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Personnel and Labor Relations Specialists

History

The concept of personnel work developed as businesses grew in size from small owner-operated affairs to large corporate structures with many employees. As these small businesses became larger, it became increasingly difficult for owners and managers to stay connected and in touch with all their employees and still run the day-to-day operations of the business. Smart business owners and managers, however, were aware that the success of their companies depended upon attracting good employees, matching them to jobs they were suited for, and motivating them to do their best. To meet these needs, the personnel department was established, headed by a specialist or staff of specialists whose job was to oversee all aspects of employee relations.

The field of personnel, or human resources, grew as business owners and managers became more aware of the importance of human psychology in managing employees. The development of more sophisticated business methods, the rise of labor unions, and the enactment of government laws and regulations concerned with the welfare and rights of employees have all created an even greater need for personnel specialists who can balance the needs of both employees and employers for the benefit of all.

The development and growth of labor unions in the late 1700s and early 1800s created the need for a particular kind of personnel specialist—one who could work as a liaison between a company's management and its unionized employees. Labor relations specialists often try to arbitrate, or settle, employer-employee disagreements. One of the earliest formal examples of this sort of arbitration in the United States was the first arbitral tribunal created by the New York Chamber of Commerce in 1768. Although arbitration resolutions were often ignored by the courts in preindustrial United States, by the end of World War I, the court system was overwhelmed by litigation—and in 1925 the Federal Arbitration Act was passed, which enforced arbitration agreements reached independent of the courts. Today, personnel and labor relations workers are an integral part of the corporate structure to promote and communicate the needs of workers to management.