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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Janesville residents struggle to adjust to loss of GM plant


By Rachel Hahn
When Janesville was founded by hardworking farmers and entrepreneurs, it was a thriving town. Its location by a river and proximity to the major cities of Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee fueled growth as the city grew from a agricultural community to a manufacturing community, first building tractors and other industrial goods then making cars as the General Motors plant opened in 1919.

The General Motors Assembly Plant became the main business in Janesville employing over 60 percent of the workforce in 1925. The GM plant remained a staple in Janesville’s economy throughout the “golden age of the autoworker” providing the city of Janesville with employment and economic prosperity. However, this stability for the plant and many of Janesville’s families, including my own, did not last.

As the American economy took a downturn, the auto industry was hit hard. There was reduced demand for vehicles, especially large trucks and SUVs. This was bad news for GM, the Janesville assembly plant, and thousands of Janesville families who depended on the automotive industry.

In April of 2008 came the announcement that the General Motors plant was cutting back to a single shift. There was talk about the future of the plant, and it suddenly became the focus of my town. Current employees, including my father, were discussing job options should the plant close. Retirees, like my grandfather, were concerned for their pensions and health insurance. The news that everyone was expecting came in June of 2008: the Janesville plant would close by 2010. Meanwhile, 750 jobs were cut in the month of July as the feeling of doom and defeat descended on Janesville.

As the panic grew, many people talked of relocating, going back to school, or pursuing other career options. I personally know many people who have followed each option.

My father decided to relocate to Detroit to work at a different GM facility. Unfortunately, the facility in Detroit began to lay off workers, and my dad had to choose between staying with GM and finding a new career. Eventually my dad decided to pursue other work and found a job in Madison.

My uncle, who had worked at General Motors in Janesville, decided to move to Kansas City to work at that plant. He commuted home on weekends, but the toll of the travel was hard. His family decided to move to Kansas City with him. They are in the process of adjusting to a new home, new friends, attending new schools, and making life without our extended family.

Lear Corporation provided seating for the vehicles made by the Janesville plant and laid off 760 hourly workers when the plant closed. Another uncle of mine worked at Lear Corp. and lost his job. He was able to attend technical college to become a dental assistant and now works in a dentist's office in Madison.

These stories were repeated again as LSI closed it’s doors, laying off an additional 235 people.

These personal sacrifices were made by necessity. Although my family was lucky and did not remain on unemployment benefits, many families in Janesville are still struggling to find any form of income and employment. Unemployment benefits are terminating for most people. Benefits were eventually expanded to 99 weeks through a combination of Unemployment Insurance provided by the state, Emergency Unemployment Compensation, and Extended Benefits both funded through the federal government.

However, most people are reaching the end of these weeks. The federal government has been exploring extension options, but there is currently no legislation concerning extending benefits past the 73 weeks of federal unemployment. Recently Congress and President Obama passed an extension on benefits until the end of November. These extensions apply retroactively, but not to people past the infamous 99 weeks of unemployment.

I encourage policy makers to look into ways to extend benefits beyond the current number so the unemployed can find ways to provide for themselves and their families.

My community has been rocked to its core by the loss of the Janesville GM plant, the ripple effect of the layoffs, and the separation of families. As Janesville was once a town built upon the hard-work of its founders, I know my community will find a way to reinvent itself through its citizens. The town and citizens could just use a little help from the government in the form of extended unemployment benefits.

-- Hahn, who attends Janesville’s Craig High School, is one of four Cullen interns working in the Capitol this summer and learning about government at all levels. She works in the office of Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville. The internship program is funded by a foundation established by Tim and Barbara Cullen.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

GreenBiz: Women active in sustainable businesses


By Gregg Hoffmann
Women are playing a more active role than ever in sustainable agriculture and the sustainability field overall, in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Several of those women gathered at the Organic Valley Country Fair recently in a forum called “Planting fresh seeds: How women are transforming sustainability."

“The USDA reported a 30 percent increase in women-owned farms,” said Lisa Kivirist, a Kellogg Food & Society Policy Fellow who headed the forum. “Many of these women are in their 40s and 50s, and farming as a second career. They often have roots in agriculture and are returning to them.”

Not all have the roots in farming though. For example, Kivirist and her husband, John Ivanko, were involved in advertising in Chicago and decided they wanted to make a change.

Kivirist runs a farm with her husband, south of Monroe. They also run the Inn Serendipity Bed and Breakfast on the farm. It is completely powered by renewable energy and recently was named one of the “Top Ten Eco-Destinations in North America.”

The inn is named, in part, because of what Kivirist refers to as the “serendipitous diversification” that has been a key to her progress in building a sustainable business and lifestyle. When things have happened, she has adapted.

“For example, when our laundry kept getting blown off the line, we said, ‘it’s windy here’ and decided to put in wind power,” she Kivirist said.

Sustainable agriculture is a natural for women in several ways, Kivirist said. Women across the U.S. are the main food purchasers. Globally, women raise more than 80 percent of the food, while owning in many countries less than 1 percent of the land.

Aimee Witteman used her roots in central Wisconsin to build a career in sustainable agriculture policy. She recently served as executive director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in Washington D.C. and was extensively involved in the 2008 Farm Bill debate.

“If you’re interested in connecting humans with nature, agriculture is a natural,” said Witteman, who has returned to the Midwest. “Public policy can be a step toward becoming one with place. We have work to do on those policies.”

Witteman, who now is with the McKnight Foundation. mentioned MOSES (Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service) as a good organization for sustainable public policy advocacy. Kivirist serves as the director of the MOSES Rural Women’s Project and maintains the Women, Food & Agriculture Network (WFAN).

“There are a growing number of good resources out there for women who want to become involved in sustainability,” Kivirist said.

Not all women involved in sustainability are farming. Sonya Newenhouse runs the Madison Environmental Group and Community Car. The former serves as a consulting firm for people involved in all types of sustainability projects. The latter now includes 1,300 members and 18 cars. Members share those cars, and in many cases do not own their own automobiles.

The group also is getting into the building industry with NewenHouse, which will provide super-insulated homes for people who want “to live lightly on the earth.” The homes will range from a one bedroom accessible 600 square feet to a three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,100 square foot home using passive house principles. NewenHouses will not need central heating, even in winter.

“You have to be open to opportunities, and to taking risks (to start a sustainable business),’ Newenhouse said. “You have to decide what is the worst thing that could happen and can I live with it. You have to deal with your pride, and the fear of failure.”

The Madison Environmental Group has worked on the Western Technical College Safety Building, the Madison Children’s Museum LEED Project for the renovation of a North Hamilton Street building, a Green Bay Mettropolitan Sewerage District project and others across the state.

Women-owned businesses are growing at almost twice the national rate, according to the Center of Women’s Business Research, and women make up the largest, fastest-growing group purchasing farms today.

According to a National Agricultural Statistics Service census, women were the principal operators of more than 9,100 farms in Wisconsin. The state ranked among the top 10 states in the country for farms operated by women.

Kivirist uses the term “ecopreneuring” and, in fact, has co-authored a book with her husband on that very topic, along with another book called, “Rural Renaissance.”

“An underground yet significant revolution is erupting across rural America: women launching green businesses and leading the sustainable revitalization of our countryside,” Kivirist wrote on the web site for her seminars.

“From farmers to fiber artists, from cheese makers to innkeepers, women launching green businesses prioritize more than profit; they see their businesses as a tool to transform both local communities and the world, emphasizing cooperation over competition, meaning over simply earning a living, and often, integrating their children and family into their livelihood.”

-- Hoffmann has written many columns and features for WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com over the years and he writes the GreenBiz column monthly.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cray's supercomputers help put Wisconsin technology on the world map


By Tom Still
CHIPPEWA FALLS – Until now, if you heard the words “petaflop,” “teraflop” and “exaflop,” you might have thought they described something your dog left on the neighbor’s lawn, your personal life and your career… in that order.

Fortunately, that’s wrong. They define computing operations at speeds so dizzying most people find it difficult to comprehend – and yet those computing speeds are being achieved or conceived by a company with deep Wisconsin roots.

Cray Inc., a company founded by Chippewa Falls native Seymour Cray in the early 1970s, has produced some of the world’s fastest supercomputers and continues to create high-end jobs in Wisconsin. The Cray Inc. story, while not without its ups and downs over the decades, symbolizes how world-class technology companies can thrive in Wisconsin with a commitment to research and development and a quality workforce.

In an era when most computers have become simultaneously smaller and more powerful, the notion of supercomputers may surprise those who believe larger systems went the way of the punch-card dinosaurs. For many applications, however, there’s no substitute for supercomputers.

The Cray Jaguar, or XT5-HE, in operation at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, was rated the world’s fastest supercomputer in an industry report earlier this year. How fast is Jaguar? It has a top speed of 2.3 petaflops, with one petaflop equaling 1,000 trillion calculations per second. It would take the average personal computer 10 hours to match what Jaguar can crank out in one second (about 20 trillion operations) and nearly a month to run the number of operations it can perform in a minute.

Jaguar is used by scientists to conduct research in astrophysics, climate science and nuclear energy. Other Cray computers in operation are used for similar missions, as well as engineering, defense, personalized medicine and more. Because simulation and predictive technologies are new pillars of scientific research, supercomputers are irreplaceable tools.

Irreplaceable, that is, until a faster computer comes along. Cray wants to produce a supercomputer with exaflop speed within the decade. That’s 10 to the 18th power operations per second (one quintillion), versus 10 to the 15th for a petaflop and 10 to the 12th for a teraflop.

For the Wisconsin economy, that race for ever-more powerful (and energy efficient) supercomputers means Cray will continue to invest in R&D as well as production. With 880 employees worldwide, the publicly held Cray Inc. has about 250 employees in Chippewa Falls and another 200 in St. Paul, Minn., with the remainder spread between Seattle and about 30 world locations. Cray’s manufacturing all takes place in Chippewa Falls.

Its supercomputer systems sell for as little as $500,000 and as much as $150 million, according to David Kiefer, Cray’s senior vice president and a longtime Wisconsin resident. The average price tag is somewhere in the “tens of millions of dollars,” he said.

The company is fulfilling about $200 million in orders from customers such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Defense, Sandia National Laboratory and the United Kingdom’s equivalent of the U.S. National Science Foundation. About two-thirds of Cray’s sales are in the United States.

“We have really been gaining in stability and strength,” Kiefer said. “We think we’re well-positioned for the future.”

That wasn’t always the case. After its high-flying early years, Cray struggled in the late 1990s before being acquired in 2000 by a Seattle group that immediately renamed the new company Cray and forged ahead. Over time, Cray or its former employees have spawned other computing and software companies in the Chippewa Valley, including SGI, Chen Systems, Ttm Advanced Circuits, Celestica and Silicon Logic Engineering.

It’s a cluster that helps define the Chippewa Valley as well as Wisconsin – all because Seymour Cray longed to return home nearly 40 years ago after a successful career at Control Data in the Twin Cities.

Cray’s competitors range from IBM to emerging companies in China and Japan, yet its “brand” endures in a world that demands supercomputers which do more in less time and with less energy. For Wisconsin, Cray is a brand that tells other global companies they can grow and compete here.

-- Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Transforming Wisconsin's economy will help meet 21st century challenges


By Tom Still
Wisconsin’s economy has been made and remade over time. Nineteenth century wheat fields gave way to modern dairy farms and cranberry bogs; territorial lead mines and turn-of-the-century logging camps eventually bowed to world-class manufacturing.

None of that happened without innovation and risk. Ingenious and often entrepreneurial people made bold decisions, in private and public settings, to keep Wisconsin prosperous in the face of changing markets and technologies.

Wisconsin is remaking its economy yet again, this time to compete in a world where the challenges to its prosperity are more likely to come from Shanghai or Mumbai than Chicago or Minneapolis. As the state enters an election year in which a new governor and Legislature will be elected, the candidates for those public offices and more deserve to hear some of the best ideas available for – yet again – transforming Wisconsin’s economy.

That transformation is well under way in part because the markets wait for no one, and because Wisconsin represents only a fraction of the national and world economies. It is also under way because some bold choices have been made. Those choices in recent years include building on the state’s research and development foundation, standing by investors who stand by homegrown companies, and working to awaken an entrepreneurial culture that was all but dormant.

Those choices were made during a decade in which Wisconsin lost 160,000 jobs in manufacturing, a shock wave that reverberates through the state to this day. Economists believe three-quarters of those jobs will never return. To prosper anew and to protect its historic quality of life, Wisconsin must now nurture emerging industry sectors as well as the physical and educational infrastructure that will support them.

The ideas offered in the Wisconsin Technology Council’s 2010-11 white papers, released this week, are intended to set the table for a renewed public discussion about improving the state’s tech-based economy.

Improving access to investment capital for entrepreneurs, building a more educated workforce, creating a stronger business climate and speeding technology from the lab to the marketplace are major themes in those reports. To read the full report, visit: http://www.wisconsintechnologycouncil.com/publications/white_papers

Some of the ideas contained in the white papers are new. Others are restatements and updates from previous white papers, legislative proposals or executive branch proposals. Some are based on the Tech Council’s knowledge of innovative programs in other states. And some are ideas brought forward throughout the course of the year by entrepreneurs, researchers, investors and others who deal daily with issues surrounding the tech-based economy in Wisconsin.

Others will weigh in over the course of the summer with more ideas that build the case for urgent action. The Wisconsin Economic Summits will provide such a platform, with guidance coming from groups such as Competitive Wisconsin Inc. and the Wisconsin Economic Development Association.

Some would suggest bold ideas won’t fly in Wisconsin for various political reasons. But that’s what some observers said six years about Wisconsin’s Act 255 investor tax credits program, now called “Accelerate Wisconsin.” That program is today cited as a national model for targeting tax credits around emerging tech sectors.

While constructive, bipartisan steps have been taken in recent years, Wisconsin cannot rest on its laurels. People in other recession-battered states, such as Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, also understand that economic forces are rapidly reshaping the world, and that there may be no second chances for those who dawdle. If states are the laboratories of democracy, so are they citadels for economic innovation. Wisconsin has a history of providing such innovation – it is time to do so again.

-- Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wall Street got bailed out, but families are still struggling


By Nick Strub
My dad, Ron Strub, worked at Lear Corporation in Janesville for 18 years. My mom, Anna Strub, worked there for eight years. The closing of General Motors forced many of its suppliers to shut down. Lear was one of them. All of the employees lost their jobs, including my dad. My mom was already on medical layoff due to on-the-job injuries which resulted in complete disability. She is no longer able to hold a job.

Lear’s employees were offered tuition to go back to school. My dad enrolled at Blackhawk Technical College to earn his associate’s degree in criminal justice. He hopes to be a correctional officer. He has completed a year’s work so far. While going to school, he receives unemployment benefits.

There is a catch to going back to school though. If my dad decided to get a job while remaining in school, his unemployment benefits would be cut. Our family is very dependent on an unemployment check.

Another troubling thing on the horizon is the end of my dad’s unemployment check entirely. On Capitol Hill, Congress is debating extending unemployment benefits again. On June 15, the Senate failed to extend the benefits. On June 29, the House passed the bill to extend benefits (261-155), but the Senate once again failed to pass it (57-41, needing 60).

Without an extension of unemployment benefits, there will be very little, if any, income for our family, as well as thousands of other families in Wisconsin. Most of these jobless workers have already exhausted what personal savings they had.

Living on an unemployment check is not easy. And now if we must live with no income at all, it will be chaotic. I used to be one of those kids who could depend on my parents for just about anything. If I needed a few bucks here and there, I could ask them. I cannot do that anymore. Our lives have changed so much already and it hurts. I have to worry about making money for myself in order to pay for my own needs. Kids were supposed to be the ones to enjoy life to its fullest, do whatever they wanted, and just have fun. They are not supposed to be the ones to worry about supporting the family or seeing if they can even make it another day.

Another huge part of my life that is now impacted is furthering my education. I had my entire life planned. I was going to go to college and earn a degree in aviation so I could fulfill my dream of becoming a pilot. Now there is no longer a single cent saved for my college education and I cannot rely on my parents to help me. Every day I have to think about how I will pay for college. I wanted to be the person who could say, “Hey, I got into college, and now I’m living my dream as a pilot.” Now the question constantly stuck in the back of my mind is, “How in the world am I going to pay for this?”

Another source of anxiety is the tight job market. If my dad loses his unemployment, it will be exceedingly difficult to find another job. There are not that many jobs available. He would somehow have to find one. How can anyone with this predicament possibly make ends meet?

The Republicans and a few Democrats in Congress have been fighting the bill to extend unemployment benefits. They say it will add too much to the deficit. Yet there seems to be an unlimited line of credit for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Since the beginning of the war in 2001, over $1.01 trillion has been spent. By the end of fiscal year 2010, another $40 billion will be spent. That is about $500,000 a minute, all funded by taxpayers.

If members of Congress are so worried about our deficit, why do they keep adding to the deficit through war spending? We can’t add another $34 billion to help unemployed workers, but we can spend another $40 billion through the end of this year for a questionable war?

Abraham Lincoln once said “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Federal policies now look more like a “government of the big industries, by the taxpayers, for the bailouts.”

