Imagine, if you will, that the HR Tech Conference had not held its inaugural event 20 years ago but had, instead, started up thirty years ago in 1987. 

I don’t know about y’all but I was working in an office in 1987; a recruitment agency to be exact. Our fanciest “technology” consisted of the ability to transfer our phones from our suburban branch office to the downtown Milwaukee HQ office when we were going to have a meeting or whatever. This was, to our minds, the most magical thing ever!  And, somehow, we always needed to transfer the phones every Friday about 3pm. Coincidental that this was also when we locked the doors and mixed cocktails like the gang at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce? Maybe. 

Oh we had some other technology at our disposal; a green screen DOS database that served as our system of record for client information; candidate information was saved via paper resumes and note cards with cryptic codes and abbreviations. We had a very expensive and newfangled fax machine that churned out an endless cascade of shiny paper and necessitated a scissors be nearby to cut the pages apart.  Job orders were handwritten (triplicate; carbon paper) and stored in a filing cabinet once a candidate was placed. Invoicing after that placement was done via mail…US mail. With stamps and everything.  

So what would the Personnel Technology Conference have been like in 1987? What would the vendors have been selling? Floppy disks? Bigger and better fax machines? Mechanical pencils? 

Some of the slogans and marketing messages we hear today could just have easily been uttered to an HR Gal/Guy in 1987:

  • “this will solve all your problems”
  • “we’re changing the way you work”
  • “transformation”

Oh…and by the way? It may be incredibly unhip and tragically uncool to admit it but MY Human Resources team still sends and receives faxes every day; doctor’s offices, benefits providers, government agencies and financial institutions and lenders.  Every day.  #Flashback 1987 

The 1987 Personnel Technology Conference #HRTechConf
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