The HR Society grew out of an increasing interest in the people dimension of the economic system during the 1960s – an interest that has re-emerged in the 21st century as the concept of Human Capital.  

Workforce planning was widely used by large employers in industries such as Coal, Gas, Electricity and Steel.  These hierarchical organisations offered a career for life and planned the recruitment and progression of staff, with the expectation of promotion at regular intervals.

Manpower Society

The HR Society was founded as the Manpower Society in 1970 as a joint initiative of the Institute of Personnel Management (now CIPD) and the Operational Research Society (ORS).  The Society published documents such as Manpower planning: current position and future trends, 1977, which is in the Cornell University library and Improving Manpower Information (1974), which was published jointly with the Department of Employment.   

From the 1980s onwards there has been a major restructuring of industry with a rapid decline and privatisation of large, state owned industries.  There had also been a rapid growth in the service sector, including IT and finance. Government departments have been expected to be much more commercially minded.  Flatter organisations that are less reliant on promoting their own staff became more prevalent.  Planning was regarded as less important, as shortages are met by headhunting staff from competitors.  A slowly changing world has been transformed into a chaotic and dynamic one where technological change and entrants with new business models have decimated competitors.   

In response to these changes approaches like scenario planning have been used to accommodate a range of possible futures.  This means that organisations can mitigate the worst risks.  In addition, a growing number of organisations are seeking to avoid the financial, motivational and reputational loses in making staff redundant, only to re-employ some of them, often much more expensively as consultants. 

From To
Nationalised industries Privatised organisations
Government departments Next Steps Agencies
Basic industries: coal, steel etc. Service sector: finance and IT
Stable hierarchies Flat structures
Corporately employed Consultants and self-employed 
Numerical skills Hybrid skills

Key facts of the 1970’s 

Population 54 million (61 in 2013)

Equal pay act – important step for women, yet the journey is still incomplete

247,000 coalminers (5,900 in 2013)

Oil price shock of 1973, leading to 70% increase in oil prices.

Inflation peaks at 26 per cent

Decade and a half of strikes  

We said ‘hello’ to the Walkman, post-it notes and the Word Processor

The importance of Workforce Planning 

More NHS organisations are seeking to improve services and reduce costs by matching staff numbers more closely to work volume by day of the week and time of the day.  Careers which require length and very expensive education and training such as medical consultants and fighter pilots are still planned in considerable detail.  

During the turbulent economic times of the 1980’s Workforce Planning began to shift its emphasis looking at the projected impact of changes in an increasingly mobile global workforce. 

 Influential Presidents

The first President of the Society was The Rt. Hon. Sir William Armstrong and successive Presidents have been Baron Fulton of Falmer, Sir Dennis Barnes, Sir Leonard Peach, John Hougham CBE, Dr. Clive Purkiss and Professor Andrew Mayo.

In 2012 The HR Society appointed our first female President, Angela O Connor.

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