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Highlights—February 6, 2016

  • The Oregonian:

    Oregon says it can't tell if IBM met job requirements for state subsidy. By Mike Rogoway. Excerpts: Oregon gave IBM $100,000. IBM promised more than 1,500 jobs.

    After a string of layoffs, though, it's not clear IBM came through on a deal it struck with state and local governments back in 2010, when Oregon unemployment was 10.6 percent. And following more than a year of inquiries, Oregon officials say they still can't figure out how many people work for the company – or if they can make IBM pay the money back, regardless. ...

    The amount in question is relatively small, but the protracted uncertainty illustrates issues at play when governments tie financial incentives to employment figures and the complexities around economic development initiatives. IBM and other businesses who receive such tax deals appear to have little incentive to demonstrate they are complying with the job requirements. ...

    Oregon, mired in the wreckage of the Great Recession, said it beat out North Carolina and Oklahoma for the jobs, lured with $350,000 in incentives to assist IBM with workforce training. That included a $100,000 forgivable loan program, tied to promises IBM would hire 600 people and retain 968 others.

    If IBM met the hiring targets, the loan would become an outright grant. It's a setup Oregon commonly uses.

    At least two rounds of layoffs followed, however, beginning in January 2014, amid a broad corporate restructuring. A second round of layoffs followed a year later. IBM's deal required it to retain at least 1,568 employees for two years, ending no later than June 2014. ...

    An IBM spokesman referred questions about the Oregon operations and its subsidy back to the state, and declined even to say whether his company still owns Seterus. There is no mention of Seterus in IBM's recent regulatory filings, and the Seterus website makes no reference to IBM.

  • The Oregonian:

    IBM lays off unspecified number at Seterus mortgage business in Beaverton. By Mike Rogoway. Excerpts:I BM said Friday that it has laid off an unspecified number of employees this week at the Beaverton office of its Seterus loan servicing subsidiary.

    The company is "rebalancing skills and keeping our commitments to sites," according to a statement from IBM communications director Clint Roswell. It's part of a corporate overhaul the company announced last year, he said.

    "Transformation on this scale requires IBM to continually remix skills - our clients expect no less as they look to IBM to help them take advantage of these innovations and new technologies," Roswell wrote. "In our rapidly changing services business, we are taking actions to deliver the innovations our clients need, while balancing efficiency, quality and cost." ...

    This is at least the second layoff at Seterus' Beaverton office in the past year. It wasn't clear if IBM has fulfilled the employment commitments associated with its public subsidies. Business Oregon, the state economic development agency that oversees the assistance program, did not immediately respond to an inquiry seeking details.

  • The Register:

    IBM Global Tech Services staff at risk of redundo in Blighty. Staff council to be formed, 45-day consultation begins mid-Feb. By Paul Kunert. Excerpts: IBM has entered into a 45-day consultation with UK staff in the Global Technology Services division, El Reg can reveal. In a note sent to full-time staffers on 3 February, Martin Blackburn, GM of the local GTS operation, confirmed Big Blue is forming an Employee Consultation Committee (ECC). This is to “represent the permanent employee population of the IS Delivery, Client Management and Client Excellence business areas in the UK,” he stated.

    The ECC is to include elected reps plucked from management and the wider workforce, who will gather around a negotiating table to thrash out “proposals for the organisation to meet its business needs”.

    Lovely corporate speak for IBM wanting to squeeze out more profits than the business unit is currently able to.

    The consultation process commences on 15 February and runs until the end of March. Sources told us one hundred plus employees are at risk of redundancy but this was unconfirmed at the time of writing. ...

    A spokeswoman at IBM sent us this statement: "IBM can confirm that it plans to begin a consultation process with employee representative groups with a view to discussing business objectives in the UK."

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • Consultation? I've been through redundancy twice. And every time I think what exactly am I being consulted about.

      me as I have no choice in this, staff forums are pointless and we are not on a journey together you utter waste of humanity.

