One of the newest startups in town is actually one of the oldest tech companies
in Israel, believe it or not. It’s hard to think of a company like Motorola as a
startup, but given the “trauma” the company has been through after splitting
itself apart into two entities, defining Motorola Solutions and Motorola
Mobility – the companies that resulted from the break-up – as startups is not
Venerable Motorola, which has been around since 1928,
decided a few years ago to split – or “separate,” as the company preferred to
call it – for a variety of reasons, and most analysts congratulated the company
on what they felt was a wise decision.
But clearly, there are going to be
consequences – business-related as well as corporate-cultural – when you monkey
with an entity that has been around for 80 years. In a sense, the management and
employees need to start over – making the two resulting companies into startups,
in a sense, at least to the people who work there.
Indeed, one of the
Motorola twins – Mobility – just recently went through a process many start-ups
end up facing: an “exit,” in this case into the waiting arms of Google, which in
August bought out the company, along with its 24,000 patents and 23,000
employees, for $12.5 billion.
Motorola Mobility concentrates on consumer
devices (cellphones, settop boxes, etc.), while Motorola Solutions, the
“business” side of Motorola, develops advanced data capture, wireless
infrastructure, bar-code scanning, two-way radios and business pagers, wireless
broadband networks and RFID solutions.
Motorola has a significant
presence in Israel, with a large R&D center mostly associated with Motorola
Solutions. The change, though, was felt here as well, and to top it all off, the
Israel team just moved into new headquarters in Airport City – exacerbating the
“startup” feeling among employees.
It was there that I met with one of
Motorola Solutions’ top executives, Michele A. (Shelly) Carlin, a Motorola
Solutions VP and the head of Human Resources in the company, who is responsible
for the company’s 20,000 employees. As HR chief, Carlin perhaps more than anyone
else at the company had to deal directly with many of the issues involved in
splitting an entity like Motorola into two.
“The separation of Motorola
is unique in a number of ways, and even though the transition went remarkably
smoothly, there were still some pitfalls,” she said.
worldwide company with the legacy and longevity of Motorola is certainly going
to be a challenge, no matter how much preparation we take.”
main challenges from a business point of view, she said, was ensuring that both
companies maintained their identities as Motorolas.
But of course the
major impact of the change was the one it had on employees, said
“The truth is that in the end there was really little for
employees to be concerned about. There had already been a clear distinction
between those who worked for the divisions that became Solutions and Mobility,
and the managers concentrated on their own units in those divisions.”
fact, she said, from a personnel point of view, the separation actually created
opportunities for workers.
“Many workers were able to qualify for
positions that suddenly became vacant, moving up in the corporation. Many people
in number two positions moved into top management positions in their
departments,” Carlin said.
And the separation only did good things for
Israel, she said.
“Where previously the Israel R&D center was one of
several in Motorola, there’s no doubt that it has become more important, since
there are fewer R&D centers now in Motorola Solutions.”
regardless, change does scare people, at least to some extent.
in fully prepared for what we expected to be a period of uncertainty among
employees,” said Carlin.
“We ran seminars and consultations, and
generally tried to reassure employees that the future was bright.”
factor in that effort, she said, was focusing on the message of what exactly
Motorola Solutions was all about, so that employees were clear on why they were
doing what they were doing and how they could enhance the company’s
“We used a concept called ‘Inside out,’ in which we stressed the
core of how Motorola Solutions related to the world.”
It was a great
strategy, Carlin said, one that helped to ease fears and to make the transition
Yehuda Porath, a Motorola Solutions VP and HR director for
the Israel center, agreed, saying that the preparation that the company took
greatly calmed nervous workers.
“The truth is that the vast majority of
workers here in Israel were always associated with the division that became
Solutions, so the actual impact of the separation was less dramatic here. But
still there were concerns,” he said, not the least of which was connected to the
move to a new, modern complex in Airport City.
“The change in the
corporate structure and the change of space – in which many people, for example,
lost their offices and found themselves working in a large open space – was a
cause of concern to some workers,” said Porath.
But now that everyone has
gotten used to both ideas, employees are full of praise – both for the way the
separation was taken care of and the way the move to Airport City was handled,
That, said Carlin, is the general feeling in the company
“For me, leading HR through the transition was perhaps the
most challenging – and most rewarding – job I have ever done. I’m glad to be a
part of the effort to help make a difference.
It was hard work and there
were difficult moments, but I feel we rose to the challenge,” she said, adding
that “we learned a great deal in the separation, and that has made Motorola
Solutions an even better company.”