After a decade in business, Ruby Frank learned how to function and prosper in a “man’s world.” She started the business when women didn’t do things like that and she gained acceptance by being known as a competent business woman who was “one of the guys.” Along with running the business and raising a family, she became an active volunteer in civic and not-for-profit organizations in greater metropolitan Chicago. She was appointed to the first of several board directorships.
While operating Frank’s Employment and working with hiring managers at various local manufacturers in the Fox Valley area, Ruby got the distinct impression that, when it came to personnel matters, many of them really didn’t know what they were doing. They weren’t bad people, it’s just that Personnel was far from being a science and there was little or no training available to those managers. Ruby used to say; the task of Personnel Management was usually given to the executive that didn’t have enough else to do. After all, it didn’t take much time to do it. The function was just a necessary evil. Personnel functions were performed by supervisors and line managers who received little or no training on how to deal with personnel. They got the title but no training in what to do. During that time, Frank’s Employment performed many of the personnel functions of employers in the St Charles area.
By the 1970’s, employment legislation increased and the personnel function took the role of the specialist advisor ensuring that managers don’t violate the law and that cases did not end up in court or industrial tribunals.
Transition to human resource management
Personnel management was becoming human resource management, representing a change towards the integration of personnel functions, strategically focused on overall organizational effectiveness. Human resource management recasts ‘employees’ as ‘human resources’ who are vital organizational ‘assets,’ possessing knowledge, skills, aptitudes and future potential; and who therefore require integrated and complementary management strategies.
This transition of personnel management to human resource management signaled not just new rhetoric, but also significant new thinking on the part of managers. In other words, they were finally starting to take it seriously.
Globalization also helped force these changes. In the 70’s, I remember first-hand how consumers in the US discovered that goods that said “Made In Japan” were no longer junk. The quality was actually better than much of what was made here. This forced US manufacturers, kicking and screaming, to totally re-think how we ran our companies.
The Quality Control/QA process changes that Deming instituted made companies re-examine every aspect of design & production. They discovered that the line employees were actually an important part of the quality of what they produced. Employees were trained in the importance of making a quality product and were given the ability to shut down the line if they saw something that wasn’t right. Managers had to pay more attention to the people as well as the process.
Managers had an opportunity to take control and create approaches that were appropriate for their own organizations’ particular circumstances.
Transition to strategic role
HR strategies were developed, new individualized pay arrangements introduced, formal performance appraisal systems established and competency frameworks defined.
Employers also seized the opportunity to employ people more flexibly, establishing more part-time and temporary jobs, outsourcing ‘non-core’ activities to external providers and abolishing long-established lines of demarcation which determined where one group of workers’ duties ended and another group’s began.
They took an additional step – managers tried to look ahead more, signaling the eventual birth of Strategic Human Resource Management. Personnel Management was Reactive in nature and Short Term in vision. Human Resource Management is Proactive and Strategic.
Adapting to changing business needs
As it grew, Frank’s Employment adapted to the changing processes and priorities of HR Management. Our office on the 2nd floor of the Colson Department Store Building was working well. Ruby had 1-2 other associates working with her and was right down the hall from her husband’s business. Frank’s Employment was just prosperous enough in the early years to enable Bob Frank to start and grow Valley Illustrators and Publishers, a technical writing and publishing company. Unfortunately, in 1974, Bob died suddenly and that business was taken over by his partners.
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Read about: Our first decade in business