Corrections or additions?
This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the March
20, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
HBO Thinks About The Unthinkable
Paul Mohan, HBO’s manager of HR Information
says that before September 11, his company thought it was prepared
for any disaster that might knock it off the air. "We thought
about fire or water main breaks," he says. "We thought about
what would happen if we couldn’t get in the building."
Then, a few miles south, well within walking distance, the World Trade
Center was attacked and toppled. "We did have some sort of
recovery," says Mohan, "but in terms of IT, our disaster
changed drastically. We were looking at it from a different angle.
No one had ever thought of three blocks being torn apart."
Mohan speaks on "Strategies of the New Reality: the IT Weapon"
on Tuesday, March 26, at 4 p.m. at a meeting of the New Jersey
Council at Cisco Systems’ Edison offices. Cost: $40. Call
A native of British Guyana, Mohan studied medicine before emigrating
to the United States and pursuing a career in information technology.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the State University
of New York and an M.B.A. in management from C.W. Post. He has been
with HBO for 13 years.
September 11 occasioned a "very, very major change" at HBO,
says Mohan. Physical security was evaluated and tightened, and the
company spent millions of dollars to protect its product. "That’s
the core of the business," says Mahon, "keeping movies on
the air. If we can’t do that we’re in trouble."
HBO’s offices are on 6th Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets, and
with the altered way of thinking brought on by September 11 Mohan
describes the location as "within destructible distance of the
Empire State Building."
For HBO, the keys to protecting its IT assets and infrastructure,
as well as its ability to shoot out its movies to subscribers around
the world, include decentralization, redundancy, and replication.
"We have live replication and a lot of redundancies in different
states and in different parts of the city," says Mohan.
it is replication of a live system, people can be anywhere and can
get into the system. It’s like taking your job and putting it in three
or four places."
The effort was expensive, but, says Mohan, "in terms of what you
get, it’s well worth it."
Corporate America has some adjusting to do. In order
to keep operations humming well in the early decades of this century,
companies will need to bend enough to attract grandma and grandpa
— and the seniors’ grandchildren too. Workers at both ends of
the age scale will be essential employees as the workforce shrinks
through 2030. And, surprisingly, the same recruitment tactics that
will net the best of youngsters will bring in the cream of the over-60
On Tuesday, March 26, at 8 a.m.
of the Center for Human Resources Management at Fairleigh Dickinson
University, speaks on "Harnessing and Directing Multi-Generational
Employees." He appears at an all-day event at Seton Hall called
Coming Together and Getting the Job Done. Call 973-313-6103.
Two-years in the planning, the management conference is sponsored
by the Employers Association of New Jersey, and co-sponsored by
Dickinson, Seton Hall, and Cornell. Other speakers include
Bravo co-director of 9to5;
workers, legal issues, work/life strategies, recruitment, and managing
stress in the workplace.
Hamill, a graduate of Colorado State University (Class of 1964),
AT&T right out of college, leaving his home state for assignments
on the east coast. ("Some people will go anyplace for money,"
he quips.) He spent 30 years with AT&T, 15 of them in human resources.
His last title was director of employment. When he left the behemoth
multi-national, he went to the other end of the employment spectrum,
heading up a 10-person, non-profit dot-com.
Called the Talent Alliance, it was conceived, he says, as partly as
balm for CEOs’ consciences, and partly as a PR tactic. "In
he recounts, "there was a big CEO roundtable. It had been set
up by 10 large companies in response to their downsizing on one hand,
and giving huge salaries to CEOs on the other hand." The CEOs
asked themselves, he says, "What can we do to show we care about
The answer was the creation of a joint online employee assistance
program. It provided guidance, largely through self-guided
on issues such as continuing education and relocation. Participating
companies included TRW, Lucent Technologies, AT&T, J&J, and DuPont.
The website no longer exists. It was not terribly expensive to run,
but Hamill says that in the current economic climate every
program was scrutinized, and many, including the Talent Alliance,
Hamill had been active in Fairleigh Dickinson’s mentor program, which
matches students with businesspeople, and knew the former head of
the Center for Human Resources Management Studies. When he left,
was recruited for the job.
