IBM, Agilent Slash Jobs; Tech Sector Struggles Under Economy

Santa Clara-based Agilent Technologies announced today they were cutting 2,700 jobs in an effort to restructure during the downturn. This comes a day after rumors of 5,000 job cuts from IBM surfaced, bringing the computer company’s total layoff announcement to around 9,000 for the year.

Challenger has tracked 67,127 technology sector job cuts through February 2009, compared to 14,637 tech cuts through the same period last year. Tech cuts include the telecom, electronics and computer industry combined. Through part of March, we have seen over 15,000 tech cuts, bringing the quarterly total to somewhere near 82,000. This is already over half of what the yearly technology sector layoff total was for 2008 (155,570). Erik Sherman over at BNet offered some reasons why layoffs seem to be soaring at tech firms.

(Our official monthly job cut report for March will be issued Wednesday, April 1 at 7:30am ET.)

HOLY MOLY! March Madness Less Maddening For The Workplace

With the onset of March Madness just a week away, the nation’s employers typically would be bracing for a productivity drain, as workers research teams, fill out office pool brackets and watch live, streaming feeds of the games online. However, companies may have little reason to worry this year, according to one workplace authority.

“In this economy, employees are disinclined to do anything that might put their jobs at higher risk than they already are. Meanwhile, employers have bigger issues to address than whether a few workers are using work time to fill out betting pool brackets or sneaking peeks at games online. Even if this is occurring, companies would be better served by allowing this minor distraction during these stressful, anxiety-producing times,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“In light of the fact that employers and employees have more important things to worry about, we feel that any attempt to estimate the impact of March Madness on productivity would be counterproductive and inappropriate. We hope to continue this lighthearted look at the intersection of sports and the workplace once the economy is on surer footing,” said Challenger.

“With worker stress and anxiety on the rise as job security declines, a little distraction could be just what the doctor ordered. The key for companies is finding a way to maximize the positive aspects of March Madness so that they outweigh any perceived negatives,” Challenger noted.

“Companies can use this event as a way to build morale and camaraderie. This could mean putting televisions in the break room, so employees have somewhere to watch the games other than the Internet. Employers could also offset productivity losses by using the Tournament to boost morale. Employers might consider organizing a company-wide pool, which should have no entry fee in order to avoid ethical and/or legal questions,” Challenger suggested.

“In the past, one company we contacted allowed workers to wear their favorite team’s apparel for a small fee, which was then donated to a local charity. Another held a free office pool, which rewarded the top four a free lunch and the overall winner a gift certificate,” said Challenger.
Challenger offered some additional ideas on ways companies can co-opt March Madness excitement to build a loyal and more productive workforce.

MARCH MADNESS WORKPLACE MORALE BOOSTERS

Hold team sweatshirt day. Relax the dress code (for employees not meeting with customers) for the first Thursday and Friday of the tournament so that fans can wear the sweatshirt of their favorite college team (even if the team did not qualify for this year’s tourney).
Offer flexible schedules. On the four days when tournament games are played during work hours, allow workers the opportunity to arrive early so they can work a full shift and still leave in time to see the games.

Organize a company pool. Employees can enter free of charge and the winner is given a gift certificate to a restaurant or store.

Keep a bracket posted. For employers without company-wide Internet access, keep a large, updated tournament bracket in a common area so workers can check their teams’ progress.

Stay tuned.
Keep television in breakroom tuned to coverage to eliminate the need for workers to sneak peeks online, which can slow everyone’s internet connection as bandwidth is constricted.

Going To A Job Fair? Take A Seat And Log On!

A new trend has started with the proliferation of internet recruiting: the online job fair. These job fairs occur at specified times on certain websites and allow job seekers a chance to obtain all the information about a potential position and company right from their homes.

These virtual job fairs bring with them a plethora of benefits, such as conveniently available information about certain hiring companies and a chance to quickly and efficiently send out resumes. However, they also pose potential problems for both job seekers and hiring managers and require a different approach from more traditional job fairs.

During conventional job fairs, a job seeker must make a good impression within the first five minutes of meeting a hiring manager in order to be considered for an actual job interview. Besides qualifications, confident body language, a strong handshake, good eye-contact and clear, concise conversation win over hiring managers, along with a well constructed resume.

However, in online job fairs, hiring managers decide whether they want to hire you based solely on your writing ability, the only thing they can see and verify. In these situations, eye contact and body language become moot. In all potential job interviews, likeability is key.

Unfortunately, the trend of online recruitment was preceded by text messages, e-mail and instant messaging. Especially with younger job seekers – potentially the group most attracted to online job fairs – these kinds of communiqué are riddled with poor punctuation, grammatical errors and sometimes indecipherable internet abbreviations. This type of language is completely inappropriate for a situation involving a job seeker’s future employment.

For example, a hiring manager, online or otherwise, will not be impressed by a message which reads, “Wat jobs r u hiring 4” or “I have gr8 typing skilz.”

