Principles of the Human Relations Movement

In today’s successful organisations, the most important focus is managing individual employee satisfaction and motivation, apart from complying with formal rules and operating procedures, to maintain high quality

productivity. Unlike the classical perspectives of management such as Scientific Management and Bureaucracy, “the importance of informal social factors in the work place such as co-worker relationships and group norms that influence employee motivation and performance is highlighted” (Macky & Johnson, 2003, p.82) under the ‘Human Relations Movement’. This essay will discuss how the Human Relations Movement has been adapted and carried out successfully in New Zealand by the restaurant chain, Starbucks Coffee. By focusing on the principles of maintaining a socialised natural group working environment and two-way communication between employees and managers, this essay will demonstrate how they became the most powerful and well-known coffee franchise restaurant in New Zealand market.

To start with, the Human Relations Movement firstly emphasises the importance of the working environment for employees as a socialised natural group in which social aspects for both employees and managers take precedence over functional organisational structures. Elton Mayo, who was called “the founder of both the Human Relations Movement and of industrial sociology” (Pugh & Hickson, 1989, P.152), had the basic idea that “workers had strong social needs which they tried to satisfy through membership of informal social groups at work place” (Nicholson, 1998, p.215). Opposing the classical perspectives of management principles of the Scientific Management and Bureaucracy, Mayo claimed that scientifically clarified rules, strict work procedure and incentive money payments were not the only stimulus to inspire workers and that they were “less factors in determining output than were group standards, sentiments and security” (Robbins, Millett & Waters-Marsh, 2004, p.815-816) after he proceeded an experiment, called the ‘Hawthorne Experiment’. According to the Hawthorne Studies, employees were motivated to work harder and efficiently when managers provided a more comfortable and informal working environment taking into account individual satisfaction and their personal needs rather than manipulating employees by way of higher remuneration. Mayo demonstrated that an organisation could not generate much beneficial output if managers “treat workers simply as economic individuals wanting to maximise pay and minimise effort” (cited Nicholson, 1998, p.215). As a result, “managers would no longer consider the issue of organisation design without including the effects on work groups and employee attitudes” (Robbins & Barnwell, 2006, p.47). They now see their jobs as dealing with human beings rather than simply with work.

One of the most well-known and influencing coffee franchise restaurants in New Zealand, Starbucks Coffee, tries its best to offer an informal and social working environment in which employees can enjoy themselves and be enthusiastic, in order to satisfy and motivate those employees at the same time increasing company sales. The company expects and encourages every employee to participate in developing plans, creating and achieving their goals. First of all, Starbucks Coffee, for example, treats every employee equally and they are all called ‘partners’. Therefore, those employees can feel more familiar and closer to their work place which could otherwise have been formal and difficult to feel part of. Also, Starbucks Coffee puts its effort into paying attention to employees, so as to satisfy their personal needs and wants. Managers schedule and allocate employees’ work hours and schedule time off with the needs of those employees being central. Additionally, employees, including part-time employees, for instance, are provided a number of benefits such as medical and dental health care coverage, vacations, discounts on merchandise, etc, apart from money. Also, Starbucks Coffee develops tools and courses to support and train employees towards their future career development. Although the costs of these partner benefits are rapidly rising, Starbucks Coffee covers the financial risks and funds to display benefits and training courses, because it is aware how employee satisfaction affects the productivity and behaviour towards customers. Accordingly, great treatment of employees in the well-developed and humanly concentrated environment has brought Starbucks Coffee much impact on the high quality services to customers and thus an increase in company sales each year.

In addition to the Human Relations Management being focused on the importance of the working environment for employees as a socialised natural group that is aimed at satisfying personal needs and wants of each employee, there is another significant principle of the Human Relations Movement. This is two way communications between employees and managers. According to the Hawthorne experiment, which was performed by Elton Mayo, as explained above, Bartol (2005) advocates that “collaborative and co-operative supervisor-and-worker relationships was emphasised” (Bartol, Tein, Matthews & Martin, 2005, P.43) Mayo carried out an experiment about the effects of physical conditions of work. During the experiment, he observed the impact on the productivity of workers by varying the lighting conditions, however there was no particular change found that affected workers. Mayo (1932, P.153, as cited in Pugh & Hickson, 1989) eventually realised that “communication between workers and the research team was very full and open throughout the experimental period.” Mayo had discovered that the communication was one of the most effective fundamentals to stimulate the motivation of employees so as to boom a level of production. Unlike the classical perspectives of management principles of the Scientific Management and Bureaucracy, which stated the significance of one way communication by giving orders and requirements from managers to workers, the Human Relations Movement stresses “the importance of an adequate communication system, particularly upwards from workers to management (Pugh & Hickson, 1989, P.155). In today’s organisations, employees have a right to express and indicate their opinions and personal thoughts towards the management, so that the decisions can be made widely throughout whole organisation. As a result, in order to operate this management system, the role of managers in the organisation requires them to have “social skills as well as technical skills” (Bartol, Tein, Matthews & Martin, 2005, P.43) to understand the influence of human control on organisational outputs.

Starbucks, for instance, performs its operations under the principles of the Human Relations Movement by displaying two-way communication between employees and managers in their work environment. In the first place, Starbucks Coffee ensures all its policies, standards and procedures are communicated between employees and managers. Managers in this organisation allow employees to provide their own suggestions and complaints, therefore Starbucks Coffee can improve its effectiveness and correct any deficiencies. The managers conduct daily and weekly interviews to listen to what individual employees want. Starbucks Coffee also holds a special survey for employees every 18 to 24 months, called a ‘Partner View Survey’. By operating this survey, employees give the management feedback as they are requested to point out what in the organisation performs well and issues which it needs to consider more closely. In addition, Starbucks supplies training courses for managers so that they can act as role models for employees and can lead and control employees in a positive manner. This organisation is concerned about the importance of personal control with every employee so as to construct a closer and informal relationship with each other. Starbucks Coffee is hence continuing to develop passionate, motivated employees who have a large impact on their consistent sale increases.

As stated so far, the Human Relations Movement is mainly based on the satisfaction and motivation of each individual employee rather than a formally structured organisational group. As distinct from Scientific Management and Bureaucracy, a socialised natural work environment for employees and two-way communication between employees and managers, especially upwards from employees to managers, conceptualises the Human Relations Movement. Starbucks Coffee could become one of the most successful coffee franchise restaurants in New Zealand, because it has adapted well to and operate effectively in modern management based on the Human Relations Movement. Managers show their respect towards individual employee by treating every employee equally. Also the organisation offers employees a lot of personal benefits rather than incentives. Besides, the management in Starbuck Coffee open their minds to communicate efficiently with employees as they conduct a survey, interview and receive feedback. Overall, as a result, the Human Relations Movement is an obviously essential method of the management that modern organisations must apply to operate as a successful and influencing business in the market.

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