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In the 1920s—when the economy was booming, and keeping workers was both hard to do and crucial to business—personnel departments started to make supervisors treat their employees well. Many of the men (it was always men) who might have gone into business had fought instead.
It didn’t help matters that talent development had received little or no attention during the Depression.
But when the labor market loosens up, HR suddenly seems like a nuisance, because we don’t like being told how to behave—and we see no immediate benefit to complying.
Instead of sitting tight until the next market shift changes leaders’ perception, HR managers should set the talent agenda now. HR managers can score big wins for their companies by rethinking programs that have been around since the 1950s, making a business case for the initiatives that matter, and cutting loose pet programs that lack impact.
How top executives feel about HR pretty reliably reflects what’s going on in the U. But sentiments change when labor tightens up and HR practices become essential to companies’ immediate success. People would put up with nearly anything to stay employed.
Line managers complained that personnel departments were getting in the way of better performance, which they thought could be achieved with the “drive” system: threatening workers and sometimes even hitting them if they failed to measure up.
They sound routine now, but they were revolutionary then.When things are going more smoothly all around, managers tend to think, “What’s HR for us, anyway? Quite the contrary: It has plenty of room to improve, and this is a moment of enormous opportunity.Little has been done in the past few decades to examine the value of widely used practices that are central to how companies operate.And it prevents us from doing what we want, such as hiring someone we “just know” is a good fit.Its directives affect every person in the organization, right up to the top, every single day.
Although 83% of people in a survey said they would look for a new job in 2014, the number who are actually quitting has not yet spiked.