Now here’s an employment idea whose time, apparently, has come: recruit retired company employees, put them back to work and don’t pay them.
On Monday, The New York Times reported that one of the oldest technology companies, HP, is trying to lure up to 40,000 of their retirees to work voluntarily as marketers, “good-will ambassadors,” and as sales people in such stores as Circuit City extolling the virtues of HP products. And, they are succeeding.
“The company said participation is the reward. ‘It’s about being part of the HP community and its rich heritage,’ said [chief marketing officer, Michael] Mendenhall. ‘That’s what they get.’”
“Rich heritage”, that is, for HP executives. According to the company’s 2008 proxy statement [pdf] (page 46), the CEO’s current, annual pay package including stocks, options and other benefits is $25,254,000. Executive vice presidents’ annual salaries-plus-benefits range from $3,742,000 to $15,676,000.
Recruiting a 40,000-person freebie workforce compensates nicely for the 30,000 paid employees who have been laid off from HP in the past five years, leaving one to wonder how much the board will increase executive pay for the next fiscal year, in gratitude for finding a way to maintain the company's employee base while eliminating those pesky salaries that plague the bottom line.
Incredibly, retired employees are going along with giving away their knowledge and experience.
“It makes [the retirees] feel good, makes them feel part of it, makes them feel wanted,” said [62-year-old] Mr. [John] Toppel, who spent 31 years at Hewlett-Packard and now is a professor of management at the business school at Santa Clara University.”
At the other end of the age scale, unpaid corporate internships were mostly eliminated a decade or more ago. If high school and college kids with no work experience are entitled to a salary, why is it okay to mine decades of expertise from elders without pay? Dare one call this the ultimate ageism?
The Times story doesn’t say if other companies have jumped on HP’s exploit-the-elders move. If they haven’t, they undoubtedly soon will now that HP had successfully taken the lead. How is it right for a publicly-traded corporation to increase profits with the unpaid labor of old people, and what are those go-along elders thinking?
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Grannie Annie relates a scary tale in Gypsy Cab Ride.]