Inside Telcordia's Discord

Around late fall 2003, Telcordia Technologies Inc. was snapping up companies in response to competitive pressure and hearing from analysts that its brand was not nearly as dominant in the marketplace as its products (see OSS M&A Bug Spreads and Report: OSS Brands Lack Impact).

But another phenomenon was also occurring: Telcordia's employees, according to our sources at the company, have a bleaker view of their company than do their counterparts at Telcordia's parent, Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC). According to an internal survey of Telcordia and SAIC employees, Telcordia employees aren't as trusting of the company's senior management, nor are they as enthusiastic about Telcordia's future.

Throughout the survey, two interesting points emerge. First, while many Telcordia employees are fine with their immediate supervisors, far fewer appear to trust the company's senior management. Second, the company appears to have some morale issues, as brought out by questions regarding Telcordia's future, leadership, benefits, and job contentment.

Here are some items gleaned from the survey, as gathered by Light Reading from reliable sources close to Telcordia (and touched upon in this week's Headcount: Morale Fatale):

Table 1: Selections from a Telcordia/SAIC Employee Survey, 2003
Survey Statement Percent of Telcordia Respondents That Agree Percent of SAIC Respondents That Agree
I am extremely satisfied with Telcordia as a place to work. 31 82
I rarely think about looking for a new job with another company. 28 62
I trust the leadership (senior management) of Telcordia. 26 67
My immediate manager or supervisor is an outstanding leader. 57 68
I believe Telcordia has an outstanding future. 24 87
The leadership of Telcordia has communicated a vision of the future that motivates me. 26 57
My immediate manager or supervisor listens to me. 74 78
Our senior leadership demonstrates that they are active role models for the Telcordia values. 32 65
I believe Telcordia maintains high ethical standards on all levels. 54 79
The benefit programs at Telcordia are competitive. 23 68

Sources at Telcordia say morale is a constant problem, as management publicly addressed Telcordia's fate as a standalone company only after the news media had chewed up and spat out the story (see SAIC May Sell Telcordia, Source: Telcordia Sends Out Feelers, Whither Telcordia?, and Telcordia: Let's Split).

Aneil Mishra, associate professor at Wake Forest University's Babcock Graduate School of Management, says components of trust -- reliability, openness, competence, and concern -- can come under fire when a company is going through tough or uncertain economic times, and that can dampen morale.

That's not an excuse, however, for management to practice centralized decision making while keeping employees in the dark. "If you're not totally transparent to employees in this age, you're being idiotic," Mishra says.

What we don't know is whether the Telcordia folk taking the survey had any inkling that Telcordia was up for sale when the survey was processed. That might have some bearing on the results. Also, it is unknown how often Telcordia takes such surveys or how much weight it gives them -- which could be another key factor in reading the tea leaves.

In any case, it may be hard for the company to rebuild trust in a time of crisis or uncertainty. "A lot of this is common sense, but it's not common practice," Mishra says.

Why does employee morale matter at all? Because the hard costs associated with flagging employee morale aren't trivial. The rate of unscheduled absenteeism is 17 percent higher at companies with "Poor/Fair" morale than at those with "Good/Very Good" morale, according to CCH Inc., which surveyed 436 human resource executives in U.S. companies in several major industries last year. During 2003, last minute no-shows at work cost employers $645 a year per employee, CCH says.

Telcordia and SAIC did not respond to requests for comment.

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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