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HP's divide, layoff and conquer strategy a challenge for managers

Sharon Florentine | Sept. 22, 2015
HP CEO Meg Whitman announced layoffs of 30,000 workers in an attempt to refocus and restructure the company. But is it already too late? And how will front-line managers handle retaining and motivating workers?

According to Berkowitz, the embattled CEO faces an uphill challenge. "Every recruiter I know can smell the blood in the water. They know now that the people who remain, people who may have been content at HP will be more willing to take calls from recruiters. Turnover's going to be a problem for them in the near-term, and that becomes a problem if it happens in areas they're targeting for growth, like cloud technology and cybersecurity, he says.

Keep talking

To succeed, HP Inc. and HP Enterprise must ramp up their communication strategies around what the split means for each company, the direction each company will take, the expectations for growth and what it means to be a current and future employee, as well as rebuild trust within the remaining workforce. They also have to work to rebuild HP's reputation as an employer of choice. That's no small feat.

"A lot will depend on how HP treats the people they're letting go. The folks left behind are watching and judging leadership's every move to see if they're acting with dignity and respect. Something like 45 percent of employees don't trust company leadership - they're going to have work hard to rebuild that trust," says David Brennan, general manager of employee reward and recognition solutions firm Achievers.

Much of that work will fall to managers, Brennan says, and they must continually deliver the message that their workers are valuable, are making positive contributions for growth and that the organization has a bright future. Making sure managers have resources and information to be honest and authentic with their direct reports will go a long way toward rebuilding trust -- and that can aid recruiting and retention efforts.

Focus on the day-to-day

"C-level leadership may spend time looking at quarterly results and yearly results, but front-line workers and managers are more concerned with the day-to-day. You've got to over-communicate to an understandably skittish workforce that they have value, that they are delivering great work and that there's potential with the company," Brennan says.

Leadership and managers must also understand and empathize with their remaining workforce. Brennan recommends taking the time to communicate effectively and proactively work to rebuild the workforce's trust. "Given what's just happened -- a layoff or a restructuring -- it might be hard for them to trust you, but keep working toward that. We always say, 'people join companies and they leave managers.' You want to be the manager they want to stay with," Brennan says.


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