Instructions

Read the following passages carefully to answer the questions.

Passage I :

One of the basic principles of people management for most of the 20th century was to narrow an individual's task down to a small, heavily monitored, transparently cost-effective unit of work. This was particularly the case in many areas of manufacturing, where it was felt to be a necessary route to greater competitiveness. It left the individual with little chance to show any initiative. Today, that tenet is being turned largely on its head. Much more is expected from employees; their value to a company's well-being is increasingly acknowledged, even if not necessarily properly recognised. This transition has been accompanied by the emergence of ‘human resource management’,a term not universally
acknowledged as representing much more than ‘personnel management’, but one which does signify a broader ambit than in the past. Just how much broader is discussed here, along with the widely differing attitudes of trade unions to human resource management and the issues that management must confront. Also examined are the issues that have been preoccupying human resource managers themselves. An example is the rapid emergence of new technology, which puts pressures on workers that cannot always be easily resolved. It is on the nature of good management practice that nothing, in isolation, provides the answer to every prayer. As John Grapper relates, British Airways, which lays claim to being the world’s favourite airline, has embraced human resource management to what is generally considered to be good effect. It sees its employees as frontline troops in the competitive battle with other airlines. Its overall success is acknowledged; witness its ability to produce profits while rivals notch up huge losses. Grapper traces the pressure to re-think heavily monitored, narrowly defined work patterns as having come from Japan,
where the team approach, with decisions made by the consensus, is acknowledged to be a potent competitive weapon. Much of the shift is due to the fact that traditionally structured principles are incompatible with rapid technological change. This is especially so in service industries, where labour accounts for a large majority of total costs, and where employees can beat the forefront of enhancing standards of service. The mixed attitudes of unions to HRM emerge against a background of distrust. Inevitably, if responsibility is pushed further down the organisation, with established lines of authority being eroded, the union's traditional role is called into question. This suspicion is exemplified by a national officer of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, who also accuses employers of often having as their real motivation, a desire to weaken collective strength. An academic's view is that HRM sits uncomfortably with industrial relations, since among other things, managers will endeavour to bypass unions achieve their ends. But not all unions are opposed to HRM, one particularly perceptive view being that it is inevitably an acknowledgement by management that workers should be more involved in decision making. A rider to this is that it brings managers under greater pressure to deliver and opens them to accusations of merely playing lip-service to the concept if they prove unhappy about being challenged. A further view is that HRM in the United Kingdom is a pale shadow of the regimesthat exist in Continental Europe, since the ‘power’ offered to workers is rather illusory and allows little scope for feedback from the workers to the upper echelons of management. This argument could well be supported by the attitudes which are reported in Christopher Lorenz's article about whether or not a value can be put on human resources and if, indeed, management really wishes to do so. Lorenz points to the growing numberof chief executives who are at least paying attention to concepts which enhance the status of employees. But the question is whether this has any more substances than is revealed by the perfunctory acknowledgement in so many company annual reports of how valuable employees are to the organisation. One of the inevitable outcomes of ‘empowerment’ of employeesis that they will make mistakes and that they should be left (for helped) to learn by them. Yet this prospect help make some management's draw back from delegating real power of decision further down the line and thus from taking HRM to its proper conclusion. In a world of rapid technological advance, human resources play a crucial role—but not just in ensuring that the latest piece of technology performs. They are also a barometer of what is achievable and whatis not, as Michael Dixon illustrates. What is particularly clear is that employees' reactions to new technology must be read carefully if they are not to be misinterpreted. For, however impressive any technology might be, some of its technical possibilities may have to be sacrificed in order to match what employees are happy—or can be persuaded—to work with. Even in companies where HRM becomes very much the chief executive's remit, much of the responsibility for ensuring that employees’ views are understood by managementstill falls to the human resource manager. Many managersstill feel vulnerable in the organisational hierarchy. However, Simon Holberton suggests that while they Know whattheir role should be, many human resource managers find themselves insufficiently informed by their companies to design programmes to meet manager's demands. Significantly, training is at the top of the list of their priorities. And while the economic climate has changed considerably for the worse with budgets slashed or put on hold, training is still widely perceived to be one of the most pressing requirements if a wide swathe of companies is not to be left unprepared to take advantage of an economic upturn.

Question 81

The author would agree with which of the following ?


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