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Old 03-13-2014, 04:35 PM   #41
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At my last job my director used to refer to the people on my staff as FTEs (full time equivalent units). Upper management used to try to spread the work out based just on FTEs, like people were interchangeble Lego pieces, regardless of skill set. Like any old FTEs will do to work on this project that requires expert skills in artificial intelligence and Assembler language programming. (I'm not just saying that to be funny, that actually happened.)

Former megaconglomocorp raised this issue to our research group. They planned to re-assign the techs to different process modules, to enhance our "training". Excellent idea to take an expert at, say, lithography, and another "expert" at thinfilms, and swap them around, so that neither had any experience at their job. Luckily, that fell by the wayside...
But it was kind of insulting, because it implied that we were just interchangeable parts, and that ANYONE could do our jobs...
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Old 03-13-2014, 05:19 PM   #42
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Perhaps, onset of on-line stock trading, internet (company quarterly report became easily accessible along with other info), 24x7 business news channels, ... , contributed? Then, the rest were left to people's greed and selfishness. IMHO.
I think you almost nailed it here. What I saw while working as a young engineer in the early 80s was more focus given to quarterly reports and the short term impact on the price of the company's stock right about the time the 401k became widely available for most employees. Suddenly more people than ever were invested in the market and watching their investments rise and fall, sometimes with sickening swiftness (think Black Monday). I remember every downsizing announcement being met with a predictable 10% pop in share price.... As a manager for the past 20 years or so I have seen the impact to the OpEx budget that labor rates have, labor is by far our biggest "expense" and is the naturally low hanging fruit that is reached for when money gets tight.
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Old 03-14-2014, 01:03 AM   #43
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I guess my work-life must have been completely charmed. I worked as a programmer from 1979 to 2006, aerospace then finance. I do not think I ever worked any unpaid overtime or had any job stress. The work I was assigned was generally easily do-able more quickly than my deadlines. I got to dress casually, have my own office, and park my bike in it (for the most part). I did have a few toxic managers I quickly got away from, but that was it. I always felt I could always get another programming job quickly (and did the three times I needed to), so did not stress out when layoffs happened.

Maybe I was treated as an interchangeable programming unit, but I benefited from it too, with very low stress jobs and regular inflation+ raises in the long run.
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Old 03-14-2014, 09:15 AM   #44
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I just don't get how a company can be worth 5% less than it was the day before when there is no news other than they missed earnings by a couple pennies.
I always thought it was because if you missed earnings despite the plethora of methods for earnings management, things must be worse than they thought.
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Old 03-14-2014, 10:30 AM   #45
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I think both employers and employees have fault in the lack of loyalty and high turn over of cut backs during the past years. Years, ago, retirment plans kept employees with the same company; today, employees take their 401k plans with them when they leave, most often cashing them in and then not having enough money to retire as they get older. In the "old days" small companies couldn't afford retirement programs, today, many small companies do have 401k programs....the employee wins. As a former employer I worked to build employee loyalty, had many 20+year employees.......but, many employees didn't share their loyalty to the company. On the other hand, I realize how mega corporations have sliced employees to improve profitability. We'll never go back to the past.......but there is still opportunities for employers and employees to work together for the common good......you see that in tech companies that pay well and have many applicants for every job opening. I'm just glad I'm out of the rat race.....as it was called years ago and, for many is still true today.
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Old 03-14-2014, 10:54 AM   #46
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but there is still opportunities for employers and employees to work together for the common good......
Pull the other one, its got bells on.

The labor market is a market and in the US that means supply and demand rule with very little sentiment or anything else at play. That may not be how it was 25 years ago, but today any employee who does not adopt a mercenary attitude is losing out because their employers certainly will. This is not changing any time soon.
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Old 03-14-2014, 12:16 PM   #47
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I think both employers and employees have fault in the lack of loyalty and high turn over of cut backs during the past years.
...
but there is still opportunities for employers and employees to work together for the common good......you see that in tech companies that pay well and have many applicants for every job opening. ....
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...
The labor market is a market and in the US that means supply and demand rule with very little sentiment or anything else at play. That may not be how it was 25 years ago, but today any employee who does not adopt a mercenary attitude is losing out because their employers certainly will. This is not changing any time soon.
There is something magical that happens when employer and employees trust each other and realize that by working together they will all benefit. It is rare, but it does happen, it produces great results. Loyalty can benefit businesses that realize its value and the employees. I have some experiences from my time in the field, maybe others have some too.

When I started my consulting career, one time working for a new client on a difficult project, about a couple of months into it he came up to me and said he wanted to pay me for the first milestone. I told him I didn't think it was finished. He said it was finished, probably realizing how difficult it was and how hard I was working, and wanted to pay me for it right away.

That was a brilliant move on his part, I don't know if he realized how much loyalty and hard work above and beyond it bought him after that. We worked together for years afterwards on many projects and he built up a successful company because he treated everyone who worked hard with that kind of respect.

