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Returning

1. Summary

It is clear that chances of returning to HPInc, HPE, the HPES spinoff, or the HPSoftware spinoff are slim. This is based on stated company policies, announcements to investors, extensive LinkedIn discussions, and many private communications with members. 

There are several factors: Shrinking or stagnant revenues; moving jobs to lower-cost countries; new technologies and business models that are changing required employee skills; and the need to make room for the next generation of employees. Investors are being told that completion of the HPI/HPE split and implementation of the HPES and HPSoftware spinoffs will further reduce total employment.

If you are approached about -- or apply for -- a direct or agency-contract position, be very clear about your HP history. Many report spending time and energy on discussions that ended without explanation.

The current HPI and HPE rehire policies do not contradict any previous version of the Waiver and General Release that you signed in order to be paid severance or a retirement incentive. (If you just skim your agreement, the tendency is to focus on the number of months or years mentioned -- and not the precise legal wording.) The agreements apply to successor companies.

Members point out that returning to your old job postpones learning new skills or technology, starting over at another company, or changing careers. Some found that their knowledge of legacy products is currently more valuable to a customer or reseller than to the company.

Many recommend taking the longer view:

- "Learn new technologies and remember HP as kind of like college -- it was fun while it lasted."

- "In retrospect being WFR'd was a blessing. It forced me to get out, rethink who I am and what is important. I certainly would not have started my own business without the shove."

- "I wish I would have known that I had greater skills at adapting to my life after HP, resilience in dealing with the transition, and competencies that were valued by others."

See also:
- Know someone leaving HP? Send them this link to our "ASAP Checklist" -- advice from alumni on urgent things to do before losing HP access and in the following weeks. http://www.hpalumni.org/asap  (HPAA membership not required.)

- Links, advice, and reference information from HPAA members about job searching and career issues.

- "Job Searching for the Mature Worker" -- HPAA video with practical, actionable advice.

2. Business situation

Neither company is currently growing. HPI revenue down 6% year-to-year Q4FY16; HPE down 4% Q4FY16.  Both continue to reduce worldwide direct employment. In addition, jobs are being outsourced or moved to lower-cost countries.

HPI: "Approximately 3,000 employees exited by the end of fiscal year 2016." "We had approximately 49,000 employees worldwide as of October 31, 2016." "HP expects between 3,000 and 4,000 employees to exit by the end of fiscal year 2019." SEC filing Jan 5, 2017

HPE: "...delayering as we right-size the organization ahead of the separation from ES and SW... We continue to track against our longer-term [ES] goal of 60% headcount in low cost locations..." Q4FY16 Earnings Call  "We had approximately 195,000 employees as of October 31, 2016" "As of October 31, 2016, the Company expects up to approximately 30,000 employees to exit the Company by the end of 2018." SEC filing Dec 12, 2016 

We all like to think that we are indispensable. However, large corporations are structured such that no employee is indispensable.

New technologies and business models impact required employee skills.

"...how do you keep up with this next generation of IT and how do you bring people into this company for whom it isn't something they have to learn, it is what they know." Meg Whitman 

"I wish I had faced the fact earlier that my knowledge was mostly HP-centric and that my technical skills were out of date. My all-consuming job dealing with mature products left me no time or energy to learn anything new. I would have had to spend two full-time years at a university to compete with a new EE or CS grad." --retiree

Members point out that knowledge of legacy HP products is often more valuable to a customer or reseller than to the company.

The companies are making room for the next generation of employees.

"...we need to return to a labor pyramid that really looks like a triangle where you have a lot of early career people who bring a lot of knowledge who you're training to move up through your organization, and then people fall out either from a performance perspective or whatever... we put in place an informal rule... when you are replacing someone, really think about the new style of IT skills." Meg Whitman  (Now Chairman of HPI and CEO of HPE. Future board member of DXC Technology, the HPE/CSC spinoff. HPE will nominate half the members of the Micro Focus board.) 

"...eventually you will wear out. Not many people can last for twenty or thirty years, which is why we need to attract young people." Antonio Neri, EVP HPE Enterprise Group, quoted in Becoming Hewlett Packard, 2016.)

"It is important for HP... to keep its commitment to current employees to invest in their careers by creating opportunities for growth and promotion."  -- 2014 WFR document.

The four-way split is expected to further reduce employment. All the new companies are under the same fundamental business pressures as the old companies.

- HPI and HPE: While the restrictions on employee poaching between HPI and HPE have expired, members report only very rare instances of people joining the opposite company. 

- CSC: "...move of labor to offshore and nearshore centers... we are bringing more and more people in at lower levels of the organization... may actually do a little more restructuring as we exit the third and the fourth quarter..." CSC 11/3/16 Earnings Call

- Micro Focus: "Considerable scope to improve profitability through the application of Micro Focus’ disciplined operating model. HPE Software’s Adjusted EBITDA margin of ~21% compares with Micro Focus' equivalent margin for its mature software assists of ~46%." Micro Focus Announcement

- Corporate and Group functions: "...the overhead structure that was required to knit together the old HP and then Hewlett Packard Enterprise was a pretty high overhead structure, because of the diversity of the businesses. We ought to be able to run much leaner and meaner..." Meg Whitman

3. Formal policies

Depending on local employment laws, the composition of the workforce, and unions or employee councils, the workforce reduction process varies by country. This discussion is U.S.-specific.

