Electronics companies are doing a lousy job of making engineers feel engaged.
That’s the top-line take-away from the job-satisfaction survey you participated in the past week on EE Life.
Trust issues with management
Tend not to feel a part of a
given company and
Believe strongly that there are not sufficient career
opportunities at their companies.
Only one in three of the more than 800 respondents to the online survey agreed with the statement "I trust the leadership of my company." Those who strongly agreed in the leadership were in the single digits (chart below). In fact, twice as many people strongly disagreed with that sentiment than strongly agreed. Wrote one respondent:
"Cronyism, politics, and favoritism kills moral in the work place. In addition, if management can become so risk adverse that innovation is stymied."
I trust the leadership of my company
leadership of my division or team
being “straight” (honest, direct) with me
being “straight” (honest, direct) with themselves
Wrote another respondent:
"10 years at a small start-up. I know it sounds counter-intuitive to say "start-up" after 10 years ... but:
10 years - Second longest serving employee
10 years - 8 Presidents
10 years - 10 VPs of Engineering
10 years - Never made a profit
10 years - Company valued between $1 and $200M over the years.
Shoot Me ... !
Puuuhlease, just Shoot Me ... !"
But amid the skepticism and cynicism, another number jumped out: Nearly 40 percent of
respondents are ambivalent about the question "I believe my company has
an outstanding future." One in three agree with that statement while the
rest (a little more than one in four) disagree.
Survey aside, Brian, I have GOT TO get a copy of the "Caution - Corporate Management Obstacles Ahead" graphic you used in the banner on the home page for this article - can you either send me a decent sized one or point me to where I can get one?? (I guess I could enlarge it and pretty it up, but why reinvent the wheel??)
Thanks // David
Interesting responses. I would like to see how this survey looks during the good times versus today's economy. I think the main reason engineers aren't treated well right now is because there are plenty out there looking for jobs.
The survey gives us approximate or a unclear picture. Every time we see the survey reports there is a percentage change. This is because about 40 to 50% of the people have their moods changing in a short duration due to short of contentment feeling. So the surveys can not be taken into consideration seriously where as the management needs to train the employees into job satisfaction.
The surveys DO provide an average lump sum of the "feelings" of the engineers. A handful of statistical outliers will not affect the outcome that much also not everyone woke up in a bad mood the day that the survey was taken (again statistical outliers not affecting the overall score much).
You cannot have management "train" engineers to be satified. Every person is an individual and responds differently. Seriously, you cannot train job satisfaction. You can only provide information on expected outcomes and the people will determine for themselves if they are satisfied.
Your comment to throw out the data because you believe it is wrong seems to be because you can't believe the results. Maybe it is you who is out of touch with the rest of the engineers. Almost all of the engineers here are not happy.
BTW: Since you are trying to play this down, are you in the managment that people are complaining about??
Hi Isleguard Prsently i am on my own. Previously i was working in two organizations and the surveys were taken on yearly basis. Even though the survey report said the over all satisfaction % is 90 to 96 people left the places regularly and lot of new occupied and this trend is continuing.That is why i feel these surveys wont give a strong support for the management to retain talents.
AGK, I'd agree with Isleguard1, The sample taken was 800 people and would be fairly representative. It may be that disgruntled people are more likely to participate in surveys. And I'm sure Brian would confirm that this fairly informal survey would not be as statistically dependable as something done by Gallup or others.
Nevertheless I DO think it gives a good picture of what a good percentage of the engineers of this world feel. They correspond in good part to my feelings, and though my answers might vary a bit from day to day, they would overall reflect the feelings of frustration I have with my current job.
If nothing else, the survey indicates that there is a problem here worth further serious investigation, would you not agree?
David the surveys can indicate a problem and in my experience there are no good solutions to most of the problems. A few can be solved but the rest might not be possible or quite delicate to handle.Solving one issue will create another issue at another side.balancing all this is like walking on the rope tied between poles.
If situation is unsatisfactory, Grade A employee leave, Grade B hang around until they find something else, Grade C cling on for dear life. If the company is keeping staff around even when times are tough, your career path is not highest priority nor is the continuation of your current project.
Everybody is free to start a new company, put up their $$$ and build the best engineering company in the world. Startups creates more jobs, do more innovative and interesting stuff. But hard work and risk taking is not for everyone.
The blame for the rank and file feeling low is placed squarely on the shoulders of management. I don't think this is fair. Managers are people too, but they have to report to their bosses. We need to look more at the culture of the large companies to see where the problem lies.
"The Look" - walk into any interview (if you are lucky enough to get past the HR filter) where all the interviewers have no gray hair nor gray beards.
There is a very well-know test equipment manufacturer advertising right now, one of the requirements is:
"Education: Requires a recent BS"...
In other words, if your degree is not recent you need not apply. Just another way of weeding out the aged without actually basing the elimination on age.
2 questions that occur to me based on the above posts:
1. If it's "Not fair" to blame the lack of employee engagement on the management (Daleste), whose fault is it?
2. And if employers seeking new staff are "weeding out the aged" (Zeeglen) why are they doing this? As we all know they are thereby leaving out a pool of superbly talented and experienced staff from their choice. WHY? Do we ask too much money? Do younger managers feel threatened by us oldies?
I don't have any clear answers, only ideas based on my own experiences. I'm currently lucky enough to be in a steady job with good conditions, except that management have changed since I joined and demonstrably (we've had surveys with abysmal results) don't engage us much any more. But when we offer suggestions as to how to improve things, management say "We'll take that on board" but as soon as we're out of earshot they chuck them overboard...
Example...we used to have team leaders who had come up through the ranks and did, by and large, a damn good job. But new management did not trust them and replaced them with outside guys, in our case one from the army who thinks he's still there.
My "Coordinator" (who used to be my team leader) is a bit more than half my age, a very smart guy and great at the admin work (which I hate so I'm not after his job!). He's extremely supportive and is always pushing for training and advancement for us. Our team leader on the other hand thinks that we are just trying to goof off if we ask for training or maybe to attend an applicable demo or seminar. It’s very much an "Us and them" attitude.
The though of looking for another job at my age (54, meaning I have at least 10+ years of official working life left in me) scares the hell out of me because of the sentiments outlined above.
Anyone else got any thoughts on these issues, ie
* WHY are we not engaged employees any more?
* WHY don't employers like oldies?
Every company is different, but in my own case I see that when I come up with an idea that enhances the bottom line for the company, the management gets bonuses and I get diddly. The reward for doing my job is my salary and pretty much nothing else. For those who work unpaid overtime it's even worse - the management still gets their bonus and you get nothing.
As for being old, I think it has to do with management's inability to distinguish between cost and value. They don't want to pay the cost of an older engineer because they don't want to account for the value of his or her knowledge.
I'm all for bringing in younger minds with fresh ideas (hey, I was young once!), but older engineers can help the younger ones avoid expensive mistakes and stir up new ideas from showing them how things were done with whatever technology we had at the time.
Hi Rich...thanks for your concern....
Yeah, I won't be too forward about it. I know no one is ever indispensible. Where I work is up the end of the building and the only managers who ever come in here would probably appreciate it as much as I do.
The reason management gets the bonuses and we do not is because we are expendable. The reason they want younger rather than older workers is because they can. The reason we do not get overtime pay is because many else will do it without pay. From my experience the reason management does not want older engineers is BECAUSE we have experience (kind of like marring a thrice divorced woman with a law degree). There was a study done years ago that proved ignorance is bliss. They found that the more you know about a subject, the more you can see the downside (The difference between an optimist and a pessimist? The pessimist knows more of the facts). You have a manager who doesn’t know a transistor from a transmission looking for facial clues from his engineers during a sales meeting. The naive young engineer parrots sales saying “yes, we can do it”! While the experienced engineer is rocking under the desk, whimpering over and over “I’m going to my happy place”. To the simplistic manager, which engineer does he want to talk to the customer or come to sales meeting? It is only when the young engineer (and the several that follow) cannot deliver or get the project running does HR break down and hire a person who can do the work. Then afterwards kick them out because they are not team players (Scottie TOS: “You cannot change the law of physics”. He could afford to say that to a desperate Kirk on the planet because Scottie’s replacement was light years away and the transporter were down). Worse yet, some manages may know this and exploit this engineering ignorance when hoodwinking their customers.
Cont...I worked at a “Green” job where a pleased CEO showed me a report on smart grid technologies to bolster sales “green claims” in our whitepaper. I pointed out in the report and more so in appendix politely said that most impressive green claims are mostly sales vaporware and was not being complimentary about the reasons if read correctly. And, that using this report incorrectly could make the company’s Green claims seem excessive. The CEO was no longer pleased. I am no longer at this firm and feel lucky because I was fully expected to back up all sales claims no matter what was spewed. I was under orders not to use the anti-yes word in customers meetings or was not needed for the meeting. I have problems keeping a straight face while saying 2+2=5. As I become more knowledgeable in my profession, I suspect this problem will become even worse and could ruin my employability in some engineering fields. So technically it is not management’s fault that I cannot group think in real time and keep falling back on my engineering knowledge.
