historical and contemporary private sector, they are governed by a set of rules and regulations which included many of the same changes and modifications implemented over the decades in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Yet, Personnel Management, as an administrative science, in France is highly developed and derives its modern basis in a number of social theories and paradigms, such as those developed by major 17th and 18th century socio-philosophers, including Rousseau, Montesquieu and Richelieu.

More contemporary efforts, of course, have followed on the heels of these early thinkers and, most recently, for example in November of 1996, Alain Juppé, Prime Minister, issued the latest in a long line of administrative decrees streamlining and simplifying personnel management and administrative policy in France (Juppé, 1996). As if by osmosis, the private sector in France, consisting of major and smaller industries, responds, sometimes reluctantly, to new social legislation and administrative practices which can affect their internal structure and organization. Of course, not all French businesses organize their personnel management systems, nor have they historically, along government lines. However, the concepts, for example, of collective bargaining, and personal merit have long been integrated into industrial practices as well as within government ministries and agencies in France.

III. Historical Remarks concerning Personnel Mgt. in Britain:

Across the channel, in the United Kingdom, it would be somewhat fanciful to say that fair play and fundamental employee rights have historically taken precedence over exploitative practices, since this has not always been the case. The Industrial Revolution in England was replete with well-publicized instances of employee abuse and the outright trampling of the basic rights of employees by today's standards. However, significant improvements, in the last several years, have been made in British Labor Law, such as the "The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998", preventing whistle-blowers from being terminated, and Parliament has sought to enforce all new regulations, in both public and private sectors, which further discourage abusive practices ( CCH, 1999). Amazingly, the United States does not have a whistle-blower protection statute effectively in place at this time. Nonetheless, the main values which motivate worker productivity and excellence in Britain today are patterned, to a large degree, after contemporary thinking in American business and governmental personnel circles, according to many observers.

IV. Transition to U.S. Personnel Mgt. History:

Due to the influence of American thinking in the private and public sectors where major strides have been made in the area of Personnel Management in the last four decades, it is fitting to examine several key concepts which pertain largely to the United States, but which also have had an impact on Western European thinking, notably in France, the U.K. and in Germany. Of course, the history of Personnel Management in the United States, as in Europe, is built upon at least 170 years of experience and hard-won insight.

Outline of Remainder of Paper


Civil Service

Administrative Effectiveness

Collective Bargaining

Affirmative Action