A survey conducted last year among 100 human resources executives by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. found writing skills are what entry-level workers most lack. Nearly half (45 percent) of survey respondents said written communication is where recent graduates are most deficient.

A job seeker has to be qualified in order to get the job no matter what kind of job fair she attends, and although a hiring manager cannot see you, likeability is still an important factor. First impressions at a job fair, even one online, are vital. If you do not make a good impression immediately, the chances are that you will not be able to recover, however excellent your qualifications are for the job. If you do make a mistake or present yourself in an unfavorable manner in the interviewer’s opinion, you have erased your likeability factor. A job seeker has little margin for error in presenting herself, and dropping punctuation or using improper grammar is not going to help land a job.

Online Job Sites: Oh So Many!

As more Americans find themselves unemployed due to the economic downturn, many will undoubtedly turn to the growing number of Internet sites listing job opportunities. While the proliferation of job-search sites has several positive aspects, one employment authority says many job seekers will rely too heavily on the Internet and become distracted from the most fruitful job-search activity: meeting with people face-to-face.

The number of job search engines has grown in recent years from a handful of major players, such as Monster.com and HotJobs.com, to hundreds of sites, offering everything from industry-specific and localized job search engines to dating service-like compatibility matching between job seekers and employers.

Add the growing number of online classified sections posted by local newspapers, employer sites, and job listings on the websites of professional associations and job seekers easily have thousands of places to search for employment opportunities online.

However, access to thousands of job search sites on the Internet is not necessarily a good thing. The choices can be overwhelming for those who find themselves either voluntarily or involuntarily in the labor pool. One could easily spend all day, every day surfing the Net for job vacancies, emailing resumes and waiting for the phone to ring. Unfortunately, this approach will rarely lead to a new job.

Since the beginning of the year, the Challenger firm, which tracks job cuts announcements daily, has recorded nearly 580,000 job cuts, up from 436,000 job cuts at this point a year ago. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employer payrolls have experienced a net loss of 463,000 jobs since January.

The first place many of these displaced workers will go is the Internet. It is certainly a good place to start. In July, there were 3,864,100 job vacancies posted online, according to the latest Conference Board Help Wanted Online Data Series.

While the Internet has the potential to be very useful for job seekers, it has become the primary tool for many, when it should be considered secondary to the traditional technique of meeting prospective employers in person.

Those who make the Internet their primary job search tool are likely prolonging the time it takes to find a position. Overuse of the Internet also threatens to prolong the hiring process on the employer’s end, as well, by inundating employers with irrelevant resumes. Some human resource executives complain that for every qualified candidate that comes in from the Internet, there are 10 to 20 who do not even come close to being a good fit.

The more irrelevant resumes that hiring managers have to wade through in order to select the handful to bring in for interviews, the longer it takes to fill the position. One result of this has been the increased use of digital screening software that scans incoming resumes for keywords. Resumes without the right words are filtered out of the process. This will make it even more difficult for job seekers to get their resume in front of the hiring executive.

This is not to say that the Internet has not revolutionized job searching. It has certainly made it easier for someone in San Francisco, for example, to search for job openings in Miami. In addition, the ability to conduct keyword searches has reduced the amount of time it takes to target the type of position a person is seeking.

Job seekers must learn how to use the Internet as the tool it can be, rather than just relying on it as a conduit for electronic resumes.

Challenger’s Internet Job Search Guide


Visit company sites to get names of key people.
Many employers post job openings on their web sites, but resumes e-mailed by job seekers are probably directed to the human resources department, the last place you want your resume to go unless you are seeking a position in that department. By exploring a company’s web site, however, you will most likely find the name and even a phone number or e-mail address for the executive who will ultimately make the hiring decision, such as the director of marketing or the vice president of sales. That is the person you want to contact for a position.

Use the Internet to keep up with employer news.
Perhaps you have identified some key companies where you would like to find a position. Visit the companies’ web sites to find financial press releases which may indicate the areas of the company that are expanding. You may discover that one of the companies is opening a new facility in your town or that it is expanding its customer service force.

Visit web sites of trade associations.
These groups often have the best overall picture about hiring needs and trends among their members. The web sites of national organizations may contain contact information for local groups in your city or state. The web sites might also report industry news, such as expansion plans or which job categories are most in need of workers.

Take advantage of free local news.
Most newspapers have free editions online. Read them — not just for the classified ads, but for the news stories. Staying up to date on local business news is an effective way to gain job leads. Most papers allow you to view the day’s print content on their web sites. If you do not have access to the Internet at home, many public libraries now provide computers and Internet access.

