Tag Archives: Demand

HP, Adding Jobs, Cutting Jobs – But The Question Will Not Go Away, Where Will the Jobs Be?

News item:
Hewlett-Packard to lay off 27,000 employees,” (John Naughton:  Can mighty Meg Whitman save HP from terminal failure? – Massive job losses have been announced at Hewlett-Packard. Now the ailing computer company needs to put a whole string of expensive mistakes behind it)

In her message she laid the bad news on the line. “At the end of 2009 we reported a workforce of about 304,000. At the end of 2010 we had almost 325,000 employees, and at the end of 2011 that number had ballooned to nearly 350,000. Over that same period we saw year-over-year revenue growth of 10% in 2010, of 1% in 2011, and, so far in 2012, revenues have been declining.
“We’re struggling under our own weight…”

New item:  c, 1999
Carly Fiorina is the first in a series of new leaders of HP who lead the company into acquisitions, and an increase in the number of employees to get the job done for the coming years.

In 1999 HP appointed a glamorous new CEO, one Carly Fiorina.

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Meg Whitman says “lets get rid of those jobs we’ve been adding”

So, Hewlett-Packard, beginning with Fiorina and all the way up to Meg Whitman, increased their employees, bought Compaq, gave birth to and quickly scrapped an iPad “competitor” (not so much of a competitor, it turned out), and now the company is in trouble.

And so it goes.

Of all the crises we face, the big one is this – there are not enough jobs.  And I’m not smart enough to figure out where to put the blame, or where to look for the best solution(s).

Yes, it is true that Meg Whitman was brought in to right a pretty precariously sitting ship.  But it is also true that her predecessors also sought the best for the company.  (one side note:  both Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman have run, unsuccessfully, for higher office, as Republicans).

And as company after company keeps trying to achieve or maintain profitability, as company after company seeks to enhance productivity, so that they can produce the same goods or products or services with ever-fewer workers, the overall employment picture keeps looking ever more dismal.

Picture HP over the last decade, or so.  You know exactly what they were engaged in.  They hired people; a lot of people.  In those interviews, and in those company orientation sessions, the HP officials would say, at the direction of their leaders, in one way or another:

“Come work for us and with us.  We are a great company, building a great future.  You will be a part of a company that is poised to even greater days ahead, and we need you to help make that happen.  And, this is a company that will treat you right, give you great opportunity to advance, and take good care of your needs so that you can focus on doing the best possible job.”

I suspect that speech was given over and over again.

And, it didn’t work out, and leader after leader was replaced, and now the new leader comes in, and gets rid of 27,000 employees {read that figure – 27,000 people who had been told that this was the company to build a future with!}…  And now, just imagine the morale of the folks who “survived” this current round of layoffs.

In The Coming Jobs War, Jim Clifton (Chairman of Gallup) quotes Nobel Prize-winning Economist Robert Fogel, writing:

“even if Fogel’s prediction comes almost true, it will be jobs Armageddon in America.  Its unemployment plus underemployment will rise to more than 40% (over the next couple of decades).  Leadership of the free world will not just be lost, but overwhelmed.”

I understand the argument.  A company exists to make a profit.  A company does not actually exist to provide jobs.  Jobs are among the tools companies have to make the products and provide the services that lead to profits.  And without a profit, there is no money to pay for the jobs.  And, if the work that is done by ten people can be done by nine people, and that enhances the bottom line in the profit column, then cut to nine.  (or, cut from 350,000 employees to 323,000 employees, HP’s current situation).

But…  but… what if every company cuts, and cuts, and then the total number of people who do not have jobs continues to grow?  Then, where will the demand be for the goods and services of these companies that are now so much more profitable?  Ultimately, the demand will dwindle, thus the profits will dwindle.  The cycle really is vicious, and painful to ponder.

(By the way, this loss of demand is behind Richard Florida’s call for a true increase in the wages of service workers.  He says that without an increase in service wages, demand will remain too low, and the economy will not return to what most of us would view as ”normal”).

Yesterday, there was an intriguing opinion piece in the New York TimesLet’s Be Less Productive by Tim Jackson:  “Has the pursuit of labor productivity reached its limit?

Mr. Jackson basically argues that we scale back the move to doing more with fewer employees.  In some instances, he argues that scaling this back would greatly enhance the service we receive.  For example, we’ve all read about the pressure for doctors to see more patients per hour in the hours of their day.  This cannot be good for the quality of our medical care.

