Friday, August 31, 2007
I don't remember being told that this 'open vacation' policy had been implemented in 2003 ... I must have been on vacation and missed that dept mtg ....
I like how IBM always spins stories like this, in their favorite media outlet, the NYTimes, as a positive ... an enhancement .... comparing us to Google, etc ... ! In actuality people take less time off and work longer hours with policies like this ...
August 31, 2007
At I.B.M., a Vacation Anytime, or Maybe None
By KEN BELSON
SOMERS, N.Y. — It’s every worker’s dream: take as much vacation time as you want, on short notice, and don’t worry about your boss calling you on it. (yeah, right!) Cut out early, make it a long weekend, string two weeks together — as you like. No need to call in sick on a Friday so you can disappear for a fishing trip. Just go; nobody’s keeping track.
That is essentially what goes on at I.B.M., one of the cornerstones of corporate America, where each of the 355,000 workers is entitled to three or more weeks of vacation. The company does not keep track of who takes how much time or when, does not dole out choice vacation times by seniority and does not let people carry days off from year to year.
Instead, for the past few years, employees at all levels have made informal arrangements with their direct supervisors, guided mainly by their ability to get their work done on time. Many people post their vacation plans on electronic calendars that colleagues can view online, and they leave word about how they can be reached in a pinch.
“It’s like when you went to college and you didn’t have high school teachers nagging you anymore,” said Mark L. Hanny, I.B.M.’s vice president of independent software vendor alliances. “Employees like that we put more accountability on them.”
But the flip side of flexibility, at least at I.B.M., is peer pressure. Mr. Hanny and other I.B.M. employees, including his assistant, Shari Chiara, say that they frequently check their e-mail and voice mail messages while on vacation. Bosses sometimes ask subordinates to cancel days off to meet deadlines.(vacations, once approved, used to be inviolate in the past)
Some workplace experts say such continued blurring of the boundaries between work and play can overtax employees and lead to health problems, particularly at companies where there is an expectation that everyone is always on call.
“If leadership never takes time off, people will be skeptical whether they can,” said Kim Stattner of Hewitt Associates, a human resources consultant. “There is the potential for a domino effect.”
Frances Schneider, who retired from an I.B.M. sales division last year, after 34 years, said one thing never changed; there was not one year in which she took all her allotted time off.
“It wasn’t seven days a week, but people ended up putting in longer hours because of all the flexibility, without really thinking about it,” Ms. Schneider said. “Although you had this wonderful freedom to take days when you want, you really couldn’t. I.B.M. tends to be a group of workaholics.”
I.B.M. officials said they have no idea whether workers take more or fewer days off now than before, and have not studied the policy’s effect on efficiency.
But they point to employee surveys showing that the self-directed work and vacation policy is one of the top three reasons workers choose to stay there.
“Change is change,” said Richard Calo, vice president of global workforce relations. “We had some initial questioning of it. But at the end of the day, you remember how much time you spent. This wasn’t a difficult sell.”
Mr. Calo, the human resources chief, said that the open-ended vacation policy is “not a total license to do whatever you want to do,” and that workers are expected to produce quality work, even if the company is not paying attention to when or where they complete it.
The hands-off approach to vacation time, which gradually took hold over the past decade, has come amid I.B.M.’s shift from engineering and manufacturing into services like consulting and is part of a broader demise of old notions of eight hours’ pay for eight hours’ work at a fixed location.
Aided by broadband connections, cellphones and video conferencing software, 40 percent of I.B.M.’s employees have no dedicated offices, working instead at home, at a client’s site, or at one of the company’s hundreds of “e-mobility centers” around the world, where workers drop in to use phones, Internet connections and other resources.
Long a trendsetter in human resources — it began offering family leave in the 1950s — I.B.M. is probably the largest company to do away so completely with tracking vacation, although a number of newer, smaller firms have similar policies.
Best Buy has introduced a program called Results Oriented Work Environment for its 4,000 corporate employees, giving them freedom to do their jobs without regard to the hours they put in daily.
Motley Fool, the online investment adviser, has, since its founding 13 years ago, let employees take as many paid vacation or sick days as they need; the company’s director of human resources, Lee Burbage, said that most of its 180 workers take three to four weeks a year. Netflix, the online DVD distributor, no longer allots specific numbers of vacation days to its 400 salaried employees.
“When you have a work force of fully formed professionals who have been working for much of their life,” Patty McCord, the chief talent officer of Netflix, said, “you have a connection between the work you do and how long it takes to do it, so you don’t need to have the clock-in and clock-out mentality.”
