Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

"We Can Do It!" Recruitment and Socialization through WWII War Effort Posters in the United States

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

"We Can Do It!" Recruitment and Socialization through WWII War Effort Posters in the United States

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

This paper examines the role that World War II war effort posters played in the recruitment and socialization of workers into the American workforce. The purpose is to understand the effect of the war effort posters through the lens of contemporary research concerning recruitment and socialization. To that end, a brief historical overview of the war effort posters and their role in World War II is provided. A review contemporary recruitment and socialization literature follows, highlighting their implications for the war effort posters. The war effort posters provide insight into contemporary research and the important role that social context (in this case, war) plays on the management of human resources.

Recruitment and Socialization Through WWII War Effort Posters in the United States

Flexing her muscles and calling to duty women and men in the workforce, Rosie the Riveter is an American icon and an important part of our sociohistorical fabric. Rosie has is significant because of what she represents historically: the tremendous influx of workers, particularly women, into the American workforce in order to produce goods in support of home front production objectives of World War II.

The war effort posters of World War II (WWII) have been studied from a variety of perspectives, from communication (Becker, 2002) to feminist (Honey, 1995) to historical (Crawford, 1979; Judd, 1973). This paper takes a look at the posters through a different lens to examine the role they played in the effective management of human resources during the war. This perspective not only elucidates the thinking of the past, but also reveals influences on human resources practices of the present and future1.

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the role of WWII war effort posters in the recruitment and socialization of employees into the workforce. To that end, a brief review of the war effort posters is provided in order to understand the context within which the posters were developed. The manner in which the war effort posters fit into the current recruitment and organizational socialization literatures is discussed, including how they have shaped recruitment today as well as how they exemplified recruiting practices.

Approach and Assumptions

The approach taken in this analysis of the war effort posters is to examine their effectiveness through the lens of current research. In doing so, there exists somewhat of a historical fallacy by imposing the values of today on a historical event. However, doing so provides a particularly illuminating perspective on the role of recruitment and socialization in the management of human resources. Moreover, while recruitment and socialization practices are certainly different today than they were over 50 years ago, many of the principles advanced by contemporary research and practice were developed during the war era-they were just applied in the absence of their current moniker.

It is also important to note that while posters were a primary source of war information and propaganda, other media were also used to encourage Americans to contribute their labor to the war effort (c.f, Chamberlain, 1942; Dodd, 1942). The focus of this paper is on war effort posters for a number of reasons. First, they remain a nostalgic and iconic reminder of World War II. As noted earlier, images of war effort posters have become a significant element in the interpretation of the history of labor during the war years. Second, they more clearly targeted workers for recruitment and socialization in organizations. While other media described how workers could contribute to the war effort (Dodd, 1942), most were not explicitly seeking to recruit citizens into the workforce.

History of War Effort Posters

With its entry into WWII, the United States found itself facing a shortage in production labor, in part because of the extensive production needs associated with war and in part because a significant portion of the workforce was involved in fighting the war. …

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