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back to article Unite: HP 'addicted to culture of job cuts' as axe raised again

The brothers at Unite have slammed HP for being a "long term addict to a culture of job cuts" as the union bemoaned the loss of a claimed 1,124 UK staffers due to collect their P45s by January. The redundancies are part of the 7,100 mass layoffs across Europe that HP is pushing through before the end of the current fiscal year …

COMMENTS

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Silver badge

As companies reach maturity there really aren't many options other than HR reductions for controlling costs and satisfying the insane demands of stock markets for infinite growth.

If you take away the idea of infinite growth everything changes though. A private company can maintain employment levels and still have great profits because they can grow strategically, choosing the best way forward. Publicly traded companies can't grow strategically, they're forced to act tactically and retroactively with their only goals being financially oriented.

I'm not trying to excuse companies for treating people like shit, but I am saying that publicly traded companies have most of their other options removed by their boards and major shareholders. Even if management didn't want to fire people, the board or their Ichan would force the issue.

When your business is based only on financal performance the HR costs are an easy target. People are expensive and over a long period of employment they cost as much, or more, than the value of what they produce. Getting rid of some people is the quickest way to reach your forecasts.

As long as the insane idea of infinite growth is a thing there really isn't much to be done about things like this. It's all stupid and it all sucks.

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Silver badge

The only problem with that option is that you can't make infinite cuts. Sooner or later you've got to stop or sever something fatal.

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Anonymous Coward

HP Invent ,, not the best at it am afraid

HP missed the market move in smart phones, Palm. R and D underfunded for too long, they buy in technology, 3Par, before that rebadged HDS, before that Compaq EVA's. Buy EDS for services. HP changing out CEO's like it was musical chairs and with that any hope of keeping a focused direction. All of the above and more leads to where they are now.

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Anonymous Coward

Idiots at the front line

"The only problem with that option is that you can't make infinite cuts. Sooner or later you've got to stop or sever something fatal."

The only problem is this: Does management realize this reality?

When it comes to modern American management, it regretfully seems the answer is "No". Management has, all too often, come to the decision that the only thing important are themselves - that they are the "foundation of the company" - and all else is expendable. Workers can be fired, released, reduced or replaced (no matter the level of skill that they bring to the company) but, as long as management stays solid, everything is "fine".

So management ends up driving the company into the ground, as they commit a vast number of failures (drive for short-term profits over long term stability, "brain drain", risky or over-expansion, etc)...but it is never their fault. As the "foundation", the causes of business failures simply MUST be somewhere else!

Between bankers, lawyers and MBA's, the world is doomed. Doomed, I tell you!

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Anonymous Coward

re: Sooner or later you've got to stop or sever something fatal.

this is a defeatist approach! We shall cut and hack and saw and chop until we reach the ultimate, the blyss, the Windows 8 of all goals: ZERO cost (never mind the profits then, it'll have been too late).

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I had to down vote you because the view you expressed is the prevailing short term view that is f---ing everything up. Laying your employees off and 'reorganizing' just to appease short term investors and gain the CEO his bonus, then re-employing the workers back within 2 or 3 years does not create value for anyone. My mistake it only creates value for the CEO and a few upper level executives who have their remuneration tied to these actions.

Since the proper planning horizon for companies of HP size should be medium or long term, 7 - 10 years, the fact that they have to reorganize so often means that their board and senior management team is incompetent.

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Silver badge

re: infinite cuts

Actually since senior management discovered how to set the y axis range of Excel charts to negative they have discovered that they can make almost infinite profits by just reducing the workforce below zero.

By cutting another 2Billion employees even Blackberry would be profitable

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Funny you should say that

But it's one of the first things our Dell Account Exec said when he visited the other day.

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Silver badge

Infinite cuts

The HP management have solved that problem. They just buy another company*, drive it into the ground, more to cut*.

* and give themselves a bonus.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Infinite cuts

HP is repeating the same mistakes that DEC did and then Compaq did to what remained of DEC and HP are doing to the detriuous that is left. I left HP to work at DEC and then ended up back at HP and was 'let go' right away becuse I was considered a traitor. Then they had tp oay through the nose to engage me as a contractor to complete a lot of stuff where they'd made the whole team redundant. The words Piss up and brewery come to mind.

Rather sad really because I spent over 20 years with the old HP. Great place to work and great people. Then the beancounters took over and the demise is there for everyone to see.

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Bronze badge

Re: Idiots at the front line (Not Managment its the SHAREHOLDERS!)

Management is following the orders of the shareholders, who really "run" most companies these days.. The shareholders are only interested in getting a dividend on their shares. They could give a rat's ass about the company, product, employees etc.

THIS is the problem with any publicly traded company. HP, Kodak, IBM, Xerox Etc all go to hell for a meager profit for the goddamn lazy 'shareholders" who can't make anything but only know how to take money OUT of a company thus killing the "Goose that layed the golden egg".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Idiots at the front line (Not Managment its the SHAREHOLDERS!)

Oh god forbid that the people who own the company and provide the assets should want a return on investment. Of course we care about dividends. We own the bloody company and I want paying for providing the capital.

Put it another way, would you be happy for your pension fund manager to invest in a company and not want a return? "Here have my pension contributions and please invest them where I get no dividends" 80per cent of long term returns come from dividends. Would you want a return to the days of shareholder pacifism? Don't confuse legitimate shareholders with crap management.

This is crap management.

Ps most of these redundancies are in its it services. The Warrington one are because the demand for Siam and adep services has fallen off a cliff at the dwp.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Idiots at the front line (Not Managment its the SHAREHOLDERS!)

"We own the bloody company and I want paying for providing the capital."

Borrocks.

It's called "risk capital" for a reason. The stick market in theory should offer no guarantees.

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Bronze badge

Re: Idiots at the front line (Not Managment its the SHAREHOLDERS!)

Nothing of the kind,

The fact is that HP is "ADDICTED" to a culture of cutting employment as the article stated. This is a direct result of clowns like Carly Fiorina who ADMITTEDLY cuts any and all employment to increase value (artificially I might add).

They do this for "shareholders" LIKE CARL FUCKING ICAHN who can only whine, badger and complain until all businesses they invest in are a former shadow of themselves and 90% of the employees are on the dole just to artificially create temporary paper profit, profit that only lasts until the next shareholder meeting when it isn't good enough.

Real "investors" would want management to find more business so they don't have to lay off people. Perhaps make a better product or service to create a compelling need for more sales. Goog Managers would have the balls to say "I'm not going to let you fuck up a great company for sake of false profits".

In YOUR world, there would be no patience with the R&D cycle needed to come up with new product. The direct result is no more HP and the entrails will get sold to the highest bidder, thus killing the golden goose and devaluing ALL the shares.

THAT, is no way to operate a business!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Idiots at the front line (Not Managment its the SHAREHOLDERS!)

What you said isn't incompatible with what I said. I get paid for taking the risk.

And the Warrington based jobs are going because there's no fucking work for em. These jobs are in it services not hardware or software. It's service management so r and d won't help much.

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Anonymous Coward

"The brothers at Unite have slammed HP for being a "long term addict to a culture of job cuts" as the union bemoaned the loss of a claimed 1,124 UK staffers due to collect their P45s by January."

I think a numberb of "sisters" might have been concerned? Anyway hp as a shadow of the company it used to be, technically and socially and as a business is finished. B&D would have been disappointed but probably not surprised.

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Silver badge

"I think a numberb of "sisters" might have been concerned? Anyway hp as a shadow of the company it used to be, technically and socially and as a business is finished."

Yup. After looking at their financials and other bits'n'bobs, plus bearing in mind how badly they fucked us over on a £200k purchase a few years back when it turned out unfit for purpose, I took great pleasure in telling 'em they didn't have as much chance as Comet ISON did, when it comes to selling me about 100k worth of networking kit.

Partly because they've shown themselves willing to fuck customers over but mostly because I don't have any confidence that they'll be around to support their kit in 24 months time.

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Thumb Up

Evolve or Die.

It always puzzles me why people get uptight when a company gets too-big-to-be-agile and then after a few years/decades begins a death-spiral. That's all part of the natural cycle of business-evolution and Schumpeterian "Creative destruction". A business doesn't have any inbuilt right to continue in business - sometimes the correct thing to do is to kill it and sell off the bits (because they're worth more separated than they are together) then move on and start something new.

Tough on the workers, but the smart ones will get out while the going's good rather than wait around for the end.

H-P today reminds me a lot of the "conglomerates" that were popular in the 1980s - Hanson, GEC/Marconi etc - which grew to a point where they had a number of fingers in so many pies they ended up not doing anything particularly well. Parting them out made economic and business sense.

Must admit though, I still like my trusty 1970s-era dual-trace oscilloscope.

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Silver badge

Re: Evolve or Die.

You're confusing two very distinct things: Business agility and financial management. One is positive, the other not so much. It can be difficult to distinguish between the two.

When HR cuts are made to address issues of agility you generally see a fairly equal number of parallel new hires as well as big, public announcements about new directions and focuses. Just reducing headcount tends to make organizations more unwieldy not more agile. Chasing agility isn't about cost reductions or break even it's about positioning yourself for growth and that always ends up more than exceeding any savings you realized in your reductions. Growth costs a lot of money.

When HR cuts are made for financial management reasons it is to control expenses or stop losses, not for company growth. When you see really big HR cuts in response to 'market conditions' it generally indicates the company sees no room for growth (they've got no new products for those segments or competitors have out maneuvered them). If you can't grow every year you can somewhat appease the stock market by capping losses while you work out growth strategies.

In summary, when big organizations are seeking agility it usually ends up being a very expensive process with a larger number of employees than you had before as you gear up new offerings. Agility increases costs but also enhances growth.

When big organizations are lost and have no real strategy you fire people while you're trying to figure out what to do. It usually isn't a great sign for the organization. Product offerings tend to be reduced in quantity and capabilities and become more expensive at the same time. They don't know what to do.

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Re: Evolve or Die.

"When big organizations are lost and have no real strategy you fire people while you're trying to figure out what to do. It usually isn't a great sign for the organization. Product offerings tend to be reduced in quantity and capabilities and become more expensive at the same time. They don't know what to do"

The smart "big organisation" that's circling the drain sells off its profitable bits/long-term-customer-contracts/intellectual-property and returns maximum value to shareholders by paying a couple of years of seriously fat dividends out of the proceeds of the sales.

Then the not-sold-off bits [which of course while essentially having zero or negative residual value still retain all the legacy-liabilities of the original business] declare bankruptcy.

Then your CEO's friendly one of the big-four accountancy-practicioners gets appointed to manage the parting-out of the toxic remains of the carcase.

Job Done.

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Silver badge

returns maximum value to shareholders

There is your problem right there a lot of the time.

Oh look your stock is under valued, I made a leveraged buy now you should strip the assets and give me the cash so I can piss off and find another company to rape.

This shareholders thing is a load of crap, what happened to investors?

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Silver badge

Re: returns maximum value to shareholders

It's people gaming a system for short term gain over actual investment. The stock market was never intended to support the way trading is done today. The system was designed as a way to gauge a company's performance. A well ran company was reflected in the value of its shares. Now the stock market steers the company and the business is no longer an investment. It's pretty stupid.

What it boils down to is few people are capable of running a business so they retreat to spreadsheets and attempt to justify their existence that way. Sad.

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Silver badge

Earth to Unite

The market's shrinking. The company is pants, the company is selling hardware that's pants.

The only surprising thing is that HP hasn't sacked everyone and shut down.

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Coat

Re: Earth to Unite

If HP did shut down, could Agilent get their name back?

My coat's the one with a 48GX in the pockets.

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Anonymous Coward

Doing the bidding

"Stating the bleeding obvious to anyone with more than a passing involvement with HP, Unite said today the European managers at the vendor are merely doing the bidding of their US bosses."

Ah, yes, I do wish a certain former manager had just the once owned up and said "A big American made me do it."*

* bearing in mind this is the man who could "Do nothing," after apparently coming up with the genius idea to rename the department, where the new department name was long, convoluted, and where the resulting acronym described an illegal substance. So don't get me started on the subject of doing the bidding of fucking Americans.

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Bronze badge
Black Helicopters

Early days yet....

They'll be doing much more of this, mark my words....

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Anonymous Coward

Having seen and heard HP quotes for managed services tasks its no wonder they are losing business and hence having to lay off staff. I've been flabbergasted by some of the prices quoted for what is actually fairly standard and simple work.

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Anonymous Coward

Poor decisions

The management of this company has driven it to the wall, poor acquisitions (Palm, Autonomy), failure to evolve with the market, failure to act sooner to avoid this level of drastic staff cuts. Ordinary (talented) workers are generally the ones who suffer. This company is replete with managers who literally add zero value to a tech company. I would suggest they start at the top and work their way down, will that happen?....not a chance.

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Anonymous Coward

Lifes Good

Having worked for Digital Equipment Corp from 1984 I became a HP drone as a result of the DEC, CPQ, HP merger. My role was finally cut in 2009. Having started my own business in a diverse field I have never looked back. Life post HP is as happy as it was in the early years of DEC.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lifes Good

As an ex hp drone myself, I have to say I've had a similar experience. I took voluntary redundancy and went freelance. I'm happier, healthier and wealthier. I'm just surprised that hp haven't been broken up yet as there are some good bits amongst the crud.

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Re: Lifes Good

I too started with DEC and went through the Compaq and HP "mergers" (we know they were takeovers!) and then was made redundant in 2009 when my job went to Bulgaria or Bangalore. I didn't want to go. It was obvious that the long-term slash-the-staff culture would just continue and it will be there till HP becomes redundant itself.

Moved myself into the contracting world and now work 8 months a year and take home the same money I used to get from HP. They did me a favour when they tossed me out the door.

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Silver badge

Regular cuts are smart

But only if they were able to target them to get rid of the least effective employees. Every company has some idiots who accomplish nothing, or worse, make more work for others. A company that never has layoffs never gets rid of these people, so you don't want to be a company that never has layoffs.

Unfortunately that isn't what HP does, they decide on a certain amount of "savings" they must have, internal political battles between factions determine who bears the brunt of the cuts, and they preferentially target higher paid more experienced employees were possible (buyout packages, early retirements, etc.) because then they have to lay off fewer people to reach their goal.

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