I.B.M.’s vacations-without-boundaries system started in the early 1990s, when managers in the human resources, finance and technology departments questioned whether tracking days off helped the company grow — and some complained that it was an administrative burden.
So the company stopped counting days in a few departments, then gradually expanded the new policy. Since 2003, it has covered everyone in the company, from the chief executive, Samuel J. Palmisano, who has a vacation house in Kennebunkport, Me., to workers at I.B.M.’s chip and server factories in East Fishkill and Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Luis H. Rodriguez, the director of market management in I.B.M.’s software group, said he visits his office here in Somers about once a week, working the rest of the time on the road or at his home in Ridgefield, Conn., where he sat one recent afternoon at the kitchen table with his laptop open.
He said that in six years at I.B.M. he can recall only one time when he asked a co-worker not to take a long weekend off — when their group was about to buy another company — and that calling colleagues or checking e-mail while visiting relatives in Texas or Illinois is a fair trade for being able to work from home so he can spend more time with his children, Alec, 5, and Evia, 2.
“I get an incredible amount of flexibility from the company, but it cuts both ways,” he said. “Because people’s schedules and needs are so structured, you need flexibility at work.”
For most companies, keeping track of time worked and time off remains a critical and transparent benchmark for workers and bosses. It is also a necessity in factories, call centers, restaurants and other workplaces where business would grind to a halt if managers were unable to predictably have enough employees on hand.
“If you look at the organizations that have done more radical things, they tend to be technology companies with salaried people,” where flexibility in job performance “is embedded into the culture of the place,” noted Max Caldwell, a managing principal in the work force effectiveness area at Towers Perrin, a human resources consultant.
Indeed, I.B.M.’s Mr. Calo said that the flexibility has helped the company compete with the more freewheeling atmosphere at start-up rivals in the technology world that have lured away some of its talent over the years.
“We have a reputation of not being as hip as a Google or a Netflix,” he said. “You don’t have to be the coolest guy on the block, but you don’t have to be the Big Blue nerd, either.”
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Note that wages are around $1 an hour .... piece-meal work also ....
1.4 Billion people and can't get enough workers ? Sounds like BS to me ... same suituation we have here with illegal workers .... they can't get locals for those wages and working conditions so illegals come from neighboring countries .... next stop , Vietnamese and North Korean workers in China , doing the work that Chinese workers won't do !
Wages Rise in China as Businesses Court the Young
SHENZHEN, China, Aug. 28 — At the Dahon bicycle factory here, Zhang Jingming’s fingers move quickly and methodically — grabbing bicycle seats, wrapping them in cardboard and smoothly attaching them to frames.
Working a 45-hour week, Mr. Zhang makes the equivalent of $263 a month; as recently as February, he was making just $197. Some of his higher pay comes from working more efficiently. “When I first started, I wasn’t this fast,” he said.
But a good portion reflects a raise Mr. Zhang got: to 1.45 cents for each bicycle seat from 1.32 cents. It is a small difference that signifies major change.
Chinese wages are on the rise. No reliable figures for average wages exist; the government’s economic data are notably unreliable. But factory owners and experts who monitor the nation’s labor market say that businesses are having a hard time finding able-bodied workers and are having to pay the workers they can find more money.
And higher wages in China are likely to lead to higher prices in the United States — at the mall, at the grocery, even at the gas pump.
Chinese companies are already passing along some of their higher costs to overseas customers. Prices for goods from China, after years of gradual decline, have risen 1.2 percent since February, according to the Labor Department. July’s increase was the biggest yet: 0.4 percent compared with June. Chinese companies and contractors are also passing on the cost of the rising value of their currency, the yuan, up 8.8 percent against the dollar in the last two years.
For decades, many labor economists said that China’s vast population would supply a nearly bottomless pool of workers. So many people would be seeking jobs at any given time, this reasoning went, that wages in this country would be stuck just above subsistence levels. As recently as four years ago, some experts estimated that most of the perhaps 150 million underemployed workers in the countryside would be heading to cities.
Instead, sporadic labor shortages started to appear in 2003 at factories in the Pearl River delta of southeastern China. Now those shortages have spread to factories up and down the Chinese coast, specialists say.
This summer, Mary Gallagher, a Chinese labor specialist at the University of Michigan, visited five sportswear factories near Shanghai and Guangzhou. She found them all struggling to hire and retain workers. One had shut one of its two main production lines because it had nobody to sew shirts and other garments.
“Basically half the factory was shut down and one dormitory was empty,” Ms. Gallagher said.
