Human Relations Approach Case Study (Week 3)

jscreationzs at freedigitalphotos.net

jscreationzs at freedigitalphotos.net

This blog post will examine how the human relations approach can be used to evaluate a case study at Simmons Insurance Group in which Melissa, a valued employee, proposes a new Director of Internal Support position to enhance interdepartmental communication. This evaluation is timely because recently many up-and-coming companies are trying out new approaches to manage the work and employees. Google and Yahoo are examples of just two companies who are changing the way they manage the work, and I believe we will see many other companies follow suit. I believe that the human relations approach to management offers many benefits, including an engaged workforce, satisfied employees and increased productivity. Historically companies have used a classic management approach, which focuses on the work, not the employee, but I believe that companies should place more value on their employees. Employees are the heart of the company and leadership should develop benefits and rewards that recruit and retain the top talent.

In organizational communications two theories in particular seem to be at opposing ends of the spectrum. The human relations approach emphasizes the interpersonal and social needs of individuals and assumes that individuals desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves (Eisenberg et al., 2010, p.71)[1]. This is in stark contrast to the classic management style that assumes that employees in general dislike work and must have external motivators to enhance productivity (Eisenberg et al., 2010, p.77)[2].

Stuart Miles at freedigtialphotos.net

Stuart Miles at freedigtialphotos.net

At Simmons Insurance Group, Melissa, a valued employee, proposes a new Director of Internal Support position to enhance interdepartmental communication. In evaluating this scenario, I believe Simmon’s would evaluate several factors to determine if they should create this position. The first question I would ask is, “what is the company’s return on investment (ROI)?” What will the company receive in return for creating this new role? One way that Melissa can demonstrate the value of this position is by using the points in Mayo’s theory, which stresses the importance of interpersonal relations (Eisenberg et al., 2010, p.72)[3]. Melissa can also outline Follett’s points that advocate for groups working together rather than individually for outstanding results (Eisenberg et al., 2010, p.72)[4]. Melissa can use this information in her discussion with management to demonstrate that a unified team with strong communication will result in excellence.

Source is govirtualoffice.com

Source is govirtualoffice.com

Melissa has identified a challenge in interdepartmental communication, however I would want to see further analysis of this issue. Are there metrics associated with the lack of communication? Is productivity lowered because of the lack of communication? Decrease in customer satisfaction? Lowered revenue? I would ask Melissa for a detailed analysis that provided data demonstrating the perceived “lack of communication”. Since this statement is qualitative and influenced by opinion, I want to ensure that this “issue” was quantified. Additionally, I would ask how this position would resolve the issue. Melissa has proposed a new position to address the issue, but I would want to see more data on how it would resolve it and quantifiable metrics on how success would be measured. Would this role increase customer satisfaction by 10 percent within six months? I would need to see data on what and how before evaluating the proposal. Melissa could use the data from the Hawthorne effect in her analysis. The Hawthorne effect found that increased attention towards employees results in greater productivity (Eisenberg et al., 2010, p.73)[5]. She could demonstrate how in this role she would provide these teams with more attention, which would result in greater productivity. Additionally, the findings in the Hawthorne effect were that the management style and open communication resulted in increased productivity (Miller, 2009)[6].

Ambro on freedigitalphotos.net

Ambro on freedigitalphotos.net

The other item I would ask Melissa to explore further would be the specific tactics she would deliver in this role. Currently Melissa has proposed that her responsibilities would “include supporting all departments with whatever needs arise.” This is too vague. She needs to create a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) that outlines how she will work with these teams. A RACI is a tool that that can be used to identify roles and responsibilities (Value Based Management)[7]. Additionally, I would like to see an in-scope/out-of-scope document that lists the deliverables she will produce in this role. By simply stating “whatever needs arise”, this could include everything from strategic decisions on the communications strategy to bringing someone coffee every morning. Role clarity and a firm understanding of roles and responsibilities will be important. McGregor builds on the human relations approach by stating that employees have a high capacity for autonomy, in this respect Melissa may feel that she should have more autonomy in her role and not have to outline her roles and responsibilities. However, there is a balance between having autonomy and having accountability for results.

I would involve Melissa in the decision because she has the key data points needed to make the decision. Additionally, as the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs outlines, employees excel in environments in which their work is rewarding, challenging and aligned to their personal development (Eisenberg et al., 2010, p.77)[8]. Using the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, the organization can help Melissa be successful in her role, and thereby bring success to the company, by providing her with the opportunity to self-actualize. It would appear that right now Melissa is within level four of the Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy in the Organizational Context, which states that employee has their need for rewarding work satisfied. Melissa desires to reach level five, which is having the work allow for creativity (Miller, 2009)[9]. Given that she is already satisfied and productive in her job, it positions her to be successful in a future role. This is in contrast to Joe from Joe vs. The Volcano, in which he is portrayed as a downtrodden worker among thousands of other workers who are all dressed the same, walking the same dreary path to a dissatisfying job. In the example of Joe vs. The Volcano, employees aren’t motivated to do their best as their basic needs are not yet met. On Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs the employees are just on level one, because only their physiological needs are met. They aren’t even at level two, which includes physically safe work conditions. For this reason, they wouldn’t even be in position to propose a new role or position (Schwartz, 1990)[10]

