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Can Main Street Compete With The Net?

Readers Report


It is clear that E-commerce and other Internet business transactions will have a profound impact on our society ("Doing business in the Internet age," Cover Story, June 22). While you cover the positive business and societal impacts, you did not discuss those industries and other organizations that will have to undergo dramatic transformations to survive in an ever more wired world. Retailers, real-estate owners and developers, and state and local governments will all be forced to change the way they operate as more consumers and businesses turn to the Net.

As an economic-development officer for a growing suburb, I have some questions about what will happen in 5 or 10 years: Will all or a large portion of our big box-stores be empty? If so, how do we reuse them? Will we have to cut regular services due to a decrease in sales-tax revenues?

Lisa Strawn

DenverReturn to top


"We want you to stay. Really" (The Workplace, June 22) described the employer's challenge in recruiting and retaining a committed work force. The "new work order"--created by downsizing, global competition, and the free-agent workforce--is causing companies to rethink human-resource strategies. Our 1998 study shows that a sense of urgency would be wise.

As you reported, workers have a more negative view of employers today, but our study found that one factor affected that perception strongly. Employees who were dissatisfied with "the direction the company is headed" depressed the commitment index. Those who were more than satisfied with company direction had higher scores.

Another reason for falling commitment is stress. The workforce is winded. Almost one-quarter of the 1,800 respondents indicated that they were working more than 50 hours a week. Over half (53%) said they had job burnout. Putting in long weeks doing everything "better, faster, cheaper" has brought issues of balancing life and work to the fore. The study revealed that the most powerful driver of commitment is for management to recognize that employees need to balance work and family life.

David L. Stum


Aon Consulting's Loyalty Institute

Ann Arbor, Mich.

My feelings about your article were swayed by an accompanying picture: four "wanted" employees, whose average age would appear to be somewhere around 26! Nowhere is there a sign of white hair. For those of us on the wrong side of 50, I expect the message will continue to be: "Be loyal, give 110%, and maybe--just maybe--we'll let you keep your job." The Young Turks will find that the corporations that wanted them to stay when they were under 30 are not so keen to keep them when they pass 40, much less 50!

Jim Porter

Algonquin, Ill.Return to top


The unrest at General Motors Corp. ("Quagmire in Flint," News: Analysis & Commentary, June 22) is yet another example of failed leadership in labor and management. It may well be prudent to close a specific plant because it would cost more to make it productive, but such a decision should be made in view of how workers can be retrained and reassigned within the company. Part of the problem is that an "us/them" mentality has sidetracked strategic issues that relate to employees' future and to the buying public while enhancing profitability and market share.

Can anyone estimate the cost to everyone? Labor and GM management have no common vision of where the company should go and are more interested in their own power than in what is best for their shared future.

Catherine Tarrant

Huntley, Ill.Return to top

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