20. April 2011 09:38
ABB CEO Joe Hogan fielded questions from a variety of customers
Joe Hogan's town hall meeting was packed as ABB customers, technology partners and channel partners all came to engage in a dialog with the CEO. Questions covered a wide range of topics from the economy to cultural differences between US and European companies.
Hogan sees the recent S&P downgrade of US debt as a useful but far from dire warning that the US is overextended and must impose fiscal discipline. Asked about trans-Atlantic business, he remarked on the technical literacy he sees among Europe’s leaders and how that has resulted in greater investment in power grids, for example.
Direct current (DC) came up as an example of a "disruptive technology" (e.g., we may soon see DC buildings if the majority of equipment inside them use DC), but also of ABB's penchant for continuous innovation within very mature technologies. Meanwhile, Hogan also spoke to ABB’s focus on data centers by openly acknowledging that ABB has been late to the party, but noting that the company seeks to first understand customer needs and market characteristics.
"We don’t just come with a product," he said.
Managing talent came up in several customers’ questions that ranged from the challenge of integrating recently acquired Baldor to the need to recruit at every level of the organization and what can be done to not only attract but retain more women within the engineering field.
Regarding the last point, Hogan noted that women are twice as likely to leave their jobs as men, which accounts for a statistic provided by ABB's head of HR Gary Steel: while 25% of the recent engineering graduates working at ABB are women, that percentage drops to 6-7% at the executive level.
Hogan said that companies that are inflexible, for example with regard to work/family issues, run the risk of losing women as they move along their career paths, and he acknowledged that ABB needs to do more to address the issue.
Responding to a related question on employee retention, Hogan said, "managers who just say 'do this' or 'do that'… that doesn't work with highly qualified people. They might put up with it for a while but eventually they’ll leave. You have to listen, to empower people. We are all human."
Finally, asked what he saw as the most important "megatrend" over the next 20 years, Hogan quickly responded with "climate change." But rather than focus on the enormity of the challenge, he pointed out the opportunity that lies in reshaping our economy. While renewable energy sources like wind and solar attract media attention, Hogan noted that efficiency is where the action is.
"If you look at any study of how to bring emissions down, more than 50% comes from efficiency," he said. Given ABB’s focus on efficiency across the energy value chain, the company is well positioned to support the shift to a low-carbon economy.