ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - August 2001


Issue Highlight — Moveable Chairs
- Peter Block discusses a Milwaukee religious dispute and how the protestors' passion and commitment regarding space and structure should transcend into the workplace.

 In This Issue...
Championing Change
Training The Trainee
Teaming For Tomorrow
Quality From The Ground Up

The Road To Quality

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change
Brief Cases

Return to NFC Index

   Brief Cases        Highlights of the Latest in Business News

                                    ne From Column B                                             

Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling

Although progress is being made, women are still finding it difficult to permeate the invisible barriers keeping them from reaching top-level positions in much of corporate America says the Society for Human Resource Management. And according to Cari Dominguez, President Bush’s choice to head the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a lot of misleading data is adding to the problem.

   “While you will find women in top ranking government and corporate positions,” says Dominguez, “they are more likely to be in social or communications roles rather than defense or finance.” Furthermore, although the data shows women making strides by achieving higher ranks in organizations, the difference in pay is still substantial. “The classification system used to compile the data relies on job titles instead of compensation,” she says. “It would be better to examine the pay gap between men and women as a statistical measure of how many top-level management positions are held by women.”

   It is a tough culture to break because the issue is rarely analyzed from a social standpoint. “Government, families and corporations all can help by encouraging nontraditional roles for men and women,” says Dominguez. “Breaking through the glass ceiling,” she adds, “is about giving women opportunities and not simply getting women jobs in corporate America.” Until change occurs, we will be stuck in the grip of a revolving condition.

A Boost From the Top

 Amid all of the layoffs American business has suffered, those who have remained behind to keep the companies afloat have lost a bit of confidence. How can they be sure that they aren’t next? Enter the chief executive officer. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, CEOs across the land have stepped in to personally see their employees and boost morale.

   How do they do this? In one case, James Griffith, president of The Timken Company, Canton, Ohio, recently met with 12,000 employees online through a streaming video hook-up for a pep talk after the announcement of two plant closures. Says a Timken benefit analyst of the message, “You can hear his concern.”

   DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche has joined the brigade as well. Planning to visit all 36 North American plants, he is holding town hall style meetings with employees answering concerns and rallying support.

   Although having a CEO join the line workers is assuring and motivating, companies cannot stop there. As the article states, “Some businesses are trying to do more for workers who stay on.” That includes DaimlerChrysler. They offer employees free lunches and time off to see car exhibits at their headquarters. Whitehat Inc., a software company located in Tempe, Ariz., seeks out employees to volunteer at local soup kitchens. Says human resource manager Joyce Corley, “Hopefully, seeing how bad it can be for others will improve our morale.”

Diversity for Sale

As awareness of diversity grows along with the benefits it produces, companies continue to realize the importance. Different people of varied backgrounds coming together bring so much to the table—if you can get them to the table. This is the difficulty. How can an organization raise diversity without being able to reach an assortment of multi-cultural job candidates?

   According to the Wall Street Journal, “Some executive recruiters are exploring the idea of charging corporate clients an extra fee for placing a minority or female candidate.” Paul Czamanske, president and CEO of Compass Group, Ltd., a provider of faculty-management services, saw the beginning of this trend. One organization offered his company an additional 5 percent commission for every diverse candidate recruited and placed. He is now discussing the possible premium implementation with other clients, in part because these searches can take longer.

   Chris Clarke, president of Boyden Global Executive Search in New York, understands why some oppose the premium. “One reaction is that search is about searching and that’s what we get paid for anyway,” he says. “And one has to be sympathetic to that view.” However, he has also gotten a very positive response from many companies and is talking with several clients about an extra fixed percentage for diverse candidates.

   Diversity in itself can be considered experience. If it is the kind of experience a company is looking for, they’ll have to pay a price. It is supply and demand at its simplest.

Slow Economy, Bold Opportunities

While talks of deteriorating stock prices, major corporate downsizings and tight-pocketed consumers have saturated the business world for the first part of 2001, this has not stopped a certain segment of executives from using this time as an advantage—an opportunity to be bold. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, whether the economy recovers or not, they want to take advantage of what is happening now.

   David D’Alessandro, chief executive of John Hancock Financial Services, is one of those bold leaders. He scoffs at competitors who have cut advertising budgets due to the slowdown. “They’re being penny wise and pound foolish,” he says. “While our competition uses old ads, we’ll take the opportunity to be bold and visible—and reach new customers.”

   He isn’t the only maverick taking chances. These slow times are offering many companies chances to expand the reach of their brands—more than even prosperous periods. The economy has caused weak competitors to leave the marketplace opening up room for new, savvier companies to move in. It is survival of the fittest.

   “Those who don’t devote more attention to maintaining the health and strength of their brands in such times risk falling behind once a recovery occurs,” D’Alessandro says. Brendan Ryan of Foote Cone & Belding agrees, “The notion that any brand can sustain itself without support doesn’t make sense.” In addition, Fred Langhammer, president and COO of Estee Lauder believes that, “during downturns, when disposable income is tight, consumers gravitate toward brands they feel they have an emotional connection to.”

   So, what is the best way to achieve bold initiatives in a time when money is fairly scarce? Starbucks executives have found a way. They routinely visit their stores to watch and listen to customers in order to find out what they like and might like. “Some of the most powerful ways to reach consumers and gain access to their hearts and minds are actually the cheapest,” says Nancy Koehn, a Harvard Business School historian. “Listening to consumers is especially critical during economic transitions,” she adds, “because that is when tastes change.”

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