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Founded in Chicago in 1928, today Motorola has 80,000 employees in 70 countries. The first subsidiary the communications giant set up outside the US was in Israel in 1964. Motorola Israel has 3,500 employees.
We spoke with Yehuda Porat, Motorola Israel's vice president of human resources, about the Israel company's operations, and heard a bit about proper management, retaining workers and coping with the high-tech manpower shortage in Israel.
A bit of history:
Motorola Worldwide started its operations in the development and manufacture of car radios back in the 1930s. The first radios used by the Chicago Police Department starting in 1936 were made by Motorola. The production of the world's first walkie-talkie (first used in World War II in 1940) and the world's first cell-phone (1983) was also based on technology the company developed. Also, the first communications from the moon to Earth were achieved using Motorola devices. Today Motorola develops, manufactures, services and sells an enormous range of products around the world.
Why did the heads of Motorola Worldwide decide to start the first subsidiary in Israel?
The president of Motorola Worldwide decided on the setup of the Israeli company while totally ignoring the threat of the Arab boycott. Back in the 1960s there was already a sense of respect for the technological capabilities here and a recognition of the strong abilities of Israeli engineers, both in terms of technology and innovativeness. Ever since then Motorola Worldwide has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the State of Israel.
Though Israel is very small geographically, from Motorola's perspective it is very big, both in terms of the number of employees and the size of operations. Motorola Israel runs a large development center in Tel Aviv and a large production center in Arad.
Yehuda Porat, vice president of human resources at Motorola Israel
What products are developed and manufactured in Israel?
Motorola's data development center is located in Israel, developing a wide range of products. Motorola Israel developed and produced handheld terminals for the US Postal Service and for large international shipping companies, onboard computer management systems for leading vehicle manufacturers, control systems in use at police and fire departments around the world, car-phones, modules, etc. All of these were developed here in Tel Aviv and manufactured at the factory in Arad.
What's special about Motorola Israel as a subsidiary of an American company?
Israel has many companies involved in development for US companies. Motorola Israel is an entire system, including development, the transfer from development to production, production, marketing, sales, service and export. It's a very rare combination, with Israeli companies that are branches of foreign companies.
How did the Israeli company's operations reach such large proportions?
It's a result of trust that the parent company has shown in the Israeli subsidiary. This trust is the outcome of a dedicated human system that has never missed a development or supply deadline, has never failed to meet quality expectations and has always lived up to its commitments, even in time of war. The company's growth chart shows a constant rise, with growth rates of 10%-20% every year.
What is the breakdown of employees at the company?
About 30% of company workers are engineers. A similar percentage are other technical professionals – practical engineers, technicians, production workers, installers, etc. A substantial portion are involved in service, marketing and sales. And 900 workers are employed by the subsidiary, Mirs.
Some 20 African countries and several Balkan states are under the responsibility of Motorola Israel and we have teams that handle sales and service and maintain day-to-day contact with these countries.
How do you create a sense of belonging and employee loyalty at such a large organization?
When all is said and done a worker belongs to his staff, department, section and division. Keeping a person identified with and loyal to such a large organization is definitely no simple task. We're constantly working on these tasks and trying to improve internal communications, familiarize employees with the organization and foster unit pride. We also strive to reach out to the employee's family, provide psychological services for employees who need them, have an aid fund for difficult medical problems and have many apparatuses to create a commitment on the part of the company toward its workers.
What do you believe is the key to employee retention?
There's a general rule in managing people: people don't leave a place of work over money. People go to a new workplace where they try to get more money, but nobody leaves because of money.
Then why do employees quit?
Engineers quit for two reasons – because of a lack of interest and future possibilities and because of problems with coworkers on the staff or with the immediate supervisor. Money is a lower priority.
How do you get people to stay?
An organization has to make sure its staff is technologically challenged all the time, that they are connected and know where the company is headed and that their managers are the best there are in taking care of their staff. Taking care of personnel has to be a very substantial portion of managing abilities. In addition to all this, of course you have to see to it that employees are properly compensated, in according with their worth elsewhere.
Which means does the organization use to develop and train employees?
We invest a lot in training and enriching employees, both through internal courses through the computerized training system, and at our large training center, where people study various topics in a classroom setting. We hold a lot of activities to train and develop managers and we participate in funding our employees' studies at academic institutions, especially, but not exclusively, in technological fields.
How do you build promotion tracks for Motorola employees?
At the beginning of the year every employee meets with his immediate supervisor and together they put together a plan, including goals agreed upon by both of them. Once every three months a meeting is held between the manager and the employee where they discuss and evaluate whether the goals were met and whether any change or improvement is needed. The worker relates his requests, wants, needs and viewpoints on his development, in which areas he thinks the company should help him and what he needs to do to help himself. We believe that first of all the worker has to help himself in the area of personal development.
