Flexible working the way forward, says HP chief

11 Sep 2006

Providing flexible working can help Irish companies attract and retain the best staff in the face of immense pressure from eastern European and Asian markets, the general manager of HP in Ireland Martin Murphy (pictured) has told siliconrepublic.com.

The local industry’s ability to retain and attract staff will be fundamental in the defence of the local economy, according to Murphy.

Eastern European and Asian countries such as India and China are capable of churning out vast numbers of IT graduates.

Ireland’s ability to offset competition and thereby protect jobs will be determined by providing sufficient numbers of qualified IT graduates, Martin said. “The Irish IT sector is going to see continued growth but I think the big challenge will be to attract and retain people.

“What Ireland clearly has going for it is the quality of products made here. This is driven by top-notch graduates coming out of our universities who I think could go all the way in their careers.”

However, Martin warned, retention of skilled and experienced workers is vital. This requires a more progressive attitude on the part of employers in terms of using technology but also on the part of the Government in addressing infrastructure deficits such as broadband and poor PC penetration.

“Employers do not want to lose good workers who for lifestyle reasons may leave the workforce. People will want to work more flexibly and instead of spending two hours every morning in traffic they want to be able to work from home one day a week.”

Citing HP’s attitude to home working, Murphy said: “Culturally the biggest thing that makes HP stand out is supporting people who work hard. We have a great workforce who have stuck with us through tough times. We have almost tripled our revenues in Ireland in the space of three years.

“From the front office to the back office, everyone has contributed and as an employer it is paramount that we do everything we can to retain those people. This will be an issue for all employers going forward. As the M50 gets re-engineered people will tire of spending two hours a day in their car getting to work. We are a progressive employer and I think we’ve paved and led the way in the mobile working field, supporting virtual teams and creating a broadband contribution scheme for employees.”

He continued: “Ireland is positioned globally to make the best use of the knowledge economy tag. For us to earn and keep that tag and remain at the forefront we need to make important investments and decisions.”

Ongoing broadband and PC penetration issues belie Ireland’s enormous 100,000-strong ICT industry talent pool and the fact that the country has one of the youngest populations in Europe.

Murphy says that while the consumer electronics market in Ireland is booming, the country’s low PC penetration is a cause for concern and dismay.

Last week, IBEC-based ICT Ireland and Intel met with the Department of the Taoiseach to discuss ways of resolving Ireland’s low PC penetration rate, which has been static for the past three years at 55pc. Murphy said that what’s needed more than just talk is action.

Schemes such as tax breaks and affordable computing schemes have been mooted in the past five years but the Government has yet to act.

“There is an opportunity here to do something that is groundbreaking and far-reaching but we need to set a target, some form of measurable impact as part of the programme. It needs structure, strategy and execution. The time for talking is over,” Murphy warned.

He added that the seeds for hope lie in what is effectively a burgeoning consumer market. “The consumer market for electronics is skyrocketing. People have money, prices have come down and there’s growth in the PC consumer business. The consumer electronics business is going through one of its strongest phases of growth as a results of players like Dixons making the whole buying experience better. How Irish people buy and sell technology products is changing.”

Returning to the issue of ensuring a sufficient pipeline of ICT talent for the knowledge economy, Murphy concluded: “Eastern economies are churning out large numbers of graduates. We are in a race against time and the clock is ticking.”

By John Kennedy

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