In interviews, factory executives across the country complained of being forced to give double-digit raises in order to find and keep young workers at all skill levels. Three or four years ago, said Zhong Yi, vice general manager of a leather-jacket manufacturer in Hangzhou in east-central China, 800 to 1,100 yuan a month ($105 to $145) “was a good salary.”
“Now,” he said, “1,500 is the bottom” ($198).
Chinese officials are quick to say that there is no overall shortage of labor — rather, there is a shortage of young workers willing to accept the low wages that prevailed in the 1990s. Factories in cities like Guangzhou advertise heavily for young workers, even while employment offices consider it a success if someone over 40 can find any job in less than a year. (BINGO ! )
“Now they’re taking workers into their early 30s,” said Jonathan Unger, director of the Contemporary China Center at Australian National University in Canberra, “but anything older than that and they think they can’t take the conditions, the 11-hour days,” as well as work on weekends, and a tedious life in factory-owned dormitories.
Plant owners’ refusal to hire blue-collar workers over 35 or 40 is colliding with the demographic reality of China’s one-child policy. The number of workers in the 20-to-24-year-old range is already shrinking as more of them go to universities instead of entering the work force after high school, and the International Labor Organization projects that workers in this age range will edge slowly downward through at least 2020.
Visiting villages from tropical Gaoyao in the southeastern corner of the country to dusty Houxinqiu in the northeast, it is striking how few young adults remain after so many have left for the cities. A recent government survey of 2,749 villages in 17 provinces and autonomous regions found that in 74 percent of villages, there were no workers fit to travel to distant cities, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
A separate report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences warned of coming labor shortages even in rural areas as soon as 2009.
This lack of laborers of desirable age is hardly making China a worker’s paradise. Factory wages remain extremely low by Western standards: roughly $1 an hour for better-paid workers near the coast, compared with as little as 50 cents early this decade.
The pay looks especially low in dollar terms, partly because China has intervened in the currency markets to hold down the value of the yuan and keep exports competitive. The cost of living is low in dollar terms for the same reason; entrees at an air-conditioned restaurant three blocks from the bicycle factory here start at 50 cents for a large plate of fried rice.
Moreover, labor regulation is weak in China, as shown most vividly this year by the discovery that brick kilns in the north of the country had kidnapped and enslaved hundreds of children and mentally disadvantaged adults, working them under brutal conditions with little or no pay.
And wages are stagnating in the middle of the labor market — workers who consider themselves too educated for entry-level jobs in a garment factory, but lacking the skills or experience to command a premium salary elsewhere. “It’s easy to find a job with not a very high salary,” said Chen Zheng, a 24-year-old auto worker and high school graduate in Ningbo. “It’s not easy if you want a higher wage.”
The hardest variable to judge in China’s changing labor market is the pace of productivity growth. Since there are few reliable statistics, the best way to assess productivity is to look at individual factories like the Dahon operation here, which produces bicycles that collapse for easy storage.
David T. Hon, chief executive of the privately held Dahon Group, said that while he had been raising wages 10 to 15 percent a year, the average labor cost for each bicycle had actually edged downward. This is possible, he said, because sales are growing 30 percent a year and increasingly large-scale production has brought savings. The cost of engineering a new bicycle design, or handling the accounting and other back-office operations, is spread over more and more bicycles as production rises.
The price changes in China are unlikely to immediately affect broad measures of inflation in the United States though longer-term effects are likely, the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, said in a speech on March 2, just as prices for imports from China were reaching a low point. Mr. Bernanke suggested that the price changes would have minimum effect because the total of Chinese imports was small in relation to the broad American economy.
A bigger question, one harder to answer, is how much cheap Chinese imports have forced American manufacturers to keep their own prices low. And will that price restraint persist if Chinese products become more expensive?
For instance, American, European and Japanese automakers have been putting a lot of pressure on parts suppliers to cut prices by forcing them to compete for contracts with low-cost Chinese producers.
Rising overall incomes in China also affect American inflation indirectly. Higher incomes in this country contribute to soaring demand by Chinese for cars, air-conditioners and other energy-consuming products.
China is now the world’s second-largest oil importer after the United States. More demand will help push up global oil prices and inflation.
Monday, August 27, 2007
I was looking to find the definition of 'people of color', which seems to have expanded to mean everyone in the world except those of European ancestry ....
Here's a website that supposedly had a definition ... but note that Target , Shopzilla et al can get you good prices on 'people of color' !
631,434,332 visitors served.
people of color
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