When the banks, insurance companies, and car makers like General Motors were struggling financially, they looked to their government for help. And the government helped them out. Hundreds of thousands of families are still struggling financially, and they are asking their government to help them out. They are looking for some light at the end of the tunnel. Wall Street, AIG and GM are now doing fine. Families like mine are not.

As more families lose their unemployment checks, matters will get much worse and Wisconsin residents will be more desperate than ever. Offices of the state and federal government will hear calls in hopes of some form of relief, but the staff will have to be the bearer of bad news and inform them of what they cannot do.

I speak for many of the jobless families in Wisconsin when I ask Congress to please help. Do what you are supposed to do and help the people.

Let the light shine at the end of the tunnel.

-- Strub, who will be a senior at Janesville’s Craig High School in the fall, is one of four Cullen interns working in the Capitol this summer and learning about government at all levels. The internship program is funded by a foundation established by Tim and Barbara Cullen.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Analyzing charities: How you can become a smarter giver



By Kevin Reardon
The discouraging financial news is nearly impossible to escape. It’s on TV, online, on the radio and in the newspapers every single day. Nervous investors watching the stock market roller coaster ride. Jobless rates climbing. The housing market falling. There’s plenty of financial frustration to go around.

However, despite the recession, you might be surprised to learn that Americans haven’t shut down much of their charitable giving. In fact, according to the Giving USA Foundation, U.S. charitable giving stood at $307.65 billion in 2008, down only 2 percent from the previous year.

This year may not be an exception, given the humanitarian outpouring following the Haitian earthquake. But if you’re going to give your hard-earned dollars to charity, be sure to be smart in doing so. It makes sense to develop a long-term giving strategy that dovetails with your current finances, your estate-planning strategy and your values.

A visit with a qualified financial and tax adviser is a good first step in the giving process no matter what your age or assets. It’s important to view this process the way you would examine any investment – with solid research and an open ear to advice.

Here are ways to research and give to nonprofits and charities:

Go online

More than ever, the Internet is a great starting point for investigating various charities. Search engines such as www.Guidestar.org, www.Charitynavigator.org, www.Charitywatch.org and www.Give.org give detailed overviews of various charities. In addition, they help you identify nonprofits that work within specific causes and subject areas. A foundation called Philanthropedia not only rates various nonprofits but allows visitors to make direct donations through the site.

If your charity is not on the Internet, request a copy of their Form 990, the form the Internal Revenue Service requests from all nonprofits. The IRS did an overhaul of the form in 2007 to request more information on governance. While the forms are detailed and sometimes tough for neophytes to understand, it’s not a bad idea to keep the information on file as you discuss the material with your advisers.

Figure out if you’ll need income from your gift

There are ways to draw income from donations. Your financial adviser can work with an attorney and CPA help you in understanding the following options:

* Charitable gift annuities allow a donor and a charity to enter into an annuity agreement that will allow payments back to the donor that may be partially or all tax free;

* Charitable remainder trusts allow someone to donate cash or appreciated property to a trust that can sell the appreciated property and distribute proceeds to the donor on a tax-advantaged basis;

* Life estate agreements let someone with a home or farm to keep living there while they receive a tax deduction for the gift. When they die, there may be savings in probate costs and estate taxes.

* Pooled income funds are now offered by established mutual fund companies. These funds allow you to deposit money now for distribution to charity in the future while allowing you to receive tax-advantaged income.

Consider making a major direct donation if the charity or foundation will accept it

If you know of a foundation or charity that you want to support, research it first and then see what its policies are toward accepting donations of cash, stock or property. Not all foundations accept such gifts from the general public.

Doing your homework will help you pinpoint charitable organizations that will fit your investment strategy while lining up with your value system at the same time.

-- Reardon is owner & president of Brookfield-based Shakespeare Wealth Management Inc. He can be reached at 262-814-1600 or Kevin@ShakespeareWealthManagement.com.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book review: “AdaptAbility”


By Terri Schlichenmeyer
by M.J. Ryan c.2009, Broadway Books $18.99 / $23.99 Canada 227 pages
Three-forty-two a.m.

That’s when you woke up this morning, but what are you gonna do?

Every day, you deal with mandatory furloughs, bank accounts heading toward minus, homeowner woes, and high prices against low paychecks. So when it’s time to turn in for the night, you can’t shut your brain off, and you know you simply can not handle this any more. You’re done.

You didn’t ask for this stress, but you’ve got it. So why not get some help dealing with it? Pick up “AdaptAbility” by M.J. Ryan, and get some smart advice about resilience.