My vote for written word of the week goes to tfc (see above) for:
The naive young engineer parrots sales saying "yes, we can do it!" while the experienced engineer is rocking under the desk, whimpering over and over "I'm going to my happy place."
Selfishness. Selfishness. Selfishness.
Shareholders are selfish.
Managers are selfish.
Employees are selfish.
Everyone works to maximize their own benefit.
However, the irony is when any of the parts suffers the whole suffers.
Maximization of benefits (longterm) happens
only when all parts win. However, due to ignorance or lack of concern selfishness seems to dominate and that is why there's problems.
However, it does start with management.
Good management works to make sure both the shareholders as well as the employees win - and of course the managers as well.
Let's get back to the win-win-win philosophy. It's the only one that wins long term.
Since I was laid off in 2002 at age 47, I've had 5 different jobs, 3 out of 5 of them through contract engineering firms. Actually, if you count the job that went from contract to direct and the job that changed from one contract engineering firm to another, it's actually 7 jobs. All but one time (I didn't like the work I was doing & found another job), I was laid off from the job I was working at. Various reasons were given like the amount of work the company was getting was going down, the contract the company had (that I was working on) ended.
Each time I've been laid off, it seems like it gets harder to find another job. It's difficult to find a way to "get a foot in the door" to even talk to someone rather than being relegated to electronic resume and cover 'letter' submission only.
I'm not sure whether the blame for this lies with management or the HR people or the program the HR people decide to use to filter resumes. I just know that as I get older it seems to be getting much harder to stay with doing electronic design, which is what I really enjoy doing (and learning about new parts and applications).
I recognise but avoided most of these dilemas by changing carers and employer about every six years. Always accomplishing something that was not done before and left while on top, not for money, but for a new challenge. When told I was very good at something,and I would be doing it for a while, then I knew it was time for a change.
Now I am retired and every day is Saturday.
This technical vs. management track has been an issue for a long time, and apparently still is. There is always this pressure to move to management; one is not considered a success unless this happens. Well, some of us have neither management skills nor aspirations, and recognize this; we DO have contributions to make on the technical side. But most companies are making it clear that they do not value such contributions from older engineers, and when pressed, the dreaded cost, time, speed, and health excuses come out...
At the ripe old age of 31 I guess I would be consider one of those young engineers. I've spent time in both a large and small company and thoroughly enjoy the small company more. Yes, I run a team of older and younger engineers, while leading technically. Yes, I'm overworked and underpayed. Yes, I've spent my time wimpering under the table from what some marketing weenie wants, yet I still talk to customers.
I normally just enjoy reading the posts but I think it was time for one my still thumb sucking generation to say something.
1) There is a lot of equating here that a older engineer = good engineer. Age and experience do go hand in hand only to a degree. I could jump on the S.S. Pontification regarding all of the older engineers I've met that can't design how to find the butt with two hands. In the end, experience is about what you have done, where you have been and did you learn from your mistakes. If you spent 20yrs on one piece of software(COBOL programmers) or hardware(defense hardware) you probably don't know much.
2) The difference between an optimist and a pessimist is not experience but how many times the world has been piled on you. So guess what boomers, you have been kicked around for most of your lives, hence why you went from being great optimists to some of the most pessimistic people I have ever known. As I see the world before us I can feel pessimism gnawing but can only hope that I will still maintain my optimism for my children's sake.
3) I agree that the Harvard and Chicago business schools types really don't have a clue. Then again these people are taught that they can mangage anything, this would be the definition of clueless.
4) If you honestly think that people (Management and Engineering) is doing this for anyone but themselves, you might want to look closely at your experieced life. In the end I try to do what is best for the guy to my left and too my right(hence friends). But in the end you have to watch out for yourself. Even a boss that is helping you with classes and career development is looking out for themselves(you perform = them looking good).
4) One of the hardest things is too get an older engineer to teach up and comings. A truly fantastic engineer will go out of their way to teach less experienced staff.
