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Bernard Galambaud, Doctor in Sociology, is Emeritus professor at ESCP Europe and a specialist of human resource management. He began his career in large state-run companies in the steel, transportation and nuclear energy sectors. Following this period of “practical learning”, Professor Galambaud joined the Institut Entreprise et Personnel, a think tank serving large French companies and specialised in issues relating to management and the management of human resources. At the Institute Bernard held the position of Academic Director for many years.
Alongside this activity, Bernard held several teaching positions, to begin with at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Paris), then at ESCP Europe, where he created the Specialist Master programme in Management of People and Organisations. He led this programme for over 15 years. He also developed close ties with higher education in the French-speaking world, in Canada at HEC Montreal and at the University of Laval (Quebec), and in Belgium at the University of Louvain-la-Neuve.
Professor Galambaud soon developed a highly personal approach to HR issues. He objected in principle to an instrumental approach which limits HR management to the mere use of tools in the box. He also refused an ideological approach which is either too critical, making use of threats, or too orthodox, leaning on arguments from authority for its legitimacy. In the final analysis he prefers a political posture combining subtle pragmatism with clear aims.
In his teaching and research Bernard Galambaud attaches equal importance to the relevance of concepts and the strength of arguments. He believes in an “aesthetics of efficiency” and strives to be relevant and clear to both researchers and teachers, to HR professionals and experienced managers.
Bernard Galambaud has spent many years investigating the Human Resource function in organizations. He has been particularly interested in its role, practices and development. In 1983 he published Des hommes à gérer (Editions ESF), in which he attempted to identify the elements which can be used in the formulation of an HR management policy. His ideas began to have considerable influence. In L’initiative controlée (Editions ESF), published in 1988, he described the dominant type of business organization at the time based on Tönnies’ concept of community. Gradually the model showed signs of weakness and HR progressionals, and managers in general, began to cast about for a better model. In 1994 Professor Galambaud published Une nouvelle configuration humaine de l’entreprise (Editions ESF), in which he tries to clarify a conundrum: if human resources are « the firm’s most valuable asset », how is it that they can be sacrificed at the altar of redundancy? If employees are encouraged to remain loyal to the firm, how can “job precarity” be explained?
After job destruction comes the period of organizational re-structuring. Professor Galambaud tackles this issue in his Si la GRH était de la gestion (Editions Liaisons, 2002). Today the HR function vacillates between two roles : support function and business partner. This hesitation leads to considerable confusion within the profession. Five years on the situation is little changed and the HR function is still in conflict. There is little likelihood that this will change while the identity of the business organization itself remains confused.
Indeed, it is the very nature of the business organization that is undergoing profound change. And this is the focus of Professor Galambaud’s research today. He is currently exploring a model of the post-industrial organization which is simultaneously global, non-community based, open and lean.
In each of his publications Bernard Galambaud, under the influence of Talcott Parsons, has attempted to bring out the complex relationship between cultures, structures and functions. In his view, the management of human resources is first and foremost management, which is to say it is the quest for performance by means of the most efficient use of this resource. A management decision is a choice; there are always alternatives. Since the visible hand of the manager has a cost, it should hardly be surprising that it favours groups of individuals whose strategic value to the organization is higher than their management cost. This restricted focus of HR management probably concerns a new social segmentation of very considerable importance.