Saturday, May 27, 2006

I got an email earlier this week from an old coworker / friend inviting me to a party to celebrate her leaving EDS and going off to start a new job with a small local company. Coincidently, I had been invited to a retirement party for another friend who had been working at CMHC for 30-some years. I went to both parties last night, and had a great time hanging out with some old friends.

In my time at the CMHC client site, I went to at least four retirement parties, and received countless more emails about others in the organization who were retiring, typically with 30+ years of service. In my 6 years with EDS, I don’t think I ever saw a single note about a retirement. It seems that nobody can stand working there long enough to reach retirement age. I remember getting my pension statements from EDS and agonizing over my “normal retirement date” of 2041 or so.

Maybe it is because EDS is a “high tech” company and as such typically employs younger people, but I prefer to think that there is a fundamental cultural difference between the two organizations. I have not worked at enough different places to know if it is strictly a difference between public and private sector, but I imagine there are private firms that value and respect their employees much more than EDS does (and there are probably public sector organizations that do so less). Everyone seems to complain about where they work, but I often said that if I was a CMHC employee instead of an EDS employee, I would probably still be working in my old job.

I think corporate culture is partly one of these chicken / egg scenarios, in that it is hard to say whether a company attracts good people because it is a good company to work for, or if any company that employs a good group of people naturally becomes a good company to work for. In my experience comparing EDS to CMHC, I think the former becomes evident. I cannot remember how many good people have left EDS out of frustration with the way the company is treating them. I know there are some people who left CMHC because of that as well, but not nearly on the same scale. I don’t know how a company that relies on people for nearly 100% of their revenue generation could be as foolish as to let all their talent walk (or in many cases, run) out the door. They will pay in the long run as they will start losing customers in much the same way, unless they wake up and shake things up from the top down.

I know that many CMHC folk would argue that CMHC is not such a great place to work, but from what I have seen, you could do a lot worse. I figure any organization where a person can work for more than 30 years without being committed to the psych ward has to have something going for it. The next time I am being interviewed, I will be sure to ask how many retirement parties the company has had in the past year.


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