Eachof thegroups that fed into personnelmanagement focusedonadifferent aspect of work relations: The engineers looked at job design and administrative practices; welfare workers were concerned with the factory environment and the worker’s edification; and vocationalists emphasized employment policies and procedures. These separate strands began to come together in the years before America’s entry into the war. Efficiency-the engineers’ watchword, with its connotations of scientific method and bureaucratic order-infused the welfare work and vocational guidance movements at the same time that the engineers started to take employment reform and worker uplift seriously. It was as would-be solvers of a number of problems that troubled both employers and society-industrial alienation, unemployment, and turnover-that these groups made connections with each other and became integrated into a larger enterprise: the personnel management profession.

Of the various tendencies inherent in America’s new industrialism that disturbed reformers and intellectuals in the early 1900s, none worried them more than the declining efficacy of the work ethic. This perceived decline was thought to be the source of problems ranging from individual alienation and boredom to social instability and unrest. Often the worker himself was blamed for this decline; he was an immigrant, or a drunkard, or a mental misfit. But it was also widely recognized that work itself was no longer satisfying; it had become too specialized and monotonous, offering at best merely pecuniary rewards.1