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Personnel Man and the Early Computer

Several years ago I was kindly given a number of ‘old’ HR resources dating back to the 1960’s and 1970’s. I think they are fascinating reads – precious time capsules into a bygone era when ‘personnel’ and ‘manpower planning’ were the ‘hip’ phrases and VDU screens were brand new!

One of my favourites is called ‘The Computer in Personnel Work’ dated 1966, by Edgar Wille (now a well-respected Ashridge Associate with a distinguished career in industry and academia). Back in 1966 he describes an exciting, strange and somewhat alien world where he proposes that:

 “Computers will liberate the personnel officer from record keeping and information sifting, so that he can spend most of his time on the human problems which call forth his expertise”.

Mr Wille goes on to prophetically urge personnel departments to:

“… involve themselves deeply in computer matters … they play a vital part in the modernizing of industry”.

He gives a wonderful rallying cry to all those eager personnel officers out there suggesting that:

“The far-seeing personnel manager will be keen to play his full part in so harnessing the computer that there is a visible shrinking of the problems of management.”

Sadly, I don’t know many people managers who would credit the computer with the ‘shrinking’ of their problems, but there’s no doubt that computers have revolutionised the way in which we all work.

I like to think that Mr Wille is a keen vehicle enthusiast as his final metaphor has a distinctly transport-inspired flavour:

“The personnel man will want to be in the van of progress – not fighting a rear-guard action for steam engines”.

How beautifully 20th Century!

I wonder what they will say about a 21st Century HR Consultant and their musings on Social Media?

 

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