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This paper is the result of research into and reflection on the roles carried out by those who are responsible for managing the people function within organisations Whether these incumbents are called personnel or HR managers is not necessarily important it is however critical to give recognition to the complexity of the task that faces those who have to take responsibility for this function This paper raises two inter-related issues First in what sorts of activities do personnel managers decide to invest time and energy Are the old reliables of recruitment training and employee relations the key tasks of the 1990s or are other issues more important Second does the hard often unseen and usually unrecognised work that is put into personnel tasks necessarily result in an end product which is visible and attributable to the personnel manager The paper considers this issue by tracing the various roles that personnel managers have undertaken at the various stages of the development of the profession The paper begins by considering the roots of personnel management and then moves on to discuss the various descriptions which have been proffered for what personnel managers do and what they should do The paper then considers the nature of personnel activities before discussing areas which seem to offer the prospect of reward for the expenditure of time and energy The Development of Personnel Management in Ireland It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when personnel management first appeared in Ireland Barrington 198090 indicates that a personnel function had been established in the civil service after the First World War but its official recognition in the private sector is probably best dated from the setting up of an Irish branch of the Institute of Labour Management the forerunner of the Institute of Personnel Management IPM in Dublin in 1937 The meetings of the Institute of Labour Management were held in the recreation hall attached to the Jacobs Biscuit Factory and were attended by
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