There is an Apple computer showroom in SoHo, at 103 Prince Street, that will take your breath away. Two stories of sleek pizzazz in pure white and ice blue, it showcases the gorgeous machines in a setting befitting their striking looks and cool features. Visitors are encouraged to bend the ultra-thin flat panel monitors this way and that, the better to try out the iPhoto, iTunes, and iDVD software. Children have their own area, where they sit on colorful beanbag chairs around round tables.

Upstairs, there is an ultra-modern classroom, called a studio, where a number of small-group classes take place. They cost $99 for four two-hours sessions. There is even a class titled "Switchers."

I want to be a switcher. My four-year-old PC is making alarming sounds — what you would expect to hear from a flat tire in the break down lane. When it gasps its last, I want to become an Apple person. I want one of those iMacs, the model with a white base in a half-basketball shape, and a flat-panel monitor that adjusts to match eye level perfectly. The newest Apple models, out just in time for the holidays, come with a new operating system, something called Mac OS X Panther. While I claim little expertise on the subject of operating systems, I do like the sound of "Panther," with its connotations of strength, agility, and raw beauty.

Whenever I blather on about my Apple obsession, however, my sons do their best to dissuade me. They are PC people who are forever swapping out hard drives, souping up their RAM, and mixing and matching computer parts to achieve just the right effect. Cowed by their obvious computer superiority, I have in the past backed down, and bought yet another PC.

They argue that there is little software for Macs and that a Mac person is an odd duck in a PC world, in danger of being unable to communicate. They are now singing the praises of Microsoft’s XP operating system. Knowing my weakness, they demonstrate how easy it is to upload, arrange, and print digital photos with XP.

But this time I think the siren song of the Apple is too strong. I think I am ready to become a switcher.

Coincidentally, the next meeting of the Princeton Media Communications Association is addressing the whole switching issue. It takes place on Wednesday, December 17, at 6:30 p.m. at Sarnoff. The cost is $5 for members, and $15 for others, a category under which most wannabe Switchers would fall. More information is available at 609-818-0025, ext. 146.

The official title of this meeting is "Apple’s Next Generation Media Creation Tools: QuickTime 6, MPEG 4, OS X: Panther, and G5." The first sentence of the meeting announcement reads: "Should a new Apple be under your Christmas tree?" The speaker is Nick Floro, president of Sealworks, an interactive developer of digital solutions for delivery on the web, CD, and digital devices.

For pros, the meeting looks at the latest compression technologies, Internet streaming options, QuickTime Player’s authoring features, the new MPEG 4 standard, and gives an overview of QuickTime Virtual Reality. For all sorts of computer users, including switchers at all levels, the meeting goes into detail about Panther for the "Mac user who is upgrading, a Window user who’s looking at switching to the Mac, or a UNIX user who wants to use key applications." The meeting is designed to "help you decide if Apple really offers more."

Anyone who has spent any amount of time lingering in that SoHo Apple showroom (call 212-226-3126 for directions), will undoubtedly be primed to say, in response to that question about whether or not you are ready for an Apple under the Christmas tree, Yes, Yes, Yes!

— Kathleen McGinn Spring

#h#Compensation Strategies for the Coming Boom#/h#

Workplace amenities are so superficial. That’s the opinion of HR pro Michael Weisenberg. "Nobody takes a job for a nicer cafeteria," he says. Neither lavish landscaping nor in-house valet services will attract top people. Right now, most employers are not even concerning themselves with these late-’90s perks. They don’t have to.

BMWs for top performers are so last century. Employers of all sizes find their mailbags and E-mail boxes chock-a-block with vigorous Ph.D. patent holders and salespeople with experience in selling ice pops to Eskimos. These superstars are looking for jobs, and they’re not nearly as choosy as they were just four years back.

But, employers beware, says Weisenberg, "demographic change is coming." A number of factors are set to converge, reduce the labor pool to a puddle, and force a reconsideration of what it takes to pull in and hang on to the best workers. This may not be the time to rush out and order a sushi bar for the corporate cafeteria, but it is time to start thinking again about compensation issues.

