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HP failed Fortune test on purpose – memo

Bangalore Bill translates HP-speak to English

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Pay no attention to external surveys, HP told its staff yesterday in a fresh memo leaked to The Register. HP wants to emphasize its own internal staff polls, which are closely-monitored by the company to ensure they produce the desired amount of Happy Talk.

The Pink Slip Princess Carly Fiorina is doing her best to spin HP's exclusion from the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work list into something positive. Fiorina is attempting to convince staff that the Fortune snub was part of her fanciful plan to boost morale at HP.

Shortly after our story on HP's precipitous slide down the Fortune rankings appeared, HP went into spin control with a fresh internal memo. The document was penned by an HP staffer and is littered with quotes from Fiorina

"CEO Carly Fiorina addressed HP's absence from the 2004 Fortune Magazine 100 Best Companies to Work For list at the January 14 Senior Leaders Meeting", the memo begins.

"In 2003, shortly after launching the Best Work Environment initiative, HP decided that participating in 2004 Fortune survey would help us know where we stand. 'Clearly, we do want to be on this list. We want our people to feel excited and engaged about who they work for and the environment that we create for them,' Carly told HP's senior leaders. 'We knew, given the timing of the survey, that we probably weren't going to be pleased with the results. But 'facts' are our friends, and we wanted to know what the survey yielded.'"

What HP probably did not know was that consultant Debbe Kennedy would slip up when preparing an assessment of the Fortune study results and let the sucker scramble unprotected across internal HP message boards. Kennedy's work was meant for the top brass but alas, made its way down to the disgruntled plebs as well.

Here's the Official Party Line on how to think about the Fortune results. Read and obey:

"The way to think about the Fortune 100 survey is that we did it to learn. We have learned and now we need to integrate those learnings into our Best Place to Work efforts, as well as our own surveys going forward," we learn.

"Carly went on to say that, ultimately, the best judgment around our success will be what our employees tell us, with the best measure of success being the Voice of the Workforce (VoW) survey. The company considers the data and candid comments that emerge from the VoW survey as an important reflection of employee perspectives and a critical tool for guiding action."

Ah, so it's settled then? VoW is the way to go. Well, not quite.

A man we'll call Bangalore Bill sent word of just how this survey works.

"Your participation in the survey is tracked - it's actually an objective on your performance plan - and the results are widely understood *not* to be anonymous - as they are claimed to be," Bill said. "Consequently, many folks just simply put the "happy" answers on this survey, and check it off. It's not even remotely independent or honest."

Come on, it can't be that bad.

"As you can imagine, this in turn encourages employees not to identify any negative "issues" - lest they be drafted into mock efforts to resolve them.

"Independent, external surveys are always going to turn up the true picture. And I don't expect that picture to change in a year or two; these changes in HP are permanent, and they are matters of policy."

So there you have it. HP failed the Fortune test on purpose so it could refine an in-house study to make sure results improve as planned. Fly safe. ®

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