At IBM, innovation through the mid-twentieth century was not always a matter of technological advancement. Thomas Watson Jr. was as much concerned about improving the welfare of his employees as he was about selling the IBM ® System/360 or increasing net profit.
In the words of Thomas J. Watson Jr.
“This is a company of human beings not machines, personalities not products, people not real estate.”
Telephone address to employeesJanuary 30, 1958
“We believe in the importance of the individual in IBM and we'll never forget it. We think it's more important than the most fantastic electronic product that we could ever invent.”
“One of the proudest claims is the fact that people say IBM is a good place to work. I like to think that as we continue to grow we are not only going to live up to that claim, but make IBM an even better place to work.”
“It is essential for each of us to strive to retain originality and to maintain our identity as human beings.”
“We have always believed in IBM that our most important asset is our people and so we have followed a basic principle of trying to hire, train and keep the best possible people.”
Fair treatment and compensation were IBM hallmarks established by Thomas Watson Sr. In 1934, with the Great Depression hitting hard, he enacted his own "new deal," shifting factory employee compensation from piecework to an hourly wage basis. This was a portent of the reform his son would institute 24 years later. For thousands of IBM employees, the elimination of hourly wages certainly was about time.
A welcome surprise for IBMers
“... it's almost like getting a raise in pay. A couple of weeks ago I was sick for a day and a half, and that sort of hurt. But now that problem is solved.”
“Since I joined the company, I have been looking forward to the time when I would get on salary status. It has been one of my personal goals; now that I have reached it I think it will be an added incentive for me to go on.”
“At workbenches in IBM plants, in cafeterias, in company laboratories, wherever employees congregated to hear the announcement, murmurs of approval arose as the news came over the air. Neighbor looked at neighbor to see his reaction, and after the announcement they clustered in little groups to discuss their new status. Home telephones rang as men called their wives; those who didn't call rushed home after work to discuss the news at dinner. In car pools conversations were the same ... all about the new salary status.”