I recently received a note from Charles Bartels telling me of the passing of the Manpower’s Founder Elmer Winter. Charles is Director of Global Social Responsibility focused on Manpower's Workforce Development and Diversity. Attached to Charles’ note was a memo written by Elmer Winter that I thought illustrated a true understanding of embedding corporate responsibility into a company’s values. I asked Charles if he would contribute a guest blog from his unique perspective of having known Mr. Winters personally.
In November of last year, Elmer Winter, 97-year-old co-founder of Manpower passed away.
From the day in 1948 that he opened a tiny Milwaukee staffing office with his brother-in-law, through his retirement in 1976 and beyond, Winter was passionately committed to Manpower’s values for the dignity of people and the meaningful role of work in their lives.
Since his retirement in 1976, Winter kept regular office hours at the Manpower World Headquarters and took tremendous pride in watching the small business he co-founded in 1948 grow to a $22 billion Fortune 120 employment services firm with offices in 82 countries.
I had the privilege of helping Elmer in the past 3 – 4 years with his move to our new world HQ, arranging some of his collections, organizing a part of his legacy, and more. He was quite unique, especially in his unwavering belief in the role of business to act in support of the liberating power of education and employment. Elmer had a deep-seated belief in the “socially responsible” role of business for the benefit of the world society (and Manpower’s in particular – connecting people to work, helping our customers’ enterprises succeed).
In a memo he wrote for all employees in October 1969, Elmer elaborated on what I think is still, 40 years on, an enlightened approach to corporate responsibility. In answering the question “Does the Company Have a Mission Beyond Making a Profit for Its Shareholders?” he brilliantly weaves together the role of Manpower to meet the needs of our customers with our role to respect and build the dignity of workers. And within this he addresses our obligations to the 4 million people to whom we didn’t give jobs as well as the four hundred thousand we did!
I would urge you to read the memo here.
I think we all still have much to learn from the approach he describes. In so doing I hope we can further the spirit and legacy of a great man who certainly touched my life and, I am sure, the lives of many others.