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What Would You Put in a Time Capsule

January 1, 1997
Related Topics: The HR Profession, Featured Article
Richard L. Kellogg, vice president of employee relations at Coors Brewing in Golden, Colorado, says:
“If I were to choose items to put in a time capsule, I would select several things that would describe the current penchant corporations have for downsizing and the huge bonuses CEOs are receiving for the amount of carnage they’re able to create. Imight include newspaper clippings or magazines that would illustrate this.

“I don’t think these kinds of layoffs can last—layoffs in the tens of thousands—and I think in the long term we’re going to look back and see, not only did we increase shareholders’ values, but we also lost the loyalty of employees. We’re already seeing a backlash, and I think someday it will be interesting to look back and see what happened to those companies that tried to cost-cut their way to prosperity. I really don’t think it will work. I think we’re going to look back and ask, ‘What was wrong with us?’”

Charles Larocque, director of human resources at Bell Helicopter Textron in Mirabel, Quebec, says:
“The three things I would put in a time capsule are linked together. They’re not necessarily for only human resources professionals, but they celebrate the anniversary of Workforce (formerly Personnel Journal). The first would be a group picture of all the present contributors to Workforce—with their wishes for the future HR people of the country.

“I would use a card instead of a video or a CD-ROM because Workforce is a print medium.

“In order to make the link with the past, because this will be opened in 2072, I would also put in a bottle of California wine because they say that wine gets better with time. While people read the wishes, they all could have a glass of a 75-year-old wine. The link to the future would be to put the seeds of a tree that will be planted in the year 2072 for future generations.

“So the bottle of wine makes a link with the past, and the seeds of the tree make the link with the future. The card with the picture represents the present, and the wishes represent the future of human resources. Today, there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future, and we all hope that everything’s going to be fine for our children and our grandchildren.”

Terri Wolfe, director of human resources at Patagonia Inc. in Ventura, California, says:
“If people were to open [my] capsule, they might say, ‘Oh, do you believe that these were issues 75 years ago?’

“The most important item would be an employee handbook that has at-will statements throughout. This is because it would show the value of developing quality relationships—with employees, customers, suppliers and anyone else in our sphere of relationships. It’s an important HR concern because the relationships between employees and employers over the last 20 years have really become degraded. In fact, the idea of what people can do together to make the company successful on a long-term basis is no longer a phrase that employers are even willing to verbalize because they’re so worried about [creating an] implied contract.

“Then, I’d put in a copy of Working Mother magazine’s Top 100 companies. This would show something about companies that are really addressing the issues of helping employees balance their personal and professional lives with family-friendly programs. It would be interesting because this issue is currently leading edge, and in 75 years, people could see that some companies always have addressed these things.

“Finally, I would include a huge package that gathers all the legislation, testimony and arguments for and against legal immigration. From an employment standpoint, the government’s reaction to illegal immigration is to make legal immigration much more difficult. As a result, organizations are having a difficult time finding, recruiting and hiring the best people for the job because of the increased regulation. If it gets much more restrictive, you’re not going to have legal immigration that’s job-related. It will be interesting to see in 75 years.”

Nancy Breuer, principal, Breuer Consulting in Los Angeles, says:
“My items all relate to employees facing life-threatening illnesses and the response of human resources.

“My first item would be a padlock to serve as a reminder of how strict confidentiality laws are. Once you receive information about a person's medical condition, you have to lock it up in your desk and in your head. "My next item would be a stopwatch next to an hour glass. One shows time tearing along, and the other shows time moving so slowly. The key is that HR managers understand the differences in perception of time and that an employee facing a life-threatening ilness is facing a new sense of time and has no patience with the normal bureaucratic pace. The HR person's behavior has a big impact on how the individual feels about the company—whether whether he or she leaves feeling bitter or not.

"I would also include a photograph of twp people from behind, arms around each other, walking away into unkown territory. THis would exemplify that people can't go through these experiences alone. They need support from co-workers and others around them. Also, everyone must remember to continue to treat a terminally ill individual as a whole person and not as a walking diagnosis."

Workforce, January 1997, Vol. 76, No. 1, pp. 172-173.

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