A history of the professionalisation of human resource management in South Africa : 1945-1995.
Human resource management as practiced today within organisations carries a century of history. Focus has shifted from its simple origins as a welfare concern for the lot of workers by certain enlightened employers in Great Britain to the current human resource management which is an integral part of the management of an organisation. It has moved from being a peripheral to an essential service. This shift has been accompanied by an ongoing attempt to achieve professional recognition for human resource practitioners whose occupation it is to implement the principles and practices of human resource management. The study endeavours to present and analyse the history of the professionalisation of human resource management in South Africa. It is a story which has not been previously researched, other than in a passing manner by a few authors in South Africa in text books on the theories and practices of human resource management. This study is therefore a first detailed investigation into the subject of the professionalisation of human resource management in this country. The study focuses on a period from 1945 to 1995 which represents the most formative years of professionalisation in South Africa. Appropriate background contextual material is included to enable an informed assessment to be made ofthe South African experience, which covers the concept of professionalisation, experience in Great Britain and the United States of America together with relevant references to South African history. Human resource management is not practiced in isolation and the historical process of professionalisation needs to be assessed both contextually and conceptually. The fifty year period of the study allows for an understanding of the nature of human resource management to emerge and to assess whether professional status has been achieved. The research period commences with the establishment of the Institute of Personnel Management in 1945 and traces developments from then up to a unique Institute convention in 1995 where a symbolic reconciliation takes place between black and white practitioners. South African racial history had an effect on the process of professionalisation and the study reveals th.e implications. The process of professionalisation is observed to be ongoing and continued attempts at achieving statutory recognition for the profession are noted in the study and assessed.