Another client I worked with and had helped with a new approach to solve his problem that turned out to be successful. Subsequently he came to me for ideas to improve the product. I had one, it turned out to be a complete failure and it cost him a lot of money. I came into his office to tell him about it, and at the end of our discussion he said something like "so what do you think we should do next?" His trust in me and loyalty also bought him tremendous desire on my part to make him successful, and subsequently we were.

When his company was bought out by megacorp1 and then bought about megacorp2 to 3, things completely changed. People were treated as commodities, and innovation ended. The products were milked for a few years with the inevitable results.

Later when I had my own employee, which I needed to run manufacture and calibration. I always paid him a good bonus at the end of the year based on how well we had done. One year when we had done exceptionally well the bonus equaled an additional 1/3 of what I paid him for the year. On other years he would work just as hard and creatively, even when times were lean and no bonuses paid. He would work with even more commitment in those lean years because he knew if we did well so would he.

I didn't treat him well or give him bonuses out of the goodness of my heart, I did it because it was good business. He didn't work extra hard in those hard years when there were no bonuses because he was stupid, he did it because it was in his best interest.

Later, working for a megacorp, we were given a task which turned out to be more successful than they had expected. One time we were even given a significant unexpected bonus for doing what we were going to do anyway. The loyalty, commitment and devotion to the managers who treated their people that way was palpable, and very successful for both the company and the employees.

Soon, however top management changed, and deviousness and attempted trickery (I don't know how management somehow things workers are really that stupid) brought innovation and loyalty to an abrupt end. You could really feel the change in attitude, and the change from really caring to just going through the motions.

I suspect that the companies like Google and others that show real innovation do treat their workers with respect. Unfortunately there seems to be a trend that as companies grow and age, the individuals which work hardest at company politics seem to emerge at the top and kill it.

I for one don't believe anything has really changed over time. You don't get creative companies and sustained long term growth without people treating each other with respect.

Maybe others have had similar experiences.
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Old 03-14-2014, 01:42 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by daylatedollarshort View Post
At my last job my director used to refer to the people on my staff as FTEs (full time equivalent units). Upper management used to try to spread the work out based just on FTEs, like people were interchangeble Lego pieces, regardless of skill set. Like any old FTEs will do to work on this project that requires expert skills in artificial intelligence and Assembler language programming. (I'm not just saying that to be funny, that actually happened.)
Did we work together?
The last VP I transferred away from changed the FTE to 'resources'. Like they could be harvested, mined, or grew on trees.
Programmers that were excellent at desktop UI, suddenly became server programmers. Naturally they were excellent at the intricacies of thousands of concurrent transactions vs. a single user system. The converse was true, take a truly gifted server guy, one that could write efficient SQL in his sleep, now you're a UI expert.

After all they were a the same.
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Old 03-14-2014, 02:11 PM   #49
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Maybe others have had similar experiences.
My experience was similar. I and many of my colleagues had a generally good relationship with the employers that I had over the years. Some better than others. Though at the end of my career there definitely seemed to be a more callous view of employees in the corporate employers that I had than in the beginning of my career.

My last employer was a personal service business and good employees were its lifeblood and it put a lot of effort into recruiting and keeping good employees.
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Old 03-14-2014, 03:14 PM   #50
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I'm in the "globalization/supply&demand" camp as to the overall question of the thread. I wouldn't go so far as to say "race to the bottom", but maybe "meet in the middle", meaning the US has more room to fall.

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Whoever thought employees were an asset never saw the expense side of the P&L statement.
IMHO, P&L statements are wrong. They presume a value of zero when indeed it is just a number that is difficult to quantify. If you know where the bathroom is, that is worth something, and a brand new employee would take time to acquire that knowledge.



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I always thought it was because if you missed earnings despite the plethora of methods for earnings management, things must be worse than they thought.
These efforts always seem absurd to me. All of this effort to make the company look just a bit better than normal operations would have shown. Why not just "take the hit" one time and use all of those "resources" to do something productive?
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Old 03-14-2014, 04:06 PM   #51
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...
These efforts always seem absurd to me. All of this effort to make the company look just a bit better than normal operations would have shown. Why not just "take the hit" one time and use all of those "resources" to do something productive?
+1
What you say makes too much sense. If it were your own business this is of course what you would do. Maybe better for tax reasons too.

But I am guessing in their case, that the "resources" they could save are from those that put in the effort to do this juggling. If they really wanted to increase the efficiency of the operation they would lay themselves off, which seems a bit unlikely.
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Old 03-14-2014, 04:19 PM   #52
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By nature of their business, high tech (don't mean megacorps acting more like Dow companies) companies are very short term focused. Stock options & short term incentives make management greedy, selfish, and very short-term focused. In 2006 - 2012, my megacorp's average tenure for VP position was just little over 12 months and they knew that. No one was making long term decisions. (One of my favorite Dilbert moment is when the entire company scurries to get a few customer orders recognized in the last days of quarter so that the ensuing quarterly earnings report can look 0.1% better. Employees are reminded to log their vacation hours before the quarter end. Purchase orders are moved to next quarter. It's like they forget there is one more quarter after the current one. )

Obviously startups have a different mentally which is far more focused on the short-term. I remember a friend of mine started a business, and he was like working out his sabbatical policy. I laughed at him and said, "I'm pretty sure the most important aspect of a sabbatical policy is to stay in business for a 5 or 7 years!." (He didn't)

End of quarter scrambling and shenanigans are very common, but I think they have been with us forever or at least 30 years. When it comes to earnings estimates beating by a $.01 is way way better than missing by $.01. But it is not corporate managers that should take the blame for this it us investor. We are the ones the punish a companies stock price for missing by a penny.

