Archive for March, 2011

Bosses told to ignore weak link employees

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Article in Austrailia HR Leader

Employers should not waste their time or money on ‘weak-link’ workers, an HR expert has warned.

Speaking at the Richard Lloyd From Mediocrity to Magnificent discussion, author and industry expert, Dr Denis Cauvier said it was “dangerous” for companies to treat all employees equally, and insisted that poorer performers should be given minimal time and support.

Quoting General Rick Hillier’s ‘95 per cent rule’, Cauvier said that an individualised approach was needed, and that by treating all workers in the same way was risky and unproductive.

“Never spend more than 5 per cent of your time with your poorest performers, and instead save 95 per cent of your time for people that really deserve it,” he said. “You obviously need to have systems in place to support the weakest link and resolve any issues, but you certainly don’t want to put a disproportionate amount of time rewarding your poorest performers.”

Cauvier also stressed the importance of valuing the right people, and said that an equal approach to all staff would lead to discontent among the high performing individuals within organisations.

“What happens is that if your top performers, for example; those that could develop quickly, or those who are emerging, feel they are not getting the support they need, they’ll start to want to leave and go somewhere else.”

Gen Y health epidemic ‘is inevitable’

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Article by – Benjamin Nice: HR Leader

Employers must find new ways to keep their staff fit and active or else face a plague of health-related problems at work, an industry expert has warned.

Addressing HR professionals at the Richard Lloyd From Mediocrity to Magnificent discussion, Dr Denis Cauvier said that companies needed to implement strong and engaging strategies to keep employees physically active, or risk large numbers of staff health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

“This is the first group that it’s projected will not live as long as the previous generation,” he told the audience. “A higher percentage of health problems, illness and disease are going to be key workplace issues in the next 10-20 years.”

Cauvier, author of Hired 2.0 – Recruiting Exceptional Talent at the Speed of Light, explained that any retention strategy should aim to target employee health, which in turn would boost the bottom line and increase staff well being and happiness.

“If you’re thinking about productivity, then find ways to help your people become more physically fit and active,” he said. “Not only will they be less accident prone and be more productive, but it will really enhance your retention strategies.”

Cauvier also labelled those born from 1965 to 1983, also know as generation x, as the first “true multi-taskers”, and said that shifts in society and the explosion of technology had played a massive part in how these people viewed work and life in general.

“This is the first time in history that the formal institutions were changing, I wouldn’t necessarily say that society failed the young people, but marriage, religion, moral values, and all of these things fell by the wayside,” he said.

“There were more divorces, more single parent situations, more women entering the workforce, mass movements against formalised religion, and all of these cornerstone institutions that were there for the previous generations were no longer there for this generation.”

With higher life expectancy and longer working lives, Cauvier said that it was becoming more and more common to find all four major generation groups within a company at the same time.

To help boost productivity and forge better working relationships, he explained, veterans, baby boomers, gen x and gen y all needed to understand what was important to the other generational groups, as well as paying attention to individual traits.

“It makes sense to try and get the bigger picture and understand the demographic shifts in the key four groups, but then go beyond that and realise that we are all individual people,” he said.

Hosting the discussion was recruitment company Richard Lloyd, and director David Landau agreed that a good work/ life balance and company culture were high on the list of priorities of those from generation Y, while generation X were more concerned with achievement and stability.

“Another noticeable differentiator is that a number of gen Y’ers typically seem to want tomorrow today, whereas gen X’s seem to recognise that often you need to ‘do your time’ prior to moving up the ranks,” Landau said

As well as being able to attract and retain talent from the younger generations, Cauvier agreed that companies must be able to offer a work/ life balance, and also demonstrate a fast-paced and varied working environment, with good opportunities for growth.

“If you want to keep young people, you have to understand that what they see in their mind is this: my security is not my religion, not my parents but it is myself,” he said. “It is a question of how can you manage the dynamics and expectations of this group. If you are successful, then you can tap into the brilliance of this generation pool, and the possibilities for your company will be endless.”

Landau also suggested that companies needed to let the younger staff feel that their opinions mattered and offer a workload which was challenging, rewarding and avoided too much routine, with high emphasis on feedback and recognition for hard work.

“In order for companies to retain good young staff, a great strategy is to ensure that their role does not become routine. gen Y’ers enjoy breadth and variety to accompany weekly/monthly tasks,” he said.

“In relation to this it is highly advisable for managers to sit down with their staff on a regular basis and speak about their goals and aspirations. You will find that taking these conversations away from the office, i.e. a quick coffee, a team barbecue on a weekend, etc. will go a long way to gathering information that you are unlikely to hear in a more formal meeting room setting.”

Detroit Outgrows Silicon Valley in Tech Jobs as Ford Hires

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

March 24 (Bloomberg) — As a group of Ford Motor Co. managers in blue jeans sat down to interview a suit-wearing candidate from a California technology company this month, they jokingly offered to cut off his tie to put him at ease.

Auto industry executives are trying to make Silicon Valley engineers feel at home in Detroit. With a burgeoning number of technology job openings to fill, they’re scouring Internet companies for workers, wining and dining applicants, and seeking promising students at schools such as Stanford University.

“We have a whole slew of job postings out there currently,” said Doug VanDagens, director of Ford’s connected service solutions, who has been trying to lure engineers to the automaker to design software. “We’re just on a growth binge.”

Expertise in cloud computing, mobile software applications and energy management are in demand in the Motor City as automakers replace car stereos with Internet radio and gasoline engines with motors powered by lithium-ion batteries. Technology job postings in the Detroit area doubled last year, making it the fastest-expanding region in the country, according to Dice Holdings Inc., a job-listing website.

