Back in 2010, I spent considerable time trying to figure out just how many job cuts Hewlett-Packard had announced over the past decade. The company, when I asked, claimed not to know. So I went digging through securities filings.
The company doesn’t make it easy, because there have been so many rounds, and the layoffs can take months or years to occur. When they do, the number is usually different that what was announced. On top of that, HP was on a massive acquisition binge that was tripling its overall headcount. And even as it was cutting companies in one area, it also might be hiring in others.
But eventually, I came up with a figure:
That number did not include a round of 8,600 cuts it was in the middle of executing. And just a couple of months later, then-CEO Mark Hurd announced 9,000 more cuts. As I wrote in a follow-up column: HP’s greatest product seemed to be the export of former HP employees.
Those rounds would put the number of announced job cuts at 93,105. Imagine, the company was surprised that morale was low when it parted ways with Hurd in 2010.
For a brief moment, his replacement, Leo Apotheker seemed to promise a respite. He promised to invest! Give raises! Focus on innovation! Even the board, which had approved the strategy that endorsed these cuts, suddenly embraced the need to invest, worrying that Hurd had cut too deeply. Uh, yeah.
Of course, Apotheker was gone in less than a year. Enter former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. After growing rusty in the basement, it sounds like she’s dragged out the HP layoff machine, gassed it up, and is apparently going to cut loose on Wednesday. Vroooom!
That is simply astonishing. It’s not like HP was spiraling into bankruptcy, or heck, even unprofitable.
Yes, we’ve grown numb to layoff announcements. It’s become a common tool for any CEO that lacks ideas to wield when times are tough. And yet, where exactly has it gotten HP? Nowhere. And don’t forget, the amount the company has spent in severance goes into the billions of dollars.
If these announcements come to pass next Wednesday, consider it the surest sign that HP is lost with no chance of finding its way out.