In the News, Reviews

Layoffs Hit Thousands at IBM and Agilent: Why is High Tech Getting Hit so Hard?

Within the past 24 hours the tech world has taken another hit in terms of job layoffs. Between two well known companies, IBM and Agilent, there will be more than 7,700 employees laid off. According to BNET, layoffs in January and February [in high tech were] almost quadruple those in the full first quarter of 2008 and far in excess of the portion of the economy that the sector represents.

On Wednesday, IBM announced that they would be cutting an additional 5,000 jobs. This represents about 4% of IBM’s U.S. workforce, which totaled 115,000 at the end of 2008. IBM has about 400,000 employees worldwide.

And today Agilent announced that they would be cutting 2,700 hundred jobs which accounts for 14% of their workforce.

Glassdoor Report: Agilent & IBM Ratings
Company Company Rating CEO Name CEO Rating
Agilent 3.5 Bill Sullivan 54%
IBM 3.2 Samuel J. Palmisano 42%

BNET reporter Eric Sherman has drawn three conclusions as to why the high tech industry has been more significantly hit than other industries:

  1. High tech companies are over-reacting.
  2. The industry is being hit particularly hard by the slowdown.
  3. Tech companies had over-hired and are using the recession as an excuse to purge.

Is this reporter right? Below are a few comments from employees at Agilent and IBM that talk about the state of the economy and layoffs – why do you think the high tech industry is feeling the burn more than others?

“When times are good, we have keggers; when times are bad, management bends over backwards to keep from having to make layoffs.” – Agilent Research Scientist (Santa Clara, CA)

“They’d [Senior Management] rather whine about their jobs than simply pack up and go. The senior management subconsciously acknowledges this and seems to exploit this by down-sizing the employee benefit package (salary and health plan) all in the names of “reacting to this turbulent economy” knowing the employees would have no other place to go anyway.” – Agilent Engineer (Santa Rosa, CA)

In advice to senior management an IBM Senior Program Manager (Somers, NY) writes:”If America goes totally in the toilet, then you’ll end up having to move the IBM HQ (and your families) overseas — so please, get with the program and stop propping up the stock price on the shoulders of thousands of laid off American (IBM) workers.”

“Layoffs are kept as secret as possible and happen quarterly. Actually the IBM management style is mostly secretive. Metrics change. What was good last year is bad this year. You never know where you stand. You may get a bonus ‘variable pay’ or get laid off.” – IBM Advisory Software Engineer (Rochester, MN)

“The CEO describes layoffs as ‘business as usual’.” – IBM Staff Software Engineer