Weisenberg provides a guide to compensation and benefits during a five-part class, "Compensation: How to Develop Effective Reward Programs," he teaches at Mercer County Community College. The first session takes place on Thursday, December 18, at 6:30 p.m. No classes are held on Christmas or New Year’s Day. Cost: $270. Call 609-586-9446.

Weisenberg is director of benefits compensation and human resource information systems at Raritan Bay Medical Center. A Bronx native, he is a graduate of the City University of New York (Class of 1966) and he holds an MBA from Baruch College. He has worked as a wage and salary analyst for New York University and in personnel at the City University of New York. Following his years in academe, he moved to the private sector, working for a number of companies, and most recently for UC Industries, which was acquired by Owens Corning. After the acquisition, he was asked to move to Ohio, but declined, and is now back in the not-for-profit world.

Whether a company’s eye is firmly fixed on raising the bottom line, or on another mission entirely, it needs good, highly-motivated people to reach its goals. That’s where smart compensation and benefits policies come in. Such strategies are always important, but they are poised to become more so.

"Industry is facing a change," says Weisenberg. "Baby Boomers are starting to retire and the generation following them is smaller. There will be a labor shortage. Even with a poor economy, a lot of companies will soon begin to see the change."

Everything is cyclical. Right now, the labor market is a buyer’s market. No question. But, says Weisenberg, "you have to be aware of the cycles. In five years employers will have to be far more generous." And he’s not just talking about dollars in a paycheck. Employers, dealing with a new generation of workers, need to be ready for a whole new ballgame.

The new family. "The norm is to have two-income families," Weisenberg says. Implications for an employer in a tight labor market could be far reaching. With both partners in the workforce, someone is very likely to need time off to care for new babies and elderly parents, and to attend dance recitals and Little League championship games.

Transfers may become more difficult too, as husband and wife become vested in careers.

Flexibility. In general, he says, the post-Boomer generation places tremendous value on the ability to work from home and to arrange alternative work schedules. Weisenberg foresees a lot more job sharing and four-day work weeks.

Loyalty. "The Boomer generation is very work ethic-oriented," he says. "They didn’t need much to motivate them. They felt they owed it to the employer." The following generation, which watched its parents and grandparents downsized, sometimes after decades of service, just does not have the same attitude. "They’re more family-oriented," he finds. "There isn’t the same loyalty."

Technology. The Internet has completely changed the world of work, says Weisenberg. It has also changed compensation and benefits, in part by bringing them out of the closet. Employees can now log onto chat rooms and learn just what their co-workers, and workers at competitor companies are making and what benefits they are receiving. Beyond the chat rooms, which have a reputation for bending the facts, there are more objective Internet sources of information on company culture and salary structure. One that Weisenberg mentions is Salary.com.

Recognition. "Money isn’t everything," says Weisenberg. Even in a tight labor market, the best talent will stay where it feels valued. "Give authority and responsibility to do the job so that your employees can see achievement," he advises. "They can’t be part of a machine." When the results are in, never neglect to publicly recognize superior work.

Challenge. Money is wonderful, a flexible schedule makes everyone happy, and recognition is always welcome, but perhaps nothing is as important as continual challenges. When people leave a company, says Weisenberg, it is often for a greater challenge or for more training. "If you want to hang on to the smart, motivated people," he says, "give them challenges, rotate them, or give them the opportunity to go to school. Offer tuition reimbursement."

Money. No, the size of a paycheck is not the only, or even the most important, factor in attracting employees. But it can’t be ignored. "People want what they deserve," says Weisenberg. Salary surveys may be necessary to establish what other companies are paying in the same job categories as the ones in your firm. It is essential to be competitive. It is also important not to let your salary scale stagnate. Workers who reach the top, with no prospect of attaining another raise, will become restive.

For several happy years employers have been able to stop worrying about how the Jones Inc. have been upping the compensation ante. Weisenberg suggests that the time to start emerging from that happy state could be upon us.

#h#Finding Root Causes Of Business Fraud#/h#

From 1999 until 2002, WorldCom perpetrated one of the largest accounting frauds in history. As enormous as it was, it was accomplished in a mundane way: More than $9 billion in false or unsupported accounting entries were made on the corporate books in order to achieve the desired results.

WorldCom’s executive leadership was the source of the culture, as well as much of the pressure, that perpetuated the fraud. Top managers, aided by numerous employees, conspired to commit the fraud. What kind of leadership fostered such a culture?

After 18 months of studying WorldCom and its leadership, John Sarno, president of the Employers Association of New Jersey (EANJ), says that the seeds of WorldCom’s demise can be found in many organizations. According to Sarno, corporate fraud and other wrongdoings are the result of the dynamic interaction between weak leaders and an organization that fosters their weaknesses.

"Weak leaders are motivated solely by extrinsic rewards. They usually lack self-esteem and experience low job satisfaction. The organization’s reward systems, while lucrative, often degrade personal responsibility and self-worth," he says. "WorldCom is a spectacular case, but its culture and values may not be anomalous."

Sarno, who is also a lawyer, presents his findings at a free Executive Leadership breakfast meeting hosted by Fairleigh Dickinson University on Friday, December 19, at 8 a.m. For more information call 973-758-6800. During the presentation, Sarno discusses:

Ethical leadership. The difference between leadership that instills fear and intimidation and leadership that fosters trust and integrity.

Compensation. How compensation and reward systems can undermine ethical behavior.

Corporate culture. How some organizations degrade the spirit of work, thus creating apathy and ethical short-cuts.

Trust. How ethical leadership creates transparent organizations that restores trust.

Success. How trust can be leveraged for business success.

This seminar is open to the public and is free of charge, although seating is limited. To register call EANJ at 973-758-6800. For further information, you can also contact John Sarno directly at john@eanj.org.

#h#Do It Yourself Parcel Post#/h#

Starting on Monday, December 15, a number of area post offices began to give demonstrations on virtual gift mailing. Called Click-N-Ship, this Internet-enabled holiday helper allows customers to print and pay for mailing labels with postage using a credit card, personal computer, and a printer. The feature also allows users to calculate shipping rates, find ZIP codes, validate and save addresses, and purchase stamps.

The demonstrations take place through Monday, December 22. Hours are from 9 a.m. through 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. through noon on Saturday.

Locations include the Trenton Circle branch, at 2601 Brunswick Avenue; the East Brunswick branch, at 614 Cranbury Road; the Kilmer branch at 21 Kilmer Road in Edison; and the Freehold branch, at 200 Village Center Drive.

#h#Corporate Angels#/h#

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has made a grant of $168,835 to the George Street Playhouse. The money is to be used to develop a play dealing with substance abuse for its Educational Touring Theater.

The play would be aimed toward adolescents in grades 6 to 8, and would seek to dispel the myths about drug and alcohol use that students are routinely exposed to by their peers.

In developing the play, the George Street Playhouse will work with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence of Middlesex County to first examine the problems of drug abuse in schools and effective ways of dealing with the problem.

The Playhouse will also partner with individual schools in New Jersey to act as test sites for the script. In various stages of creation, the script will be publicly read at these sites, and feedback will be invited from teachers and school administrators. Through this process, the exact focus of the play will be determined, but the essential message will be that there are alternative ways for students to combat peer pressure and the use of drugs.

This unusual development process is expected to take three years.

Passage Theater Company has received several grants in support of its 2003-’04 mainstage season at the Mill Hill Playhouse in Trenton. Fleet Bank , a longtime supporter of the theater’s educational outreach programs, has made a major grant to the Fourth Annual Solo Flights Festival, a month-long festival of cutting-edge plays by solo performers in February.

Passage recently received its first ever grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support free productions and after school programs of the State Street Project, which reaches young people and families in Trenton.

The New Jersey State Council on the Arts has renewed its support by awarding Passage a general operating grant, which will be used to keep ticket prices low. Additionally, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation is making a grant in support of Passage’s mainstage season and the State Street Project.

For more information call 609-392-0766.

Employees of Bristol-Myers Squibb together with the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation have given more than $3.5 million to the United Way this year. Employee donations are matched, dollar-for-dollar, by the foundation.

In addition, employees volunteer their time at a number of local organizations. Recipients of cash donations and/or time include the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, the Community Food Bank, HomeFront, Princeton Nursery School, The Family Preservation Center at the Katzenbach School for the Deaf, and the Princeton Senior Citizen Center.

