At ABM's Executive Forum: The changing workplace

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Chicago—Evolving business models are changing the way b-to-b media companies structure their operations and what they expect of their employees, a panel of CEOs said Tuesday at the annual American Business Media Executive Forum here. Kerry Gumas, president-CEO of Questex Media, said his company's move to a less centralized structure has led to a new concept of the term “employee.” “Our employee relations are not limited to W2 employees,” he said, noting that Questex often turns to outside partners to help it pursue emerging opportunities. “You can't really staff for 100% of situations.” Gumas said it's also important to not put existing employees into new roles that don't match their functional skills. Bill Carter, CEO of ALM, addressed the issue of getting different groups within his company to work together effectively. He said ALM has a digital group that wants to move quickly and “an editorial group that's slower.” Rather than viewing this difference in approach as a liability, he said, “I actually like a bit of tension there.” The evolving roles of employees and the increasing expectation that they reach specific performance goals have made annual reviews even more crucial. “You really have to spend time on those reviews,” said Ed Gillette, president-CEO of Scranton Gillette/SGC Horizon. Asked about the results of this rigorous review process, he said, “The company's doubled in size in the last four years.” Scranton Gillette has also boosted performance by giving key employees an opportunity to acquire equity in the company, Gillette said. “It's been very transformational for the organization,” he said. “It's increased engagement; it's increased retention.” Marion Minor, CEO of Specialty Information Media, said it's important to assess the engagement level of employees, especially long-term ones, and retain “those people who are interested in growing themselves and growing our brands,” she said. “The status quo is not accepted anymore.” Dan Oswald, CEO of BLR, said his company is focusing on developing future leaders from within. “At the executive level, I think it's easier to find the talent,” he said. “It's at the next level that we struggle.” To address this need, the company established BLR University, a yearlong course in which a select group of employees meets regularly to engage in strategic planning exercises. Media executives also need to focus on younger employees, Gumas said. “That's one of the most important challenges for our industry, connecting with the youth culture.” He said it's especially important to give younger employees a sense of autonomy. “For this generation, I think autonomy is something that's highly prized,” Gumas said.
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