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A working future vision

A DECADE ago, commentators predicted the use of computers in the workforce would allow us greater leisure time. Later this month, experts from the world of work will make their own predictions as to what the work landscape will look like in 10 years time.

Crawford Beveridge, Sun Microsystems’ executive vice-president and chief human resources officer, acknowledges that, in 2001, the predictions of greater leisure time is far from reality.

Nevertheless, as a keynote speaker at the Working Visions International Employment Futures Conference this month, he will attempt to describe what the world of work would look like.

“I suppose it is impossible to predict accurately what it is going to look like,” Mr Beveridge said.

“We can only take cues from trends at the moment and develop different scenarios as to what it may look like.”

He said that, while 10 years ago jobs such as web developers and Java programmers did not exist, today those positions were regularly advertised in newspaper employment pages.

Mr Beveridge is a globally renowned corporate strategist and human resources manager.

He joined Sun in 1985 and, as vice-president of corporate re-sources, saw the company’s turnover jump from $100 million to $3 billion and staff numbers jump from 800 to more than 12,000.

This year, however, poor sales in the computer market, the terrorist attacks in New York and a global economy slowdown has led to the high-end hardware and software giant suffering a 43 per cent decline in revenue and posting a $350 million loss for the September quarter.

Mr Beveridge said the conditions made it tough for him and human resources managers globally in the IT sector as they tried to keep skilled staff but save labour costs. How does a company shed 400 or 4000 staff and still stay functioning?

“It’s a matter of identifying what your core business is and shedding staff or departments that fall outside that,” he said.

“But it’s tough because often you are retrenching highly skilled people and I firmly believe that it will pick up and we’ll need to rehire them, which is a challenge. There will be a demand for skilled IT people in the near future.”

Sun recently made headlines for shedding 390 staff, one of the last Silicon Valley companies to hold off on cutting numbers, Mr Beveridge said. Before that, the company had instigated a number of initiatives to avoid cutting jobs.

“Firstly we looked at reducing the costs of things like people travelling for business, when it could be cheaper to do business via the telephone,” he said.

“Then we stopped offering performance bonuses to employees. Everybody’s salary went back to base levels.”

Mr Beveridge said it was important to consider alternatives to cutting jobs, such as Sun requiring its global staff to take annual leave during July this year.

The move affected 800 Sun employees in Australia

“We planned it around the Fourth of July holiday in the US, where people traditionally take their holidays anyway. It was a way to reduce the company’s liability for accrued annual leave,” he said

Mr Beveridge will be delivering two keynote speeches at the Working Visions conference: ‘working for the 21st century corporation’ and ‘the future of local economic development.’

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