5) The line about the young managers being intimidated by their elders literally had me ROFL. Whenever I have and issue with an older engineer it falls into three categories: 1) He assumes he knows better and is unwilling to back it up with science("Thats how it is done"), 2) Fundamental lack of respect ("You whippersnapper", yes I have literally been called a whippersnapper), 3) Lack of productivity/innovation, usually related to doing the same thing for twenty years with the same people.
In the end this isn't meant to be a flame but a reminder. That at one time an older engineer looked down on you and equated your age to your skill and wouldn't listen to what you had to say.
Feel free to comment
Sure, I'll comment :-)
It is not "old = good". There are actually two axes that intersect: the old-young axis and the good-bad axis. It seems that the "old-good" quadrant is being held up and explored because the workplace seems to be emphasizing the "old-bad" quadrant. All four quadrants exist: old/bad, old/good, young/bad, and young/good. I've seen and worked with them all.
I'm in my mid-forties. I have felt both the "you are too young to know anything" as well as the "you are getting older, and need to move into management soon (even though I keep current)" pressures.
Getting older engineers to teach younger ones? Sure, I've done that. I do it now. Optimally, the learning goes both ways. But in my experience, it was easier for this to happen in days gone by. Nowadays, there is no "time" allowed for that, only for the work itself. Certainly there is no charge number for it :-) I've actually been told that! (Doesn't sound like an older engineer's fault there...more like a short-term vs long-term view problem...)
In summary...let's not pit older vs younger (vs middle-aged?) engineers; the profession cannot afford that indulgence. Especially not right now.
The survey results support what I have been saying about computer, semiconductor and software companies for some time: You have the wrong people. Only 9.10% strongly agree with, "I truly feel a part of my company"!
Many of your employees treat you like adversaries, rather than allies. Meanwhile, an astonishing candidate with high internal standards of achievement and genuinely enthusiastic about your product line, is trying to get in, but gets rejected by one of your existing employees, who underestimates what that candidate will do for your company, instead allowing himself/herself to get distracted by something insignificant.
It's time to clean house.
Wow. Wonderfully eloquent and thoughtful comments.
A few responses from my pointy little head:
On VestigialNocron's comments on optimism v. pessimism.... I think it's not so much a Baby Boomer issue as a normal part of every generation's growth pattern. When you're young, you start out with endless possibilities. As you age, you experience a number of small and large dream-shatterings and you can become cynical and pessimistic. Then we tend to view the future through this lens. But we never predict positive outcomes because we tend to expect worst-case scenaria (probably a survival-mode thing). Yet positive outcomes probably happen as much as negative outcomes. It takes as much energy to be optimistic as it does to be pessimistic (probably less energy actually), so why not default to the former?
I second LiketoBike on not pitting older v. younger EEs against each other.
On the many cultural comments of management v. engineering, there are companies that appear to try to address this with Fellow programs. I have no insight into whether these programs do more than treat a couple of eminences grise with respect or are really an excellent career track (as LiketoBike suggests) for many engineers.
We all work in organizations where there are somewhat competing interests internally. Maybe the best workplaces are those in which management forces you to carve out time to do you own thing (a la Google with its 10 percent rule).
The really disturbing thing to me is that we have been studying corporate cultures for more than a hundred years and no one seems to have the right answer. Only a handful of companies are every held up as paragons of corporate culture (the old HP and the old IBM for example).
Maybe there are so few healthy corporate cultures because there are so few corporations with healthy purposes. Most corporations are in the business of selling people things they don't need, or of enabling other corporations to do so. Philip Morris, Coca-Cola, Nintendo, Nokia, Gucci, it's all the same story. There's no healthy way to sell Jack his magic beans.
To Quickbadger, ThermalHunter and TFC-SD, if I understood your thread requests, I've sent you copies (via email) of the "tripping image" we used for this piece. If you wanted something let me know and thanks for asking!!
From my experience, I’d prefer to look into who is a direct above management level. How each of CEO or Director is doing is not directly relevant to my career goal, because my intended stay with one company won’t expect to be a permanent one. The last time an employment statement with a permanent employee statement without “… company can terminate you with or without a cause….” was with Digital Equipment Corporation. That was the end of such an era. I love them, and I miss Olsen. Once HP shred DEC in 2004, I look for a better direct management rather than looking at CEO or director.
They use me, as they needs. I use them as I need. That is a fair trade.
MHK: That's a great insight. My question to you is what criteria do you use to judge those direct managers? Usually they don't have as public a presence as the CEO or COO and it can be hard to judge their impact.
What types of questions do you ask them to determine whether they'll be a good fit for you?
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.