Human Relations Theory: The Hawthorne experiments - Kickoffall Info Hub

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Human Relations Theory: The Hawthorne experiments

The Hawthorne experiments were revolutionary studies in human relations movement  which was directed by Elton Mayo, Roethlisberger and Whitehead at Western Electric Company's Hawthorne plant, Cicero, Illinois during 1924 - 1932. The study was sponsored by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences and started with illumination studies to understand the association between lighting and productivity.
Elton Mayo
Stages of Hawthorne experiments
Hawthorne experiments were conducted in 4 major phases:
1. Illumination Experiments
2. Relay Assembly Test Room Experiments
3. Mass Interviewing Programme
4. Bank Wiring Observation Room Experiment.
1. Illumination Experiment:
Purpose of the experiment: Illumination experiment was conducted during 1924-27 to examine the impact of the quality and quantity of illumination on the efficiency of workers.
Method of the experiment:  Selected employees were divided into a test group and a control group and the group was working under varied illumination level and control group was working under constant illumination facility; then a series of studies were conducted in which the levels of illumination varied but the other working conditions were held constant.
Finding: The researchers found that productivity increased to the same rate in both test and control groups selected for the experiments and illumination have no impact on productivity but something else was interfering with productivity.
2. Relay Assembly Test Room Experiments
Purpose of the experiment: Relay Assembly Test Room experiments were conducted during 1927-28, to determine the impact of changes in working hours and working conditions on productivity.
Method of Experiment: two women were selected as test subjects and were asked to select four other workers to be part of their test group to work in a separate room assembling telephone relays. Productivity was determined mechanically by calculating the number finished relays each worker dropped down a chute.
Finding: Changing variables affected productivity; Researchers concluded that proper rest time, choice for selecting own team members, team work, special treatment, and sympathetic supervision have a direct impact on higher level of productivity.
3. Mass Interviewing Programme
Purpose of the experiment: Mass Interviewing program which includes about 20,000 interviews were conducted between 1928 and 1930 to understand employees’ attitudes towards company, supervision, promotion, insurance plans, and wages.
Finding: Mass Interviewing Programme revealed valuable insights about the human behavior in the workplace such as grievance, satisfaction and dissatisfaction, sentiments and desires, relationships and values
4. Bank Wiring Observation Room Experiment.
Purpose of the experiment: Bank Wiring Observation Room Experiment was conducted during 1931-32 to examine the effect of payment incentives on productivity.
Method of Bank Wiring Observation Room Experiment: A group of fourteen men was selected to work on a telephone switching equipment and the workers were paid according to individual productivity.
Finding: The result was surprising that productivity was decreased that workers were afraid that the company would lower the base rate and loose job of low performing co-workers; so the employees informally decided to not increase the productivity.  The researchers found that workers were more open to the social force of their co-workers than to the control and incentives of management.
Hawthorne Plant
The following are the main conclusions on the basis of Hawthorne studies:
1. Social Unit: Employees are social beings and a factory is a social unit also; not just a techno-economic unit.
2. Group Influence: Members of a group develop a common psychological bond uniting them as a team in the form of informal organization which is more powerful than management.
3. Group Behaviour: A typical group behavior can control or even replace individual tendencies.
4. Motivation: Human and social motivation is more powerful than monitory incentives or managing employee group.
5. Supervision: The style of supervision and leadership affects an employee’s attitude towards work and productivity.
6. Working Conditions: Improved working conditions in the organization affects productivity.
7. Employee Morale: employee morale can have intense effects on productivity.
8. Communication: Communicating the logic behind various decisions and participation in decision making increase productivity.
9. Balanced Approach: All aspects should be discussed before taking decessions. A balanced approach to the whole situation can show better results.

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