Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Those who serve

In the United States of America, we pause on the Fourth of July, more properly called Independence Day, to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, declaring our independence from Great Britain in 1776. This is the most patriotic day in the year, celebrated throughout the 50 states with the showing of the national flag.

This is a national holiday that fortuitously this year occurs on Monday so that the country enjoys a long weekend at the beginning of the summer. By tradition. it is a patriotic day, during which we experience outdoor activities, parades, concerts, political speeches rife with overblown patriotism, family food fests and above all fireworks.

Typically we Americans are not flag wavers unless we are rallying around some event that stirs repressed patriotism. Currently, we are showing support for our armed forces, fighting 2 ½ wars in the Mideast, while many at home complain about the high gasoline prices this causes.

I served the USA on active duty and reserve status and took advantage of veteran’s benefits that covered my education and assisted me in buying a home. I’m one of those Army veterans whose records were destroyed in a fire at the St. Louis National Personnel Center. The US Congress amended a law and appropriated funds to rebuild the destroyed files, which are the only official record of my, and tens of thousands of others, military service.

In the doing, over the past few months, I have been supplying the government with documentation that will partially restore my official records. As a consequence, a few weeks ago I was notified that medals for which I had been recommended were going to be sent to me. This is a little late, you may say, but then they are service medals, not medals for valor or meritorious service, so they had never been a priority.

But it’s now the Fourth of July and on the town common a patriotic concert will be held, the conclusion of which will be a medley of marches to honor those who served the country. This year I will stand with other Army veterans, proudly wearing the ribbons that denote my service as they play “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”

That’s it, my once a year concession to personal patriotism. Actually, I stand to honor those who can’t be here and who are serving the country on our behalf. I know what they are experiencing from my own similar situation when I served. We were asked to serve and did; that's the best that can be said on the Fourth of July.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

US employees are not happy

Guess what? According to Industry Week, in a survey by Mercer, it was found that, “diminished loyalty and widespread apathy can undermine business performance, particularly as companies increasingly look to their workforces to drive productivity gains and spur innovation.” Mercer’s Mindy Fox says, “The business consequences of this erosion in employee sentiment is significant, and clearly the issue goes far beyond retention.”

Why? In Mercer's survey of the last two quarters, the company found that 32% of workers are seriously considering leaving their companies, and 21% of those staying view their employers unfavorably and show a very low score on loyalty, commitment, and motivation.

Well duh! We just survived the worst recession since the 30s and those who remain employed are still reeling from the impact on their jobs, with many living in dread of the pink slip that will add them to the 9% looking for work today. Meanwhile their workload has increased again, and again, under the threat of a pink slip if they should balk; consequently, their work may be shoddy and unfinished. And the media are touting a double-dip recession. It takes a special kind of employee to come into many companies smiling on a Monday morning.

Other Mercer findings:

- Only 43% of employees believe they are doing enough to financially prepare for retirement and just 41% believe their employers are doing enough to help them prepare.
- Just 68% of employees rate their overall benefits program as good or very good.
- Just 42% of employees agree that promotions go to the most qualified employees in their organization.
- Among the youngest workers, 40% of employees age 25–34 are most likely looking to depart.

You may recall the story of Damocles and Dionysius where the latter offers the former a trial as ruler to enjoy all the perceived fruits of this position. And so doing, Damocles looks up and sees a sharp sword suspended over his head. Supposedly, when queried about the threat, Dionysus makes it clear that, as a ruler, there can be nothing happy for the person over whom some fear always looms

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A big noise may be a little indigestion

What is this, a conspiracy? No sooner did I return from Munich, where optimism on global economics reigned supreme, then I began to hear that old bugaboo: double-dip recession. The one not-so-positive Manufacturing Index report after a string of upbeat months caused the scare birds hit the media. This, of course, was fodder for the announced and soon-to-announce presidential candidates, quadrupling the noise.

As the days went by, the recession drumbeat grew louder as employment news was less than stellar, and it didn’t help that the President was wishy-washy speaking? about the economy on Tuesday.

All I have to say is: Thanks, guys. I spent a week in Munich at Laser World of Photonics singing the praises of recovery in the manufacturing community and bragging about the performance of the industrial laser leaders who were on a tear revenue-wise. The dozens of companies I interviewed in Munich, for the most part, supported my optimism, and I only heard a few concerns about how the US housing market would hamper further growth.

So here I am three weeks prior to my Mid Year Report on the Global Laser Marketplace and I’m having second thoughts about my PowerPoint slides. Come on, guys, cut me some slack and at least let me make it past the 30th before I have to retract my glowing forecast for the remainder of 2011. Especially you, Mr. Bernanke. You have been, self-admittedly, wrong before; are you sure your gloom is couched in reality?

When queried about my optimistic forecast at a meeting last week, I stated that I could not see any reason why US manufacturing couldn’t weather a little negative news. Foreign exchange rates make exporting a joy here in the States and businesses are expanding with caution so they haven’t overloaded payrolls, and what they are selling is wanted everywhere in the world. So maybe we have a little indigestion, but it's nothing a good burp can’t handle.

Finally, thanks for the many concerns received from friends and acquaintances, near and far, concerning my status after the EF3 tornado cut a ¼ mile swath through Sturbridge. We did not experience any damage to our house even though the storm passed less than a mile away, spawning several random microburst’s, one about a 1000 yards from my house. Thirty-nine miles of South Central Massachusetts from Springfield to Charlton took a devastating beating, but we are all rallying to help the recovery in that good old Yankee community spirit.