Use e-mail to find a job.
The more people who know you are seeking a job, the faster you will find a job. E-mail is perhaps now the fastest, most efficient way to publicize your joblessness. Send an e-mail to everyone on your address list letting them know that you are unemployed, providing some brief information about the type of position you are seeking and your qualifications. Ask the reader to forward the information to their list of e-mail contacts, who will then forward the message to their address list. In a matter of days, the number of people who know you are job searching will have grown exponentially along with the odds of finding someone who can help.

Get connected to social networks.
If you already have Facebook and/or MySpace accounts, turn those sites into job-search tools by using them to inform your network of “friends” that you are seeking a job. Most of them may not be in a position to hire you, but many may know of opportunities or can spread the word to new people in their networks. Additionally, take down the pictures of last weekend’s big party and post photos, writing samples, etc., that will give employers some insight about what you have to offer. Other networking sites such as LinkedIn and Plaxo are geared more toward professionals and should also be used to build, expand and mine your various networks of friends, family and business contacts.

WORKPLACE TREND OF THE FUTURE IV: Teleconferencing, The End Of Business Travel

With drastic increases in airfares, delays and headaches at the airport, along with pressure to become more environmentally responsible, American corporations may eventually eliminate the need for business travel in favor of teleconferencing.

The use of audio, video and web conferencing tools by both large and small organizations will grow dramatically over the next ten years due to economic conditions, ecological concerns and an increased availability and affordability of teleconferencing technology. According to one research firm, revenues in the videoconferencing industry reached $1.14 billion in 2007.

The switch from air travel to video-conferencing will not only improve companies’ bottom lines and ease their environmental impact, but it will increase employee efficiency, as one-time business travelers are no longer forced to endure flights without Internet access, not to mention the long airport delays that sap productivity.

Some companies have already executed a teleconferencing strategy with great success. Since implementing videoconferencing, telecommunications firm Vodaphone estimates that it has eliminated more than 13,500 flights per year and reduced its carbon footprint by over 5,000 metric tons.

Speaking of Social Networking…

We very often discuss the impact of social networking and technology in the workplace. At the SHRM conference, we issued a survey to HR execs about their companies’ thoughts on the matter, and, as this topic is our trend of the week, we thought it appropriate to post the results.

Most companies (59 percent) do not have a formal policy regarding the use of social networking sites at the office. Nearly half of those polled said social networking sites are not a problem as long as employees’ work gets done.

While many companies do not view social networking as a threat to productivity, one in three survey respondents said their companies consider the sites a major drain on worker output. Twenty-three percent of companies block access to these sites entirely.

A recent study from U.K.-based IT security firm Global Secure Systems found that workers spend at least 30 minutes of their work day on a social networking site. The study concludes that such behavior costs U.K. employers several billion dollars a year in lost productivity.

However, lost productivity is not the only reason some organizations ban or limit the use of social networking at the office. These sites produce an extra demand on bandwidth. They also pose a security risk for corporate networks, making company systems vulnerable to hackers and viruses. There is also the potential for employees to leak corporate secrets or damage the company’s image due to the content of their personal profiles.

And social networking sites can be VERY good for business, although most companies don’t necessarily believe so. About 10 percent of the respondents to the Challenger survey said their companies view social networking sites as invaluable marketing, networking and sales tools, and six percent actually encourage employees to have a presence on these sites.

Of course, every company must examine its workplace and evaluate whether social networking has the potential to be a valuable tool or simply another distraction. One thing every company should keep in mind, however, is that enacting bans on these sites could hurt recruiting, particularly among young people just starting their careers.

SURVEY RESULTS

Does your company have a formal policy regarding social networking sites, such as LinkedIn and MySpace?

We have no formal policy.
59.4%
We block access to these sites.
22.4%
We trust employees to get work done and do not monitor their internet usage.
10.3%
We encourage employees to use these sites.
7.9%

Which statement best describes your company’s opinion on social networking?

They are not a problem as long as employees’ work gets done.
47.4%
They are a drain on worker productivity.
32.7%
They are invaluable marketing, networking and sales tools.
10.3%
We encourage employees to have a presence on these sites.
5.8%
What is MySpace?
3.9%

WORKPLACE TREND OF THE FUTURE III: Social Networking, The Only Recruitment Tool

Over the next ten years, recruiters will increasingly shift their recruiting efforts away from traditional print ads and online job boards to the rapidly expanding world of social networking sites.

The shift may already be occurring. The executive director of the National Association of Colleges and Employers noted in a recent interview that while most employers once viewed social networking sites solely as a way to “check out” potential hires, roughly 17 percent use these sites for recruitment and more are using them for advertising opportunities (see comment).

Social networking sites and other Web 2.0 tools will eventually expand to all facets of a corporation. They will be used to recruit, reach out to customers, communicate with employees and facilitate collaboration between project teams and departments.

Meanwhile, the number of companies that view these sites with disdain due to the perceived impact on productivity will shrink. There may be no choice if they hope to attract and retain the best workers. A survey by an Australian law firm found that nearly half of regular social networking users would refuse a job of these sites were banned by a potential employer.