Here are brief excerpts from the Jackson article:

The quest for increased productivity occupies reams of academic literature and haunts the waking hours of C.E.O.’s and finance ministers. Perhaps forgivably so: our ability to generate more output with fewer people has lifted our lives out of drudgery and delivered us a cornucopia of material wealth.
But the relentless drive for productivity may also have some natural limits. Ever-increasing productivity means that if our economies don’t continue to expand, we risk putting people out of work.

So, what is the purpose of this post?  It is to ask, again, as I have asked so often, where will the jobs be?  Jobs are threatened by automation.  Jobs are threatened by the focus on profits, thus productivity.  And, every time we turn around, the number of new jobs created comes up far short of the number of jobs that are being eliminated by these and other factors.

Thus, the need of the hour is the need for jobs.  There is a Coming Jobs War, says Clifton.  From his book:

The coming world war is an all-out global war for good jobs.
…what would fix the world – what would suddenly create worldwide peace, global wellbeing, and the next extraordinary advancements in human development, (is) 1.8 billion jobs – formal jobs.  Nothing would change the current state of humankind more.
The leadership problem is that an increasing number of people in the world are miserable, hopeless, suffering, and becoming dangerously unhappy because they don’t have an almighty good job – and in most cases, no hope of getting one.
A good job is a job with a paycheck from an employer and steady work that averages 30+ hours per week.

Though Clifton writes of a global need, it is clear that we face this challenge right here in our country.

Where will the jobs be?  On this Memorial Day, as we think about patriotism, maybe it would be a patriotic thing for our business leaders, the CEOs of companies, and the stockholders of those companies, to think, collectively, about what they can do in their companies to help move our country forward in this so very important way.

Where will the jobs be?  We need our best minds working on this.  Maybe nothing else is as important right now.

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Read the review of the lift on book by our bloggign colleague Bob Morris here — The Coming Jobs War:  A book review by Bob morris.

Read an interview with Jim Clifton about this book and its importance from Forbes here.

“Empathy” 1st, “Fix” 2nd – A Customer Service Basic!

I provide a seminar on customer service, and have a keynote presentation called The Customer Never Forgets.  I have studied customer service, read a lot about customer service, and written quite a bit on customer service.

But more than anything else, I am a customer.  Constantly.  Practically every day.  Increasingly, my customer experiences are on-line. And most of these experiences are fully what I hoped – one-click, fully satisfied little miracles.  I click my mouse, and my product shows up on my doorstep two days later.  Wonderful!

But occasionally, not so wonderful…

Recently, a disappointing customer experience, which cost me a little embarrassment and about one hour of my time, which was completely the fault of the company providing the service because of a mistake by one of their people, made me think a little more about this whole “how do we provide a better customer experience?” question.

So here is a snapshot of my latest thoughts..

In my training, I state that all customer experience boils down to two critical elements:  be nice, and, be competent.  I am convinced that if a company provides both of these, they will, in fact, keep their customers coming back.  If the product or service is what the customer wants, and the interaction between the company representative and the customer is nice and hassle free, you’ve got a real winner on your hands.  (We’ll leave it for another discussion about what happens when a competitor has a “better” product or service to offer.  That is a different issue).

If you force me to choose, I will take competence over nice.  If the product or service is exactly what I want, and I can’t get it anywhere else for less, I will take a slight absence of “nice.”  Nice without competence does not satisfy – I need to be able to rely on the product or service more than I need someone to treat me in a nice way.  But, give me both, nice and competent, and I am happiest.

But the real moment of truth is when there is a problem; a “mistake; a “disappointment.”   When the company messes up, this is the acid test.  And when I call to say, “you have made a mistake,” the first thing I want is “empathy,” then I want it fixed.  I am not happy if it is fixed first.  And, no matter how nice the person is, after I sense empathy, if it is not then fixed, I am not happy.

Consider this as a way to think about providing that better customer experience:

If I need a precise product The company provides it, with no hassles I am happy
If I need a product, but don’t know exactly what I need The company suggests the right item/solution – I get it, try it, like it I am happy
The company messes up The representative of the company tries to fix it, but without empathy (including a genuine “I’m sorry”), before they then fix it I am not happy
The company messes up The representative of the company is really empathetic, but does not “fix it” well I am not happy
The company messes up The representative is genuinely empathetic, then fixes it I am happy

So – Empathy first, fix it second.  This is what I need when a company messes up.  And without that empathy first, I am not happy – and might look for an alternative.

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I have recently presented synopses of two terrific books related to customer service excellence.  One is Demand:  Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It by Adrian J. Slywotzky.  This book is terrific on the issue of removing hassles.  And people really do not like hassles!

The other is Prescription for Excellence:  Leadership Lessons for Creating a World-Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System by Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D.  Michelli is a superior observer, and he is especially good at pulling out insights that you can transfer into your own arena.

