HP to cancel telecommuting for its IT division

In a move that stunned its IT workforce and the public, HP’s new CIO announced it will eliminate telecommuting for most of its IT folks. They’ll be forced to come to work at some 25 offices in various locations around the world. If they don’t, they’ll be out of a job without severance pay. Due to its previous policy of encouraging telecommuting, HP now has employees spread as far apart as the East coast when the job is on the West coast. If such employees want to keep their jobs, they’ll have to uproot their lives and families, which is just plain silly.

As a past IT Director with change management experience, I can say the following:

  • 180-degree turns are traumatic, and don’t turn out well. This is one such change, and it will be messy and painful. It will alienate a lot of bright folks. From a management standpoint, it’s not right. Change is best done gradually, and by co-opting people.
  • Making the bright people come into the office in order to straighten out the poor performers, as HP’s CIO hints, is yet another silly decision. Yes, I can tell you certain IT personnel should be on-site, but not everyone needs to be there. If HP’s IT workforce is peppered with poor employees, this is a recruitment/management issue, not a telecommuting issue. The decision is a non sequitur. If your tire is flat, plugging the exhaust pipe won’t solve the problem. Seems to me a much better solution would be to pair up the poor performers with good performers who live in the same area, and have them work together on issues, whether it’s at someone’s home or my IM/phone. Training would also be another solution.

Overall, I think this is a pretty rude change in policy, and not well thought out. It was done namely for the sake of shaking things up, not because a specific goal needed to be accomplished.


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