I’m old enough to remember when you had to roll down your car window by hand. Lap belts in the front seat, too.
Now, power windows come standard. Anti-lock brakes and air bags, as well. Back-up cameras, GPS and satellite radio are increasingly part of the package.
What was once a luxury is now standard issue.
In HR, a similar rise in standards continues apace. Each year, organizations expect more and better practices from their HR departments. Organizations are better for it, too.
So when the ISO announced last month the release of standards for recruitment, diversity, workforce planning, leadership and workplace culture among others (page 40), it’s worth remembering the professionalization of the field wasn’t always a given.
Now it comes standard. Time to up the game again.
—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.
Acting on Labor Relations, September 1935
Arguably the most historic federal labor-relations decision to protect both workers and employers was signed into law in 1935, and the September issue of Personnel Journal took eight pages to republish major provisions of the Wagner-Connery Labor Disputes Act along with brief commentary on their significance.
The commentary lends little perspective — “It does not cover all industry and labor, but is applicable only when violation of the legal right of independent self-organization would burden or obstruct interstate commerce” — but the significance of devoting that much space in a magazine reveals the wide-ranging impact of this landmark labor legislation.
The issue also contained a book review of “Government Career Service,” in which author Leonard D. White wrote, “Unless we establish a recognized career comparable to the careers which can be found in the universities, in the professions, and in the business world, the best men will go elsewhere and government will get exactly what it deserves.”
Finally, a short story on “Beauty Culture as a Vocation for Women” pointed out disparities in pay — between “white women” earning $14.25 a week and “Negro women” who earned $8. And white men? They averaged $22.50 a week.
— Rick Bell
Aren’t the ’90s Ironic?, January 1999
We’re ringing in the new year with an issue that summarized a decade with an abundance of pop culture references. Allan Halcrow, editor in chief at the time, channeled his inner Forrest Gump in his editorial letter, writing that work in the ’90s was “a lot more than a box of chocolates.”
“The ’90s in Review” looked at everything from the Middle East crisis to presidential impeachment hearings to the death of Princess Diana. The story deemed the decade as “a decade of irony,” referencing Alanis Morissette’s hit song “Ironic.”
What was ironic about the workplace of the ’90s, exactly? Even though corporate America embraced diversity initiatives throughout the decade, employee lawsuits against employers for inequities were higher in the late ’90s than at the outset.
The issue also featured a news brief about women’s groups pressing lawmakers to get employers to cover the cost of contraception as a health benefit, since following the release of Viagra in 1998, most insurers covered the prescription for men — something more inconsistent than ironic.
Finally, there was a list of new workplace trends that began appearing in the ’90s — many of which are still relevant today. November 1998 marked the beginning of telecommuting becoming an acceptable practice. February 1996 marked a period of gang infiltration in the workplace. And April 1997 brought on new HR challenges thanks to a series of mega-mergers.
— Andie Burjek