Motorola ensures future in the pipeline

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 November, 2007, 12:00am


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Life in the fast lane of today's broadband and wireless revolution presents unique human resources challenges demanding equally cutting-edge solutions from Motorola. The modern-day communications giant that keeps the world constantly in touch requires the same of its workforce.

'We pretty much work around the clock because of time differences between our headquarters in the United States and our network across Asia, from Greater China and Japan to Australia, New Zealand and India,' said Carmen Lam, human resources director for Motorola Hong Kong. 'This is why we are especially sensitive to work-life balance.'

If someone had to make a late conference call, they could come to work later the next morning, she said.

'We understand if our people have family issues to attend to at home, like taking care of their children, elderly parents, or a sick husband or wife. Staff can also work from home from time to time if they need to.'

The company has recently allocated one room in the office as a nursery where working young mothers can arrange to feed their babies, or prepare their evening feed.

'Of course we have certain disciplines. Everyone knows they have performance expectations. But so long as the work is done we allow a lot of flexibility.'

With a workforce of 25,000 in 15 countries across the region, along with 250 in Hong Kong, Motorola lives up to its 'Seamless Mobility' slogan delivering end-to-end solutions for the internet age.

The mobile phone maker oversees everything from manufacturing plants, retailing and sales and marketing, to research and development. It also provides network solutions to internet providers and wireless communications technology for governments, police forces and corporations.

With staff turnover running at close to double-digits in the booming hi-tech sector, keeping top staff on board was also a 'serious issue', Ms Lam said.

Motorola pays a significant amount of attention to succession planning and grooming young talent for leadership positions. One important strategy is a talent rotation programme for what the company calls 'pipeline' leaders - or future managers and executives.

Select young graduates are identified within the first two years of joining while they are in relatively junior supervisory positions. The company looks for 'high performers' who are nominated for special grooming by their managers. The decision is based on feedback from managers, performance at work and educational qualifications, although Ms Lam noted that education was the lowest priority.

Between six and eight talented youngsters are selected every year and for the following two years are rotated around various roles in the company, and different branches around the region for overseas experience. Some may even be posted to Motorola's headquarters in the US.

Four assignments, each of six months, are tailored for candidates according to how managers see their career development potential, and how candidates feel about their future.

Talented young supervisors in the financial department might first be assigned for a spell in sales in an overseas office to learn how business is done. Then they could be assigned to supply chain management and manufacturing, before returning to the finance department for the last six or eight months to apply what they have learned - and prepare for promotion to a more senior role.

Motorola also develops an annual training plan for staff through various educational programmes - including an alliance with Polytechnic University for marketing training and strategic planning education in Singapore.

Keeping in touch

Global broadband and wireless giant Motorola works around the clock and world, so it pays special attention to work-life balance

Flexible arrangements for staff include working from home if necessary, late starts in return for late work and time to attend to family issues

Key issue is grooming young talent for leadership positions around the Asia-Pacific network of 15 countries, with a workforce of 25,000

Talent rotation programme assigns 'pipeline' leaders around various roles and branches

Training programme for employees every year

Payback is staff turnover rate of 6 per cent, compared with a double-digit average in the hi-tech sector