In a separate initiative, Bristol-Myers has awarded $10,000 to the Trenton After School Program to support a new science education program. This program is designed to foster intellectual curiosity about many areas in the sciences and health. The curriculum will consist of science and health instruction, including the use of educational kits, videos, scientific software, and field trips.

A variety of topics will be available for each age group, and children may select topics that interest them. Each program will contain lesson plans, outlines, and measurement tool kits.

Trenton After School Program is an outreach ministry of the Nassau Presbyterian Church and Trinity Episcopal Church of Princeton operating under Princeton Outreach Projects.

The program operates at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral at 810 West State Street in Trenton.

Glenmarle Woolworks on North Harrison Street hosted a benefit for the Autism Society of America on Sunday, December 14. The open house featured entertainment, refreshments, door prizes, and a fashion show of one-of-a-kind hand-knit and crocheted sweaters, jackets, ponchos, and shawls.

The proceeds from every purchase during the day went to the Autism Society.

Throughout the year, the shop donates the entire $50 price of its Heartfelt Bag kit, a wool felt tote filled with yarn and the pattern to make a second bag, to the autism group.

The shop’s owner, Lee Good Hurford, became interested in working for the charity because her grandson, Lucas Tierney, is autistic. Lucas will be four on December 30, and she considers the event a birthday present for him. She has seen the toll that his care, a 24 hour a day responsibility, has taken on her son and daughter-in-law.

The needs of autistic individuals, and of their families is great, but in her opinion the educational and developmental support infrastructure for them is weak. She points out that one of every 250 children is born with autism.

The fundraiser is her attempt to raise awareness. For further information, call 609-921-3022.

#h#Donate, Please#/h#

In the spirit of the season, the YWCA of Princeton is seeking individuals, families, or companies to "adopt" a low-income family through its St. Nicholas Project.

Participants are matched with a family and asked to contribute presents for each child from wish lists the children draw up and the YWCA passes along. The YWCA says that these presents often are the only ones the children will receive.

In addition, supermarket gift certificates for a family holiday dinner are needed, along with a small gift for the parents.

Drop-off at the YWCA’s Bramwell House porch on Paul Robeson Place takes place on Wednesday, December 19, from 8 a.m. to noon. Gifts left there will be distributed later that day.

Those who would like to participate, but cannot shop for a family may make a donation to the YWCA Princeton Child Care Center at the Valley Road School Scholarship Fund. One child is funded for one day with a gift of $25, one week for $125, one month for $500, and one year for $6,000.

The St. Nicholas Project was organized by Jill Jachera, and attorney with Morgan, Lewis & Bachius. The project is named for her nephew, Nicholas Nutile, who was killed last year in an automobile accident. Call her at 609-919-6608 about making last minute donations.

McCarter Theater will host "From Bayou to Bourbon Street," a performance of Louisiana blues and jazz, to benefit CancerCare of New Jersey on Friday, February 27, at 5:50 p.m. with a reception honoring Dr. Michael Kane, medical director of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey at Hamilton. Dr. Kane is being recognized for his commitment to cancer patients and for his innovative work in the area of clinical research.

Tickets are $100, and must be purchased in advance. CancerCare is seeking sponsors and advertisers for this event. For more details on tickets or sponsorship opportunities call 609-924-8752, ext. 122, or E-mail to monicas@cancercare.org.

The Community Action Service Center of Hightstown is seeking donations for its programs, which aid local families. The typical family to whom this non-profit provides services is made up of two working parents with two children and an annual income of less than $18,000 a year.

During the past year, CASC handled 40,000 phone calls, translations, job counseling and resume-building consultations, and shelter referrals. It fed 840 families, arranged 250 home visits a year with the Hightstown and East Windsor community nurse, distributed 120 Thanksgiving baskets in partnership with East Windsor PBA, provided hot Thanksgiving dinners to 275 people in partnership with the Americana Diner and Comcast, and assisted 125 people in filing tax returns.

Help power next year’s outreach to the working poor by calling CASC at 609-443-4464.

E-mail: kspring@princetoninfo.com

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