      Just be HONEST. You want to get rid of x% of staff. It'd be easier if some went voluntarily but at the end of the day you will be sacking that x%, yes, let's call it what

    • Re: Consultation? The consultation period is a legal requirement. IBM would rather just let x people go, regardless of whether they're any good or not.

      If you've got skills, get out. You'll get a better job with more money. Turn your back on the misery and frustration. Go somewhere where you'll be appreciated and encouraged. A redundancy package is the only bonus anyone below exec level can expect from IBM now. Take it. There are plenty of jobs out there. As IBM piss off their customers, they leave and have to go somewhere. Other, more modern and dynamic companies are welcoming them with open arms.

    • Re: Consultation? Quote from an employee rep many years ago: "It is Consultation, not Negotiation". You ARE being "consulted" in that they are telling you what they are planning to do.

      Agreed about the management-speak on this; I have seen too many emails over the years on redundancies that literally do not contain a single negative word.

    • Not just GTS. It's not just GTS. Folks in the newly formed 'Cloud' division also got the same email.
  • Fortune:

    IBM Is Blowing Up Its Annual Performance Review. By Claire Zillman. Excerpts: That maxim, it seems, also applies to IBM’s annual performance review—a 10-year-old system called Personal Business Commitments. The program will be replaced with a brand new approach this week, one that gives more opportunity to shift employee goals throughout the year and includes more frequent feedback. ...

    To revamp its performance review system, the HR department didn’t just pick a new system and implement it; it turned to its 380,000 employees in 170 countries to crowdsource the process. Gherson posted a message in July on Connections, IBM’s internal social media platform, asking employees to share their ideas for a new performance management system. The post received 75,000 views and 2,000 comments from employees. ...

    The end result is a new app-based performance review system called Checkpoint, which goes live to IBM employees on Monday. ...

    There is no single measure of an employee’s performance like before. “In the old system, there was one score. People [got] sort of obsessed by that,” Gherson said. “In the new system, there are five scores. It leads to a much richer, more balanced discussion.”

    Selected reader comments regarding this article from Facebook's "Watching IBM" group follow:

    • One of the business news channels had a discussion on Yahoo this morning and the topic of lay everyone off and start over or die by a thousand cuts came up. The panel expert pointed out no company that has continued to layoff people in small batches over a long period of time has been successful. I am hopeful for this new change at IBM, I wonder how they will break the news to the emotionless machine running the company "Watson"
    • Not impressed by this new approach. A good manager would always work with the employee to update the goals as appropriate throughout the year. I will bet this new system will still be used for the yearly ranking.
    • Any rating system that involves a bell curve is bullshit. Even if every member of a team performed above and beyond expectations for the year, the PBC bell curve demanded that only a scant few got 1's, and someone had to get a 3. Hopefully this new system will get away from that stupidity.
    • These are tools to give less and less to employees each year and reward the sycophants. Every company does it or rather every people manager uses it.
    • Sigh it's no going to save your job from going to India. Managers will have to actually talk to their employees which will be something new to some of them. I sat with my employees to learn what they did unlike most managers.
    • So is this still stack ranking but with a different name? I sense obfuscation.
    • I also noticed that this "simplified" system will give five scores rather than one. So I wonder how the employee actually processes all this. Also, quarterly feedback is probably a good thing - more frequent feedback is important. But it wasn't clear how formal this process will be. My concern would be a move toward "form over content." Yes, as a manager I had four meetings with each of my employees but they didn't accomplish anything because I didn't have the time or energy to do a good job of preparation or communication. And as Shawn said, having managers provide this performance feedback when quota are being jammed down the organization is completely counter-productive. So if they're still doing that they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
    • Having worked there once, I'm suspicious about this change coming on the heels of reducing severance pay.
    • It's going to turn into Office Space and a "so, tell me what you do around here" mentality. Justify keeping your job, or your gone...kind of like interviewing for your job quarterly, even after you have it.
    • You can bet the executives are not using the same performance review.
    • PBCs were always a sad cruel joke. The facts/results are irrelevant when HR mandates a percentage of ratings for mgrs to just divvy up Even when rated well, its useless. It doesn't protect your job. Let's say hypothetically, three 1 ratings in a row, and no raise to go with it, and then it turns out to be your last year(s) there because they RA'd ya. *cough* hypothetically of course *cough*.
  • New York Times:

    A Yahoo Employee-Ranking System Favored by Marissa Mayer Is Challenged in Court. By Vindu Goel. Excerpts: One of Marissa Mayer’s signature policies as chief executive of Yahoo has been the quarterly performance review, in which every employee at the company is ranked on a scale of 1 to 5. The ratings have been used to fire hundreds of employees since Ms. Mayer joined the company in mid-2012.

    Now, as Ms. Mayer prepares to announce a streamlining plan on Tuesday that is likely to involve even more job cuts, one former manager who lost his job is challenging the entire system as discriminatory and a violation of federal and California laws governing mass layoffs. ...

    Under California law, the layoff of more than 50 employees within 30 days at a single location like Yahoo’s Sunnyvale headquarters requires an employer to give workers 60 days of advance notice. A similar federal law, known as the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, requires advance notice for a layoff of 500 or more employees.

    Yahoo has never provided such notices. But it did cut 1,100 employees over a period of months in late 2014 and early 2015, ostensibly for performance reasons. ...

    Ms. Mayer has steadfastly refused to use the word “layoff” to describe the thousands of jobs eliminated since she joined the company. She even forbade her managers from uttering what she called “the L-word,” instructing them to use the term “remix” instead. ...

    Mr. Anderson’s suit provides a peek inside Yahoo’s controversial quarterly performance review system, which Ms. Mayer adopted on the recommendation of McKinsey & Company, a management consulting company. ...

    At Yahoo, the program, known internally as Q.P.R., has been a sore spot among managers and employees since it began. The court filing said that managers were forced to give poor rankings to a certain percentage of their team, regardless of actual performance. Ratings given by front-line managers were arbitrarily changed by higher-level executives who often had no direct knowledge of the employee’s work. And employees were never told their exact rating and had no effective avenue of appeal.

  • Watching IBM FaceBook Page
  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • "IBM=It's a Big Mess!"

      Former Employee — Sales Specialist. Pros: I left the company as soon as possible. Cons: Joining the company. A good old boys club drowning in outdated systems, politics, micromanagement and ivory tower cluelessness. Advice to Management: It's too late—you passed the exit. Stop driving and let someone else take the wheel.
    • "Great place, great company"

      Current Employee — Software Engineer in Dublin, Co. Dublin (Ireland). I have been working at IBM (more than 3 years). Pros: lot of opportunities, working with word class experts. Cons: nothing for now, quite happy with position
    • "Technical Services Professional"

      Former Employee — Technical Services Professional. I worked at IBM full-time (more than 10 years). Pros: Just that the common man recognized the name of the company! Always got told how great IBM was, by people who did not work for the company. Cons: No raises or bonuses for multiple years. Constant change of managers. Screwed up PBC assessments. No manager would ever give a 1 or 1+ rating. Advice to Management: The morale is low. There are constant threats for Resource Action. People are made to slog without compensation.
    • "Mixed Bag" Current Employee —

      Staff Software Engineer (Band 7 Software Developer) in Toronto, ON (Canada). Pros: Lots of talented co-workers. Large choice of products to work on (that's my experience in Software Group). Reasonable pay. Cons: For every talented worker, there are several mediocrities. Lots of talk about culture change, but there's soooooo much inertia. Ratings system often pits people against each other. Bonuses? Meager, if they make an appearance at all. Advice to Management: Try to value teamwork more in your ratings—you really don't provide us with any incentive to help our peers out. Find ways to help the innovators carry change forward.
    • "Interesting opportunity, but endlessly frustrating at IBM Design"

      Former Employee — Software Product Designer. I worked at IBM full-time (more than a year).

      Pros:

      • Good benefits (health insurance, 401k, discounts on rental cars and electronics)
      • This is a pro and a con, but honestly you can get by without doing much. Often people would "work from home" but really not do anything and no one cares
      • Interesting and complex problems for a designer to solve
      • Good continuing education for a designer with the speakers and enrichment they have.
      • More responsibility than the average entry-level position due to the designers being spread thin.
      • Great peers! You fellow designers are smart, passionate, and driven. They are literally the only thing that keeps you from crying every day.
      • Some of the higher up staff are great, inspiring, UX professionals. It was awesome to meet and work with them. Some less so.
      • Do you want to improve as a designer or learn politics? I learned more politics than anything here and I was glad to learn, but it was tough.

      Cons:

      • If you work really hard, put in extra hours, and do your best work but no one notices or cares, did you really do well? It's hard to feel like you are valued and appreciated when the only way to get recognized or heard is to threaten to quit. As a designer right out of school I wanted to put in the work to make the best experience for our users, but despite almost 2 years worth of work I left each day feeling like a cog in a huge machine. What would it matter if I left? Nope.
      • The development and product management organization aren't ready to work with designers. I had instances where the developer leadership flat out wouldn't build our designs. What a waste of time.
      • You'll move up in the organization (if you are on the right project at the right time and have the right manager to fight for your promotion.) I was told before I took the job that I would be able to move up quickly. I couldn't wait any longer. My manager would forget to give me feedback to be able to improve and rise in the organization. If I wasn't doing well enough to be promoted, please tell me why and what I can do to get better!
      • Picture this: You are at the entry level of a job and you are tasked with convincing your entire project team (including people who have been at IBM for 20-30 years) that they need to give you extra time to design so you can change things and make an awesome product. As you fight this fight you aren't recognized, promoted to a position of power within the group or anything. All you get is told that you need to do better and that it's your job to turn things around. If you bring up the problems to your superiors they can't or won't do anything so you are forced to continue working on a project that doesn't want to leverage your expertise, doesn't respect you or what you do, and can easily do whatever they want because they are in an office in another state or country. Even if you make headway you're not recognized for the work that is 2-3 levels above your pay grade.
      • At least when I worked there, the recruitment setup had major problems. People watching portfolio reviews would all be chatting with each other and laughing about the candidate presenting or about something else entirely. Both are unacceptable. When I brought up the unprofessional nature of this I heard nothing but excuses and that it was my problem that I didn't like it. Every candidate deserves respect, but the talent staff didn't seem to agree.

      Advice to Management:

      • Hire better managers
      • Create clearer paths to promotion
      • Reward employees for their work, even if it isn't flashy
    • "Great company with wonderful work life balance."

      Former Employee — Software Engineer in Pune (India). I worked at IBM full-time (more than 3 years). Pros: Wonderful company with great work life balance. Cons: Hike is very low comparatively. Advice to Management: Management is very employee oriented.
    • "Big company"

      Former Employee — Advisory IT Specialist in London, England (UK). Pros: Huge company; you could travel in theory. Cons: Sadly everything is going bad at IBM Delivery Center Central Europe: low pay, bad managers at least in the call center. Advice to Management :Either pay the people on the help desk more or have more people; but, you can't fire people for not meeting the call targets if they are trying to maintain top notch security procedures.
    • "Great for the experience but don't stay too long!"

      Current Employee — Digital Sales Specialist in Dublin, Co. Dublin (Ireland). I have been working at IBM full-time (less than a year).

      Pros:

      • Generic education (Global Sales School, Top Gun, etc)
      • Overall successful company that knows how to reinvent itself (and has done so in the past a couple of times)

      Cons:

      • No clear guidance on Digital Sales missions
      • No specific enablement for daily job, you often learn what you have to do by chance
      • Too many managers and people in your business (both in-country and remote)
      • Way too many processes
      • Overall very bureaucratic, feels like working for the government
      • No benefits whatsoever (no healthcare), you even pay for an apple or a paper cup
      • Worst canteen ever, no other options nearby

      Advice to Management:

      • Try to establish consistency across a team
      • Don't focus only on forecasting on a daily basis
      • Don't be afraid to challenge higher management in specific countries
      • Make it more pleasant for staff in terms of benefits
    • "Good place to work"

      Former Employee — Anonymous Employee. Pros: Smart People who challenge you to be better. Cons: Nothing I can think of.
    • "Really think before you apply."

      Former Employee — Software Developer in Leicester, England (UK). I worked at IBM full-time (less than a year). Pros: - 6 months sick pay; - Other colleagues are friendly; - Big pool of different skills. Cons: - No benefits including pension; - No flexible working; - No remote working; - Travel for no extra reward; - Relocation if there's not enough work at normal location; - No progression; - No reward for extra hours. Advice to Management: - Think about how people actually feel rather than the utilisation rate; - Be honest with people from the start; - Don't mis-sell or mis-lead people; - Treat everyone equal; - It shouldn't be not one rule for one, one rule for another.
    • "So Not Relevant"

      Former Employee — Sales Specialist in Denver, CO. I worked at IBM full-time (more than 5 years).

      Pros: Work from home. They pay on time.

      Cons: Most of these short reviews are from IBM. Read the longer ones which are accurate. There is no reason to go to IBM; they change strategy each year. Management of 25+ years are just angry. No raises, new boss every 6 months and 2016 will be no different. If you are on a career path, forget IBM; It does nothing on your resume anymore. No one cares if you do a good job and the managers are all pressured to micromanage their people. Moving from low value to high value products? Really, is cloud high value IBM? That train left the station and it's a two-legged race with AWS and MSFT. As far as analytics, others are eating IBM's lunch. Can't deliver projects; no support and the CEO gets raises for 15 declining quarters of growth; such a joke.

      Advice to Management: Retire, go away. Your management style from the 90's doesn't work. The BOD is as much to blame for keeping this lame management team in place.

    • "Senior Software Engineer"

      Former Employee — Anonymous Employee. Pros: A large tech company with lots of history and knowledge in it. Many smart people around to learn from and to work with. Cons: Around ten years ago they started focusing more on the stock price than on quality, customers, products, and employees, which is why the company is in the trouble it is in. Advice to Management: Get back to focusing on quality, customers, products, and employees, and you will win back customers and talent. As long as the company is driven only by profit/stock price, it will continue to weaken. (See Peter Drucker's comments on profit maximization).
    • "The dinosaurs died, didn't they?"

      Current Employee — Consultant in New York, NY. I have been working at IBM full-time (more than a year).

      Pros: Some very, very smart people hidden in the cracks if you can find them, with candid advice and freely offered mentorship. Huge flexibility if you find the right project and play your cards right with the project management. Astonishingly, brand name remains relatively strong, although this may change over the next few years and is certainly no guarantee.

      Cons: Executive suite very obviously does not care about employees, slashing perks and letting infrastructure languish while paying the CEO massive annual bonuses for horrible market performance.

      Decisions banning common consulting perks, such as alternate travel, Uber as an approved taxi provider, are taken without employee input and can be reversed, but only after sustained, near-universal outcries, and marked increases in attrition.

      Cool ideas out of Research division and Watson are brought to market before they're ready for enterprise application, and very basic MBA1 management ideas that would improve the company are rushed or diluted to death.

      Tone-deaf evaluation system, often approved by entrenched management with little incentive to provide accurate feedback and no useful answers for very basic career development questions, such as "how do I improve for the next evaluation cycle?"

      Entrenched management: without an up or out policy, there is incredible stagnation around the engagement manager level, where talent is particularly thin. Technical skills in basic software, such as Excel and PowerPoint, is incredibly limited at these levels, leading to dumb questions and poor estimates for delivery time frames. Generally speaking, good talent finds its way out, and bad talent falls upward, resulting in very, very spotty talent throughout.

