Outline the major contextual changes that have impacted upon the management of people in the last 30 years? What are the implications of these changes on a) employees and b) the management of employees?
There are lots of changes that have occurred in the management of people in the last 30 years in United Kingdom. Many companies find themselves operating in very different market conditions from those prevailing two decades ago as a result of far reaching political and economic changes. There are extreme levels of competition in the private sector that have also been mirrored by greater financial stringency in the public services sector, as the state has sought to commercialise, and in many cases privatise, public sector organisations. There are also changes in an accelerated pace in the way jobs are designed and performed. And there are also changing role of the state in influencing labour market conditions and growing role of the European Union (EU).Blyton, P and Turnbull, P. (2004:48,49). I will be looking at changes that occurred in the management of government and focus my attention on former United Kingdom Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher and its effect of her management on employment, union and economy.
Personnel Management is concerned with assisting those who run work organisations to meet their purposes through the obtaining of the work efforts of human beings, the exploitation of those efforts and the dispensing with of those efforts when they are no longer required (Watson, 1986). Margaret Thatcher was the British Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990 and she made different changes in the management of the country especially on unionism, work and economy. Britain witnessed bad experience during her tenure and two shock recessions that shock the nation did not help.
Firstly, unemployment was rise during her tenure. Rogers (2012) explained that as Britain learnt to come to terms with the idea of “no such thing as society”, unemployment shot up under the Conservatives to levels not seen since the Great Depression and the figures show how it lags behind the economy – even after the recession was over, many were unemployed.Philpott (2011) warned that most worrying is that the private sector jobs recovery has slowed markedly while the public sector jobs cull is accelerating rapidly and identified the current unemployment picture that looks very grim indeed pales in comparison to what Britain faced 30 years ago.Philpott (2011) explained furtherthat during the recession of 1981-1982, unemployment in Britain topped three million for the first time since the bleakest days of the 1930s Depression. He notified us that in January 1982, the UK government reported that about 3.07 million Britons were out of work. Consider that in 1972 (only a decade before), the jobless total topped out at about one million.Pettinger (2011) added his opinion on how unemployment never really recovered from 1981 recession.
Secondly, Margaret Thatcher had a mixed fortune on economy with two recessions and boom during her tenure. Grove (2010) said ‘In 1980, the year after becoming Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher embarked on a controversial programme to revive the moribund economy through deep public spending cuts and strict control of the money supply, intended to stamp out inflation’. Also , Rogers (2012) added that Britain got hit by two major recessions under Thatcher, which sandwiched the boom of the 1980s but even that boom never saw GDP grow by more than a couple of percent.
Lastly, Margaret Thatcher was well known as a leader who had impact on union.Willenius (2004) pointed out that Margaret Thatcher was the nemesis of the trade union movement. She managed to destroy the power of the trade unions for almost a generation. Her economic policies helped weaken the unions. The recession of the early 1980s saw manufacturing, the main area of union strength shrink by half while unemployment soared to over three million. Union membership plummeted from a peak of 12 million in the late 70s to almost half that by the late 80s’.Rogers (2012) also explained that the unions were a major force in 1970s Britain, with around one in four of the UK population a member – 13.2m people. Those numbers went down significantly by 1990 to 9.8m – and in 2008/9 to 7.4m or one in eight of the population.
The unions went into steep decline, having seen the lengths to which the state was prepared to go to vanquish them. They lost their power, influence, millions of members and a large swathe of their rights. He explained how most trade unions loathed Margaret Thatcher but she remained utterly convinced of the need to cure the nation of what had become known as the “British disease”, strike fever(Willenius, 2004). Many employers, and certainly the Thatcher and Major governments of the 1980s and 1990s, argued that United Kingdom firms were uncompetitive in the 1970s because they were enveloped in both external and internal labour market rigidities.
Consequently, ‘rigidities’ in both markets – especially those ‘imposed by’ or ‘attributed to’ trade unions – were a prime target for Conservative government reforms and a succession of management initiatives in recent years. Many of these initiatives have continued apace under New Labour, especially in the public sector. (Blyton and Turnbull, 2004:87). The changes continued after Margaret Thatcher resigned from her post and succeeded by John Major who lost to Tony Blair from Labour party in May 1997. HM Treasury (2007) notified in their report that Tony Blair left the key decisions on economic policy in the hands of Chancellor Gordon Brownduring his 10 years in office.Economic growth was unspectacular, but steady – the longest uninterrupted period of growth in 200 years.
The economy has enjoyed a period of low unemployment, with the rate coming down sharply from the high levels of the 1980s. The total number of people in work is also at a record – but it is still proving difficult to get older men and lone parents back into the workforce (National Statistics, 2007).
Phillip Inman (2012) emphasised that employment is one of the few bright spots in the UK economy. The number of people in work is higher than before the crisis, despite GDP remaining more than 3% below its peak in 2008. Global recession continue to have effect on the management of the United Kingdom as well as companies. This does not help the management of Gordon Brown who took over from Tony Blair and likewise current Prime Minister, David Cameroun who won the election under Conservative in 2010. The prime minister said there were some “very encouraging” figures in the unemployment data released by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday, which showed that the jobless total fell by 7,000 in the quarter to July to 2.59 million, an unemployment rate of 8.1%. The number claiming jobseekers’ allowance last month was 1.57 million, down by 15,000 on July – the largest monthly fall since June 2010 (Mulholland, 2012). Furthermore, the changes at work in recent times regarding to the attendance at work, working time patterns and work-life balance. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD, 2005) found an average absence level of 8.4 days per employee compare to 16 days workers absent per year in 1992 in United Kingdom (Edwards and Whitston, 1993).
There are also changes for employers to increase their operating hours though Hill (2000) table showed that only around a third of employed men and women operate such a working pattern.Balancing work and life means something very different with high income people than in a low-income family people.Noon and Blyton (2007:85,105,379). Finally, the foregoing analysis has highlighted a number of important developments in the context of employee relations. These include more intense product market competition, changes to the ownership and control of organisations, the changing balance between employment in goods and service production, the growing prominence of women in the workforce, the persistence of unemployment, redundancies and insecurity, and developments in technology and production techniques. Together these represent the intricately woven back-cloth against which the day-to-day interactions which comprise employee relations must be assessed. These developments, of course, should not be seen as determining the precise nature of those relations but they have helped to shape those relations and, as a result, a full understanding of employee relations can only be obtained by incorporating these broader contextual changes into the analysis. It has also demonstrated both their interaction and integration with employee relations (Blyton and Turnbull, 2004:88).
?Blyton, P and Turnbull, P (2004). The Dynamics of Employee Relations. 3rd ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 48,49,87,88. ?Groves, J., Cohen, T. and McDermott, N. (2010). How the Iron Lady saved Britain: Mrs Thatcher drove through economic revolution single-handed. Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1342595/Margaret-Thatcher-drove-economic-revolution-single-handed.html. Last accessed 1st Dec 2012. ?HM Treasury and National Statistics. (2007). In pictures: Blair and the UK economy. Available: