In the land of gourmet catered lunches, lounge-like corporate HQs and limitless vacation time, it’s hard for a company to compete for talent. Hard but not impossible.
Look no further than this year’s Workforce 100, our annual list of the best companies for HR. You’ll see some of the stalwarts of the new economy — Apple, Google and Netflix — as well as talent-centric firms like Accenture, Deloitte, McKinsey & Co. and KPMG.
But you’ll also spot sandwich-slingers Chick-fil-a and In-N-Out Burger and quirky grocer Trader Joe’s. Their presence proves that good HR doesn’t depend on being on the technology vanguard or offering perks that grab headlines.
It’s about something more fundamental. Caring about your people and making their success a priority every day.
The workplace has changed a lot since 1922. That year The Journal of Personnel Research debuted, rebranded later as Personnel Journal and finally Workforce. Now in our 96th year, we take a look back at what was on the minds of past generations of people managers.
‘Reskilling’ in the Great Depression, June 1935
The Great Depression’s effects on the working population were far-reaching but the lack of available work made some people unhireable even when jobs did return, wrote W.H. Lange in “Regaining Lost Skill,” in the June 1935 issue of Personnel Journal. Often, vacancies required work experience within the past five years, which was impossible for many people. “The loss of opportunity to use their skill possessed in earlier years has led to a loss of the skill itself and has forced many to forget their former occupations,” Lange wrote.
Reemployment was also tricky. Even when someone did get their job back, they showed signs of “nervous tension,” for fear of not qualifying for a job. They may “have suffered severe mental shocks which must be overcome.” Also, they might have a serious physical health problem due to malnutrition common during the Depression.
The June 1935 issue also featured a book review of “Controlling Depressions” by Paul H. Douglas, who argued against a common idea people held at the time that the Depression would cure itself. Recovery is not inevitable, he said. Rather, it depends on society taking action.
There also was a summary of the benefits of a six-hour work day. Many benefits were business-related, like elimination of certain meal periods and cafeteria expenses, decreased overhead and increased daily production for the factory. Workers also had more time to “play tennis, ball [or] go swimming and motoring.”
— Andie Burjek
Introducing the Personnel Man, January 1957
Today’s numbers tell us that women dominate the human resources profession by roughly a 70-30 split.
Some 60 years ago that wasn’t necessarily the case. In the January 1957 issue of Personnel Journal, the lead story addressed its target reader: the personnel man. Yep, “New Management Thinking Lifts Personnel Man’s Status” not only gave the pre-HR practitioner a gender-bending pep talk, it was also an early push for the proverbial seat at the table.
Chief of Personnel Services Frank J. Householder Jr. wrote, “The place a personnel man holds in his organization is a reflection of his own stature. The job can be a tremendously big one with a big man in it and a pitifully small one with a small man.” You go, big personnel man!
The issue also addressed “Older Workers Are People Too,” “Why Men and Women Get Fired” (immorality and disloyalty, the author notes) and employee engagement. Paul A. Brinker of the University of Oklahoma wrote in “Morale Among Professional Workers: A Case Study” that “Dissatisfaction in about one-third of low-morale offices could be attributed to middle management” and that “Good middle management also contributed in some instances to fine morale.” Workers don’t leave jobs… .
— Rick Bell