HP and HPI: "HP Rehire Policy: It is important for HP to protect the investments made in workforce reductions and to keep its commitment to current employees to invest in their careers by creating opportunities for growth and promotion. As a result, under current HP Policy, former employees who left the company, in May 2012 or later, through a workforce reduction program are ineligible for rehire or to be engaged as an agency contractor. These policies may change from time to time."  HP WFR Summary Plan Description HP 2014 HPI 2016

"Employees who retire under the Program will be subject to HP's policies regarding rehire, which are subject to change at HP's discretion. These policies currently provide that you will not be eligible to be rehired or work as a contractor for HP at any time in the future."  2014 HP Phased Retirement Program SPD PRP 2014

HPE: "After this 60-day period, you are ineligible for rehire... Additionally, former employees who left under a severance agreement or enhanced early retirement, workforce reduction or similar circumstances (e.g., MSA or ETA) are not eligible to return to HPE as an agency contractor."  2016 HPE WFR FAQs HPE 2016

The formal policies do not apply to people who resigned without a payment, however members report that recruiters and hiring managers assume that they received payment.

The formal policies do not contradict the terms of any Waiver and General Release that you signed in previous years in order to be paid severance or a retirement incentive. If you just skim your agreement, the tendency is to focus on the number of months or years mentioned -- and not the precise legal wording.

While the wording varied over the years, the old HP Waiver agreements (typical examples: 2007 2015 ) made the same points:

- You are not entitled to future direct or indirect employment with HP, subsidiaries, joint ventures, or successor companies. The key phrase is "entitled to any employment" or "no right to be employed." This deals with any promises that might have been made to you -- or assumptions that you might have made.

- In earlier versions of the Waiver, you agreed not to apply for employment for a certain time period. The key word is "apply." This clause says nothing about what might happen if you apply after that period.

The agreement is not affected by the HPI/HPE split or implementation of the HPES and HPSoftware spinoffs. It covers HP's "subsidiaries, affiliated companies, successors and assigns."

Paying people to leave and then hiring them back, whether directly or indirectly, doesn't make financial sense.

4. Legal aspects

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a helpful guide: "Understanding Employee Severance Agreements"

The legally-required Attachment A provided to those 40 or over covers many possible reasons for layoff: "Employees were selected for the reduction in force because the job they were performing will no longer continue, their skill set was not applicable to the Company’s or organization’s operations going forward, and/or other employees were viewed as better qualified because of past performance and competency evaluation, which may include skills, abilities, knowledge and experience." One member referred to this clause as "a catch-all for anything from grasshopper plague to potholes."

Since May 2013, 28 age-related complaints have been filed against HP with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, according to a list the agency provided to USA Today.

Four former employees -- from CA, TX, and WA; three of whom did not sign the Waiver and General Release Agreement required to receive severance -- have filed a class action suit accusing HPI and HPE of age discrimination in layoffs since 2012. (Employment suits generally move slowly. The class action filed in 2006 concerning EDS/HP overtime was settled after nine years, 79 depositions, and 1.5 million pages of documents -- paying an average of $950 each to 2,700 people in 2015.) http://www.hpalumni.org/EmploymentLawsuits

US Department of Labor data on H-1B and Green Card applications is available online for any company. http://www.hpalumni.org/H-1B

5. Member feedback

If approached about an agency or direct-contract position, or if applying, be very clear about your HP history. Many report spending time and energy on discussions that ended without explanation. A recruiter or manager may not know about the formal or informal restrictions -- or may be overly-confident about getting approval. If you left voluntarily, recruiters and managers assume that you received severance or other payment and are therefore not eligible for rehire. In any potential rehire situation, inform everyone -- including the hiring manager -- that you are a former employee, when you left, and under what circumstances. 

Members report that returning may not be a good move anyway.

The managers who appreciated your work and supported you may no longer have political power or may have moved or left. The current work environment can tend to reduce teamwork and freedom. Many who returned were laid off again.

Coming back through an agency is very different from direct employment. Lower pay and benefits. You can be laid off without notice and are not immune to layoff even if working on a critical project. For legal reasons, you are treated differently from direct employees -- for example, not included in staff meetings or celebrations. People's attitude toward you is different.

Career-wise, returning to your old job postpones learning new skills or technology, starting over at another company, or changing careers.

- "You don't want to appear to be only employable by HP."

- "I could've spent that time working my way up in a new company."

- One member joined a doubtful startup at low pay to learn a new technology; the startup failed but his practical experience in the new technology helped him get a better job than his last HP job.

Many took the long view and used what they learned at HP to move on. Comments from members:

- "Learn new technologies and remember HP as kind of like college -- it was fun while it lasted."

- "I now get to spend more of my time doing the part of the work that I love."

- "Found out I was grossly underpaid."

- "I wish I had recognized much earlier the futility of my job and what it was doing to me. On the way home after an exhausting day at HP, I bought groceries. I realized that the guy bagging groceries at the store had done more for civilization that day than I had."

 -"Having HP on my resume helps to open doors with other firms."

- "I wish I would have known that I had greater skills at adapting to my life after HP, resilience in dealing with the transition, and competencies that were valued by others."

- "In retrospect being WFR'd was a blessing. It forced me to get out, rethink who I am and what is important. I certainly would not have started my own business without the shove."

- "You will find others who left HP have started their own little companies and may want your help in making it work. There you'll find the companionship you thought you'd miss, the dreams you thought you'd dropped, and the enthusiasm you thought you left back in your youth."

(Updated Feb 11, 2017)


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