All posts by Andrew McIlvaine

Lawson Talks Back

Not everyone is a fan of the just-announced planned acquisition of Lawson Software by Infor and Golden Gate Software Holdings Inc. In a post on her “In Full Bloom” blog, tech consultant Naomi Bloom describes Infor as “an ERP graveyard” where “old software goes to die, to be milked for its installed base’s maintenance revenues, with only modest, ongoing upgrades.” She further writes “I could be very wrong, and I surely hope I am.”

A spokesman for Lawson takes issue with that view. “No disrespect to Naomi, but that’s a dated perception of Infor,” says Terry Blake, Lawson’s vice president for corporate communications, during a brief phone interview earlier today. “The experts in this space really need to understand what Infor is doing these days.”

The company has a new management team in place and a “vision” that involves delivering “even more applications to customers,” he says.

“Infor is in no way an infrastructure vendor, they’re not trying to be a stack provider–they’re focused on applications,” adds Blake.

Infor’s new CEO, Charles Phillips, plans to rebrand Infor as a competitor to SAP and Oracle, says Blake. A number of Lawson customers have expressed support for the acquisition, he adds. “Infor’s track record is to acquire and keep products–they don’t necessarily try, like Oracle, to put someone into some type of Fusion re-do of existing applications.”  

Lawson customers have also expressed concern as to whether their “investments will be protected and whether there is a ‘plan, going forward, for the products I have?’ ” says Blake. “Our response is, Infor has put forward a commitment to continue investing in products and providing customers with a path to future products.”

Although a recent article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Lawson is based in St. Paul, Minn.) speculated that up to 25 percent of Lawson’s 700 or so headquarters staff would be let go as part of the acquisition, Blake says no personnel announcements have been made and most likely won’t be made until after the deal closes, which he anticipates will likely occur in the third quarter of this year

Infor is planning to hire 400 additional software engineers in the near future, according to an Infor press release annoucing the acquisition.  It also plans to ship 60 percent more products and enhancements compared to last year.

Infor and Lawson are a good fit because each will complement the other’s strengths, says Blake. “Lawson has some presence in the gaming industry but Infor is very strong in that industry, while Lawson has a very strong HCM suite that Infor does not have, so there are many opportunities for customers of both companies to benefit.”

… and SuccessFactors Acquires Plateau

Hot on the heels of Infor’s acquisition of Lawson Software, talent-management firm SuccessFactors has announced its acquisition of learning-systems vendor Plateau for $290 million. SuccessFactors will pay for Plateau with an even mix of cash and stock.  SuccessFactors describes the Plateau acquisition as a “symbiotic combination” with another vendor it’s just purchased,  mobile-learning provider Jambok.

Plateau brings more than 350 new customers to its new parent, according to SuccessFactors. Once the deal closes this summer, Plateau’s SaaS-based learning-management system will be integrated directly into SuccessFactors’ BizX talent-management suite.  

The SuccessFactors-Plateau combination drew praise from several HR technology analysts, who are quoted in a SuccessFactors press release announcing the deal. “[The acquisition] brings together the market share leader in talent management with one of the market leaders in learning management to create a global powerhouse in end-to-end talent-management software,” said Josh Bersin, president and CEO of Bersin & Associates.

“This is, in my opinion, a merger of true leaders,” said Lisa Rowan, IDC’s program director for HR, talent and learning strategies.

“SuccessFactors just acquired another big piece of the periodic table of elements,” said Jason Averbook, CEO of Knowledge Infusion.

Infor Acquires Lawson Software

Consolidation in the HR technology arena continues apace with the latest news that Infor and private-equity firm Golden Gate Capital have acquired St. Paul, Minn.-based Lawson Software for $2 billion. Under the terms of the transaction, Infor and GGC Software Holdings will pay $11.25 a share for Lawson, representing a 14-percent premium for Lawson’s shareholders, according to the NY Times’ DealBook blog.

