Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

No to YESS — Yahoo Employee Satisfaction Survey Shows Morale Morass

It should probably come as no surprise to the board and top managers of Yahoo that the just-released annual poll of its workers — called the Yahoo Employee Satisfaction Survey — paints a picture of a deeply demoralized workplace.

Apparently, Yahoos can’t get no satisfaction.

The YESS questions went out to employees the week that the company fired CEO Carol Bartz, with most of the responses gathered in the ensuing weeks.

One major drop — not much of a shockeroo — was the employee assessment of senior leadership, under the question of whether “Yahoo is an effectively managed well-run organization.” That dropped 11 percent from last year.

Also troubling, according to numerous sources who have recounted the results to me, was that 19 percent of employees said they planned to leave the company within less than a year, in case a better opportunity arises.

(I like to call that the anywhere-but-here question.)

This is a large figure for any tech company for such a survey, which is commonly done throughout the industry. Typically, those numbers are around 10 percent, according to several human resources execs I queried, although Yahoo’s chart noted that the industry benchmark was 14 percent.

In any case, this YESS is Yahoo’s highest percentage of negatives for departure intent in several years.

Worse, it is higher in the product unit, where most of Yahoo’s engineers work and which is key to any technology company’s viability. Intent not to stay is 21 percent in the division.

On the plus side, numbers for manager effectiveness, teamwork and accountability did grow year over year in the product unit.

YESS documents sentiments I have been hearing widely and ever louder anecdotally from a plethora of mid-level managers at the Silicon Valley Internet giant.

Most are worried that they cannot hold onto critical employees as Yahoo is conducting a major strategic review of its businesses, either to sell it or make sweeping changes.

The uncertainty has put its employees on edge and there has been a spike in attrition throughout the company.

And worry. At a recent meeting with its staff, interim CEO Tim Morse was buffeted with questions about the fate of employee stock options and other similar issues.

Despite all the turmoil, Yahoo has surprisingly not yet put an overall new plan into place for retention, although it has given some employees more money and other benefits.

“Can a company collapse from attrition?” one exec joked to me recently.

Yes, it can, which has to be of prime concern to the board of Yahoo, as it seeks to right itself. I cannot stress enough how many talented and committed employees remain at the company, desperately hoping for some effective leadership to finally take hold.

Because for all the swirl of what will happen to the whole company, one truism of technology innovation in Silicon Valley remains, if you want to survive: It’s still all about the talent.

[UPDATE: Here are some more YESS stats, according to sources:

“Yahoo is innovative”: 42 percent agree, 27 percent neutral, 31 percent disagree.

“Yahoo anticipates changing customer needs and wants”: 33 percent agree, 37 percent disagree, five points worse than the previous year.

But here is the hopeful kicker: 79 percent feel proud to say they work for Yahoo.]

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work