This is going to be a very interesting challenge for me. And to frame things I need to step back to personal computing. I started with Sears in 1971 and by 1977, I was personnel manager of a large store in White Plains, NY. One of my responsibilities was to create a payroll cost projection each month for the store operations executive who was responsible for send the profit flash up the line. I would have to go through a book that has the personnel of every department and update it each month with terminations, new hires, and wage changes, also projecting the part time hours that would be used and so forth. Everyone in my position in every store dreaded this. With calculators and tapes, it took up to three days a month which I was able to cut to two.
Fast forward to a different company where I was HR director. It was 1985 and I had obtained authorization to buy an IBM PC and a wonderful spreadsheet program called Lotus 123. I thought wow, I wish I had this at Sears. I was projecting things that the management could not imagine possible. I knew where our benefit costs were month by month and the ratio by department plus much more. I had so many formulas in the spreadsheet that I had to take it off automatic calc. Thus began my assent in that company and my reputation as the pioneer, go to person, and early adopter.
Fast forward again, the same company and the year is 1995. I had a program called Prodigy. They offered subscribers an opportunity to beta test something new—It was Netscape, the first graphical Internet browser. I spent hours on it until my wife and daughter realized that no one was getting through on the phone because I was using the line. Later I had to resolve that with a second line. I was president of our local SHRM chapter at the time and heard from SHRM that another chapter had a web site. I called that chapter and learned how to get one. In 1996, I registered the name www.whrma.org. Here is the logo from letterhead that I digitized.
We were the second chapter online in all of SHRM. It is still online today and updated many times. I was also on the board for the New York State Council of SHRM and I got them a site. I wanted to do this in our company, and I had allies but also skeptics. I asked the VP of Sales and Marketing why we should not have a website now. He said, “because most of our customers don’t use the Internet.” I think Kodak might have said similar things about the digital camera. He did come around later. I was persistent and we created a website. It wasn’t long before browsing turned into transactions. Employee self service rather than going to HR with forms was just the beginning.
Today, we are light years ahead as most transactions can be done online. I am a volunteer treasurer for two organizations, and I can do everything from home either in Armonk or Florida. I really could not do everything I am doing if I had to go to offices and work on in office computers.
I can’t imagine my life today or how my career developed without the Internet and personal computing. What did we lose? What did we lose when cars replaced horses? The question is what new skills are utilized now that we are not spending endless hours on things that have been automated. That is the challenge I help companies handle. Our newer workers, “digital natives,” don’t need to learn the computer skills or typing--they know it. They need to learn about leadership, relationship building, accountability, communication, and how to analyze and curate all this information at our fingertips. Old skills replaced by new ones. That is progress and that is exciting. And that is my story, and I am sticking to it!