Once upon a time, author M.J. Ryan had everything she wanted. She was the owner of an up-and-coming book publishing company with a bestseller on its roster. She was happily married and life was good. Then, one by one, everything fell away and Ryan was faced with change she didn’t see coming and didn’t want.

Between then and the time she built a flourishing new career as a consultant and coach, she says that she learned a lot about change and how to deal with it.

First of all, change is perhaps the only thing you can count on in life. Good or bad, nothing stays the same and it’s not “all about you”. When faced with monumental change, you’ll go through the classic stages of grief, but you also learn that you’re more resilient than you think you are. In fact, change is not your enemy, but fear is - and in the end, your “youness” is what pulls you through.

One of the first things you’ll do when change hits you – and it’s natural – is to worry yourself half to death. Ryan advises you to put the brakes on obsessing about everything all the time. Instead, give yourself 15 minutes a day to worry. Knock yourself out wringing your hands during that time, then accept what’s happened, stop “milling”, and move forward.

Still having trouble? Ryan says to find gratitude and look for good luck in your predicament. Try to see small gifts in your loss. Complain, but not forever. Get your Three C’s in place (Challenge, Control, and Commitment). Stop being stoic and ask for help. And understand that temporarily taking an undesirable opportunity to “get by” is okay and won’t last forever.

Been to the self-help section of your library or bookstore lately? So many of the books there are happy-happy Pollyanna-ish tomes that wind up being of little help. Then, along comes a book like “AdaptAbility”…

Author M.J. Ryan uses her own story and those of her clients to illustrate how changing a few mind-sets can help you deal with “change you didn’t ask for”. While some of the exercises seem simplistic and a few are downright goofy, even the most down-in-the-dumps reader can take a stab at the things that Ryan gently suggests doing to shake the badness that can come with unwelcome change.

If you’re drowning in worry, stop treading water and read this book. “AdaptAbility” may just be the lifeline you need.

-- Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Employees will leave with economy improvement, taking company knowledge with them


By Noel Eggebraaten
According to recent Manpower statistics, “80% of employers are anticipating less than 5% voluntary turnover as the economy improves. However, 60% of employees said they are planning to leave their employer in 2010 if the economy improves.” This startling statistic was addressed at the Roundtable Discussion held on June 24, 2010 in Eau Claire, WI.

Why are employees leaving?

* Management/leadership issues such as poor communication and insensitivity to employee needs.

* Companies are not sharing the status with employees on how the company is performing and what the future of the business looks like.

These two areas of employee concern fall into the category of lack of perceived truth and honesty from their employer, consequentially impacting negatively on employee – employer relations.

How to retain employees with a knowledge base

* Host meetings to educate employees on what is happening with the company.

* Quarterly meetings can include project updates, new customers, financials, profitability and goals for the organization to reach in the next month/quarter/year.

Providing information on the status of the business, good or bad, increases understanding, creates opportunities to problem solve and improves trust at all levels of the company.

As companies have had to implement salary cuts or reduced hours, there are still opportunities for “Star Employees” to earn incentives – i.e. a project manager who managed a client account to profitability; or a company hitting a goal for the quarter where the employees, as a team, receive an individual profit-sharing incentive. It is critical to maintain the “Stars” of the company.

As companies laid employees off over the last 18 months – the employees who remain have become more valuable. Many of them were chosen to remain because of their capacity to learn and because they were cross-trained, thereby increasing their knowledge base. While it can be frustrating for employees to be asked to do more with less – it is important to focus more on the opportunity that is in front of them. They have an opportunity to learn new skills and to build on their experiences to expand their resume.

It is worth noting that 90% of workers decide within 6 months if they want to stay with a company. Some of that decision is based on career path opportunities, mentoring, and skill development to increase their success.

How to transfer knowledge

* Formalize mentorship relationships between employees to safeguard critical knowledge beyond a single person.

* Offer lunch and learn sessions.

The employee wins and the company wins.

A solid knowledge retention and transfer strategy ensures a company retaining its business knowledge and competitive advantage - even as employees change positions or leave the company. One of the keys to success is implementing tactics during each phase of the employee life cycle, from attract/recruit and onboard to retain and promote/exit.

Visit http://www.us.manpower.com/knowledgeretention to complete the online quiz for results for your company.

-- Eggebraaten is president of Momentum West. For more discussion about Knowledge Retention & Transfer strategies contact Noel Eggebraaten or Louise Bentley at Momentum West at 715-874-4673 or email info@momentumwest.org.

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