The American Corporation as an Employer: Past, Present, and Future Possibilities
THOMAS A. KOCHAN
Much speculation has appeared in recent years on the nature of the corporation of the twenty-first century. Visions abound of networked firms, virtual organizations, flat and flexible structures, and global operations that transcend national boundaries. Missing from many of these analyses is a well-grounded understanding of the role of the corporation as an employer and manager of human resources. Yet how firms treat those who work for them will have important effects on the viability of the organizational forms envisioned for the corporation of the future.
Human resource issues are often overlooked in the mistaken view that an organization's employment practices are shaped by some deterministic trajectory of market or technological forces or that the most efficient or "best" practices of leading-edge firms naturally spread to other firms and employment relationships across the economy. Yet a deeper historical perspective suggests that employment practices are also influenced by labor market and labor force characteristics, unions and other institutions that speak for workers, and government policies that regulate employment relations. These factors therefore need to be more fully taken into account in predictions about the future of the American corporation.
This essay examines the modern American corporation as an employer