Corrections or additions?

These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring were

prepared for the

September 5, 2001 edition of U.S. Newspaper. All rights reserved.

What’s a `Good Employee?’ The Definition Has Changed

Just back from the Princeton Chamber’s annual trade

show, held last Thursday, August 30, Mary Jane Stofik has this

observation: "I was talking to tech people. They’re absolutely

nervous wrecks." Stofik is regional sales manager for Bryant

Staffing

and Bryant Technology, working from their Jamesburg and Piscataway

offices. She is seeing, close up, that "definitely, a correction

has occurred."

She speaks on a panel discussing "How to Find Good People and

Keep Them" at a meeting of the Middlesex Chamber on Thursday,

September 6, at 8 a.m. Cost: $28. Call 732-821-1700.

Before switching to the personnel industry two years ago, Stofik spent

20 years in the insurance industry, most of them selling property

and casualty products to Fortune 500 companies. During that time,

she went through 13 acquisitions, two of them leading to layoffs,

and a number causing remaining employees to wonder "Was it a good

thing to be kept on?" So, naturally enough, she is philosophical

about the ups and downs of the hiring game. "It goes in

waves,"

she says.

Minutes after saying this, however, she put her interviewer on hold

so that she could accept an incoming call. Coming back on the line,

she sounds at least a little shaken. "That was my friend,"

she says. "He was just laid off. He has a son starting

college."

She says that her friend was an HR manager, and that he saw the irony

is his own dismissal, commenting "I’ve had to do this to other

people."

"That’s the second friend this week," she says. "The other

was a big computer person in D.C." Still, speaking from

experience,

Stofik says, "Everyone should be downsized once." What it

teaches, she says, is that, while employers hold great power over

individuals, their pink slips "don’t kill you."

Stofik, a native of Union who studied business at Rutgers, now lives

in Ocean Grove, a seaside town in Monmouth County. It’s Lucent

country,

she says, and it is "seeing a lot of that terror." The end

result, though, she predicts, will be a lot of creativity migrating

to other fields. "Those people aren’t going away," she says.

"It’s like a mattress. You push a lump down, and it pops up in

another spot."

Despite the layoffs, and an economic uncertainty that is leading to

what she calls a certain "paralysis" in many industry sectors,

employers still are looking for good people. The definition of

"good

people" has changed over the years, however. This is what the

employers Stofik visits are asking for now:

Flexibility, but not necessarily loyalty. One of the

biggest

changes in the job market, Stofik says, is that employers no longer

stress loyalty as a top quality in their hires. "The vice

president

I report to has been in the industry for 15 years," Stofik says.

"She struggles with this." Given her own, possibly record

breaking, history in recently-acquired companies, she understands

why the promise of long-term service is not uppermost on employers’

minds as they search for new employees. Flexibility — the ability

to move around and adapt quickly — is now more important, by far.

"It used to be that you would look at a resume with a lot of jobs,

and ask `Where’s the stability?’" says Stofik. "Now, if

someone

has been there more than five years, you say `Weren’t you good enough

to get another job?’"

Maturity. "Old is in," says Stofik. "Employers

are looking for experience, maturity." The mentality not long

ago, she says, was "We’ll get rid of you, and hire two

20-year-olds

for less money." No more.

Cultural sensitivity. Employers have gotten the message

that off-color jokes and teasing co-workers about their religion,

gender, ethnicity, religion — or just about anything else —

is not funny. At least not if it lands them in court. Hiring

individuals

who respect others from a wide variety of backgrounds has become

increasingly

important.

Technological savvy. "We’re seeing long-term employees

who haven’t kept up with technology," Stofik says. This is no

good, from an employer’s point of view. Expertise at a wide range

of software applications is a must for the administrative assistant,

and for the manager too. Stofik gets people who give "I made lots

of money at AT&T" as their main job qualification, and storm out

when they are told it is a good idea to brush up on their computer

skills. Often, "They come back in six months," she says.

Humbled

by a no-exceptions rule of technology literacy, many take advantage

of her agency’s offer to use its computers and software to learn

now-basic

skills like Access, Excel, and Powerpoint.

Cultivating the qualities employers are looking for is a good

idea. So, says Stofik, is "keeping a resume current, as though

it’s your last day on the job." As two of her friends just found

out, it very well could be.

— Kathleen McGinn Spring


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