Engineering as a profession will go through some changes as we move into the next century, and this, our Annual Careers Issue, discusses some of those changes. What probably won't change very much, however, is the way engineers and other professionals measure how good their employers are to work for. One of the prime criteria: respect for the individual employee and the contribution he or she can make to the success of the organization.
That respect is what all companies on a recent Fortune magazine list of the "100 Best Companies to work for in America" share in common. Several major companies design engineers deal with made the list: W.L. Gore, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Moog, Corning, Intel, 3M, Baldor Electric, Compaq Computer, Xerox, Sun Microsystems, Analog Devices, Texas Instruments, Motorola, AlliedSignal, and Shell, among others. All, according to their own employees, foster an open environment that encourages and rewards creativity.
For example, at Baldor (Fort Smith, AK), the company strives for "an adult-to-adult relationship with employees," says Chairman Rollie Boreham. "We don't have supervisors wandering around in neckties acting like tyrants."
Baldor encourages engineers to get out on the factory floor and talk with the people who will build the motors and drives they design. "It eases communications, builds respect, and provides needed feedback both ways," says Boreham. The company even lets engineers use the corporate jet to travel to distant manufacturing facilities to talk to workers about their designs. "We know once they start talking they'll think of ways to help each other," he says.
Like all companies that emphasize the importance of their employees, Baldor has reaped the reward of strong financial performance. Nineteen ninety-seven was its sixth consecutive year of growth, and its annual report gave the credit to the work force.
It was the right thing to do. Engineers planning their next career move should look toward companies that give credit where it's due--the people who do the work.