TYRONE D. TABORN
Chief Executive Officer
Career Communications Group
Good Morning. Thank you for inviting me here today.
I'm sure you have heard this before, but I believe it worth repeating. These are the most incredible times to be alive. Not simply because of the paradigm-shifting events that have already impacted each and every one of us, but because of the many new paradigms that are yet to come.
We live in a time in which how we live, work, and play has changed significantly, not once but several times.
The beginning of the current Technology Revolution allowed most of us to see mankind journey beyond earth. That same revolution ushered in the information technology era that fundamentally changed the way we live.
For most people that would have been enough, but fortunately for us, a young African-American IBM employee named Mark Dean was part of the team that designed the architecture for the modern-day personal computer. Dr. Dean, who holds three of the original nine patents on IBM's PC, helped create the second part of the Technology Revolution, what we all have lived through the past 20 years. I am not overstating his accomplishments when I say that without this African-American engineer, there would be no Bill Gates, or Michael Dell, or any of the other high-tech entrepreneurs who have emerged over the last two decades.
What is even more amazing about Dr. Dean's contribution is that he did it at a time when senior IBM management didn't really believe the personal computer would be an everyday business tool or a consumer electronic appliance. This young engineer hadn't even received his Ph.D. yet! Yet, he was involved in something that would carve his name into the history books forever.
So why do I tell the story of Mark Dean? Because his story perfectly illustrates what I have come here to share with you today. And that message is this: the sea changes we will face in future years will be many. The corporations that will be successful in navigating those global seas will need to make hiring and retention their top priority. And the responsibility for you the stakeholders and employees of corporations like Raytheon is even greater. As your company defines and redefines and reengineers itself, you will be responsible for proving your value to management.
Let me talk awhile about the sea changes companies like Raytheon will face. The threats and enemies our nation will face will require you always to look for what isn't there and develop product lines and services for the unexpected. You have already gone through that with many of your smart products, making you, almost overnight, the leading defense company in this area.
And how exactly does something like this happen? It happens when successful companies value innovation, research and development, and diversity of thought. When Mark Dean and his team were working on the personal computer, most managers thought there was little future in its everyday use by consumers. Today, those managers are long gone, or hiding. But the corporation itself valued innovation and created an environment where talented and bright employees could test their skills and imagination. As a result, the company could survive some poor management decisions.
Many companies failed in exactly this area. Very few of the companies listed on the Dow Jones today were there in 1883 when three young reporters created what was then a newsletter. The handful of companies that were there aren't in the products or services that launched their organizations.
This diversity of thought and innovation isn't as easy as it sounds. It takes risk-takers. And we all know that the trail from here to California is littered with the bodies of risk-takers. Unfortunately, far too many of our companies value those managers who play it safe. I mean, just how in the world did Polaroid, the leader in instant photography, miss out on the digital photography revolution? And what about Kodak? They had one of the first digital cameras, the DC 100, but never fully exploited their position.
Okay, so that's part of the problem, but what is the solution? Industry needs those risk-takers and innovators in middle and upper management. Who are the people who will drive your company? Who are the people who are on guard against threats and always looking for opportunities? Who are the people with the big visions? Find those employees, and you will have a company that thrives.
Now here's the challenge: Those people are difficult to find, in great demand, and need to be in a place where their unique talents are appreciated. I'll come back to that issue of being valued and appreciated in a minute.
Right now, I really want to spend some time discussing this group of talented middle- and upper-level managers. This is the group of individuals on whom the success of your organization rests.
And despite the fact that over three million jobs have been lost, and outsourcing seems to be a popular option, these women and men are not at a loss for opportunity. They can write their own tickets; and they do. And it's going to get tougher to find them in the future.
Let me touch on two reasons quickly. First, we simply aren't producing the number of technical leaders that we need.
Take Texas for example. Less than 25 percent of eighth-graders are enrolled in algebra. Over the past decade, only 12 to 15 percent of fourth-, eighth-, and 12th-graders have been considered proficient in mathematics. Our kids' average mathematics and science scores were significantly lower than those of students in Korea, Taiwan, the Soviet Union, Hungary, France, Canada, Switzerland, and Israel.
But it's not our children's fault. Nearly one in three public high school mathematics teachers did not have even a minor in mathematics. Nearly one in four public high school science teachers did not have even a minor in science. We shouldn't be surprised that the student enrollment in engineering continues to decline in the U.S.
Second, increasing numbers of industries are finding themselves in need of technology leaders on both ends of the spectrum: research and applied. In other words, some of the greatest opportunities are in deploying and managing the new technologies across organizational lines and creating new products and services out of them. While I was in Jamaica some years ago with Bob Pittman, former president and COO of AOL Time Warner, he told me that one day every company would be a dot-com. Clearly, what Bob meant was that even if a company wasnt spitting atoms in the lab, they would have to integrate Internet technology into their businesses. We see that today, with doctors who rely on information management systems; auto mechanics who use the Internet to allow customers to make appointments; and in the area of freight, packages we now can track at every point in their delivery.
The point should be clear by now: Our universities are not producing enough people who can manage these new business challenges, and the demands for these skill sets are increasing.
An increasing number of companies are competing for our nation's top talent. And many of those companies are not those whom we would consider natural competitors. They are banks, consulting firms, and consumer products manufacturers or distributors.
Now back to my earlier point. If you are fortunate enough to get the right mix of talent, retention becomes your largest challenge. I'll tell you this from personal experience: The people who will drive your organization do not remain because of salaries. Don't misunderstand me; financial security is certainly important. But it is not the main factor.