I'll point out completely missing in my list of long-term focused companies are any financial firms. Vanguard probably qualifies and Wells Fargo seem to avoid doing particular stupid actions, but the rest of the banking and investment firms were certainly guilty of awful short term thinking. The only good thing is that most of the worst offenders are now gone and absorbed by slightly better companies like Wells Fargo or JP Morgan.

Poorly designed annual bonus do cause managers to behave in particularly stupid fashion. But I think stock options which typical vest over 4 to 5 years tend reward longer term thinking. In many meeting at Intel someone I've heard hey we are all stockholders here lets trying and to the right think for the company, not our department." Friends at Google and Tesla have told me similar stories.
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Old 03-14-2014, 04:38 PM   #53
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Both of my megacorps (acquired, and acquirer) are very short term focused. Going back to my example, many log OT to ship one more order out the the door before quarter end. Quarterly revenue far exceeds multi-billion $. The last minute scramble can add at mere millions to the quarter's revenue. I.e, it won't make a dent. What don't make this quarter will contribute to the next quarter's revenue - a zero sum game. It's a Dilbert moment no matter how I look at it.

I understand that start up company needs to do it as their next funding can depend on this quarter's result, a single customer order can make or break the quarter's revenue target, etc.. When multip-billion dollar company does it, it's almost comical.
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Old 03-14-2014, 04:42 PM   #54
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I'll point out completely missing in my list of long-term focused companies are any financial firms. Vanguard probably qualifies and Wells Fargo seem to avoid doing particular stupid actions, but the rest of the banking and investment firms were certainly guilty of awful short term thinking. The only good thing is that most of the worst offenders are now gone and absorbed by slightly better companies like Wells Fargo or JP Morgan.
I think you need to cast your net a little wider. There are definitely some long term focused financial firms out there. Not that many in the banking industry, but I would throw out M&T as a stand-out there. Raymond James in the broker/dealer space (I remember Mr. James basically calling a sell side analyst an idiot on a conference call after he grew tired of explaining that RJ did not have all the toxic garbage that took down other firms). It is easier to find examples in the insurance industry. Axis Capital, Protective Life, the old Commerce Group before they sold out, and a slew of others, plus many mutuals.
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Old 03-14-2014, 05:01 PM   #55
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A few years ago we went on a short history tour of the southern part of WV where the "coal mine wars" started. The working conditions were something that are considered "brutal third world" in the U.S. now, and probably not much different than get people aghast at China and North Korea now.

It was an enlightening and interesting history lesson. 12-year-old boys were considered expendable fodder for the mines. While there have since been excesses on the part of unions, there is left little doubt that they were needed in that time and place.
That photo could have been from England in 1939, with my Dad in the photo, but he was 14 years old when he started there. He worked at the same coal mine for 46 years and saw huge improvements over the years before he retired in 1985, with the mine closing down a few years later.

There was in no doubt in his mind that the improvements of terrible working conditions of the 40's and 50's were not done because the kind-hearted owners were feeling sorry for their workforce.
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Old 03-14-2014, 06:15 PM   #56
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There is something magical that happens when employer and employees trust each other and realize that by working together they will all benefit.
I'd think that the smaller the company/team/group, the more likely it is that this type trust might develop. It's not the product of a megacorp "values statement" or official policy.
I pretty much soured on the idea of trust and loyalty to institutions (with a few exceptions), but I very much believe in loyalty to people and principles.
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Old 03-14-2014, 06:50 PM   #57
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I'd think that the smaller the company/team/group, the more likely it is that this type trust might develop. It's not the product of a megacorp "values statement" or official policy.
I pretty much soured on the idea of trust and loyalty to institutions (with a few exceptions), but I very much believe in loyalty to people and principles.
+1
This has been my experience too, mostly in small companies. And when those small companies were acquired the 'magic' disappeared. The one time it happened in my experience in a megacorp, it was in a small autonomous group. But after it appeared to be more successful than other groups in the mix, management began to take notice, and render it 'harmless'.

One interesting observation. When a big company acquires a smaller one, it is usually because they are impressed with the people and products. But it seems to me, never with the management that produced those people and products. It is more like, hey WE bought you. Now you have to do it our way, a way much different than what produced what they bought.

One time a group I was working with got bought out and I remember telling the engineering manager, 18 months and the originals will be gone. It turned out I was wrong, it was closer to 24 months.
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