This week, I spent some time with Tracey Keogh, HP's talented head of human resources. I remain impressed - so much so that I feel she should be the example that HR leaders in technology should emulate. Keogh started with an incredible mess and, with CEO Meg Whitman's backing and support, has turned HP's barrel of lemons into some rather sweet lemonade.
I'm still a bit dumbfounded when I hear some of the practices Keogh inherited, from forced ranking to forced telecommuting (to keep down site costs) to eliminated employee and management training to ... well, you get the point. I'm actually surprised that HP didn't go under; if a lot of change hadn't been brought to bear on the problem over the last several years, it probably would have.
I'm a firm believer that you can't abuse employees and expect to survive. Under Whitman and Keogh, HP is fast becoming a great place to work again.
HP Doing Hewlett and Packard Proud, Respecting Employees Again
HP's success stems largely from its founders; Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard believed in their employees. They created a firm where folks were motivated to innovate, drive through to a conclusion and make a difference.
Unfortunately, things changed at HP, mirrored my many other public companies, which focused a series of executives increasingly on the monetary metrics that financial analysts wanted to see. These CEOs sacrifice employees to reach short-term tactical goals.
At its heart, though, HP still maintained a spark of the company that once was, a firm that marveled at new technology and where people could be proud of what they created. While several parts of the business aren't there yet, you can see HP's financial performance improving as a result of refocusing on people - showcasing that the abusive management style practiced by so many in the industry, and particularly some of HP's former CEOs, isn't necessary.
Treat employees well and you'll get better, more sustainable performance. Granted, there are times when you'll still have to make painful adjustments, but they'll increasingly be the exception rather than the rule. Valued employees stood at the core of the "old" HP way. That idea has been reinstated - and both Hewlett and Packard would be proud.
When Employees 'Adapt and Overcome,' Everyone Wins
I still can't get over the idea that some idiot CEO put in place both forced ranking (a blight on any company) and forced work-at-home to save office costs. I've heard of a lot of stories of tech CEOs doing incredibly stupid things - and those two together set the low bar. The fact that Keogh reversed these decisions early on is a credit to her skill; given how ingrained forced ranking often is, it wasn't without risk, either.
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