Boris Epstein of BINC, a professional headhunter service, blogged about some of the troubling thoughts from former Yahooligans who left the company in the past few months. The upcoming merger with Microsoft is only hemorrhaging employee morale even more. Check out the original blog entry listing the top nine reasons why talent is being lost out the front door of Yahoo.
Sadly, to my relief, I found many commonalities between the statements provided by former Yahoo employees, and my experience at AOL:
- Corporate Mergers — The upcoming merger between MSFT and YHOO has many similar characteristics to
TimeWarner’s acquisition ofAOL’s acquisition of TimeWarner in years past. A lot of discontent over the closed-source mentality of Microsoft, as well as the typical anti-Microsoft stigma floating around. This is akin to when a media empire (TWX) aquired AOL, a lot of folks uttered, “Oh, crap,” since historically TWX hasn’t embraced technology and new media like AOL on its own has. In any case, it was Steve Case’s downfall as he left the company.
- Product Parity — YHOO is lacking two years behind the competition. I can tell you that AOL is at least four years behind. Innovation is not key to AOL’s success, at least the way the executives see it. Employees aren’t proud of their products because of this and the to-do lists are a mile long to catch up.
- Bureaucracy/Politics — YHOO has a lot of upper management with their own agendas in gate keeping or green-lighting ideas. When everyone in upper management has unique agendas, then it’s no surprise that there’s interference between innovation and execution. AOL was historic for this especially when it came to consumer focus and advertiser focus. I shouldn’t have to tell you who wins in the board room.
- Job Stability/Security — Much like AOL and many others in the technology industry, everyone’s lives rest on thin ice. Yahoo is on the verge of a 1000-person layoff, in the same fashion as AOL’s decimation (on the order of 2000+ at a time). The question on current employees’ minds is not what will we make this quarter — rather, will I be able to bring home the bacon?
- Strict/Defined Roles — Employees now have clearly defined roles, specific authority in decisions, and structure. Tenured employees don’t like that. They like to do multiple things and not worry about interoffice politics. I can say at AOL, it’s the same, too. The question employees there ask before doing something, “Do I want to do this forever without being compensated/acknowledged for it?” Having a variety of responsibilities and interests is key to averting this issue.
- Lost Vision/No Identity — When YHOO didn’t have to chase after Google, they had a goal, they had a vision, they had a plan. They also had an identity. Now after becoming so large, they lost their identity (and likely their virtues driving their growth). Much the same with AOL. I can say that since the collapse of Member Services (V. Ferrari , J. Redling, S. Falconer) AOL became desparate for new users, they scrapped anything that was worth something to users in favor of monetized goods. It’s only a matter of time until AOL renames itself from AOL LLC to Platform-A.
- Stock Instability — For employees who invest in the company, their stock is completely unstable with every new rumor or tech gossip on the MSFT merger. To me, this shows the brand is unstable and Microsoft is only a risk — not an asset to your shareholders. Let me see what my shares of TWX are at… nice, a whopping $14.39. Thanks, TWX.
- Corrupt Management/Middle Management — YHOO grew to the point of employing managers of managers of managers of managers. This model is very weak, since all the management is only good as the weakest, poorest, low performing manager. AOL is much the same in this aspect. Instead of being a horizontally aligned company, its numerous (often infinite) end of vertical-cascading managers is mind boggling. Managers often drive their own agenda, too, outside of the scope of the company.
- Long Work Hours — This is the only aspect that is opposite of AOL. It is expected that YHOO employees work nights and weekends to accomplish projects. At AOL, it wouldn’t be uncommon to see the parking garage half-empty at 2PM while projects linger with no communication. I’m all for flexibility… if you’re a night person, work at night, a morning person — work in the day, but just get the work done.
There you have it. 8/9 similarities between Yahoo and AOL in their employee problems. The problem is not the stock holders, it’s the executives. They don’t budget in time to remedy employee’s concerns, nor do they even care. Employee surveys are useless, unless you share the results and drive change. I don’t know how many minutes I lost filling those out (and including paragraphs on paragraphs on how to fix the problems that existed)… all to hear silence from upper management. Here is the bottom line:
Take care of your employees,
they will take care of your customers; conversely,
your customers will take care of you.
Thanks, Boris, for sharing this info about Yahoo. I hope they will foster some change and keep talent in the door.