Finally, I think that Simmons will ask Melissa to demonstrate why she is the best person for the role. What skills, qualities and/or experience does Melissa have to demonstrate why she is the right person to lead this function? I think that Melissa will get this role and be successful. Given that she has a track record of success in her previous positions at the organization, I believe she will excel in this leadership position and add value to the organization.

In evaluating this further, I can understand the pros and cons of the human relations perspective, for both leaders/managers and organizational members/employees. For leaders, the human relations perspective allows them to foster an environment that builds positive employee morale, which in turn raises productivity. Leaders also benefit from a united workforce that makes them want to be a part of something bigger than themselves (Eisenberg et al., 2010)[11]. Additionally, leaders can benefit from employees wanting to obtain “self-actualization” as employees are more likely to achieve more results if they are doing it for their own personal fulfillment. Employees also benefit from the human relations perspective as they have employers who care about their satisfaction and engagement. Inherently by having an employer that cares about the employee’s well-being, engagement and satisfaction, the employee will be more satisfied. An employee will also benefit from pursuing self-actualization in their career. The downside to this is if an employee places all of their self-value and worth on their career or employer, they will be devastated when/if the company lays them off or downsizes the employee’s position. In the Classic Management style employees are aware from the onset that their job is a paycheck and they aren’t seeking personal fulfillment from their job. Therefore if they lose their job, it isn’t a personal affront. For employees working in an environment that boasts a human relations approach, there is greater consequence tied to those decisions. Additionally, the con for a manager using the human relations approach is that it is difficult to understand the motivators for each individual. It can be challenging and difficult to keep up with what satisfies and engages employees. Quite frankly it’s easier to manage the work and tactics (which is what the classic management style focuses on) than manage people and their satisfaction (human relations approach).

Free Digital Photos.Net 100113737

Free Digital Photos.Net 100113737

I do believe that the human relations movement did move the needle on appreciating an individual’s creativity. Google has had a lot of success in modeling the human relations style and encouraging creativity among their employees. According to Google spokesman, Jordan Newman Google’s philosophy is “to create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world” (cited in Stewart, 2013)[12]. Their mission statement itself incorporates the idea that a satisfied employee is a productive employee, which is a key component of the human relations theory. Google achieves this by creating Broadway-themed conference rooms, Lego play stations and vintage subway car conversation areas. They also allow employees to design their own workspace, which varies from treadmill desks to oversized Tinker Toys. That’s just a peek into some of Google’s employee benefits, there are too many to name, from an onsite masseuse, to a fully stocked kitchen to subsidized gym memberships, employees definitely have great benefits. Google has seen great results as well, as they tout greater collaboration, a more engaged workforce and enhanced productivity. Google is a new organization and their profit margin demonstrates that this model is successful. I hope that more companies follow suit and create environments that enhance employee satisfaction.

In conclusion, I think that the human relations approach to organizational communications provides opportunities for companies to enhance employee satisfaction and productivity. I believe that an engaged workforce is a strong workforce. Historically companies have used a classic management approach, which focuses on the work, not the employee, but I believe that companies should place more value on their employees. Since the employees are the face of the business to the customer and drive out the tactics that grow the company, leadership should develop benefits and rewards that recruit and retain the top talent.

Do you think that more companies should follow in Google’s footsteps and create “fun” work environments? What are the downsides to the human relations model? Do you agree with my assessment of how the management team will respond to Melissa regarding her request for a new position? I’d love to hear from you!


[1] Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall Jr., H. L., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (6th ed). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

[2] Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall Jr., H. L., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (6th ed). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

[3] Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall Jr., H. L., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (6th ed). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

[4] Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall Jr., H. L., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (6th ed). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

[5] Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall Jr., H. L., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (6th ed). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

[6] Miller, K (2009). Organizational Communication: Approaches and Processes. (5th ed).  Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

[7] Value Based Management (2013). RACI: Agreeing on Roles and Responsibilities: Summary of RACI. Retrieved from www.valuebasedmanagement.net.

[8] Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall Jr., H. L., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (6th ed). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

[9] Miller, K (2009). Organizational Communication: Approaches and Processes. (5th ed).  Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

[10] Schwartz, J. (Producer). (1990, March 9) Joe Versus the Volcano. Opening scene retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytS4yFM4Oxw.

[11] Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall Jr., H. L., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (6th ed). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

[12] Stewart, J. (2013, March 15). Looking for a Lesson in Google’s Perks. The New York Times.

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