Understanding Human Relations Approach
According to the human relations approach, the ultimate satisfaction of the workers/employees in the working environment is the key to achieve organizational goals and increase productivity. In earlier studies on scientific management and administrative management, there was only a focus on workers as productive factors. But Elton Mayo emphasized there is the importance of people in the organization and workers should not be treated as mere factors of production but should be considered as human beings.
He contended that the fertility of the employees can be promoted by social factors such as the moral and satisfactory relation between management and workers.
In an organization, the term “human relations” is usually used to describe the way of interacting the managers with their workers. Workers’ attitudes, feelings, and needs are extremely important on the job, so first, the manager should determine his worker’s expectations to satisfy them.
Elton Mayo, the introducer of the “Human Relations Approach/Theory”. Mayo was a professor at the Harvard Business School. With his colleagues, Mayo conducted a series of experiments from 1924 to 1932 at the Hawthrone Plant of Western Electric Company in Chicago. Thus, this approach is also known as the Hawthrone experiments.
4 phases of the Hawthorne experiment can be explained as below;
4 Phases of the Hawthorne Experiment
#1 Illumination Experiment
This experiment was conducted to find out the effect on productivity by illuminating the light bulb from the workplace.
In 1924 this experiment was started and continued for three years. During the experiment, two groups of workers were observed. From one group of worker’s places, the light bulb was illuminated and in another group the light bulb held constant, but in both conditions, productivity increased.
From this experiment, the researchers concluded that improving only the working conditions could not improve productivity but promoting social relations among workers as a group member also improve the productivity of the organization. Thus human element is more important in the workplace.
#2 Relay Assembly Test Room Experiment
In this experiment two groups of six females, telephone relay assemblers were put in separate rooms. Frequently working conditions were changed in one room such as hours of work, hot launches, rest periods, wage incentives, nature of supervision, etc., and no change was made in another room. Though the frequent changes being made, even through passes of times the productivity continuously increased. Even when the improvement in physical working conditions is withdrawn, the productivity and the morale of the group remain unchanged.
After this, the researcher concluded that socio-psychological factors such as feelings of importance, recognition, appreciation, praise-giving, participation, and non-directive supervision are the key to higher worker productivity.
#3 Mass Interviewing Program
This phase of the experiment is conducted to withdraw human relations, what cause affect workers relation in their working life.
Under this phase, a group of 20,000 workers was interviewed for knowing their perceptions of working life. The main focus of this interviewing program was on human relations rather than on physical working conditions.
After completing the interview, it was confirmed that informal relations, social and psychological needs influence the worker’s behavior and increase productivity.
#4 Bank Wiring Observation Room Experiment
Under this experiment, 14 male workers were formed into a small work-group and intensively observed for seven months in the bank’s wiring room. The men were engaged in the assembly of terminal banks for the use of telephone exchange.
The purpose of this experiment is to make a more detailed analysis of the social relationships in a workgroup.
After completing this experiment, researchers concluded that employees would labor hard if they believe that the management is concerned about their welfare and supervisors paid special attention and care for them. The workers are guided more by group production norms than by official production norms.
Contribution of Human Relations Theory
The results of the Hawthorne experiment were published in 1941. The results have led to an increase in knowledge and understanding of workers and their work. The Hawthorne study provides a landmark to the evolution of management thought and made a significant contribution to the process of humanizing organization and management.
The major contributions of Hawthorne studies can be presented as follows;
- Employees are not motivated solely by money. Personal and social factors are also important to motivate employee’s attitudes towards their works.
- Informal leaders play an important role in setting and enforcing group norms.
- Management must understand and recognize interpersonal and group relations on the job.
- The importance of recognizing the concept of “social man” becomes unavoidable.
- Effective supervision plays an important role in maintaining employee’s morale and productivity.
Limitations of Hawthorne Study
- The human relations approach lacks adequate focus on work. It lays all emphasis on interpersonal relations and informal groups.
- Human relations tend to neglect the economic dimensions of work satisfaction.