HAMDEN — How big is too big?


When Microsoft Corp. announced last month that it would slash thousands of jobs in order to become more efficient, it became clear that more is not necessarily better. Companies seeking to expand, particularly via mergers and acquisitions, should take note, says Julia Fullick, assistant professor of management at Quinnipiac University’s School of Business.


“Most of the time, with an acquisition, you can’t maintain the same [number] of employees,” says Fullick. “The interesting thing about Microsoft is that they have a history of not laying people off. That’s why it comes as such a shock.”


Microsoft announced in July that it plans to cut up to 18,000 jobs, or about 14 percent of its workforce, over the next 12 months. The announcement came after the company revealed plans last year to acquire Nokia Corp. The acquisition, which was finalized in April, created job overlap for a company that already was experiencing the downside of exponential growth.


But for companies that find themselves overstaffed, for whatever reasons, massive layoffs don’t have to be a foregone conclusion, according to Fullick.


“With small companies, you don’t necessarily have to lay people off. For example, there’s job-sharing,” Fullick notes. “Another alternative is a reduced work week. You can reduce an employee’s hours from 40 to 36, for instance. Just cutting those four hours out of the work week can make a significant impact.”


Also, says Fullick, sacrifices can be made on the management level to help a company maintain its workforce during tough times.


“Senior employees or top-level management can have pay freezes, or even take a pay cut,” she says.


A careful review of your organization’s expense side may also reveal alternatives to layoffs, says Fullick.


“Look at your records. They might show where you can actually cut costs.”


There also are ways to handle company transitions, such as an acquisition, that will support workers and their morale.


“Any time there’s a merger or acquisition, the socialization of employees is critical,” says Fullick. “Nokia employees that are now becoming Microsoft employees are coming from a completely different corporate culture.”


One way to help with such a transition is to establish a mentoring system, Fullick notes. For example, employees should be systematically guided through new company specifics of workplace commonalities such as e-mail and ID badges. And when elements of the merged company culture are introduced, it is a “good idea” to have representatives from both companies present them. That way employees can see that the new business entity is “strategically moving forward,” according to Fullick.


If large-scale layoffs are unavoidable, however, there are “best-practices” ways for businesses to handle them, Fullick says.


“It’s always best if a memo is sent out, and if possible, hold a ‘town hall’ meeting,” Fullick says. This should be done “as soon as possible. You don’t want your employees to find out from the media before they hear it from you.


“You want to make sure you’re open and honest with them,” she adds. “If you’re not sure, be honest and say, ‘I’m not sure.’”


 HAMDEN — Eight Quinnipiac University students are gaining valuable municipal-government work experience this summer as Quinnipiac Presidential Public Service Fellows. Projects range from to studying how to recycle construction materials, to overhauling municipal websites, to helping formulate a town’s Plan of Conservation Development, to lending technical support to a municipality’s Public Works Office.

The fellows, who worked in Hamden and North Haven, are Matt Bowser, Ashley Alcott, Greg Coutros, Elisabeth Emery, Justin Felix, Lauren McMahon, Alexa Panayotakis and Stacy Pierre-Louis. Majors represented include political science, advertising, civil engineering and philosophy. “In our program, these students make a real contribution to the needs of Hamden and North Haven,” explains fellowship director Scott McLean,  a professor of political science. “And thanks to the enthusiastic mentoring of the various department heads, they get a real education in leadership and how public policy gets made.”

Leslie Creane, Hamden’s director of planning and zoning, calls QPPSF a “fabulous program. I’ve been very pleased with every intern from Quinnipiac that we’ve had. They’re really high-caliber students. They’re self-motivated and really interested in learning how government works.”

A senior advertising major from Hamden, Alcott works in his hometown mayor’s office. “I love it,” he says. “It’s definitely not just an internship. It’s like you are a regular town employee. I’m really learning a lot about how a municipal government works.”

 WALLINGFORD — HealthyCT is accepting nominations for its inaugural board of directors. Nominees must meet basic eligibility requirements. These include being at least 18 years old; passing a background check; not currently a federal, state or local government office-holder; and not have served as a board member for another insurance carrier for the past five years.

