A Look At The History of Manpower


As calendars flip to the month of July, and Independence Day is celebrated across the United States, there is no better time than now to take a historical stroll and tell you a little more about Manpower's rich history and why we are so proud to serve you as members of the Manpower family. 

Like fine wines and cheeses, Manpower just gets better with time, and we have been leading the staffing revolution since 1948, and servicing the great state of Maine since 1961. Now a global company with offices in 80 countries and territories, and experience putting 3.4 million people to work worldwide, we take a tremendous amount of pride in our position as leaders in the staffing world. 

Think of all the ways the world has changed in the last 70 years, and think about the role that work plays in the growth of society, communities, and individual lives - now think about how the world of work has evolved in the same period. Manpower has been there, and just like any steadfast business, we have experienced highs and lows - but through it all, our commitment to being the best staffing services provider has never wavered.

1948: An Industry Was Born

Picture this: you and your business partner are on a tight deadline for a project, and you know that in order to meet your important deadline you need to bring on supplemental staff. You don't have the time to weed through the candidates though, because every minute you are not focused on your work is another minute detracting from your deadline. That was the position that attorneys and business partners Elmer Winter and Aaron Scheinfeld were in when they discovered that there was no company that could provide this service. Manpower was then founded in Milwaukee, WI, and then an additional office opened in Chicago, IL. To start, these two men put their focus on the need for traditional office and industrial workers. 

As a matter of historical note, average annual wages in 1948 were $2,950, the cost of a brand new home was $7,700, and a gallon of gas a mere 16 cents. Yes, we can safely say, "times, they have changed!"

1950s: Expansion & Community Service

"If you build it, they will come," and build it they did. A mere four years after opening their first offices, Manpower began expanding across the country by opening both corporate-owned offices and franchising opportunities. In addition to expanding to cities like New York and Boston, Manpower also became an international company by opening offices in Canada, the UK, and France. We think it is safe to assume that there was a large-scale need for contingent staffing services and more. 

But for these two philanthropists, it wasn't just about business - it was bigger than that. It was about service and responsibility; to be successful meant giving back and providing opportunities by helping people gain the skills they needed to be successful in the world of work. It was in 1953 that Manpower launched the Manpower Foundation, whose mission is dedicated to supporting job training and education initiatives. Service and social responsibility remain at the heart of our organization all these years later. 

1960s: Explosive Growth & Recognition

From becoming a publicly traded company, to expanding into other continents, establishing a technical division, and of course, their greatest decision to date - opening a franchise here in Maine - Manpower was doing it all, and quickly distinguishing itself as the world's employment expert.

In 1962, Manpower launch the first Employment Outlook Survey, a quarterly forecast of employment intentions across regions and different industries. In 2018, the quarterly employment outlook survey is still hailed as a valued indicator of the state of employment. The depth of Manpower's forward thinking doesn't stop there though - it also introduced MIDAS, which at the time was an innovative computer and communications system that provided centralized billing and payroll.

A new corporate philosophy was born: The Conscience of Manpower. Keep in mind what was happening in the 1960's; there was the civil rights movement, we brought back the draft for the Vietnam War, and women were not regular fixtures in the world of work - it was a very difficult time in America. Founder, Elmer Winter, found a way to inspire greatness and equality with one simple philosophy that we still live and breathe to this day: recognize that a company's people are the greatest asset to an organization, and encourage equal treatment to all. 

1970s -1980s: Weathering The Storm Through Innovation

Coming off the heels of a challenging decade for America, the 70's and 80's were challenged by stagflation with significant inflation and unemployment reaching 10.8% in the 1980's. For a matter of note, at the height of the most recent recession, unemployment topped off at 10.2%. During this time of economic strife in America, manpower recognized more than 50% of its revenue was coming from their offices outside of the United States. 

It was in this same period that Mitchell Fromstein was named to the board of directors and later named President and CEO, where he served for the next 23 years until 1999. During this period Manpower was still leading the charge with innovations such as our Predictable Performance System, a proprietary process of interviewing, testing, and training workers with a comprehensive system to match them with positions they would perform well in.

Businesses and job seekers alike recognized the power in these validated assessments. If there was a need in the employment marketplace, Manpower was up for the challenge of meeting that need, introducing more training and assessment tools such as Skillware Training Software and Ultradex. 

1990s: There's a Reason Everyone Loves the 90s

No, it isn't because we finally moved past the days of 80's hair-bands, or the release of the first Harry Potter book, or because Generation X and Millennials will tell you it was the greatest decade of all time. It's because even after a rough couple of years to start, job growth was back, and when people are employed everyone feels good.

This includes Manpower. From opening an International Headquarters, to surpassing $10 billion in sales, and having over three-thousand offices in over 50 countries - we saw growth that even surpassed the boom we saw in the 1960's. How did we do it? We stayed true to who we are.

Instead of grasping at straws, Manpower continued to do what it does best - "find the best in people and put it to work." With the mass introduction of technology into the workforce, there was plenty of opportunity to skill-up workers to help them achieve success in the 'new' world of work. At the time when we were coming back from deep and dark recession, Manpower joined the Welfare to Work initiative, a non-profit organization that educates and encourages businesses to hire and retain former welfare recipients. Manpower also launched TechTrack, a computer-based training for IT specialist, and the Global Learning Center, a computer-based learning platform via the internet to provide skills-based training.

2000s-Today: The Human Age - Stronger & Better Than Ever

At this point, we hope you get a picture of the dedication Manpower has had to the businesses, job seekers, associates, and communities we serve. That dedication has rang just as true through the new century as it did when we got started, and since we provide services in over 80 countries, we don't see that changing.

The 2000's saw Jeff Joerres take the lead as CEO and Chairman of the Board for Manpower, and later our current leader Jonas Prising. In that time, we have gone through an extensive rebranding project as ManpowerGroup. Manpower is one of four distinct brands within the ManpowerGroup family, all of which serve a unique purpose, enabling businesses and job search success and reinforcing our corporate philosophy. In 2007, Manpower invested in a new consolidated headquarters in downtown Milwaukee, helping to encourage more development in a downtown district. 

Manpower continues to expand in new markets across the globe. We continue to offer validated assessments to ensure quality matches between employers and job seekers. We still believe in providing all workers with career development services, and offer robust learning and and career management platforms like MyPath and PowerYOU. Manpower remains committed to social responsibility by supporting equality, diversity, integration, and inclusivity in the workforce.

And most importantly, to those of you reading this article, we continue to value the relationships we have with the people of Maine, and are steadfast in our commitment to serve you with strong ethics and integrity, to provide innovative and effective staffing solutions, and to be good stewards of the communities we are in.