Work For All Ages

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

Systems,

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

disaster

recovery," says Mohan, "but in terms of IT, our disaster

recovery

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

Technology

Council at Cisco Systems’ Edison offices. Cost: $40. Call

856-787-9700.

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.

"Because

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."

Top Of Page
Work For All Ages

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

crowd, too.

On Tuesday, March 26, at 8 a.m. Greg Hamill, executive director

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

Fairleigh

Dickinson, Seton Hall, and Cornell. Other speakers include Ellen

Bravo co-director of 9to5; Hylton Senior of Memorial Sloan

Kettering; John Sarno of the Employers Association of New

Jersey;

and Charles Tharp of Bristol-Myers Squibb. Topics include

contingent

workers, legal issues, work/life strategies, recruitment, and managing

stress in the workplace.

Hamill, a graduate of Colorado State University (Class of 1964),

joined

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

1995,"

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

people?"

The answer was the creation of a joint online employee assistance

program. It provided guidance, largely through self-guided

questionnaires,

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

discretionary

program was scrutinized, and many, including the Talent Alliance,

were scrapped.

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,

Hamill

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

workforce,"

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.’

Companies

aren’t capturing that, and they’re going to have to. It’s a huge

untapped

market."

At the same time employers have to embrace some younger workers who

sometimes don’t appear — at first blush — to be prime

corporate

material. Here are some of the issues.

Boomers are known for a strong work ethic. The Baby Boom

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?)

Gen X doesn’t mirror their dads’ work behavior. Children

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.

Interviewers

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.

Gen Y drives a hard bargain. "They question

everything,"

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,

everything."

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

families

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."

Retired folks and their grandchildren seek flexibility.

This is where the two ends of the age spectrum come together. Both

look for opportunities to telecommute, work flexible hours, and

perhaps

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

grandfather

too. Both are at a time in their lives when they are as interested

in travel, golf, and skiing as they are in work.

Hamill is seeing this phenomenon in his own family. He and his

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

not withstanding.

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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