“There’s a war for talent out there, and it’s only going to get worse,” said Jim Bazner, vice president of human capital solutions at MSX International in Southfield, Michigan, which helps automakers find specialized employees. “There are hundreds of jobs, and all the automakers are hiring.”

Dearth of Graduates

Ford and General Motors Co. are rapidly hiring graduates from local universities as fast as they can — there just aren’t enough of them.

“If we filled every opening that’s been posted or recruited just in the Lansing area, we’d be able to hire out all of our graduates three times over,” said Garth Motschenbacher, who helps place computer-science graduates at Michigan State University. About 70 percent of the school’s 54 students scheduled to graduate in May have jobs lined up, he said. “The number of students has not kept up with the opportunities.”

Still, attracting engineers to Detroit rather than Silicon Valley can be a challenge. The San Francisco area is home to more technology companies offering more job openings than Detroit. California’s mild climate and history of innovation are also a draw. Yet Detroit is bouncing back.

Companies that work with automakers on in-car entertainment systems, such as online streaming music providers Pandora Media Inc. and Mog Inc., have opened offices in the Detroit area. Google Inc., based in Mountain View, California, has an office in Birmingham, Michigan, where it’s looking for sales associates to work with the auto industry.

New Wave

Marty Zacharias is part of the wave of new hires. The former Nissan Motor Co. and Ford employee joined Berkeley, California-based Mog last month — in its new Detroit office. He’ll work directly with companies such as Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s Mini and others to get Mog’s Web-based subscription music service into vehicles.

“Many more Detroit-based automotive industry employees will follow a similar path to mine,” Zacharias said in an e-mail, “or join advanced technology divisions within the established automotive companies.”

The expansion has caught the eye of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which announced in December that it will open its first satellite office in Detroit. The region’s high percentage of scientists and engineers, as well as its patent output, spurred the decision, said Paul Fucito, a patent office spokesman. The 4,000 patents granted to Michigan in fiscal 2010 ranked seventh among U.S. states, he said. The facility is likely to create about 100 new jobs to review patent filings.

Recession’s Toll

One reason why the job growth in Detroit appears so high is because the recession’s toll went so deep, said Tom Silver, senior vice president of Dice Holdings and author of the jobs report showing a surge in the area.

“The recovery there is actually looking pretty substantial, but it’s also a reflection, to some extent, that Detroit was probably hit a little harder than the other markets,” he said.

The hiring demand comes as Detroit’s population fell to the lowest official tally since 1910. According to 2010 U.S. Census data released this week, Detroit’s population declined 25 percent, to 713,777, down from a peak of 1.85 million in 1950.

Michigan lost about 413,000 jobs from December 2007 through December 2009, including 83,200 jobs in the Detroit area, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Things picked up last year, as jobs in the Detroit-area professional and business-services sector, which include many of the tech jobs, rose almost twice as fast in December as the overall Michigan job market, according to the bureau.

Light-Rail Project

Not all tech jobs in Detroit are related to the auto industry. Dan Gilbert, chairman and founder of Quicken Loans Inc., helped fund a planned light-rail project for downtown, formed a venture capital firm to invest in startups, and purchased a historic theater with plans to renovate it as an incubator space for budding technology companies.

“I want to see this city come back in a big way,” Gilbert said in an interview. “Part of it also was for business — we want to create that urban feel, that urban core environment downtown where people in their 20s and 30s really want to be.”

Last year Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, moved 1,700 of Quicken Loans’ employees into Compuware Corp. headquarters in Detroit’s Campus Martius Park area, the center of the city’s tech industry, where he plans to add 2,000 more workers.

In the building, graffiti from local artists decorate many of the walls and floors, and mini kitchens on every floor offer free slushies and snacks. When the space is fully finished, Quicken also will have a basketball court for employees.

Venture Funding

Gilbert’s venture capital firm’s goal is to fund social media, cloud computing and other software companies in Detroit. So far, Detroit Venture Partners has received more than 200 proposals for investments and has term sheets under consideration for six that may be signed in the next 30 days, said Josh Linkner, one of the three founders, in an interview.

Venture capital firms invested $79.9 million in 13 Detroit companies last year, according to National Venture Capital Association data. That’s the most companies since at least 1990 and the third-highest total investment, the data show.

Even with efforts to mimic Silicon Valley office culture, recruiting people to move from the West Coast to Detroit is difficult, said Micky Bly, GM’s executive director of electric vehicles, battery and infotainment systems.

“I don’t want to categorize it as an issue, but it is tough,” he said. “You don’t have people begging to come to the Michigan area.”

Salary Gap

Compensation is one reason why. While average salaries for Detroit technology jobs rose 2.3 percent last year to $71,445, that’s still less than the national average of $79,384, and about 28 percent lower than the $99,028 paid in Silicon Valley, according to Dice Holdings. More than 940 technology jobs are currently available in the Detroit metro region, compared with more than 5,060 in Silicon Valley.

Still, Bly says the quality of life can be attractive for some. “They can get a whole lot of house in Michigan for what they can get in San Francisco,” he said.

The workplace culture among automakers is also relaxing, as they attempt to adopt some of the perks more common at startups, like wearing jeans to work or telecommuting. That’s a big change from when Bly started at GM 20 years ago, when everyone wore a collared shirt and a tie.

“The variation was in your pant color — you could have gray, black or blue,” Bly said. While things have changed, the perks still aren’t the same as in Silicon Valley, he said.

“Do we have a free cafeteria like Google? No, but our stock isn’t up to $400 a share yet,” Bly said. Google currently trades at about $583 a share, while GM’s stock sits at $31. “When we get $400 a share, I’ll make sure we have free meals for everyone here.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Ryan Flinn in San Francisco at rflinn@bloomberg.net Jeff Green in Southfield, Michigan, at jgreen16@bloomberg.net .

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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