From the perspective of a working life spent in human resources, he
says that many companies let great candidates get away because their
work policies are too rigid, and because they fail to realize that
different generations have different needs, expectations, and ways
of expressing themselves. Employers need to get up to speed fast,
though, because demographics will soon force them to look carefully
into every possible labor source.
"Over the next 20 to 30 years, we have a huge aging
Hamill says. "By 2010, there will be 67 million Americans over
65. In 1970 the median age of workers was 28. Now it’s 35. By 2030,
it will be over 40."
With more retirees and fewer young workers, there will be a labor
crunch. Says Hamill, "Boomers, as they get into their 50s, are
saying `I don’t mind retiring, but I want to work part-time.’
aren’t capturing that, and they’re going to have to. It’s a huge
At the same time employers have to embrace some younger workers who
sometimes don’t appear — at first blush — to be prime
material. Here are some of the issues.
generation — born from the mid-1940s through the mid-1960s —
got over its youthful protest stage quickly and went on to become
ideal fodder for the corporate mill. This group is characterized by
its strong work ethic, says Hamill. Boomers know how to interview,
dressing carefully, presenting neat resumes, and answering questions
articulately and respectfully. When given a job offer, they generally
accept the terms with a minimum of fuss, and go on to work long hours
and relocate when and where their bosses tell them to. Anything for
a promotion is the name of their game. (Perhaps this is why they can’t
wait to retire?)
of the older Boomers, these workers, born between 1965 and 1975, are
not, by and large, the dark blue suit crowd. "They might come
to an interview in blue jeans," Hamill says. "They may or
may not have a resume. They’re more cynical, more independent."
Still, he has seen, the younger workers have a lot to offer.
should not dismiss them out of hand, but rather should translate their
language and style of presentation, looking for the skills that could
make them perfect for a job.
Get past appearances and ask specific questions is Hamill’s advice
to interviewers. Pose hypothetical situations to find out how the
candidates have handled themselves at work in the past. If the answers
indicate a good fit for the job opening, don’t worry too much about
the blue jeans.
says Hamill. Offer a job to a Gen Y candidate, a person in his or
her 20s, and don’t expect a quick yes or no. "They will negotiate
everything," says Hamill. "Vacation, hours, benefits, pay,
After accepting a job, this group, as a whole, can not be counted
on to be at their desks long into the night, or to pick up their
and move to Cincinnati or Cairo at the boss’s whim. Gen Y grew up
in families where, says Hamill, their Boomer parents often made work
a top priority. They saw how little time and energy their parents
had left for anything else. Now it’s their turn to work, and, Hamill
says, "they want work/life balance."
This is where the two ends of the age spectrum come together. Both
look for opportunities to telecommute, work flexible hours, and
even to take off large chunks of time during the year. Very different
from the Baby Boomers’ job-first way of thinking, this style can work
well for corporations, says Hamill.
"Corporations can have a core staff — maybe 20 to 30 percent
of their employees," he says. This group, those with specialized
knowledge and those in top management positions, would work standard
hours year round. The rest of a company’s staff could be made up of
contingent workers, reporting part-time or on a project basis. This
arrangement keeps personnel costs down, staffs work efficiently as
it ebbs and flows, and appeals to a 22-year-old — and to his
too. Both are at a time in their lives when they are as interested
in travel, golf, and skiing as they are in work.
wife have five children between them, all age 28 to 32. "They
all want a much better work/life balance," he reports. As for
Hamill, he and his wife are planning a trip to Fort Collins, Colorado,
soon to scout out a good house in which to retire. But Hamill doesn’t
expect to spend much time rocking on the front porch, glorious scenery
Working now, at a time when his 30 years at AT&T would provide him
with a comfortable retirement, he has no plans to slow down. "I’ll
keep busy," he says. He may not seek a part-time job after a move
to Colorado, but will step up an already active life as a volunteer.
For some time he has been going on trips with his church to Honduras
and to other impoverished places — including some in this country
— to help build schools and medical facilities. He will do more
of that in retirement — unless some wily employer lures him back
into the workforce.
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