All of us like to hear stories this time of year, so I thought I would do my part.
Did you know that we have a family history that goes back to the 1800's? Pour a glass of wine, nestle into that chair by the fire and I'll tell you the story of Human Resources. (With lots of help from Wikipedia, so remember that this a story could have some misty origins.)
Once upon a time there were people who lived without FSAs, 401(k)s, FLSA, DOL or even Human Resources. And yet their lives were terribly difficult.
"The early development of the [Human Resource] function can be traced back to at least two distinct movements. One element has its origins in the late 19th century, where organizations such as Cadburys at its Bournville factory recognized the importance of looking after the welfare of the workforce, and their families."
Remember that in the late 19th century the Industrial Revolution was in full swing with employees working in ghastly, unsafe sweatshop and factory conditions. The Cadburys had something entirely different in mind for their employees. From 1879 to the early 1900s they pioneered pension schemes, joint works committees and medical service within a culture where factory jobs could swallow most of your life and give back barely basic financials. The Cadburys also developed a community for their employees, building houses in a style that would be used as a model for decades and providing for health and fitness activities. (Any of this starting to sound familiar?) Other employers became uncomfortable as the Cadbury's model turned out to have merit. How could they compete?
The second movement combined politics with business -- a theme that is with us still. 'The employment of women in factories in the United Kingdom during the First World War lead to the introduction of "Welfare Officers". Meanwhile, in the United States the concept of human resources developed as a reaction to the efficiency focus of Taylorism or "scientific management" in the early 1900s, which developed in response to the demand for ever more efficient working practices within highly mechanized factories, such as in the Ford Motor Company. By 1920, psychologists and employment experts in the United States started the human relations movement, which viewed workers in terms of their psychology and fit with companies, rather than as interchangeable parts.'
"During the middle of the last century, larger corporations, typically those in the United States that emerged after the Second World War, recruited personnel from the US Military and were able to apply new selection, training, leadership, and management development techniques, originally developed by the Armed Services, working with, for example, university-based occupational psychologists. Similarly, some leading European multinationals, such as Shelland Phillips developed new approaches to personnel development and drew on similar approaches already used in Civil Service training. Gradually, this spread more sophisticated policies and processes that required more central management via a personnel department composed of specialists and generalist teams."
Yes, Virginia, we have an honorable and interesting family history with a common thread of facing stark realities with innovations. Work has gotten more interesting, more fulfilling and less physically threatening and we've had a piece of this progress. We learned and keep on learning. It's a great story.