Electronic Design

Seagate Technology Pulls Out All The Stops In New HR Policies Program

Seagate Technology, one of the early technology leaders in the electronics industry with a history of thoughtful (and occasionally colorful) leadership, has added another stripe to its flag as one of our Top 100 Employers In Electronic Design. Seagate has spent a lot of time and effort in the past few years getting itself into a position to qualify for its high rank in the magazine's "best companies" standings.

Most of its activities haven't gotten much attention outside of the company. But one event has: Seagate's Eco Seagate. This weeklong sort of boot camp includes lots of hiking, swimming, kayaking, rappelling down cliffs, and occasional less strenuous events, such as birdcalling. The company has been running the program for the past six years. This year, it was held in New Zealand.

Organized by CEO Bill Watkins, about 200 Seagate employees participate. It's all about team-building. And it works, according to Seagate executives, which is good because it's not cheap. Held in February, the New Zealand event cost the company about $9000 a person.

Seagate also is making other moves to improve its productivity and efficiency and create more of a team atmosphere within the company. In October 2005, it launched its new HR policies Web site, giving global managers and employees a common single source of HR policy information for the first time. In March 2006, Seagate added linked HR process flows and published its HR policies and forms in local languages.

In the past year, for example, Seagate realigned its Human Resources (HR) Best Practices, which resulted in a tenfold reduction in the number of HR policies worldwide. The company also launched a global HR policies Web site and HR forms page on the company's intranet. And, Seagate's formal open-door policy and ethics helpline provide additional feedback or to raise issues to management.

Furthermore, the company periodically conducts global employee surveys to gather feedback and ensure alignment of company goals. It also requires managers to complete action plans to address priorities in their areas. The survey results are communicated throughout the company globally, including posting on Web sites.

More than 95% of Seagates' employees worldwide participated in the October 2005 survey, and more than 90% of managers who received individual survey reports completed their survey action plans within six weeks. Seagate also encourages its managers to conduct roundtable and one-on-one discussions with employees regularly.

Employee training is another plus. Seagate employees can obtain information on its Learning Management System from a single online source. More than 500 online courses are offered in leadership and professional development, computer/IT development, and functional competencies from highly recognized learning centers, including Harvard Business School, Corpedia, Netg, and Quality Group. In addition, Seagate has created its own custom online courses and facilities-blended learning programs at major sites worldwide, especially in leadership and management development.

The company's global tuition assistance policy allows reimbursement of tuition expenses and other fees for approved university-level and other educational programs. There's also a bonus program to award extraordinary employee performance. Rewards can range from monetary spot bonuses to gifts or letters of commendation. And, the company's compensation philosophy accounts for variable awards based on individual performance in addition to base pay.

Seagate takes diversity very seriously and conducts diversity awareness sessions on an ongoing basis for employees and managers as well. Diversity activities include regular events held on company sites with themes such as Festival of Cultures, Women in Technology, Disability Awareness, and Generational Differences. Questions on diversity are included in the company's employee survey.

Seagate's business hasn?t been so bad, either. Seagate's sales grew by 22%, or $1.6 billion, in 2006 to a total of $9.2 billion. Employment grew by 36% to support its growth. In addition, Seagate acquired Maxtor Corp. in May 2006, maintaining its position as the leading global hard-drive company. (Six weeks of Maxtor's results are included in Seagate's fiscal 2006 results.)

Most of the growth came from mobile computing products, including laptops, tablet PCs, and digital audio. These products helped account for a growth of 119%. Desktop products, which included some Maxtor products, grew about 19%.

Seagate's continued focus on technology was evident in the 256 U.S. patents it received during 2006 and the 25% increase ($160 million) in R&D spending. Another very positive design was its 13% increase ($198 million) in semiconductor spending, driven largely by electronic equipment design activities.

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