Conflicting employee surveys

By eweek  |  Posted 2002-03-25 Print this article Print

Conflicting employee surveys Employee surveys played an important role in the proxy battle waged by Hewlett, son of a founding HP partner, who has published three surveys conducted by his consultants showing that employees at three U.S. facilities were overwhelmingly against the deal. HP conducted its own internal surveys gauging reactions from employees at all its global facilities, using third-party software. The surveys delivered opposite results.
Still, an informal poll, conducted on the companys internal network, that was functional from November through last month showed that a majority of the people responding to that poll were not that "confident" about the future of HP after hearing Fiorinas fourth-quarter message in which she talked at length about the deal.
An HP official discounted the poll as unscientific. While Fiorina acknowledged the proxy fight deeply divided HP, she said she hopes opponents will quickly move past the battle and focus on the challenges of building a bigger and more profitable company. "I am hopeful that, having gone through this contest, we can now put this contest behind us and find common ground and move on," Fiorina said. It could be several weeks before the official tally is in. IVS Associates Inc., of Newark, Del., must review the votes submitted before making a final ruling. But based on a preliminary review of the proxy votes, Fiorina said she is ready to move forward in merging the two companies. "We, of course, acknowledged that this is not yet an official vote," Fiorina said, "but we do think we have sufficient votes to pass the merger." Hewlett contended that HPs "razor thin" vote lead might not hold up and that the race is "too close to call." "In a proxy contest this close, where stockholders are changing their votes right up to the closing of the polls, it is simply impossible to determine the outcome at this time," Hewlett said at a separate news conference after Fiorina spoke. But as much as Fiorina admitted that there is work to be done with employees, she said much of her attention—which, until this point, has been spent lobbying investors in support of the deal—will be turned to customers, many of whom said in the weeks prior to the vote that they had little idea of what the new company will look like or what will happen to their investments in HP and Compaq technology. "Were going to watch this shake out to see what it all means. We want to know, What are the new rules going to be, how are they going to be producing PCs, what will the support be like?" said Marshal Fernholz, procurement manager for the American Medical Association, in Chicago, which relies mostly on Compaq hardware. "In the meantime, well certainly be looking at alternatives in case we have to go with a Plan B." While Fiorina said she is still bound by legal restrictions on what she can disclose, she outlined three areas of customer concern HP will address once the purchase is finalized. First, the company will unveil road maps to show what HP and Compaq products will be retained or discontinued. Second, HP will name account representatives who will serve established customers. Third, it will detail new ways of interacting with HP representatives, such as through newly integrated Web sites or representatives using phones. Fiorina—who will be CEO of the merged company, with Compaq Chairman and CEO Michael Capellas serving as president—said she has "extremely high confidence" that the melding of HP and Compaq will proceed smoothly, with little, if any, negative impact on customers. "We are making decisions based on whats best and what works," Fiorina told shareholders. In declaring victory, though early, in her bid to build HP into the worlds second-largest computer company behind IBM, Fiorina said stockholders have come to share her view that the company needs to make a bold move to remain competitive. But one former HP employee bemoaned the coming changes and worried that other companies will follow suit, resulting in the disintegration of companies that previously focused more on technological innovations rather than profits. "It happened to DEC [Digital Equipment Corp., bought by Compaq], a great technology company. Its about to happen to HP. Whos next?" said Ted Laliotis, who retired from HP last year after 20 years with the company. "Im concerned more about what happens to companies like HP that made the Silicon Valley and the high-tech industry what it is today." Additional reporting by Michael R. Zimmerman Related stories:
  • Compaq Shareholders Approve HP Deal
  • HP Says Merger Approved; Hewlett Disagrees
  • Combining Services Efforts a Formidable Task
  • Commentary: HP Soap Opera Nears Close
  • The Urge to Merge
  • HP Printer Biz Hungry for Deal
  • Fiorina Responds to Compensation Charges
  • Hewlett: Fiorina Gone If Merger Fails


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