Publication Date

July 1999


What were the hot compensation issues and practices over the past century? Does history offer any lessons that may inform our compensation decisions in the future? To answer these questions, we reviewed newspapers and business publications from the past 100 years. To highlight changes in compensation systems during that time, we selected four topics to examine in detail in this paper: compensation's role in the changing nature of the deal; the evolution of pay-for-performance; the emergence of benefits; and the bellwethers of compensation systems.

Four lessons for the future are drawn. These include: End the search for the one "right" compensation strategy; Understand what in the context matters; Continue pragmatic experimentation, and Support continuous learning about compensation. Readers are invited to delve into the history of compensation to discover what they take away for the future.


Suggested Citation
Milkovich, G. T. & Stevens, J. (1999). Back to the future: A century of compensation (CAHRS Working Paper #99-08). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies.