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HP Cuts Workforce By 5%, Looks To Probe GM Hires 304

Posted by samzenpus
from the picking-teams dept.
dcblogs writes "Hewlett-Packard's reduced its workforce last year by 17,800 employees, more than half-way to its restructuring goal. But some key IT workers left unexpectedly and have taken jobs with HP customer, General Motors. GM, which outsourced its IT for years to EDS, announced plans last year to in-source its IT. HP acquired EDS in 2008. On Nov. 30, 18 employees of HP's Global Information Technology Organization in Austin 'resigned en masse and without notice' and 'immediately began working for General Motors in Austin in GM's new IT Innovation Center,' according to court papers. HP is asking the court for approval to depose some of the exiting workers to determine whether employment contracts were violated. 'HP expects that additional resignations will follow as the departed employees will likely seek to build out their teams by filling in with subordinate employees from HP,' the company said."
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HP Cuts Workforce By 5%, Looks To Probe GM Hires

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  • So.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Andy Prough (2730467) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @10:28PM (#42457173)
    ..."you can't leave unless WE fire you". Nice way to build loyalty!
  • win-win, no? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['ish' in gap]> on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @10:31PM (#42457185)

    Employees don't want to work for HP anymore, and HP gets closer to its "restructuring targets" without even having to fire them!

  • Prime grazing area (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @10:31PM (#42457187)

    If I were a recruiter I'd look at HP as a wonderful place, bountiful and full of talent ready and in fact desperate to be harvested.

  • Re:win-win, no? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @10:33PM (#42457199)

    The problem is that the employees you would rather keep are the ones that are most likely to leave a dysfunctional employer.

     

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @10:34PM (#42457201)

    I know three of the people who left and I had heard of their terrible work environment for months once HP got hold of EDS. GM offered several a good deal to come over since they were all experienced with their systems, gave them significant pay raises, decent benefits and control of their own group. Who wouldn't leave?

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @10:35PM (#42457209)

    Especially at the board of directors level.

  • Re:So.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jhoegl (638955) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @10:40PM (#42457227)
    Sadly the probably signed an agreement to not do what they did, even though HP was public about their intentions.
    But Fuck HP for going after them.
  • Re:So.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @10:50PM (#42457263) Homepage
    Nah, it's not about loyalty. HP saw that workers ended up with a positive outcome, and reflexively concluded that it must have been illegal. Refer to legal department, sue. Workers are never allowed a positive outcome, this is how you know you're doing business correctly. Business as taught in school, of course.
  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @10:59PM (#42457317)

    Fiona destroyed HP. She turned the company from an engineering and design heavyweight into a commodity hardware business.

    Short term profits resulted and after a year or two and the death of the real engineering progress was complete they began the long slow slide into irrelevance. The fact is we live in a complex world economy where you innovate or die. HP stopped innovating because it was "too expensive". Yes they wiped out all those expensive engineering salaries and boosted short term profit. And several years down the line when HP hasn't innovated anything you see a huge dramatic loss of profit.

    You don't want to be in the commodity business, there's no profit in it. You want to be in the innovative cutting edge area where you can charge premium profit margins (ask apple). Being in that space costs money and lots of engineering resources. HP surrendered that market under the leadership of Fiona. HP's board of directors has been a collection of has-been CEO's that are riding the company into oblivion since before Fiona was hired. The Hewlett and Packard families were railroaded a long time ago, the only ones left are trying to milk the cash out of HP before it deteriorates into nothingness.

    HP could have owned the smartphone market and dozens of other highly profitable sectors had they spent the money on engineering and development instead of deciding that they only wanted to do printers and computers.

  • by Detritusher (1031752) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @11:01PM (#42457339)
    What language was this originally written in?
  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @11:02PM (#42457347)
    The supreme court of Canada recently made a very radical decision I think regarding a bunch of guys who left a big bank here. Basically the court decision was that people can work wherever the hell they want for whomever will have them. The court seems to have completely tossed out the idea of an employee having any kind of non-compete as violating their right to work. But the decision went much further. It wasn't just about working for the competition or even stealing former employees but the court even said stealing old clients and their phone numbers was fine as long as it was reasonable that the employee could have remembered that data. So if an employee even wrote some names and numbers down it was fine as long as it was a reasonably memorable list. In the particular case the employees were dealing with a fairly small elite clientele so the bank really lost big time. Again the court said that you can't make an employee forget stuff.

    This of course is a Canadian supreme court case but I went to a lecture given by a supreme court justice who said that most supreme courts look to other supreme courts around the world that are based upon the English system of law as the same sort of cases tend to crop up in the various courts at similar times. So without a doubt the US courts will at least glance at this outstanding decision supporting workers rights.

    To me the answer is quite simple. What is HP doing for any employee the day they leave? Absolutely nothing. So what should an ex-HP employee do for HP after they leave? Absolutely nothing. As for any contract. You could sign a slavery contract but any court would toss it out in a second. The key to a contract is that there is an exchange. If I promise to give you a gift of $1,000,000 tomorrow for absolutely nothing on your part you can't actually sue me when I don't deliver. There has to be an exchange. When the employee stops paying the employee the contract has ended regardless of what extra bits HP might wish for. I suspect that this will be going to the supreme court in the US as people will think that it is "unfair" for the employees to be so disloyal and some lower courts might be so foolish as to fall for this argument. But the law is not about fairness. It is about rules; and contract law is fairly old and boring that way. So it will be interesting to see how this all turns out. Personally I was surprised to see our supreme court side so thoroughly with the little guy when the other side was one of the biggest banks in Canada.
  • Re:win-win, no? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @11:14PM (#42457403) Journal

    I have to wonder whether HP management even cares at this point. I get the impression that meeting short term attrition goals is considered more important than long term viability.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @11:17PM (#42457421) Journal

    When my company outsourced, our top IT people were rebadged as HP and remained onsite. They are still valuable employees who know the company intimately, and should we ever insource, they'd be the first employees we'd rehire. This isn't rocket science.

  • by mbone (558574) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @11:21PM (#42457449)

    You can bet serious money that GM had its lawyers look very carefully at the employee contracts, at least for the 18 leaders (or the most important of them). Not to say they might not lose in court, but I am sure that GM thinks the contracts allow for this.

    Note that GM is (was) a client of HP. This is an unusual thing to do a client; it basically guarantees that HP will never get GM's IT business again. I would not be at all surprised if GM has some major issues with EDS; they may even have a suit planned. (I.e., I bet that this particular bridge has already been burned, so HP has no reason not to get what they can out of the ruins of the relationship.)

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @11:22PM (#42457459)

    When there's no job security, employees will start looking for alternatives.

  • Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dave562 (969951) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @11:34PM (#42457519) Journal

    As IT professionals, we are one of the few sectors this economy with any job portability. After years of dealing with the specter of outsourcing hanging over our heads, I say kudos to the ex-HP, current GM employees. If companies respect IT talent and want to keep it, the ought to start treating IT employees better.

    I think we have all, at one point or another during our careers, thought something along the lines of... "If I leave this place, they are going to be in trouble and have a real hard time replacing me." or "This place sucks, I am going to go somewhere else where I will get better (pay, benefits, respect, etc)"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @11:42PM (#42457543)

    That power was created by the union's solidarity. Your statements are ludicrously deceitful.

  • Wait... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @12:16AM (#42457753)

    So HP lays off almost 20,000 people.
    They have several employees that have worked to do outsourced work for GM.
    GM announces they will no longer outsource the work that these employees were doing. They will do it in-house now.
    HP Employees conclude from this, that they will soon lose their jobs, as the contract will get cut.
    They smartly apply at the very place they've been doing work for... and easily get the jobs because they clearly know how to do them.
    Nothing in violation of their contracts had to happen here. Those employees jobs were in clear jeopardy. If HP doesn't want their employees looking for work, they need to make them feel secure. This was obviously not happening.

  • by Genda (560240) <marietNO@SPAMgot.net> on Thursday January 03, 2013 @12:21AM (#42457793) Journal

    Sadly, no, just profoundly ignorant...

    So here's the chain of events and absolutely, "Right to Work" is an employers right not a workers. In a right to work state, all employees get the same benefits as union employees, without belonging to the union. At first it looks like gravy for the nonunion employees, until everyone has their hand out for union advantages without paying dues. The union goes tits up, and then there is no union and everyone works for Walmart wages and benefits. Employer wins, employees suck gas. "Right to Work" is an employers benefit, and any idiot who can't smell his own ass on the griddle needs to go back to school or get his nose fixed.

  • Re:So.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @01:00AM (#42458175)

    I'd like to respectfully disagree about insulting HP for this. When you're trimming a department, you sometimes have contractual obligations that require you to retain _some_ of the department or group, to support existing services. When they all leave en masse, it can put a very large hole in your infrastructure: when someone leaving poaches from their former group, it's usually a contract violation, written into the contract _precisely_ to protect assets a company has invested in and built up over time.

    I've been involved, numerous times, in cleaning up after that kind of loss of personnel. The loss of institutional knowledge can be devastating: there may be no one left who knows _why_ things were done certain ways, and it can really endanger ongoing services and other contracts to lose that much of a key department without some kind of plan. And while I can't speak for HP, there are few things as devastating to the surviving remnant, who may believe in what they do or may really need the job to feed their families and keep medical insurance, when the "elite few" depart and leave them holding the undocumented remnants of their work.

    And if I ever do a departure interview with one such departing member of a horde who says "there is no documentation, just read the code!" I'm going to warn the staff who organize bids for my company that our hourly rates need to double, and explain why.

  • Re:So.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @01:04AM (#42458219) Homepage
    Strange how business school graduates exhibit this activity, while others unexposed to this culture still cling to ancient habits like "keeping one's word".
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @01:55AM (#42458679) Journal
    Again, this bozo MBA continues to destroy HP. Between the likes of fiorina, apotheker, hurd, and dunn, HP is quickly being destroyed.

    What kills me is that it took decades for Hewlett and Packard to build the company up, but all of the executives are hard at work to get their money out, and are taking less than 2 decades to destroy it.
  • Re:So.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by doug (926) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @02:12AM (#42458801)
    Bah. I have no sympathy for HP. I've never worked at HP, but I've been at plenty of places where most/all of the corporate history was lost. It is unpleasant, but you get over it. If this is an especially critical position, then HP should have used golden handcuffs to keep a few key people in place. If your employer treats you well, you usually stay put. If you are worried that you're going to get the axe, you jump ship. This is a basic truth, and if HP's management spent more time focused on its employees and less on the shareholders they would know this. Management should keep employees from having a conflict of interest. Yes, it might cost more in the short run, but it avoids situations like this. Too many people in management focus exclusively on the business side of things, and forget that people are involved. Unfortunately this is not unikque to HP.
  • Re:So.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @02:30AM (#42458953) Homepage Journal

    So why hire people in a 'Right to Work' State if they cannot leave 'at will'. HP certainly thinks that they can fire staff at will...

    Because only the will of the nobility counts. The peasants are not supposed to have any will of their own, and must be punished harshly whenever they show signs of developing such a trait.

    Honestly, I'm amazed that anyone is still even asking such a question.

  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @02:49AM (#42459055)

    to play the other side, lets look at GM's history with raises, benefits and a fuckton of small groups doing their own thing

    When I looked it was not good, and included things like bankruptcy and begging for money

  • Re:So.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CodeBuster (516420) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @03:55AM (#42459435)

    I'd like to respectfully disagree about insulting HP for this.

    The management at HP has failed both the stockholders and the workers. They aren't worthy of respect.

    When you're trimming a department, you sometimes have contractual obligations that require you to retain _some_ of the department or group, to support existing services.

    That's not my problem, you deal with it.

    When they all leave en masse, it can put a very large hole in your infrastructure

    Well cry me a river.

    when someone leaving poaches from their former group, it's usually a contract violation, written into the contract _precisely_ to protect assets a company has invested in and built up over time.

    That's a load of bull. What part of "employment at will" don't you understand? The laws in "at will" states are very clear on this point: either party can terminate the agreement at any time without reason or prior notice. The corporations themselves have long since dispensed with any nonsense illusions of "loyalty" and so we workers have learned to be ruthless too. It's their fault that there's no loyalty anymore, so I say turnabout's fair play, "contract" (which is unenforceable anyway) be damned.

    I've been involved, numerous times, in cleaning up after that kind of loss of personnel. The loss of institutional knowledge can be devastating

    Maybe the company should have considered that before they went to war with their employees.

    there may be no one left who knows _why_ things were done certain ways, and it can really endanger ongoing services and other contracts to lose that much of a key department without some kind of plan.

    You mean somebody moved your cheese [wikipedia.org]?

    there are few things as devastating to the surviving remnant, who may believe in what they do or may really need the job to feed their families and keep medical insurance

    These days it's every man for himself and his family. Make no apologies for that and have no illusions of "loyalty". The corporations look out for numero uno, so must we.

    when the "elite few" depart and leave them holding the undocumented remnants of their work.

    A perfect opportunity to rewrite everything the "right" way. If the company cannot afford to do that, then maybe it shouldn't continue operating (and likely won't anyway).

    And if I ever do a departure interview with one such departing member of a horde who says "there is no documentation, just read the code!" I'm going to warn the staff who organize bids for my company that our hourly rates need to double, and explain why.

    I never do exit interviews, nothing good ever comes of them.

  • Re:So.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by evil_aaronm (671521) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @03:57AM (#42459447)
    I don't disagree with you, but perhaps it has less to do with the curriculum and more to do with the sociopaths that figure business grad school is their ticket to high-profile, high-paying positions.
  • Re:So.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by whoever57 (658626) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @06:04AM (#42459921) Journal

    The loss of institutional knowledge can be devastating: there may be no one left who knows _why_ things were done certain ways, and it can really endanger ongoing services and other contracts to lose that much of a key department without some kind of plan.

    Then perhaps the employer should not take the actions that lead to mass resignations. Perhaps they should, you know, keep the critical employees happy! Employees are not fungible.

  • Re:So.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daem0n1x (748565) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @08:11AM (#42460533)

    Looks like your company fails to follow two important business rules:

    1. Retain your talent (a.k.a. "don't treat people like shit");
    2. Document your procedures.

    To me looks a lot like poor management. But somehow, in your mind, it's the leaving employees' fault. Well, we don't want all those MBAs bothering about pesky things like... managing, do we?

  • Re:So.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @02:54PM (#42465085)

    I'd like to respectfully disagree about insulting HP for this. When you're trimming a department, you sometimes have contractual obligations that require you to retain _some_ of the department or group, to support existing services.

    Then you meet your obligations, or don't make them. HP was in the process of laying off thousands, and is whining that 18 quit before they could fire them, or others like them.

    I've been involved, numerous times, in cleaning up after that kind of loss of personnel. The loss of institutional knowledge can be devastating:

    HP has cleansed before, multiple times, so that lots of institutional knowledge has already been lost. To have it happen to them, rather than being planned by them (them being upper management) is justice, not a tragedy.

    And while I can't speak for HP, there are few things as devastating to the surviving remnant, who may believe in what they do or may really need the job to feed their families and keep medical insurance, when the "elite few" depart and leave them holding the undocumented remnants of their work.

    That may be the real reason so many left at the same time. "HP is doing more layoffs, and we work on the GM contract that was canceled and GM is hiring. Fuck this, I'm out of here. Hey, Steve, you applying to your old position at GM?" No actual recruiting, and no work by GM could have gotten the same result. So to assume a company with a history of laying off thousands is going into another round of layoffs, I'd imagine that overstaffed departments (like the GM support group when the GM contract is gone) would be looking to get out before they are shown the door by security.

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