Both of these books are worth reading.  And, you can purchase my synopsis of these books, with audio + comprehensive handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

And, if you are interested in bringing my customer service training, or my keynote presentation, into your company or organization, click the “hire us” tab.

There Just May Not Be a Magic Bullet – It’s Practically always “Both-And”

It is a great principle in psychiatry that “all-symptoms are overdetermined.  This means that they have more than one cause.
I want to scream this from the rooftops:  “All symptoms are overdetermined.”  Except that I want to expand it way beyond psychiatry.  I want to expand it to almost everything.  I want to translate it, “Anything of any significance is overdetermined.  Everything worth thinking about has more than one cause.”  Repeat after me:  “For any single thing of importance, there are multiple reasons.”  Again, “For any single thing of importance, there are multiple reasons.” 
M. Scott Peck, In Search of Stones:  A Pilgrimage of Faith, Reason, and Discovery

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If only we could get (come up with) the right __________.

We keep looking for the magic bullet.  In every arena, we want the answer to the problem, to come up with the solution for all time.

Probably not gonna happen!

There is always more to it – more to add to the equation.  So many books make this point.

Consider the problem of creating a product (or service) that generates genuine demand.  Here is a paragraph about it from Demand by Adrian Slywotzky:

For the demand creator, building a magnetic product is essential, but it isn’t enough—you also need to understand the customer’s hassle map and figure out how to connect the dots in ways that reduce those hassles or eliminate them altogether. Making an emotional connection with the customer is crucial, but it isn’t enough—you also need to make certain that all the backstory elements are in place, so that you can be sure to avoid the Curse of the Incomplete Product. And even that isn’t enough—you also need to find the most powerful triggers and deploy them effectively if you hope to overcome consumer inertia and transform potential demand energy into real demand. What’s more, great demand creators instinctively understand that even creating a powerful stream of demand isn’t enough—not unless you make a commitment to intense, ongoing improvement so as to meet, and exceed, the ever-rising expectations of your ever-changing customers.

Or consider the problem of prolonged, even multi-generational poverty.  Here is a paragraph from the terrific and important book:  The Working Poor (Invisible in America) by David Shipler:

For practically every family, the ingredients of poverty are part financial and part psychological, part personal and part societal, part past and part present.  Every problem magnifies the impact of the others, and all are so tightly interlocked that one reversal can produce a chain reaction with results far distant from the original cause. 
If problems are interlocking, then so must solutions be.  A job alone is not enough.  Medical insurance alone is not enough.  Good housing alone is not enough.  Reliable transportation, careful family budgeting, effective parenting, effective schooling are not enough when each is achieved in isolation from the rest.  There is no single variable that can be altered to help working people move away from the edge of poverty.  Only where the full array of factors is attacked can America fulfill its promise. 

We look for that magic bullet, in our own lives, in our business lives, in our relationships…  There simply may not be that magic bullet.  The problems are many; the causes of the problems are many; the solutions are almost always “both-and,” and very, very seldom “either-or.”

So, keep looking.  There is probably something else to add…

Hire Nice People – Oh, AND Teachable; Oh, AND…

Hire Nice People – Oh, AND Teachable; Oh, AND

I really liked the quote that I included in a recent blog post from the book Demand by Adrian Slywotzky.  It is about the restaurant Pret a Manger:

“We hire happy people, and teach them to make sandwiches.” 

I was telling this to a friend of mine.  He is a Doctor ( a good one!) and has a very successful practice.  He told me about something he did when he was just starting.  He loved staying at the Four Seasons (who wouldn’t?!); was impressed with their customer service/experience.  So, he went to the Four Seasons, asked to speak to the manager (who was more than willing to meet with him), and asked “What is your secret?”  What training do you offer?  How do you get these people to work this way?’  The manager said:  “There is no secret.  We hire nice people.” 

That may be it.  Hire nice people.

Oh, AND make sure they are Teachable.  Because Nice AND Incompetent does not work.  Nice + Competent works really well. And to get competent, a person has to be teachable.

Now, nice may seem important just in jobs that interact with actual customers.  But, it would be a mistake to reduce it to that part of the work equation. Because nice matters in team building also.  People do not like to work on projects, or teams, with people who aren’t nice.  Working with not-nice people can be a real morale defeater.  So, nice is definitely part of the “team player” job responsibility.

So, here is the formula:  hire nice people, make sure they are teachable, thus they become ever more competent.   — Oh, and make sure they are able to manage/embrace/not get freaked out over change.  Oh, AND

But, whatever else you do, start with NICE.

By the way, be nice yourself.  If you have a voice in the hiring process, remember:  people don’t like to work for not-nice people.