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Productivity, Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management

Productivity, Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management

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Excerpt from Productivity, Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management: Football on a Soccer Field

Like most catchy words and phrases, 'productivity' means many things to many people. Some people believe the problem is you just can't get good workers anymore. Others think management shouldn't be so short-run profit-oriented. One theory holds that productivity problems derive from the government's failure to stem inflation; another, that protection of foreign markets is to blame. Finally, many people believe the American culture is the culprit, and rue the fact that we aren't more like the Japanese. Of course there's something to each of these notions; and of course the whole picture is more complicated than all of them put together. Not surprisingly, then, the solutions adopted by American businesses vary widely in their scope, kind, and effectiveness. And, not surprisingly, most productivity improvement programs are still far from perfected. (Barocci, 1982).

It would be nice - like all clear and concise ideas are 'nice' - to be able to rattle off exactly what these programs lack and how they can be improved. But the development and implementation of effective productivity programs takes place in a context - firm culture and strategy, industry position, broad economic trends, international climate and competition - that is far too complex to allow for any specific prescriptions about how to go about improving productivity. Even when all these contextual factors are defined and understood, in most corporate settings the major problem for the analyst or manager interested in improving productivity remains: the compatability of the firm's modes of industrial relations and human resource management, on the one hand, and its corporate goals, on the other.

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