      Advice to Management: Listen to your employees, and improve the morale problem. Good ideas cannot be executed without good talent, and good talent won't stick around when executive decision makers cut compensation and perks while paying other companies to take revenue-producing divisions off our hands.

    • "Great place to work!"

      Current Employee — Client Executive (Summit Program). I have been working at IBM full-time (less than a year). Pros: Investment in young talent. Company is positioned for growth around the strategic imperatives. IBM brand still opens a lot of doors in the C-Suite. Cons: Large/massive company that can be difficult to navigate at times if you're not paying attention. Advice to Management: There's not a whole lot to say that they need to do differently, accelerating growth is the challenge of a 190 billion dollar business.
    • "Senior Program manager"

      Former Employee — Anonymous Employee in Maple Grove, MN. I worked at IBM full-time (more than 10 years). Pros: Large company, many locations. Wide variety of technologies supported. Cons: Outsourcing most positions to off-shore countries focused on cost cutting, not growing business. Advice to Management: Regain customer focus and not just focus on bottom line and stock price.
    • "Do not be conned by the Company Name."

      Current Employee — Accounting Analyst in Petaling Jaya (Malaysia). I have been working at IBM full-time (more than a year).

      Pros: Flexibility. This is probably the only reason why a lot of people choose to stay in IBM. There is nothing else that would be considered as a "pro".

      Cons: Promotions are not based on performance; instead it is based on how well you can brown nose your superior. Most things that you learn in the "accounting" unit of IBM have nothing to do with basic accounting. If you are looking to learn accounting, please think twice about coming here. All you do is repetitive data-entry work here. Something even a Secondary 5 graduate with no accounting skill would be able to do. Also, for medical you would still have to pay RM5 for every visit to the doctor.

      Advice to Management: Please give opportunities to your employees who work hard but might be on the quieter side. These are the ones who would probably lead the best. Don't be fooled by people who talk loudly but it's all empty talk. Empty vessels make the loudest noise.

    • "Technology Architect"

      Former Employee — Technology Architect in Tampa, F. I worked at IBM full-time (more than 10 years).

      Pros: Possibilities are endless for training and access to people in many roles. Patent training and encouragement. Great mentors.

      Cons: Cannot apply for other positions no matter what. Political performance reviews need to change to new method such as done at Accenture and other large corporations. IBM doesn't move people (doesn't allow sometimes) from dying areas to cutting edge areas so loyalty is questionable.

      Advice to Management: Employees with very good performance ratings should be allowed to move to new positions. If employees have very good performance ratings, they should absolutely be allowed and encouraged to apply for new positions. IBM loses very dedicated and smart people with these practices.

    • "Senior Architect"

      Current Employee — Senior Enterprise Architect in Remote, OR. I have been working at IBM full-time (more than 3 years). Pros: Good pay. Strong team to work with. Good opportunities for advancement. Strong training programs. Cons: Most decisions are financially driven. Constant pressure to reduce resources. Benefits continue to be reduced. Employee portion of healthcare is rising. 401K match was moved to once at year end. Advice to Management: Management has indicated the retaining good employees is a priority, but company actions frequently seem to indicate it is not a high priority.
    • "Huge organization, broken processes"

      Former Employee — Senior Consultant in New York, NY. I worked at IBM full-time (more than 3 years). Pros: There are all kinds of projects and opportunities. Cons: Finding the right opportunity for you and landing it within the organization is nearly impossible. Very bureaucratic and old school. Too many reorganizations within the company keeping with change in strategy. Advice to Management: You have the right strategy; need to communicate and implement it better.
  • Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert — February 5, 2016 (PDF). Stories this week include:
    • Warning to New Hampshire Republican Primary Voters: Iowa’s Top 3 Come with Baggage
    • Call Your U.S. Representative and Senators on February 8th and 9th to Stop the TPP
    • Alliance to Oversight Committee: Prescription Drug Prices Often “Sickening and Immoral”
    • Mark Your Calendars – Midwest Regional Conference Dates Announced
If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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