Personnel specialists in Scotland
: a study of managerial work and knowledge use

  • Barbara Paterson

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This study explored two main themes: the work of personnel specialists and how they do it, and the nature of the knowledge used in personnel management. The issues of ambiguity and role, power and influence, political behaviour, and status and effectiveness in personnel were also examined.

    Data were obtained from personnel specialists (229 respondents and 109 interviewees), and from 15 non-specialist senior executive interviewees. These samples were drawn from 27 activity classifications, to represent a wide cross-section of personnel specialists in Scotland.

    The study obtained data about personnel specialists' backgrounds, their modes of entry to the personnel occupation, their employing organizations, and their jobs. The respondents' work was analysed to find out both what was done, and how it was done. This covered both the 'managerial work' elements of their jobs, and their participation in political behaviour. The study also explored how personnel specialists obtain and update the knowledge they use in their work.

    The concerns of the study were broad, and some of the findings re-affirm earlier writings about personnel/managerial work, in respect of fragmentation in the work, its diversity, and the heterogeneity of practitioners' backgrounds. In occupational entry, five sub-modes were found to augment Watson's (1977) typology. The model of knowledge use has more elements than Guest and Kenny (1983) described in their analysis of knowledge which is relevant to personnel work.

    The findings about personnel specialists' perceptions of the 'in between' role re-affirm Mackay and Torrington's (1986) view that the managerial role model is the prevalent one in personnel. The study's main contribution is in the managerial work aspects of the respondents' jobs, and the relative involvement of Mintzberg's (1973) roles in personnel work. Further, although political behaviour has been discussed in the personnel literature, this study has provided information about the political awareness of personnel specialists, and the means they use to secure their political ends.

    GUEST, D., and KENNY, T ., (1983) "Introduction: personnel management strategies, procedures and techniques", Chapter one in (eds) D. Guest and T. Kenny, A Textbook o f Techniques and Strategies in Personnel Management. London: IPM, 3-16.
    MACKAY, L ., and TORRINGTQN, D., (1986) The Changing Nature of Personnel Management. London: IPM.
    MINTZEERG, H., (1973) The Nature o f Managerial Work. New York: Harper and Row.
    WATSON, T.J . , (1977) The Personnel Managers: A Study in the Sociology of Work and Employment. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
    Date of AwardJun 1991
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Council for National Academic Awards

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