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PERSONNEL DEPORTMENT : In Its 65-Year History, Costa Mesa-Based Journal Has Evolved Into a Glossy Repository of Up-to-Date Management Wisdom

December 15, 1987|MARIA L. La GANGA | Times Staff Writer

The year was 1925, the topic was a study on women in the workplace, and the conclusion was bad news for the flappers in the factories.

"Women may be intellectually competent to undertake any and all vocations," was the grudging admission of one article on the study. But officials at the Ohio rubber plant where the inquiry was conducted "decided that salaried women employees do not deserve the same pay as men, even when they hold the same kinds of positions."

It was an early salvo in the modern war over equal pay for equal work, and it was fired in the Journal of Personnel Research--a periodical started three years earlier as a voice for the infant personnel industry.

Fortunately for working women, the nation and the industry have changed somewhat since then.

So has the magazine. In 65 years of publication, the Journal of Personnel Research has evolved from a quarterly that addressed such weighty topics as "blond and brunette traits" and "height and weight as factors in salesmanship," into the Costa Mesa-based Personnel Journal, a thick, glossy repository of up-to-date management wisdom.

Mirror of Workplace

Throughout its transformation, the magazine has served as a mirror of the U.S. workplace, reflecting the major issues of the times and their effects on the corporate world: the Depression in the 1930s; World War II in the 1940s; civil rights legislation in the 1960s and 1970s; acquired immune deficiency syndrome and immigration reform in the 1980s.

But the basic focus of this family-run magazine has remained the same, because "the issues of a fair day's pay for a fair day's work don't change," said Margaret Magnus, the junior partner in the mother-daughter team that runs the journal.

Those issues are at the crux of personnel management, and they fill the pages of Personnel Journal, which is the oldest and one of the largest continuously published periodicals in the country covering industrial relations and human resources.

"Personnel Journal is crisp, practical, topical stuff," said Richard E. Sells, president of the Employment Mangement Assn. "They do some weighty articles from time to time, although they are more current affairs and late-breaking news and ideas. It's certainly well read."

The magazine started out in New York and made sojourns to Swarthmore, Pa., and Santa Monica before making its final home in Costa Mesa in 1978. Arthur C. Crofts, for whom its parent company is named, was editor and publisher in 1960-75, when Publisher Betty Hartzell--Croft's niece and Magnus' mother--took the helm.

To Magnus, the journal's editor and associate publisher, "personnel" is a catch-all term that includes "everything that happens to an employee from the moment he or she steps through the door of the company: resume, interview, orientation, training, reviews, benefits, transfers, grievances, retirement."

As such, the personnel industry is a product of the 20th Century, a time when workers flocked from fields to factories to fill the demands of an increasingly automated work world. It is an industry born alongside the Industrial Revolution and the union movement, steam engines and worker protest.

In its earliest incarnation, personnel was a discipline designed to understand and manipulate the growing urban work force, industry experts say; by mid-century it had changed into something of a corporate graveyard, where once-proud managers were sent to retire.

Today, however, it is a $35-billion-a-year industry, complete with software, scores of publications and a burgeoning army of "personnel managers," which no company with more than 100 workers could manage without.

At the heart of this transformation is an increasingly complex world and a growing body of legislation governing the public and private workplace.

"It used to be you came in, punched a time clock and got compensated," Hartzell said. "But the days of the payroll clerk, who'd take the time off the time clock and pay it, are long gone. . . . Workers used to get insurance and sick leave and that's it. Now there are cafeteria benefits, employee fitness programs, child care."

From 1962 to 1982 alone, the number of employees and managers involved in personnel and industrial relations work has increased from 113,000 to 423,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Nearly 160 universities and colleges offer advanced degrees in personnel and labor specialties, more than 150 newsletters and magazines address these issues and 95 groups provide support for the wide array of personnel professionals.

The pages of the magazine, which has a paid circulation of about 29,000, are filled with ads for health care systems and relocation assistance, resume-check services and training films--goods and services that did not exist a decade or two ago.

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