Social and behavioural scientists looked for ways to use non-material motivations to increase productivity, including the social pressure of the groups and teams where loyalty to other workers could substitute for the missing loyalty to the firm and its management.
Through motivation studies, through counseling, through selection devices calculated to hire only certain types of people, through attitude surveys, communication, role-playing, and all the rest of their bag of schemes, social scientists slowly moved toward a science of behavior... Authority gave way to manipulation, and workers could no longer be sure they were being exploited.
C. Wright Mills noted that social scientists readily took up the management viewpoint in their studies, applying their research to the problem of “how to secure the cooperation of people in attaining” the purposes of the business or industry.
By 1954 “social science research in industry had become a highly lucrative business” and many social scientists had no qualms about accepting employer goals as their own research goals, such as getting workers to work harder for the same or less money. The American Psychological Association stated in a paper on “The Psychologist in Industry” in 1962 that:
while the psychologist’s most basic interest is human behaviour, he can help with management’s most basic aim, increasing profitability... Essentially what the industrial psychologist attempts to do is to help the employee come to ... a recognition of how his interests and management’s coincide... [to] help the employee adjust to the requirements of a successful enterprise.
In Britain too, employers “turned to social scientists for help” and after the second world war many other countries, including Australia, relied heavily on American industrial sociology and psychology to motivate workers. A 1961 UNESCO report noted that “in nearly every [country] the teacher of industrial sociology must depend quite heavily on material derived from research conducted by social scientists in the United States”.
The same was true for decades to come. In the 1970s Carey noted that “one, primarily American, school of social and industrial psychology has dominated the field for some forty years”. The Human Relations school had provided “the only ideas from the social sciences that many managers may have encountered” in Australia and in Britain.
The Human Resources Movement in the 1960s was really an extension of the human-relations approach, or “a change in emphasis”. The idea of how to satisfy workers was expanded to include aspects of the job such as interest, variety, responsibility and self-direction. The problem was now to motivate a new generation of employees who seemed to be more self-centred and less willing to work hard for the sake of it.
Recognising that the job fragmentation emphasised by scientific management might be undermining work motivation, various industrial psychologists advocated a reintegration of job tasks. This job redesign called for each job to be more varied and fulfilling, incorporating a measure of self-control and self-monitoring as well as self-regulation by the worker. The job was supposed to “include all the tasks necessary to complete a product or process” so that the work would have “intrinsic meaning and people can feel a sense of achievement”.
Consultants such as Frederick Herzberg advocated ‘job enrichment’ as a way of getting workers to like their work and therefore put more effort into it. Herzberg built on Maslow’s theories of motivation. Abraham Maslow had argued that humans were motivated by a hierarchy of needs and that once basic physiological needs were satisfied higher social needs became more important motivators of behaviour. Herzberg argued that, whilst salary, adequate working conditions and security were necessary to prevent dissatisfaction, motivation required workers to feel a sense of achievement, advancement, recognition and responsibility. To achieve this jobs had to be expanded, reintegrating tasks that had been fragmented off to suit a Tayloristic division of labour, and increasing the decision-making necessary to do the job.
The London-based Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and others applied a systems approach to work, taking the view that the organisation was a socio-technical system and so job design needed to integrate social and technical components. Workers were put together in groups that had a whole task to complete. In this way the social and psychological needs of the worker could be met in a cooperative endeavour and job satisfaction could be improved by seeing something more whole being achieved.
In 1973 reports were published in Britain, On the Quality of Working Life, and in the US, Work in America, promoting this job enrichment approach. However it did not catch on in management circles or in the workplace. In practice what management tended to do was merely to recombine several tasks, often to balance work loads rather than promote job satisfaction. According to one chemical worker: “You move from one boring, dirty monotonous job to another boring, dirty monotonous job. And somehow you’re supposed to come out of it all ‘enriched’. But I never feel ‘enriched’ - I just feel knackered.”
Schemes for individual development were supplemented with organisational development schemes, including ‘team-building’ to increase productivity through a more harmonious organisation. Team building also became popular in some large European corporations. However the goals remained the same, to get workers to work hard for the corporation.