Accueil » 39-2 ( 1984) » Relations professionnelles et gestion des ressources humaines

Relations professionnelles et gestion des ressources humaines

Claude Piganiol


L'existence de deux approches du facteur humain dans l'entreprise, celle de l'analyse des relations du travail et celle des techniques de gestion du personnel, parait relever au premier abord de démarches hétéronomes voire incompatibles. Une connaissance approfondie de leurs apports respectifs dans la gestion des entreprises est nécessaire pour comprendre qu'en réalité la synthèse se fait sur le terrain en raison de la nature indissociable des aspects de la gestion du personnel que chacune éclaire, et qu'au niveau de la recherche et de l'enseignement, une fusion devrait se produire à terme.


The existence of two approaches to the human factor in organizations, that of analysis of labour relations and that of the techniques of personnel management, appear initially to raise divergent, even incompatible approaches. A deeper knowledge of their respective contributions to the management of organizations is necessary in order to understand that a synthesis can be reached through the indisociable aspects of personnel management each deals with. At the level of research and teaching, an integration should eventually corne about.

The management of human resources has become a vital dimension of growing importance in the overall strategy of organizations. The context of economic crisis, the necessity of undertaking industrial reconversions and the reduction of the duration of work, as well as the demands of technological change, ail force organizations to better manage the human factor. This is true even if they are not convinced by the arguments of Peter Drucker, who has held for some time that people are the organization's most important asset. Personnel management techniques have evolved from a primitive, purely logistic stage, through an intermediate one based on forecasting, to the most recent stage of developing human potential. And in the process, they have provided us with tools of analysis and decision-making. Industrial Relations as an academic field has been influenced by different currents of thought and thinkers (such as J. Dunlop, A. Flanders, C.J. Margerison and R. Hyman), and in turn it has had a significant impact on management practices. Analysis of labour relations at diverse levels, from the shop floor to international relations, enables us to determine relative importance of value Systems, institutions, management methods, and technology. It favours exporting and importing new ideas. In view of the fact that no organization can disengage itself from the weight of legal restraints and practices governing personnel management, every manager has to keep himself abreast of labour relations in his decision-making. The development of «participation» and «workers' control» limits managements room for manoeuvre in numerous areas. In France, the Auroux legislation of 1982 aimed at creating a new role for labour within the organization. This has meant that most management decisions are now submitted to a form of consultation through the Organizational Committee (Comite d'entreprise), and require a minimum of consensus in order to be put into practice. The realities of daily life in the organization favour integrating Industrial Relations with the Management of Human Resources. Labour relations constitute a major, permanent preoccupation of upper management, who are often insufficiently trained in this vital facet of their task to cope with it. This is particularly the case in France where the prestige of the «Grandes ecoles» is linked more with mathematics than with any other concentration. However, reality is forcing management to adopt a social strategy, often with reference to intuition and direct experience, even in areas known to be the least conflict-oriented. In several countries, the scientific study of organizational practices, regarding the improvement of working conditions, reveals that it involves social strategy including elements of productivity-oriented negotiations. Decision-making is not solely the resuit of technico-economic criteria, but also of the search for a compromise solution which is socially acceptable and arrived at through an inter-active process. Finally, the growing complexity of the organization's environment and increasing influence on the internai functioning of organizations, requires the development of socio-political talents, as well as abilities in communications and negotiations. And it also requires the capacity to interact with internai and external partners, and to resolve complex problems involving ideology and culture, as well as the ability to manage in certain conditions of power-sharing. Innovative organizational practices reveal that a synthesis of these capabilities is possible, leading to new ways of managing manpower.

The minimal importance placed in France on Industrial Relations teaching in the training of all varieties of management personnel, including specialists specifically in administration, constitutes an obvious lag and a failure to adapt to organizational needs in spite of reality. This situation cannot resist under the impact of social pressure for education, in spite of the current accent on scientific research. Personnel Management and Industrial Relations are two separate fields of research, where specialists with different types of training work virtually without dialogue. The lack of a relevant professional journal in France, comparable to the English-language journals in existence elsewhere, inhibits the discimination of research results not only to a scientific community divided by its academic disciplines, but also to organizational heads and various social interest groups. One way to improve this state of affaire is by changing the traditional approach of researchers. A new approach could produce socially useful results. It should be based onconcrète problems and needs observed at the organizational level, onclose collaboration between researcher and on-the-spot personnel, and onthe creation of multidisciplinary groups. This would fill the gap until researchers in management itself acquire the multidisciplinary training necessary in the management of human resources.