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Human resource management, historical perspectives, evolution and professional development

Vincent Obedgiu (Department of Business Administration, Arua Regional Campus, Makerere University Business School, Kampala, Uganda)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 11 September 2017




The purpose of the paper is to trace the historical perspectives in the development and evolution of human resource management as a field of study and profession.


The paper adopts a desk research to conduct a general review of literatures that are fundamental in tracing the historical routes, evolution, and professional development in the field of human resource management.


The literature reviewed reveals that human resource management is a product of the human relations movement of the early twentieth century, when researchers began documenting ways of creating business value through the strategic management of the workforce. The function was initially dominated by transactional work such as payroll and benefits administration, but due to globalization, company consolidation, technological advancement, and further research, human resource now focuses on strategic initiatives like mergers and acquisitions, talent management, succession planning, industrial and labor relations, and diversity and inclusion. In start-up companies, human resource’s duties are performed either by a handful of trained professionals or even by non-human resource personnel. In larger companies, an entire functional group is typically dedicated to the discipline, with staff specializing in various human resource tasks and functional leadership engaging in strategic decision making across the business. To train practitioners for the profession, institutions of higher education, professional associations, and companies themselves have created programs of study dedicated explicitly to the duties of the function. Academic and practitioner organizations likewise seek to engage and further the field of human resource, as evidenced by several field-specific publications.


The study contributes to the body of knowledge in human resource management and practices, professional development, history of human resource management and the future of human resource functions. Further attempt is made in the study to present historical perspective of the evolution of the field to prepare professional managers in managing the human resource function and disseminate the human resource development philosophy and values to improve human resource practice and recognition within the management agenda.



Obedgiu, V. (2017), "Human resource management, historical perspectives, evolution and professional development", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 36 No. 8, pp. 986-990.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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