For most organizations, investing in human resources is a necessity. That doesn’t mean it is seen as valuable.
People and the payroll, benefits and costs associated with hiring, housing and equipping them are the single biggest cost on balance sheets. To some, HR is just an extension of that cost — needed maintenance to keep the machine running.
That’s a limited view. There are plenty of nuts-and-bolts activities HR does that are essential to keep things humming. But that neglects the role HR plays as a source of upfront advantage, not just back-end competence.
Take a look at the winners of this year’s Workforce Optimas Awards.
From top to bottom, you’ll see prime examples of HR as innovator and inventor, proving time and again the pivotal role your profession plays in the future of work.
~Mike Prokopeak, Editor in Chief
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.
Looking Back at a Look Ahead, November 1961
Predicting dystopian life in the mid-1980s was not the exclusive territory of George Orwell.
The writers and editors of Personnel Journal were all over it, too. In the November 1961 issue, noted organizational development authors Wendell L. French and Elvar O. Ebling Jr. cast their vision toward the future workplace with a piece titled “Predictions for Personnel and Industrial Relations for 1985.”
They referenced Orwell’s “1984,” but the forecast was not as dire. Centralizing personnel management and industrial and labor relations under one executive with a VP title who reports to the president would be almost universal by 1965, they said. Hello, CHRO.
And by 1985, graduate degrees — not certifications — would be the rule for personnel, they surmised. Data would play a bigger role in staffing and hiring: “Statistical tools such as discriminant analysis and differential prediction will allow for multi-variate statistical analyses of data in a number of companies by 1985,” they wrote.
The also proffered this warning: “The personnel director’s private battle will be a battle against mediocrity. … A mediocre personnel man may very well bring about mediocrity in his organization before he is supplanted.”
A dystopian society indeed, personnel man.
— Rick Bell
Corporate America’s Diversity Movement, December 1998
The effectiveness of diversity programs is a controversial subject in 2018, but it was even questioned 20 years ago, when Workforce Editor-at-Large Gillian Flynn, now more well-known for writing the popular novel “Gone Girl,” wrote “The Harsh Reality of Diversity Programs.” “Women and minorities are sick of the status quo,” Flynn wrote, and they’re cynical about diversity programs.
Their complaints about diversity programs are abundant. Many promote stereotypes, the article stated. “All it does is translate a negative stereotype (women are emotional) to a positive one (women are intuitive). [This] does little to foster individual respect.”
Women and minorities dislike being treated like a homogenous group. “They feel this approach is condescending,” Flynn wrote. Women aren’t always more collaborative, creative or emotional than men, and men aren’t always more logical, linear or competitive than women.
Elsewhere, columnist Shari Caudron made a strong statement that HR people should tell the truth all the time, no matter what, instead of “wimping out” under pressure. “If you’re mad at your boss, tell her. If the budget is unrealistic, say so. If employees want to know how restructuring will affect their jobs, tell them,” she wrote.
Also in this issue, a wellness brief suggested that to prevent repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, one option is Jazzercise. And a financial column focused on how “the era of affordable health care costs may be coming to an end.” Twenty years later, it’d be hard to find an employer who disagrees with that.
— Andie Burjek