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Electronic Design

Flextime, Communication Win Hearts And Minds At HP

Hewlett-Packard is no stranger to top 100 or even top 10 lists. In fact, it now ranks number one as the world's largest computer company. It also ranks fifth in patents issued to global companies by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2006.

Despite a few recent glitches in its prized and highly touted reputation (namely the corporate spying case that prompted U.S. Congressional hearings on the protection of personal telephone records), HP has a long history of "doing things right."

HP cofounder David Packard set the tone for the company's success years ago for what became known as the "HP way" when he said, "It is necessary that people work together in unison toward common objectives and avoid working at cross-purposes at all levels if the ultimate in efficiency and achievement is to be contained."

Those corporate objectives have guided HP since 1957, when Packard and Bill Hewlett first wrote them. Market leadership, profit, and growth where high on the list. But so was commitment, not only from HP's employees, but from the company as well.

Much of that starts with communications. HP communicates with its employees in several ways, including an internal Web portal and company news Web site, regular e-newsletters, quarterly all-employee webcasts, and regular communications sessions with the CEO and other senior leaders. In 2006, the CEO alone held 15 communication sessions at locations around the world.

Employees also have the opportunity to communicate with management. In 2006, more than 112,000 employees (74% of the total workforce) responded to HP's annual employee survey -- the Voice of the Workforce (VoW). The survey is available online in 25 languages, and employee confidentiality is protected. Results provide an annual assessment of employee satisfaction and are inputs for business planning, management decision-making, and company strategy development. The next steps are shared with employees at the work-group level.

HP, after all, is credited with inventing flextime, a reprieve from the traditional 9-to-5 office environment. It was a radical idea in the 1950s when HP first introduced it, but it's now a standard offering for many employers. The concept was expanded throughout the company's U.S. operations in 1973. Now, telework/flexwork and virtual teams have become the norm at HP.

But while flexible work options are available to all employees, managers must approve them in advance. Supervisors consider the needs of the team, current project workload, and overall organizational plans and goals when determining work arrangements. As a result, the dynamics of this arrangement are evolving constantly.

Another factor that has given HP a competitive edge is its focus on environmental initiatives. In an era when there's so much attention on global warming, HP has been ahead of the curve in terms of its innovative and aggressive environmental programs. The company recently announced the industry's first business PC that is configurable to meet the hardware standards of Energy Star 4.0, the new, stringent energy-efficient specification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

HP has long been known for members of its management wandering around the workplace to stay close to their teams and stress their own accessibility. But it also has always had a reputation as a company that provides its people with opportunities based on performance in an environment that values diversity and recognizes individual contributions.

Technology has driven HP from the beginning. Yet this focus was reinforced in 1999 with a new campaign with a single focus -- Invent.

"In 1980, HP was the only place I wanted to work," Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of HP's imaging and printing group, told a group of students at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business in 2005. "I knew that if I did the right thing there, the right thing would happen." What contributes to HP's strength as a company, Joshi said, is its emphasis on helping employees trust and feel respected by management. "You've got to talk to people to find out what they're thinking, and be honest and transparent in return."

HP is also taking steps to better align its work spaces to meet the needs of its mobile and virtual workforce. In fact, it's in the early stages of a four-year global effort to revamp sites around the world to increase productivity and collaboration and to keep pace with the way its employees want to work.

New and updated offices will feature more free-address space for mobile workers who may not need their own office, but will still offer private conference rooms, "quiet zones," and share team spaces. HP sites will also feature Voice over IP (VoIP) and wireless local area networks (LANs) for the convenience of all of its workers.

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