Corporate Layoffs Spread Beyond High-Growth Tech Giants
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Corporate Layoffs Spread Beyond High-Growth Tech Giants

Dow, IBM and SAP say they will lay off thousands of workers as belt-tightening becomes the new business priority

By CHIP CUTTER
Fri, Jan 27, 2023 7:52amGrey Clock 4 min

Dow Inc., International Business Machines Corp. and SAP SE announced plans to cut thousands of jobs to prepare for a darkening economic outlook, as the current wave of corporate layoffs spreads beyond high-growth technology companies.

Together with layoffs announced by manufacturer 3M Co. this week, these companies are trimming more than 10,000 jobs, just a fraction of their total workforces. Still, the decisions mark a shift in sentiment inside executive suites, where many leaders have been holding on to workers after struggling to hire and retain them in recent years when the pandemic disrupted workplaces.

Unlike Microsoft Corp. and Google parent Alphabet Inc., which announced larger layoffs this month, these companies haven’t expanded their workforces dramatically during the pandemic. Instead, the leaders of these global giants said they were shrinking to adjust to slowing growth, or responding to weaker demand for their products.

“We are taking these actions to further optimise our cost structure,” Jim Fitterling, Dow chief executive, said in announcing the cuts, noting the company was navigating “macro uncertainties and challenging energy markets, particularly in Europe.”

The U.S. job market remains historically tight, with unemployment in December at 3.5% matching multi decade lows. The number of job openings still far outpaces the number of people looking for work. The Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates to tame growth and combat high inflation. But CEOs say many companies are beginning to scrutinise hiring more closely.

Slower hiring has already lengthened the time it takes Americans to land a new job. In December, 826,000 unemployed workers had been out of a job for about 3½ to 6 months, up from 526,000 in April 2022, according to the Labor Department.

“Employers are hovering with their feet above the brake. They’re more cautious. They’re more precise in their hiring,” said Jonas Prising, chief executive of ManpowerGroup Inc., a provider of temporary workers. “But they’ve not stopped hiring.”

Additional signs of a cooling economy emerged on Thursday when the Commerce Department said U.S. gross domestic product growth slowed to a 2.9% annual rate in the fourth quarter, down from a 3.2% annual rate in the third quarter.

Not all companies are in layoff mode. Walmart Inc., the country’s biggest private employer, said this week it was raising its starting wages for hourly U.S. workers to $14 from $12, amid a still tight job market for front line workers. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. said Thursday it plans to hire 15,000 new employees to work in its restaurants, while plane maker Airbus SE said it is recruiting over 13,000 new staffers this year. Airbus said 9,000 of the new jobs would be based in Europe with the rest spread among the U.S., China and elsewhere.

General Electric Co., which slashed thousands of aerospace workers in 2020 and is currently laying off 2,000 workers from its wind turbine business, is hiring in other areas. “If you know any welders or machinists, send them my way,” Chief Executive Larry Culp said this week.

Annette Clayton, CEO of North American operations at Schneider Electric SE, a Europe-headquartered energy-management and automation company, said the U.S. needs far more electricians to install electric-vehicle chargers and perform other tasks. “The shortage of electricians is very, very important for us,” she said.

Railroad CSX Corp. told investors on Wednesday that after sustained effort, it had reached its goal of about 7,000 train and engine employees around the beginning of the year, but plans to hire several hundred more people in those roles to serve as a cushion and to accommodate attrition that remains higher than the company would like.

Freeport-McMoRan Inc. executives said Wednesday they expect U.S. labor shortages to continue to crimp production at the mining giant. The company has about 1,300 job openings in a U.S. workforce of about 10,000 to 12,000, and many of its domestic workers are new and need training and experience to match prior expertise, President Kathleen Quirk told analysts.

“We could have in 2022 produced more if we were fully staffed, and I believe that is the case again this year,” Ms. Quirk said.

The latest layoffs are modest relative to the size of these companies. For example, IBM’s plan to eliminate about 3,900 roles would amount to a 1.4% reduction in its head count of 280,000, according to its latest annual report.

The planned 3,000 job cuts at SAP affect about 2.5% of the business-software maker’s global workforce. Finance chief Luka Mucic said the job cuts would be spread across the company’s geographic footprint, with most of them happening outside its home base in Germany. “The purpose is to further focus on strategic growth areas,” Mr. Mucic said. The company employed around 111,015 people on average last year.

Chemicals giant Dow said on Thursday it was trimming about 2,000 employees. The Midland, Mich., company said it currently employs about 37,800 people. Executives said they were targeting $1 billion in cost cuts this year and shutting down some assets to align spending with the macroeconomic environment.

3M, which had about 95,000 employees at the end of 2021, cited weakening consumer demand for its plans to eliminate 2,500 manufacturing jobs. The maker of Scotch tape, Post-it Notes and thousands of other industrial and consumer products said it expects lower sales and profit in 2023.

“We’re looking at everything that we do as we manage through the challenges that we’re facing in the end markets,” 3M Chief Executive Mike Roman said during an earnings conference call. “We expect the demand trends we saw in December to extend through the first half of 2023.”

Some companies still hiring now say the job cuts across the economy are making it easier to find qualified candidates. “We’ve got the pick of the litter,” said Bill McDermott, CEO of business-software provider ServiceNow Inc. “We have so many applicants.”

At Honeywell International Inc., CEO Darius Adamczyk said the job market remains competitive. With the layoffs in technology, though, Mr. Adamczyk said he anticipated that the labor market would likely soften, potentially also expanding the applicants Honeywell could attract.

“We’re probably going to be even more selective than we were before because we’re going to have a broader pool to draw from,” he said.

Across the corporate sphere, many of the layoffs happening now are still small relative to the size of the organisations, said Denis Machuel, CEO of global staffing firm Adecco Group AG.

“I would qualify it more as a recalibration of the workforce than deep cuts,” Mr. Machuel said. “They are adjusting, but they are not cutting the muscle.”



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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

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11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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