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The Road to Nostalgia

Abstract background. Yellow - green palette. Raster fractal graphics.“Party Rock Anthem” by the hip-hop group LMFAO® was the number one song in 2011 for 6 straight weeks.  At my age, I’m not supposed to know that but my favorite radio channel happens to be Sirius Hits 1®.  I can’t help it – I don’t really like “old things”, including songs.  But just because I prefer the new to old, does not mean that I can’t appreciate the historical and learn from it.

Technology has a very interesting history.  Did you know that there is a Society for the History of Technology®?  Per the society’s website, it was formed in 1958 “to encourage the study of the development of technology and its relations with society and culture”.  They study how technological devices have an impact on politics, economics, and other aspects of society.  Members come from around 35 countries. 

We can go as far back as 3000 BC when Stonehenge was started and talk about the first calendar.  But things really began happening for computers in the 1800’s.  Did you know that “Nintendo®” was started in 1889 as a playing card company?  IBM® started as early as 1924. Even the first mouse was invented in the 1960’s but really wasn’t used until the 1980’s by Apple®.  Luckily the inventor got a patent for it in 1970.  When you consider the first home computer did not come about until 1975, we’re not doing too badly today.  A lot has happened in 30 years and most of us are even still alive to attest to it.

Other interesting trivia includes the “first internet” viral threat in 1988 which caused the creation of a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT®).  Then in came the invention of “WWW” by Tim Berners-Lee.  The list of fun facts goes on and on but we will stop here.

What’s the history of staffing software?  Well, to answer that question we should go back to the history of the staffing business.  Before computers you had staffing companies.  One of the oldest references dates back to 1650.  Oddly enough, the first private agency opened to service the engineering industry and Silicon Valley’s competitive technical labor market in the 1970’s helped push staffing as an industry forward.  Since its inception, staffing was about connecting people with employers.  The 1980’s was big for temp.  All that considered, it is very appropriate that automation was and continues to go “arm and arm” with staffing.

In earlier days, many staffing companies developed their own software.  They had to because software for the staffing industry did not exist.  Many staffing companies actually began marketing their home-grown software to other staffing companies and started side businesses that many times surpassed the revenue brought in by their staffing business.  In the 80’s most staffing companies were not automated.  The software sales cycle began by trying to convince companies that they should be automated.  That is certainly not the case today.  Without automation very little can get accomplished by a staffing firm.

First we had mini computers.  Rather expensive and very exclusive to software.  If you wanted a certain type of software you had to get the type of computer it ran on.  Service bureaus were also very popular.  You would pay a subscription fee and then use software keeping your data on a remote server.  You “dialed in” to get your information.  Next came along the multi-user PC.  PC’s were more affordable, fast and companies preferred to house their own information for more control.  Many times a bunch of PC’s were simply strung together without a “server”.  After that client server systems were quite popular.  You saw operating systems like UNIX® and then Microsoft® of course came out with suites of products to accommodate the needs for operating systems, databases and office software. Today, everything has gone almost full circle and back to the old “service bureau concept” except it’s called “cloud computing”.  Suddenly we all want to be in the cloud.  Today, mostly all software is either web-enabled or web-based and we are back to paying a recurring subscription fee to use software.

The interesting part about software is how our entire culture is influenced by what one can do with technology.  It has literally changed the way the staffing business does staffing.  The phone used to be king and it was not uncommon to see staffing companies going door-to-door dropping off marketing materials.  Today, no one prints marketing materials so no one actually walks around dropping it off.  Phones are still used but more for texting and emailing than talking.  For a “people industry” this seems a bit odd but there is no other way to do business today and yet survive.  Business practices are dictated by the needs of customers and customers want automation.  Many times when you call people they ask you to email them instead or ask about your website.  Seems nobody has time to talk.  So we must use other means to communicate.

Because society has changed, business practices have changed.  What was once unacceptable is now the norm and everyone is concerned about efficiency and the convenience of automation.  In a way this is good for businesses.  Where once information was kept on pads of paper and in everyone’s head, information is now stored in a database.  This provides for fast and easy lookup and loads of information for historical analysis and forecasting.  In addition, we can offer the convenience of web portals and on-line applications to customers and candidates.  Business thrives on automation and if you do not have the right tools you are left out.

By the same token, automation can be a daunting task.  Social media represents an entirely new and complex set of issues.  First, you need resources to update and monitor your social media campaigns.  Next, you need social media policies firmly in place to prevent employees from posting messages that can represent a lawsuit or loss of customer business.  In addition, there is the threat of viral or other unexpected confidentiality breaches as employees use cellular applications, remote access and the internet.  Business must be informed of the dangers so that they can be prepared for such situations before they happen.

Life with automation is oh so grand but also complicated.  With increased functionality comes more responsibility to manage technology and to ensure that business data is safe.

Terri Roeslmeier is President of Automated Business Designs, Inc., software developer of Ultra-Staff staffing software for the staffing and direct hire industry.  Ultra-Staff is a staffing software business solution with components for front office, back office and the web.  For more information on Ultra-Staff go to http://www.abd.net

This article made an appearance in staffdigest Magazine. www.staffdigest.com

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