“This election is at the heart of what HealthyCT is all about and what makes us different from every other health insurance company in Connecticut,” says HealthyCT CEO Ken Lalime. “As a co-op, we are member-governed. That governance is through our board of directors so the individuals who come forward and are elected will help determine the direction this company takes.”

HealthyCT is the state’s nonprofit, consumer-operated and consumer-oriented health insurance co-op, mandated by ObamaCare. A minimum of six voting board members will be policyholders.

 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new federal executive order requires contractors seeking to do business with the federal government to disclose any labor law violations. The order also offers direction to hiring agencies regarding how to consider any such violations in the awarding of contracts.

In a July 31 release, the White House cites inadequate pay and faulty hiring practices as reasons for the order. “While the vast majority of federal contractors play by the rules,” the release asserts, “every year tens of thousands of American workers are denied overtime wages, not hired or paid fairly because of their gender or age, or have their health and safety put at risk by corporations contracting with the federal government that cut corners. Taxpayer dollars should not reward corporations that break the law, so today President Obama is cracking down on federal contractors who put workers’ safety and hard-earned pay at risk.”

The new “Fair Pay & Safe Workplaces” executive order will apply to companies seeking federal procurement contracts valued in excess of $500,000. It will require them to provide information regarding the company’s record of compliance with federal labor laws.

 WETHERSFIELD — Job increases boosted by summer seasonal hiring and a June unemployment rate that dipped to 2008 levels are encouraging developments for the state’s labor experts. “Connecticut’s unemployment rate continues to decline for all the right reasons, such as broad industry job growth coupled with declining unemployment, and an expanding labor force,” according to Andy Condon, director of the state Department of Labor’s Office of Research.

The June unemployment rate was 6.7 percent, down 0.2 from May. More significantly, the June unemployment rate was the lowest for the state since December 2008, according to DOL. Of the ten major industry supersectors, seven added jobs in June. However, only  500 new jobs were in the private sector. The most nonfarm job gains were in the Government supersector, with a net of 1,200 new positions. All of the these job gains were in state government, as the number of positions in both the federal and local government sectors declined slightly (-100 for each). Other supersectors with significant job gains included Professional & Business Services (plus 700); Transportation & Public Utilities (600); and Educational & Health Services (400). The three supersectors posting job losses were Leisure & Hospitality (minus 1,000); Other Services (-600); and Financial Activities (-200).

The overall net gain of  1,700 jobs in June was “positive news,” according to Peter Gioia,  Connecticut Business & Industry Association economist. But he added a caveat. “All this good news, though,” he stated, “is tempered by the fact that we still have concerns that we only have recovered 62 percent of the jobs lost during the recession, whereas the nation overall has added back over 100 percent of the jobs lost.”

 NEW HAVEN — A Yale University employee has been indicted on charges that he operated a kickback scheme while working at the school. According to the indictment, 57-year-old George Dobuzinsky arranged to receive kickbacks totaling tens of thousands of dollars when he was a project manager responsible for soliciting vendors for audio and visual projects at the university between 2005 and 2013.

Dobuzinsky, who lives in Durham, was indicted June 11.  He pleaded not guilty in Bridgeport federal court to conspiracy to commit wire frauds as well as three counts of honest-services wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. He posted the $300,000 bond and was released pending trial.

 NEW HAVEN — Marking its first anniversary at the beginning of June, New Haven Works announced it had helped some 330 city residents find employment. New Haven Works has built partnerships with Yale University and other employers who hire new workers for regular employment; provided paid on-the-job trainings for in-demand skilled work in fields such as information technology; and created a pipeline of qualified, vetted New Haven residents ready for jobs. New Haven Works provides a wide range of support services for both employers and prospective employees, and utilizes state incentives like the Governor’s StepUP program.

“We are prepared to work hand in hand with organizations like this,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at a press conference marking the anniversary, “organizations that are doing everything in their power to have a properly-prepared workforce to fill the needs of employers with great-paying jobs and good benefits in the community in which they live.”