An Historical Perspective of Reward Systems: Lessons Learned from the Scientific Management Era

Helene L. Caudill, Constance D. Porter


This paper reveals how similar the reward systems prevalent during the scientific management era are to the rewards systems in use today. Systems popular today, such as profit sharing, gain sharing, skill/knowledge-based pay, merit-based pay/pay for performance, and variable-based pay, were also advocated during the reign of scientific management. The ideas expressed by several key scientific management contributors, including Frederick W. Taylor, Henry L. Gantt, Harrington Emerson, and Frank B and Lillian M. Gilbreth, are detailed. These ideas are compared and contrasted with existing reward systems and their underlying premises.  In addition, the lessons learned from the scientific management era as they relate to reward system philosophies of today are presented.

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