“We are pleased to have entered into a transaction that will offer Lawson stockholders an attractive valuation,” said Lawson president and CEO Harry Debes in a statement.

More to follow …

More Consolidation Ahead?

Lawson Software confirmed last Friday that it’s received a $1.8 billion takeover bid from Atlanta-based enterprise-software maker Infor Global Solutions and Golden Gate Capital. According to the bid, the would-be buyers seek to acquire all of Lawson’s common stock at a price of $11.25 per share in cash.

According to a press release from Lawson spokesman Joe Thornton, the company’s board of directors has retained Barclays Capital Inc. to assist it in evaluating the proposal. The press release notes that the St. Paul, Minn.-based company long-term strategic plan will remain in effect unless the board decides to sell the company or engage in another transaction.  According to the New York Times’ Dealbook, Lawson had a market value of almost $1.9 billion at the close of the market on Friday and it had $228 million of long-term debt as of Nov. 30.

Makin’ It Easy For Jobseekers, the recruiting consultancy founded by Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler, have come out with their annual study identifying the 25 companies out of the Fortune 500 that have the best jobs sections on their corporate websites.

CareerXroads reviewed each company in the Fortune 500 and ranked them into the following four categories:

Best-in-class: About 8 percent are “consistently welcoming a range of specifically targeted candidates, providing brand, content and communications that reflects today’s realities and suggests they are listening to the candidates.”

Solid: Another 25 percent have essential career content but “have limited 2-way communication.”

Undistinguished: Just over 54 percent “just have jobs and basic content.” Another 8 percent are “seriously flawed with minimal content.”

Non-existent: Just over 4 percent have no career sections–they either don’t exist or cannot be found “despite our best efforts.”

And, the Top 25 firms, representing the 5 percent of the Fortune 500 that provide a best-in-class experience for jobseekers and serve as excellent benchmarks, are:

1. Yahoo  2. Whirlpool  3. Target  4. Stryker  5. State Farm Insurance 6. Southern Co. 7. Raytheon 8. PSE&G  9. Procter & Gamble  10. Pepsico 11. MorganStanley 12. Lockheed Martin  13. Intel  14. Home Depot 15. Google 16. General Motors 17. General Electric 18. Fluor 19. FedEx 20. EMC 21. Eaton 22. Capital One 23. BestBuy  24. AT&T  25. Altria Group

Not Just Smoke-Free: SmokER Free

The trend of refusing to hire smokers seems to really be taking off in the healthcare industry. According to a story in today’s New York Times, hospitals in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, among others, stopped hiring smokers in the last year and more are openly considering the option. A number of these organizations have justified the new policies as advancing their institutional missions of promoting personal well-being and finding ways to reduce the growth in health care costs. 

We’ve documented this issue before in our magazine, profiling companies such as Scotts Miracle-Gro, which found itself in the bulls-eye of public attention a few years ago for refusing to hire smokers and firing employees who failed urine tests for nicotine. It’s easy to see why organizations are sick and tired of smokers: the Times notes they cost $3,391 more a year each for healthcare and lost productivity, according to federal estimates.

I can sure sympathize with hospitals for taking this route—after all,  can you imagine a patient stepping outside and seeing the doctor, nurse-practitioner or physician-assistant who’s just counseled them about living a healthier lifestyle puffing on a cancer stick? On the other hand, it seems like it’s yet another intrusion over the line between work life and private life, especially the part about urine tests. If I want to smoke a cigarette now and then, then shouldn’t I, as a hardworking employee, have that right without risking my livelihood? Sure, I can always go work elsewhere, but as evidenced by this growing trend, my options would appear to be growing more and more limited.

Spare a Dime for a Co-Worker?

In keeping with the spirit of my last post, about corporate social responsibility, I thought I’d give a nod to Northwestern University’s new employee-to-employee assistance fund, called NU Cares, which is intended to help out Northwestern staff and faculty who find themselves in a financial bind due to an unexpected illness or emergency.

