Dans cet article, l'auteur, un participant de la conférence du Duc d'Edimbourg sur les problèmes humains des collectivités industrielles, donne un bref aperçu de l'organisation de la Conférence, des diverses phases qui la constituèrent et des sujets variés qui y furent étudiés. Il livre quelques-unes de ses impressions personnelles et des conclusions qui se dégagèrent de cette mémorable et fructueuse réunion.
Human Problems of Industrial Communities
The Duke of Edinburgh's Study Conference at Oxford in July 1956 was concerned with the human problems of industrial communities within the Commonwealth and Empire; it grouped 280 men drawn from all levels of industry such as employers, trade unionists and administrators, all highly interested in the problems and needs of the world, inevitably brought about by the rapid progress of science and technology and the spread of industrialization.
This conference, which was planned two years earlier, was divided into three phases:
During this first phase, which lasted three days and a half, all delegates gathered at Oxford to listen to prominent persons dealing with various human aspects of the nature and growth of industry. Twenty smaller groupes, heterogenous in their composition, were formed to facilitate the study and discussion of the various speeches.
During the second phase, everyone participated in the ten-day visit of various industrial centres of England, Scotland and Wales. This practical aspect of the conference gave the delegates an opportunity to see the workers at the bench and to talk with them, to meet management, and to try to understand the industrial way of life in every aspect. Some of the subjects studied were: satisfaction at work, conditions of work, promotions and incentives, education and training, adjustment to change, housing, etc. Each group had to prepare a report containing general observations.
The third phase, lasting one week, consisted of discussions within and between the various groups and ended with oral reports presented by each group.
After attending the various phases of such a conference, every delegate came back with interesting impressions and observations. One should always remember that the first duty of industry is to produce some goods. But the industrial visits proved that even though good physical conditions are essential, human relations are much more important, and that good relations are not the natural consequence of good material working conditions alone. Indeed, the factories with the best morale as much among the workers as among management and where every one seemed to be the happiest were the ones whose management considered the working personnel as a principal part of its responsibilities. Every one knew clearly what was going on around the plant, what he was doing and why he was doing it.
This Edinburgh Conference was enriching and precious for everyone who participated in it; it will certainly have wide consequences which will spread over the coming years.