Veep Sees Good Years Ahead

August 26, 2002
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The Midwest region Professional Recruiting Group vice president for Spherion Corp. says that when he sits down to watch the news at night, he’s not living the anchors’ gloom.

In an interview with the Business Journal last week, Wayne Voris said he spends all day, every day in the market, and if hiring isn’t quite what it was two years ago, it truly is picking up again.

“There’s no question that the employment world has been slow for two years,” he said. “We’ve felt that in our business. There’s been somewhat of a slowdown across the board in all industries, all functions within companies and in all levels within businesses, both services and manufacturing.

“And now, in the last four to five months,” he added, “we have seen a pretty significant reversal, or up tick, in requests from regular clients and from new clients.”

Voris manages a region that has nine upper Midwest offices, the major offices being in Detroit and Toledo.

Voris said the firm does a lot of work in West Michigan. “And 90 percent of our business is in the automotive industry.” He said two changes in this market have captured his attention recently.

First, he said, is a subtle change in relations between suppliers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and second is a surge in the sense of urgency in recruiting.

“When they call us now,” he said, “it’s not like, ‘Hey, you know, if you find somebody, let us know or send them our way and we’ll see if we can put them in our organization.’ It’s like, “We need this person now!’ 

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand,” he said. “They haven’t been hiring for 18 months and they’ve had the effect of demographics — people retiring at a faster pace than we’ve ever seen, people retiring earlier.”

But a new sense of partnering between the automotive tiers and OEMs, he added, also is driving that sense of urgency.

“We think the relationship between tiers and OEMs is improving,” Voris said

“I know: We’ve seen the presidents and CEOs of Chrysler and Ford and GM talking about the relationships with the tiers. And they’ve inferred that, ‘We’re going to squeeze every penny we can out of those tiers and reduce our costs.’

“But in the last two years, we’ve seen some of that changing. We’ve seen the tiers and OEMs have a better relationship.

“If you look deeper, there’s a significant advantage to the tiers in having a better relationship with the OEM. It means the tiers are now going to invest more in their people. They’re going to hire better people. They have to, because they’ll start winning projects based on caliber of their product, not necessarily the cost.”

Right now, he said, the industry is trying to find talent in classic engineering involving electronics and also systems or computer engineering.

“Those are the technologies that tend to make cars smarter or that tend to make mechanical and electrical products smarter,” Voris said.

He said that his most active hiring right now is among Tier I, Tier II and OEMs.

“You talk to them,” Voris said, “and they’ll all tell you that the basic components of the car — steering, wheels, seats, the wheels, the engine, the make-it-go kind of stuff — are pretty basic.

“But people buy cars today where the radios are smarter, and the windshield wipers can know when to come on and off, and the lights sense when to come on and off. It’s all about conveniences. There are proven studies that people are buying cars based on the user friendliness of the car,” he said.

Voris said hiring remains slow in certain IT and administrative disciplines, such as human resources. “But we do see engineering, specifically in electronics and also mechanical —mechanics is always going to be a mainstay — very active right now.

“The other area we see very active,” he added, “is in automotive marketing and purchasing. They’re both very active right now, both at the tiers as well as the OEM.”

Voris said his firm is convinced that it is on the threshold of one of the healthiest employment markets ever.

“Does that mean we think we’re not going to have a couple of blips here and there?” he asked.

“No, it doesn’t mean that. And, no, we don’t think we’re fully out of the woods with some of the difficulties with world events. And we, as a nation, haven’t gone through nearly an acceptance phase yet where people begin accepting a new way of looking at the world.

“But we do believe the next five to seven years will be very active.”

Spherion, headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, is a national recruiting and search firm focused on difficult-to-fill positions for professionals and upper-level managers.

He said the firm placed about 4,000 such people last year in posts ranging from $30,000-a-year junior accounts, to $400,000-a-year corporate presidents. The bulk of the company’s work is for middle-level people in the $55,000 to $100,000 range.

The company has 750 offices nationally.

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