Human Relations Training

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Program Summary
The human relations training program was created to assess the effects of human relations training on managerial effectiveness. The training consisted of 28-weekly, 90-minute sessions. Divided into phases, phase I of the training focused on discussions of leaders, leadership, followership, and leadership styles. Phase II, the largest component of the training, was devoted to experiential learning exercises such as self-ratings on the managerial grid, partition exercises, judgment, in-basket, listening and interview exercises. Phase III of the training focused on motivation theories.

Pre and post measures of self-awareness, sensitivity to the needs of others, and leadership styles were completed. Behavior ratings by supervisors and subordinates were also collected. Evaluation was done 90 days and 18 months after completion of the program. The training was found to be effective in changing attitudes and behaviors and these changes were related to increased managerial effectiveness. Managers who completed the training increased their self-awareness, were more sensitive to the needs of others, and focused on developing mutual trust with their employees. Subordinates reported that they had better rapport and communication with managers who had completed the training.

Program Description
The first training in emotional and social competence in organizations was called "human relations training." Between 1950 and 1975 there were hundreds of human relations training programs offered to thousands of managers in American organizations. Most of these efforts were not evaluated, and many were disappointing in their lack of lasting impact. However, one such program stands out as an exception.

The managerial human relations training program described by Hand, Richards, and Slocum (1973) was developed at the Pennsylvania State University. It was an "off the shelf" program conducted by the Continuing Education Division. Through that division, it was delivered numerous times in firms throughout a several state area. The objective of the program was to encourage participants to utilize human relations principles in their dealings with employees. More specifically, the program designers sought to increase participants’ use of consideration and initiating structure. Thus, the program targeted the emotional competencies of self-awareness, empathy and leadership.

The training consisted of 90-minute sessions given once a week for 28 weeks. The first phase of the training was devoted to a discussion of managerial styles. Topics included leaders, leadership, and followership; initiating structure and consideration; and autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire styles of management. This first phase, which involved primarily cognitive learning, lasted approximately 9 hours.

The second phase of the training was primarily experiential in nature. There were numerous individual and group exercises including self-ratings on the managerial grid, an in-basket exercise, a listening exercise, and a corrective interview role play. In each exercise, an individual or group would perform a task while the rest of the participants observed them. Following completion of the task, the observers would give critical feedback on what they observed. All the participants then would discuss the feedback. Thirty hours were devoted to this experiential learning.

The final phase of the program was devoted to discussion of the motivational theories of Porter, McGregor, Herzberg, and Maslow. It lasted about three hours. The total program involved 42 hours of training.
A rigorous evaluation study of the program occurred when it was implemented in a specialty steel plant located in central Pennsylvania. The design involved both a trained group of managers and a control group that did not receive training. It also involved pre-training, post-training, and long-term follow-up measures of managerial attitudes, leadership behavior as perceived by subordinates, and performance as rated by superiors. The post-training measures were completed 90 days following training, and the long-term follow-up assessment occurred 18 months after the completion of training.

The results indicated no differences between the two groups at the 90 day post-training assessment, but there were several significant differences at the 18-month follow-up. By that time, the trained managers had become significantly more self-aware and more sensitive to the needs of others in their attitudes. Their subordinates also perceived them as having improved in rapport and two-way communication. The controls, on the other hand, did not change in their attitudes, and their subordinates perceived them as significantly less considerate than they had been at the time of the pre-training assessment. Performance ratings also improved for trained managers working in consultative climates, but not for those working in autocratic climates. In contrast, performance ratings for untrained controls declined over time.

References

Hand, H. H., Slocum, J. W. (1972). A longitudinal study of the effects of a human relations training program on managerial effectiveness, Journal of Applied Psychology, 56(5), 412-417.

 

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