Do you cultivate a managerial reserve within the organization?
As a general policy we believe in growth from within over bringing in people from the outside, but that doesn't mean we don't bring people from the outside. Not always, for every post, is a suitable person found inside the company, and sometimes we also want to bring in new blood, someone with a different approach and a different perspective.
This company is a veteran company and as a result of that we also have veteran managers and people sometimes feel they're a bit close-minded. Therefore we developed a program designed to provide a solution through internal mobility in parallel positions.
How can internal mobility provide a solution for workers who want to advance to the managerial ranks?
I believe that transferring people laterally is very important. When someone changes his job he comes to a new place, faces new challenges, works with new people and is exposed to new problems and new sources of fulfillment. The adrenaline starts to flow the moment the worker moves to a new position. It gives him a breath of fresh air and new horizons, and provides him professional and managerial training. Therefore every new or vacated position is first offered internally.
Still, it doesn't provide a solution in terms of vertical movement, which means a promotion in the direction of management…
I don't believe someone can go to the next level by only climbing upward all the time. In order to become better managers people have to acquire experience in a range of jobs –technological, managerial and otherwise – therefore it's important that upward mobility be spiral. I don't believe in rocketing upwards. It's not healthy and in the end somebody has to pay a price, either the individual or the organization.
Doesn't transferring workers create tensions among managers who feel betrayed by workers who want to move to a different department?
It's not a simple matter. It's hard for managers to part from good people, but I think a good, astute manager doesn't feel betrayed. There's also a matter of education involved. We have excellent people who sometimes need a bit of indoctrination. I always prefer to see one of my workers switch from my department to another department within the organization than go looking for himself elsewhere.
How do you teach managers to think like this?
The cost of replacing a worker at high-tech companies like ours is tremendous. The annual cost of an engineer or product manager is $100,000-120,000. Losing an employee has many consequences – recruitment costs, integration costs, disrupting project schedules, incapacitating workers in order to train the new workers, loss of knowledge and sometimes even exposing internal information to outside figures. All told the cost of an employee who quits can come to $100,000. For a company with 100 employees, the loss of ten workers a year means the loss of over a million dollars. This is quite common in Israel, i.e. a turnover rate of 10% of all employees, and if you do the math the problem is clear to see.
This surprising figure has a very interesting aspect – it doesn't appear on any profit-and-loss report, it's not on paper. You see it in the business results, in meeting the project deadlines and in the company's overall profitability. The department, section or division manager won't see this unless he understands it with his head and his heart. If he does have this understanding he knows enough to have the foresight to figure out how to prevent the worker from quitting.
How does a large, veteran and established organization like yours handle the battle against young, dynamic startup companies for the hearts of the high-tech workers?
At the beginning of the decade, like all companies in the market, we, too, lost a few workers to the startups that were founded. There were employees who felt they owe themselves this opportunity and off they went to sit in some cramped room in a rented apartment, working from early morning until late at night, and eventually the startup shut down. When the bubble burst we made a strategic decision – every employee who left and wanted to come back was taken in.
The institutional stalwarts also have some very big advantages, such as stability, markets, technology, a tradition of taking care of people's needs, economic strength and much more. The disadvantages have to do with the character of the startups, but a large firm this size can't be managed in an amateurish way, without guidelines and without strict control systems. We try very hard, in our management style, to be very humane and original and innovative. We're not a primitive, backwards organization, but rather a very sophisticated, considerate and advanced organization, in spite of and perhaps thanks to our size.
How do you promote excellence, initiative and innovativeness among company employees?
We encourage patent development among our workers and provide handsome compensation for it. We recognize and commend outstanding employees and at company gatherings express our esteem and appreciation for three types of people – those who take out patents, outstanding workers whose colleagues and managers together selected them and people who were on reserve duty for extended periods. We believe that an active, good reserve soldier is also a good employee at our firm. That's the way it works – good people are always good, wherever they are.
What are the management patterns at the organization?
This is a hierarchical organization which, as a manager, is not always easy to function in because it's a real matrix. There is no one manager who has just one manager. I have three – one in Chicago, one in England and one here in Israel. Every manager at this organization has to have the ability to cope and be flexible enough to do this tango among the various elements of the organization. It's no easy matter, but at a company this size you can't flee from the management systems, which at times seem rigid.
What are the organization's managerial values?
We expect every manager to serve as an example in all that he does and to be the best in his field. The issue of ethics is a top priority and every new employee who comes here goes through training on the matter. We have a code of ethics and personal conduct that every employee is obligated to follow.
What does the company's ethical code consist of?
