Company refocused itself, workforce after telecom downturn
A strong hiring strategy helped Corning emerge from the telecom crisis and reach new heights, Christy Pambianchi, senior vice president of Human Resources, told an audience of business professionals from around the world recently. As the company reinvented itself after the 2001 crash – focusing on new core products and shifting globally to capitalize on the display boom – a revolutionized workforce was key to success.
At the 2015 Global HR Forum in Seoul, Pambianchi recounted the company's hard-won victory against the brutal downturn of the early 2000s. Pambianchi addressed more than 1,000 scholars and HR experts coming from 20 different countries to share experience and knowledge on human resources development.
Pambianchi described how the burst of the "internet bubble" had a negative impact on Corning and created a major challenge for the company. The company was making most of its profit in optical fiber and communications, industries hit hard by negative market forces.
"We had to determine how we would reinvent ourselves and what our next big innovation would be," she said.
When Corning identified three technologies that could be major breakthroughs over the next decade – fiber to the home, diesel emission filters, and liquid crystal displays – it refocused and organized resources to maximize these opportunities.
Reinventing the company required building out the organization in new parts of the world, especially as Corning's bets started paying off. The display business saw a coming surge in demand as LCD technology replaced traditional CRT television. It would need a lot to capture that.
"In less than three years, we needed to hire 3,000 employees, almost 1,000 engineers, and bring two facilities online in Taiwan," Pambianchi said. "The main risk to operational success and capitalizing on this opportunity was talent and hiring."
This meant supporting product demand by operating in new parts of the world. In one decade, Corning would come to operate more than 60 factories worldwide with 18 in Asia – three times more than at the start of the decade.
"We had to build a brand in the country,” Pambianchi said. “We had to develop a robust and large-scale employee screening process to handle the volume of candidate interviews and processing. We needed competitive compensation programs to compete with the high growth local national companies. We needed a team that could on‐board employees and get them going in their new jobs."
The result of these efforts was overwhelming positive.
"Corning's sales surged from $3.85 billion in 2004 to $9.71 billion in 2014," she said. "Corning's workforce expanded from 24,000 employees in 2004 to 35,000 in 2014, recording a 45.8 percent increase over the 10-year period."
Along these lines, she discussed HR's Asia Talent Council, aimed at growing local talent and leadership throughout all of Asia. Corning has 84 percent of its leadership in Asia filled with local talent, increased from 60 percent in 2011, when this program launched.
Thanks to the new hiring strategy, Corning is changing and growing for the better.
"We have a highly skilled, technical workforce that can invent and make things all over the world."