Future Scaping HR
Human Resources can find it roots by looking no further than the purchasing department. From the beginning, hiring and firing people, the traditional core of Human Resources functions, was done by the purchasing agent. The thinking behind this was that purchasing agents procured the land, equipment, materials, and as a extension of this the people to ensure proper functioning of the business. To an extent of this attitude that people where to be purchased, unions arouse to protect the interest of the worker. To negotiate with the unions, companies adapted by having their own representatives, giving rise to the labor relations function within HR.
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There seemed to me a formula with HR that if administered correctly would conjure up a wonderful organization of happy employees. The problem with this belief I had was that of change. Change inserted itself to alter that formula and alter it drastically and continuously. Because of this no one can predict the organization of the future. No one can predict the future course of the HR profession. No one can predict how HR practices will change in the future. Thinking about this future though may lead to innovative insights into how better prepare for the changes that will inevitably occur. Thinking about this future of HR may help to change today’s HR practices in positive ways. This paper then is to look into the future and take a look at the future trends of the HR profession.
Before diving into our time machine to go future scaping, how did we get to the point we are now in HR? What people, places, and policies have made the workplace what it is today? I would like to look at four companies – Procter & Gamble, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Southwest Airlines who created places of work that stood out during various times of the last century. These companies are just a small sample of HR thinking today, although, they comprise of an important part of it.
Started in 1837 as a soap and candle maker (Fortune, 139), Procter and Gamble was a model of exemplary employee relations at the turn of the 20th century. This employee relations improvement came about when the company introduced a profit-sharing plan to foster company loyalty. The plan was improved in 1903 by tying it to the purchase of company stock, and today it is known as the oldest profit sharing plan in operation. In the year 1915, the company introduced an employee disability and death benefit plan. It also gave its employees an eight-hour workday and guaranteed 48 weeks of work in a year, and they were the first to do so.
IBM made its mark in the world of business by making people the focus of the corporate culture at a time when others where reducing tasks to repetitive functions. IBM borrowed money to fund in-house education programs, did away with piecework, fixed up factories, and paid above average wages at all levels of employment. IBM launched group insurance plans and for a time boasted of lifetime employment until the massive cuts in their workforce in the early 90’s.
Hewlett-Packard instituted the “HP way” which focused on employee sensitivity. The company’s benefit plan was one of the best around, and became one of the first companies to offer flextime for its employees. They also championed the idea of management by walking around and had their employees in cubicles to make this easier.
Lastly, Southwest airlines stands as a maverick in every sense of the word. Tom Peters said this of the airline, “What I discovered is an organization that dares to unleash the imagination and energy of it people. They make work fun-employees have the...