Validation of their existence and their contribution to the organization are major reasons why talented people remain with their companies. In my two decades as a reporter, I've met the most amazing set of people of all races: the achievers. Not one mentions money as the main driver of their work ethnic. Money did not put Guy Bluford, the first Black to go into space, into that aluminum firework that shot him out of earth's orbit. Money did not motivate Adm. Walter Davis to fly countless missions in Vietnam. Money did not motivate Marine Gen. Gary Cooper, former U.S. ambassador to Jamaica, to service in the infantry not once, not twice, but three times.
What motivated each and every one of them was that they were part of something bigger than themselves, something that would give their lives meaning, something that would say they made a difference.
At my company, we try to sell our mission. We want salespeople, or editors, or conference managers. We want individuals who want to make our nation stronger by ensuring that everyone, no matter what color or creed, has a fair opportunity. So the typical team member at CCG tends to be socially and politically involved, to have strong spiritual beliefs, and to be open-minded and self-motivated. These are people who could be successful anywhere. But let's take sales for example. While they could do a great job of selling airtime over at NBC, what is the personal validation? What are they changing?
It strikes me that Raytheon has a similar value proposition for its team members, perhaps now more than ever. You are not simply creating defense products; you are providing the tools that may ensure generation after generation of peace. I have been out there in the field with the 18- and 19-year-olds who man our missile systems, who drive our tanks. I have landed on our aircraft carriers and driven our submarines, and I'm here to tell you that the reason we enjoy the freedoms we do is because we have the greatest military ever to walk this planet. And Raytheon has played a major role in making that happen.
So why does a Bill Swanson stay here for more than 30 years? Because he is part of something bigger. It's more than a salary of a job.
Another major factor in retaining key managers and technology leaders is an organization's embrace of issues that are important to them. Most corporations take this for granted. They do all of the obvious "good corporate citizen" things support of the arts, the United Way, blood drives. But when it comes to other issues that matter to people of color, corporate support and involvement is often an afterthought.
I need to say this about Raytheon: You guys do this right. After becoming CEO, Bill Swanson makes his first major address to a college at Tuskegee University. As of this morning, the article I wrote about this is still on the Raytheon home page. Last week, he was at the Black Engineer of the Year Awards Conference, not because he had to be, but because he wanted to attend. I believe these types of actions send a powerful message to employees that Raytheon cares not only about its employees but the employees' families, institutions, and communities. I can't even begin to tell of the "microinequities" employees cite to me. I don't know how many times minorities have complained that the company spends more on limos and sporting events than on support of an HBCU or a high-profile minority event. This microinequity creates a bitterness that manifests itself with the loss of key and emerging talent.
Professional development. Your best and brightest want to grow, and they need to be challenged. In my position, I have seen thousands of men and women of color whose talent has been wasted. They were very capable of being among the technology leadership of their organizations, but no one made the investment in them. Two weeks ago, I was appointed by the mayor to the board of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association. During my orientation, I was escorted from one department to another. At each step, I was introduced to some of the most talented department managers. These managers were forward-thinking, full of energy, and full of visions. Many of them had been hired within the last two to three years. Then, without fail, the managers introduced me to the glue of their department. This person was always a 22-year company veteran who held an administrative-type position. What a waste, I thought.
And that brings me to the most important driver in key manager retention: Recognition, recognition, recognition. When you lose key talent, other than personal, family life issues and new opportunity, lack of appreciation is right up there as a reason why a person walks out the door. And it's one of the least costly to address.
I really could spend hours on this topic alone. But we as managers should think of our existing and emerging leaders in the same way we think of customers. It is less expensive to keep customers than to acquire new ones.
I'm nearing the end.
What is the obligation of you, the stakeholder in your company? It's huge. If you come to a company every day, for years, and don't feel you are being challenged or that you are making a difference, then you have other priorities, and being part of the management elite isn't one of them. And that's okay. But I have seen people who make the wrong decisions blame it on everything from racism to bad management. Okay, these things exist, but so does performance.
Now, if you are sitting here, and you want to do what it takes to be part of that group of talented leaders and managers that corporations need so badly, allow me to pass on a few thoughts.
First, be prepared to move. If you are not valued, if you are not being challenged, you're not doing your company or yourself any good wasting away in a futureless job. Go.
But before you get to that point, make yourself heard and seen. No one likes a self-promoter, especially those folks who are shamelessly promoting themselves over you, but you have to do some of that. Take on the most difficult assignments, finish the tasks, but make sure the right people know about your efforts. You have to market yourself. Simply doing a great job isn't enough.
Be seen as someone who gets the job done. Be dependable. When the most difficult assignments come up, you want to be the one management thinks of. Why? The rewards for success are high. And, the downside failure isn't as bad as having a routine assignment.
Build an internal and external network. Gain respect in your field by speaking at seminars and conferences. You want your company to recognize you? The best way is to show them how much outsiders value you.
Be a solution provider. Never go to your management with a problem and no solutions or options. Be careful who you complain to.
Don't be afraid to speak up on ethnical issues and to be a voice of good social conscience for your company.
And, finally, remember that you must earn that seat every single day. You must continue to find ways to develop yourself and show your organization your value.
This is your company, your career, and your life. The opportunities for the most talented leaders have never been greater, and the rewards have never been higher. But they won't come without sacrifice. Not everyone is willing to pay the price. But the lucky few who are will change the world.