chapter  2
16 Pages

HR 2.0

The Power wave (1890–1945)
ByAlan Watkins, Nick Dalton

Once the power of steam, iron, and steel arrived, productivity exploded. The key HR dilemma of the Power wave was how to push costs down. However, technological improvements and advances in transportation and distribution, such as roads and rail, opened up new markets and allowed the workforce to move more freely and demand better conditions. Workers had more options, which changed the balance of power. The resulting war between the power of the workers and the power of the owners went on for most of the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, each side making ground only to lose it again.

This power battle didn’t stop until the end of the Second World War. After six years of horror, the world finally realised that excessive power on any side was a bad idea. Regulations to stop the worst examples of powerful leaders or powerful collectives were put in place. Once employee voices were accepted by employers, and owners stopped seeing their company as an extension of themselves and their own personal property, evolution triumphed and the principle-based Process wave emerged. Rule-observing personnel managers took centre stage.