Downsizing reversal?

This month I'd like to share with you some correspondence I received in response to my March editorial that discussed survival in a shrinking business arena. The writer felt the subject warranted expansion of thought. As president of Dieck, Mueller & Assoc., an executive search firm, Daniel W. Dieck probably has a good perspective on this subject that you may find worthwhile.

"...all industry segments are consolidating for a multitude of reasons. Two key points were touched on in your article that could use expansion of thought. First, how does an individual survive and thrive in a rapidly changing market climate? And secondly, how do companies retain and/or attract world-class talent to grow and thrive in a global competitive marketplace?

"On the first point-individual employees need to take control of their careers. They must identify what skill sets are needed to position themselves from a career perspective. They cannot wait for their company to provide training and development. They need to go out on their own and acquire the skills to position themselves for long-term career growth and personal stability.

"The second point covers how an individual needs to change, adapt, and be flexible in a continuously changing environment. What about retaining and attracting world-class talent in all functional areas? After all, isn't it the people that truly differentiate companies today?

"We've seen both sides of the equation as a retained search firm that has aligned itself with some of the most progressive and forward-thinking companies in the world. Our clients, when acquired, will have 60% to 80% of the senior leadership leave in 18 to 24 months. When our clients acquire a company, division, or operation, they not only do an extensive due diligence on the hard assets, inventories, and customer base, but they also scrutinize and assess the senior leadership as well as the key managers to see who will fit into their own culture and methodology.

"It's a two-way street, and all perspectives come down to one word: positioning!"

On a related topic, those of you who do find yourself looking for a new direction (by choice or through downsizing) should be pleased to hear that, according to Grant Thornton, accountants and management consultants, there is economic optimism among midsize US manufacturers.

A national study conducted by the firm finds that "nearly a third of all midsize US manufacturers plan to hire management-level employees this year, and almost half intend to create new full-time production jobs."

The following facts emerged from phone interviews with a national cross section of 255 top executives representing US manufacturers with annual sales between $10 million and $500 million:

* Sixty percent of manufacturing executives are optimistic about the nation's economic health. Only 17% are pessimistic, foreseeing a national recession before year-end.

* Nearly 30% of the manufacturers expect to increase the number of full-time managers - an indication that the downsizing trend is reversing.

* A full 46% of midsize companies plan to hire full-time production workers in 1996. Another 44% say their employment levels this year will be static.

The study also found that most midsize manufacturers produce goods for the world's largest companies, many of which are outsourcing various business functions to their smaller suppliers.

These midsize companies are building or acquiring new facilities and, as a result, need to hire new production workers and skilled line managers to carry out their expansion.

Although not clearly specific to the converting industry, it's certainly the best news I've heard in a long time.

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