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Henry Alex Hutchins: How many of you are working for a company that will bring up a planning and control system? How many of you know that the company will be able to accomplish the same volume of production with 15 percent fewer people? Or that the need for midlev-el management will drop by 50 percent? If we are honest with the people whom we ask to be part of an implementation team, we will tell them that we really want them to work themselves out of a job! And, by now, you have figured out that we are talking about your job. No wonder so many implementation efforts fail.

Typically we ask the implementation team and management to be "totally committed." I learned what totally committed meant early in my career. I attended a management meeting in which the new com­pany president was asking for our total commitment and illustrated what that meant with the story of the chicken and the pig who were planning breakfast. The chicken said that she would contribute the eggs if the pig would bring the bacon. The pig responded that the chicken was only involved in the project, but for him this was a total commit­ment. The next day at work I received notice that I was being laid off. At one time being laid off was a disgrace—you had done something wrong. Today being laid off simply means that you work in aerospace, or one of the other members companies of the Complex Industry SIG.

Companies today are facing global challenges to their very exist­ence. To compete in this brave new world, market companies have to change their basic policies and practices. The very things that have made a company great in the past may cause it to fold today. The un­written agreement of lifetime employment is one of those policies. As technology changes, the job skills required for employment shift, and we have to change just to keep up. This paper documents how one company, AT&T, shifted from a promise of lifelong employment to a technology-based entity and still managed to retain a satisfied work force.

Leila was working in the career assessment office of the local com­munity college when the Challenger exploded. During that next year thousands of people were laid off from Kennedy Space Center. She was conducting classes to help people with their next career step, but mostly just helping people.


Leila Hutchins: Since my job was teaching laid-off workers and dis­placed homemakers, I had become accustomed to dealing with raw emotions. But when the shuttle blew up, I discovered that nothing had prepared me for thousands of unemployed workers who were in shock, anger, denial, and disbelief. We geared up fast at the college to meet the needs of the community, first dealing with the emotional concerns, and then retraining, writing resumes, and developing interviewing skills. Just as the two-year program was winding down, the two co-chairs of the Alliance for Employee Growth and Development approached me about doing a similar program for the AT&T downsizing. I answered with the all American statement, "No problem."

The first thing I needed was clarification on who these people were and what the alliance was all about. They explained by drawing a tri­angle with AT&T on one side, the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) on the other side, and the base being the alliance that held the two to­gether. They stressed a cooperative venture, which made me wonder if that was a brand-new work with AT&T. I was naive in thinking that management and union worked together on issues. "Cooperative ven­ture" was the new term to replace "adversarial relationship." In contractnegotiations, the CWA wanted AT&T to guarantee them job security, and AT&T truthfully replied that they could no longer do that. Next the union asked for assurances of no layoffs for that bargaining period. And AT&T said that they could not do that either. The union then asked, "Well, what can you do for us?" and the final agreement came down to education in any field, in or out of AT&T, education at any institution for however long they wished to attend.

So that was why the co-chairs were talking with me. Could I set up a program to help administer that new policy? My reply was, "Let me get this straight. You will train your workers to go into an occupation that is not AT&T-related?" I'll never forget their reply because no company, large or small, has ever said this to me before. "Yes, we will pay to train them, because AT&T's greatest strength has always been her people with their loyalty and dedication, so the least we can do is reeducate them for their next position in AT&T or another career of their choice." They wanted a proven method of assisting their employees to make sound career decisions for both short-term and long-term goals. Could we de­velop a career assessment plan that would be compatible with AT&T employees, that would match their current skills with newly developing, higher technology skills that would be needed in the future?

I needed a little time to compile and write a career assessment book and design an assessment program. After talking with just a few AT&T employees, I realized that they spoke in alphabetese. The only place that spoke with more acronyms was the space center, and to compound the problem they changed the meanings of the acronyms as technology changed. After working with AT&T employees ranging from telephone operators to sales, marketing, clerical, technical, installation, manu­facturing, and all management levels, it became clear to me that I had to get through to these people that they really were going to lose their jobs, their benefits, and their security. Most of these people had over 20 years with AT&T and had never had another job with any other company! They had never had a resume, gone through an interview, or set their own life goals because Ma Bell would hire right out of high school and set a career path for them. The didn't think about it, discuss it, or dispute it; they simply followed the path that was given to them. Not one of the employees really believed that a downsizing was truly imminent. When the first pink slips were issued and a closing date was posted, I was left with hundreds of people who were is shock—immo­bilized by fear. The first part of my program dealt with these emotions, to acknowledge them and realize that it was a very normal progression that each and every one of them would pass through, not unscathed, but as a stronger person in the end. In the 90s this is an unheard-of situation! How many of us expect to hire on with one company with­out a resume, without an interview, and stay for 40 years? It just ain't happening, baby!

To Be Continued


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