Launched in December, the fund had received more than 85 donations in the past month, according to Lori Anne Henderson, the Evanston, Ill.-based university’s director of work/life resources. She told a reporter from The Daily Northwestern, the university’s student newspaper, that a committee made up of faculty and staff members will review applications and award grants based on need. The money does not have to be repaid.

Northwestern is hardly alone. A number of other companies have employee-assistance funds, including Alaska Airlines, which launched its fund back in 1992. The airline encourages its employees to donate $1 per paycheck to the fund; last year, 30 percent donated and the fund raised a total of $286,000, according to the company. Donations to the fund, which is registered as a 501(c)(3) charity, are tax deductible. Other organizations with similar funds in place include US Bank, Regency Healthcare, Wellesley College and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

For companies that don’t have such funds in place: Yes, there are many worthy charities that benefit society, but it’d also be nice to give folks the opportunity to help out, anonymously, a co-worker a few cubicles down whom they know is really struggling. Wouldn’t that be a boost to employee morale and engagement?

Get Socially Responsible, HR!

Elaine Cohen, who spent 20 years in leadership positions at Procter & Gamble and Unilever, says the time is past due for HR leaders everywhere to start showing some leadership on corporate social responsibility. Rather than trying to make their companies better corporate citizens, she writes, HR has spent the past two years focused instead on carrying out layoffs and restructurings to cope with the downturn.

What does CSR actually mean when it comes to HR? According to Cohen, it can mean creating a sustainable workplace by getting employees actively engaged in efforts to reduce the organization’s carbon footprint. Too often, Cohen writes, HR is either a bystander or an impediment to such efforts. Sustainability is rarely, if ever, part of the management-development curriculum at most companies, and far too few companies emphasize the topic in their recruiting materials.

Companies that want to be winners, not losers, in the arena of employee development, retention and engagement will want to focus on sustainability, equal rights in the workplace and employee well-being in 2011, Cohen writes. Sustainability is definitely a draw for Gen Y employees, as this HRE cover story noted.

CSR in the workplace will go nowhere if the person at the top isn’t convinced, of course. But that doesn’t mean HR can’t at least try.

EEOC: Retaliation, Not Race, Was Most Frequent Charge Last Year

The EEOC says private-sector workplace discrimination charges hit a new record last year, with 99,922 charges filed with the agency, compared to 93,277 in fiscal 2009. The EEOC also got a record amount of money from employers last year—$404 million, compared to $376 million in ‘09—to settle worker complaints via its enforcement, mediation and litigation programs.

As we’ve noted before, charges filed with the EEOC tend to trend up when the economy trends down.

According to the agency’s Fiscal 2010 data, all major categories of filings in the private sector were up, including charges of discrimination related to age, gender, disabilities and race. Speaking of race, the number of charges alleging retaliation under all the statutes (36,258) eclipsed the number alleging racial discrimination (35,890) for the first time in the agency’s 45-year history. Allegations based on religion (3,790), disability (25,165) and age (23,264) all increased from the previous year, while 201 charges were filed under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act in its first year of enforcement.

A full summary of the data can be viewed at

CareerXroads: “Big demand” for International Recruiters

International recruiting is hot, hot, hot, says Mark Mehler, who—with Gerry Crispin—heads, the Kendall Park, N.J.-based recruitment consulting firm.

CareerXroads has a job board for recruiters (“We don’t charge for it,” says Mehler) and, according to him, the volume of open positions for senior-level recruiters for U.S.-based companies is the greatest he’s seen since three years ago. “This, more than anything, tells us that hiring is about to pick up steam,” he says.

But what’s really sizzling, he says, is the job market for international recruiters. “It’s aflame,” says Mehler. “The demand is big for all over the world—Europe, Asia, India.” In fact, demand has grown so much that he and Crispin have been inspired to start planning a colloquium on international recruiting that will take place “very shortly.”  “We haven’t settled on a date yet, but stay tuned,” he says.

“International is coming on so strong that Gerry and I predict you’ll see more than a few heads of staffing at U.S. firms ending up overseas,” he says.