Labour management vs welfare work: an investigation into the origins and development of personnel management ideas and practices in Britain from 1890-1939

Evans, Alastair (2003) Labour management vs welfare work: an investigation into the origins and development of personnel management ideas and practices in Britain from 1890-1939. Doctoral thesis, University of West London.

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The aim of this research is to make contributions to knowledge in two areas: first, to explore from an historical perspective the development of personnel management ideas and practices in Britain in the period from 1890 to 1939 (a task which hitherto has not been satisfactorily undertaken) and secondly to assess the implications of the findings to current theoretical frameworks.

Very little research has been undertaken into the historical development of personnel management in Britain, in contrast to the United States where anumber of such studies have been published. The main exception is a published history of the professional institute published by MM Niven in 1967. Whilst providing useful insights, its main concerns were with the internal affairs of the institute, not with the development of ideas and practices. Niven traces the development of the institute from its origins in an association of welfare workers established in 1913 and since it stands as the only historical account of historical development in personnel management in Britain, it has been universally cited as the single authority on the subject, together with its main thesis that personnel management in Britain has its origins solely in welfare work.

It was a minimally explained, but potentially significant event in the institute’s history that provided the stimulus for this research. Niven recounts that the institute changed its name to the Institute of Labour Management in 1931,suggesting that welfare work had undergone some ‘restyling’ around this time. Significantly, Niven recounts that so called ‘labour managers’were predominantly male, whilst welfare workers were predominantly female. From this, it was hypothesised that labour managers might have entirely separate origins from those engaged in welfare work and if so, this might call into question the sole origins of British personnel management in welfare work. Thus, the thesis has been concerned with a search for the origins of the so called ‘labour management’ movement in Britain, the existence of which has not hitherto been commented upon or even recognised.

Drawing from contemporary texts, contemporary journals broadly concerned with the topic of management and case material drawn from company archives,the research endeavours to show that labour management did indeed have
entirely separate origins, evolving from works management before 1914,through a ‘labour officer’ role with particular involvement in industrial relations during the First World War, to that of a fully fledged functional labour
management specialism in the inter-war years promulgating ideas and practices strongly influenced by scientific management. Moreover, the research will endeavour to show that it was this set of ideas and practices that laid the
foundations of modern personnel work, whilst the contributions of welfare workers to this remained minimal, leaving only the legacy of today’s professional institute and an ongoing debate which persists to the present time
about what role, if any, employee welfare should play in contemporary human resource management.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Keywords: Personnel management; Human resource management; Welfare work; Employee welfare
Subjects: Business and finance
Depositing User: Rod Pow
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2012 13:20
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 07:16


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