The ethical means every person who works at this company is obligated to act with complete, uncompromising integrity toward his employees, managers, suppliers, customers and the community in which he lives. This comes across in every matter – not receiving a gift from a customer or supplier, not working with a supplier who employs underage children, ensuring the level of quality meets standards, that every manager must give his employee all of the respect he deserves and treat him decently, and there are many other examples. This flows in the organization's veins, in everything everybody does.
The ethical code, like other regulations, comes from the parent company in the US. As a subsidiary, how much freedom do you have to form your own organizational culture and unique regulations?
Anywhere in the world you have to conform to local laws and regulations. Anything related to ethics and obeying the laws and regulations is built on a principle that says the US laws apply everywhere in the world, the local laws apply in each of the respective countries and we have an obligation to abide by both of them.
That sounds really rigid…
People get used to it and learn to live according to it. We don't encounter problems that don't exist elsewhere. Respect toward the worker, supplier, manager, customer, colleague, community and the entire environment forms another important building block in the company's organizational culture. The fact that we're part of a global organization is not just a drawback in the world of management. We're sitting on top of a technology pipeline and receive a flow of the world's most sophisticated technologies, so along with the drawbacks you have to also add into the equation the many advantages, and we have to constantly make sure that what holds sway is the advantages, not the disadvantages.
How do you cope with pressure and things dictated to you by the parent company when on a day-to-day basis you invariably come across unique situations that require unique solutions?
It's true we have a policy dictated to us, yet I don't recall a single incident in which someone from the parent company tried to dictate local matters to us. Things are dictated on the strategic and business level, but there's no intervention in the day-to-day management of the local company.
How do you cope with the market, which suffers from a shortage of high-tech manpower?
The most important thing in recruitment is retaining existing workers. The primary task of our recruitment department is thinking of ways to keep the workers from leaving. Beyond the manpower shortage, at high-tech companies the problem generally lies in the managers doing the recruiting.
How are they the source of the problem?
Every manager who's recruiting thinks anything less than a Presidential Honors student at the Technion, the University of Be'er Sheva or any other engineering school is not good enough for the post he's offering, no matter what the job entails. As human resources people and managers at a company like ours, we must ensure positions are properly mapped.
What do you mean by "properly mapped positions"?
On a soccer team not all 11 players play center forward. There's also a right back, a left back, a midfielder, a goalie and other positions. The team will play poorly and is likely to fall apart if all of the players try to be center forwards. Therefore our job as human resources managers is to ensure our managers understand they have to build an all-star team. If they understand this they'll understand there are a range of jobs, each of which has different requirements. If we work right we'll find the right people for every position using the various sources in the market.
Which recruitment sources do you make use of?
I believe the best recruitment source is employee referrals. First of all, the initial screening has already been done on two levels: you've already screened the person who's working at your company, and he screens the person he speaks with. It's also the cheapest recruitment source.
An organization that recruits less than 25%-30% [through employee referrals] has to take a close look at itself. Another important source is job fairs. Companies' presence at universities is very important. Finally, I believe in the various websites, including social networks, as a substantial recruitment factor, especially for high-tech professions. We use placement services and headhunters for very specific types of jobs.
How do you think the manpower crisis in Israeli high-tech can be solved?
We're in a country where the high-tech pool of workers is limited. The number of graduates from all of the high-tech teaching institutions is about 8,000 people, while the number of job openings is nearly twice that – 15,000. I believe the number of graduates the technology institutions turn out can be increased very substantially if we take advantage of the resources at our disposal.
Which resources are not being taken advantage of?
We have two sources we don't utilize sufficiently. One, the charedi sector, which offers a lot of latent potential, and two, women in high-tech professions. There's a lot of potential in directing women to technological professions. It doesn't happen for a variety of reasons, including education, tradition and social norms. It's a matter that has to be addressed through early education and ensuring math and physics are not perceived as something terrible. If you check the data you'll find the average IQ of women is higher than that of men. There's no reason in the world that only 8% of the students in the faculty for electrical engineering are women.
And in the meantime, many more are turning to other fields rather than high-tech…
This is a problem at the national level. Without detracting from the importance of other professions, this country needs engineers, programmers, physicists and scientists. It doesn't need more lawyers – there are enough for the next four generations. All of us are guilty of this sin of improper career tracking and we have to rectify it, because if we don't fully utilize our potential, this industry will come to a halt and in the end won't allow this country to achieve economic independence. We have no other resources other than human resources, and this is critical.
In conclusion, what are the growth forecasts for Motorola Israel?
The faith we have in our high-tech abilities is renewed and reinforced every year through the projects channeled to us and the technological challenges we undertake. I don't see any reason why this should change. I see the company continuing to grow, expand and develop, both commercially and in terms of business and technology, and as always, the sky's the limit.
For the Hebrew Article