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What the Yahoo are they thinking!?

As many of you may be aware, last week Yahoo issued a memo to its employees that has indicated it is essentially revoking all of its work at home arrangements (privileges) it previously allowed for its employees. The memo was issued by Yahoo’s head of HR and also signed by CEO Marissa Mayer. In it, Jackie Reses, Executive vice-president people and development at Yahoo, outlined the new policy:

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side by side.” “That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

My first reaction to this, like many folks online and worldwide, was that it was a short sighted, bone-headed move. Initially I thought this really boils down to a lack of trust by the Sr. Leadership team and its employees. I felt, that at its core, Yahoo has a culture issue whereby they do not trust its employees. The old adage of out of sight, out of mind must be prevalent hence the knee jerk reaction to stop work at home arrangements. I mean, everywhere you look and read you hear of these success stories of the productivity levels (being high) of work at home employees, and how in the proverbial “war for talent” (I hate that expression) it is a great way to attract and retain employees. I further had a problem with this type of approach because to me if you have a solid performance management system, than at the end of the day, it is all about results. What does it matter if the results are obtained while working at home or in an office? I mean, let’s be real, many companies have employees that “work” in the office….but don’t really do any work. Their productivity is poor but due to the absence of an effective performance management systems and/or poor management in general, they get away with this lack of productivity. However, because they don’t work at home, there is not the same spotlight on them as there is on someone who works at home.

220px-Marissa_Mayer_at_TechCrunch_2012_II_(crop)My personal experience, both with staff I have led and even with my managers in the past, is that work at home employees, whether as a full time arrangement or as a when needed arrangement, tend to deliver results. They go flat out and typically work more than required as I often feel that they have a constant sense of wanting to “prove” that the work at home arrangement is valuable and delivers results (not that having that feeling is right either.) However, that is just my personal experience and having never been a CEO of a company, I don’t feel qualified to state that abolishing work at home arrangements is a foolish move as a generalized approach.

So, as I indicated earlier, my initial reaction as an HR Pro and Manager is that this was not going to be a great move. What we don’t know is what other communication took place between Mayer and the employees? In other words, was this pending change communicated in town hall meetings, conference calls, etc? BEFORE a memo was issued? Was the rationale and anticipated results/business objective communicated and understood by the employees? To me, those are all elements that can help explain the decision and obtain employee buy in. As Reses indicated, Yahoo “need(s) to be one Yahoo! and that starts with physically being together.” My only question to them is WHY do you feel you will accomplish the organizational goals this way and what is the end result Yahoo! is hoping to obtain?

Over the last 24 hours as I have digested more of this story, I think, as with all things, there are two sides to the story. So assuming that Mayer, as a competent CEO (and ex-HR Leader) has an operational end goal in mind, maybe this isn’t such a bad thing for Yahoo. I would speculate that in order to realize the revenue and profit targets required to move Yahoo forward (and prevent Google from further handing it its lunch) she has determined with her team that having the Yahoo employees physically together is the right move. Mayer obviously feels that the interpersonal communication and collaboration, along with the ability for managers and the Senior Team to have more “live” interactions and observations with their employees is the way to move the dial forward. Perhaps her vision is to re-define, or define a (fractured) culture of Yahoo and revive its employment brand? As CEO, perhaps Mayer is trying to revive a culture of innovation and she feels the company and ALL of its employees is best served by having them under one roof?

The key to success with this change will be communication. Yahoo will need to keep the channels of communication open with its employees. Perhaps this change isn’t a long term thing for them? Maybe after certain key goals are met, this will be re-visited? Again, communicating this vision to its staff will be the key to success. My last thought on this is that as CEO, Mayer is trying to ensure the viability of her company (i.e. keep jobs) and she feels this is best way to do this. Keep in mind, she is the CEO and this is her decision (what she gets paid to do) and at the end of the day, I would suggest that this really isn’t about taking away work from home privileges, it is about keeping jobs and growing a company.

Photo courtesy of Paul Zimmerman & Getty Images/Wikipedia

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One Response

  1. […] of your head now).  Or perhaps those are the words of Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo?  Last week I blogged about the Yahoo decision to revoke work at home arrangements and bring everyone back together under the same roof at […]

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