FINDING WORK CLOSE TO HOME Job posting lets current workers advance and companies avoid bias suits


Chicago-- Blair S. Kitching was working in employee relations for the New England Nuclear Corp. in Boston when he saw a job opening posted at work that interested him.

"It was a job as employee communications specialist within my own department," said Mr. Kitching, who has a bachelor's degree in social work from Syracuse University and a master's degree in public administration from Northeastern University in Boston. "It was a better-paying job, a promotion and one with more of a future than the job I was in."

He applied, was interviewed and, when he got the job, Mr. Kitching was elated. "I felt, this is a great company, this is a great country," he said. "The system really works!"

That was in 1980, and today Mr. Kitching, 39, has continued to move up the career ladder. He is senior consultant in human resources at Du Pont Co., the Wilmington, Del.-based chemical giant that acquired New England Nuclear, a manufacturer of radioactive pharmaceuticals. And he is a strong believer in making job openings known to employees.

"Job posting takes the staffing process out of the dark, gives equal access and opens up one of our key personnel processes -- the process by which people get jobs," said Mr. Kitching, whose company is the largest chemical producer in the United States and has 140,000 employees worldwide.

Du Pont offers general job postings for support staff and a phone line that summarizes available jobs for its 80,000 U.S. employees. Last year, the company began in-house postings for its information systems group through electronic announcements.

Job posting -- the advertising of jobs that are open to current employees -- is growing in corporate America. Though unions do not claim to have invented posting, they have led the way in pushing for it.

"I do a good deal of contract negotiations, and there always is a prime desire on the part of employees to have mandated job post

ing," said Don Wasserman, director of collective bargaining for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a 1.25 million-member union based in Washington. "It gives workers the opportunity to know about jobs that provide upward mobility and to bid on them. Workers see it as a right, not a privilege."

Many union contracts, Mr. Wasserman said, "call for at least some consideration of your length of service in determining who gets the job, on the theory that experience prepares you for promotions and that seniority is a reward for loyalty."

Resistance to job posting by management, Mr. Wasserman said, occurs "because employers want control. Not posting jobs gives them the opportunity to promote whom they want without going through the process of disqualifying other capable employees."

But employers who do not post jobs disagree. They say they don't discriminate; they simply want to promote on ability without worrying about seniority or hurting the feelings of someone who was rejected.

Though job posting is not required by law, its use may protect employers against charges of discrimination. "Posting helps deal with affirmative action and equal employment opportunity requirements," said David Fagiano, president and chief executive officer of the American Management Association, a New York-based group that posts jobs for its 1,000 employees worldwide.

But Mr. Fagiano warned that if "employers misuse posting by 'wiring' the jobs in advance, they've done more harm than good."

The difference job posting can make in employee advancement is underscored by its use as a remedy in bias suits. For example, the recent settlement of a federal discrimination suit against Marriott Corp. requires Marriott to post openings in food and beverage positions.

Scott Paper Co., a Philadelphia-based consumer products company with 40,000 employees worldwide, is an enthusiastic user of job posting. Scott promotes from within as much as possible. "We're pretty proud of our job-posting system for support staff," said Virginia Moore, director of corporate human resources. "It helps employees to be self-managers of their careers."

Ms. Moore said, "Management still makes the selection decision, but job posting gives us a broader base of competent, qualified employees to consider."

The company goes even further: It lets employees know if they're being considered for the job. "And if they're not, we talk to them about the reasons they are not, and what skills they should be developing to advance," said Ms. Moore.

Thomas H. Adams, vice president of human resources at First Chicago Corp., was involved in the start-up of the bank's job posting system 20 years ago.

"We started with support staff, and by 1975 began including the professional ranks," said Mr. Adams. "We don't post all jobs, but do include up to several officer levels. And managers who choose to do so may post higher than that.

"We were one of the first financial institutions to do it -- and it's paid off for us in competent employees."

It's also paid off for Sandra J. Drake, who last year became manager of employment and temporary services at First Chicago -- after applying three times.

"When I first saw the job posted, I thought, 'This is my job, I can do it,' " said Ms. Drake, who formerly was a human resource specialist.

"Job posting is a wonderful system, and I want to do the best job possible to prove I can do it."

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