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So… more on the changes…

Well, I did say there was more to the story. There is, but not a huge amount. Truth is, I wrote up yesterday’s entry yesterday morning, got busy and ended up letting in languish until yesterday evening… today I’ve just been really busy but I’ve finally gotten around to typing something up.

Anyway, the Wednesday morning (last Wednesday), a colleague of mine swung by my desk. He looked at me with a grin on his face and said, “So, I heard you took my job.” I stared at him for a moment before I realized that he was referring to the Charter job. Yes, apparently the other person who interviewed for the same job also works at Citi… in the same department I work in. Now, there’s an irony.

But is it really ironic? I mean, given all the stuff that’s been going at Citi of late, is it odd that two people from the same department are interviewing for the same job on the same day? I think this is a result of the policies at Citi currently leading to an inevitable attrition of resources.

Anyway, we had a few laughs about it, and though I apologized for getting the job instead of him, I also felt good about it. Selfish of me, but now I have a job that I feel has a good future ahead of it. My colleague will look elsewhere… obviously just in case any of the management get wind of my blog I’m not saying who it was.

So anyway, last Friday we had a web conference with one of our senior managers. He basically confirmed something I had feared; that the company is actually intending to lose people by attrition. Senior Citicorp management have specified that a certain percentage of internal resources must be contract staff. We’re still a little short of that percentage, and though the comment was sort of buried in the web conference it was quite obvious; the management is aware of the current attrition and in fact is going to do nothing about it until they get closer to their magic number of contractors.

Now, this is where I start to have problems with what they’re doing. First of all, there’s the human element:

People are just that; humans with lives, feelings, hopes and dreams. Many of my colleagues for some time (and myself) have wrapped many of their hopes and dreams within the structure they’ve built at Citi. To suddenly be told that we have gone from being an “employee” to becoming a “resource”, and now we’re being treated essentially as numbers. This hurts, it causes bad feeling and causes the employee to act in a way that may be contrary to the good of the company. I can’t even pretend that I think this is a good idea; people are our most precious resource as a corporation and to alienate and isolate that resource is a fundamental error.

The second problem I have is with the whole concept of attrition. Quite simply, when you start to deliberately cause attrition either by action or inaction, then the first people you lose are inevitably those with the most marketable skills; in other words the first out the door are usually the most valuable. Often times, these people are the highest paid, but that is not necessarily the case.

A corporation like Citi tries to get away with paying the least amount possible for its employees. That’s actually good business sense, but then when you know you “low-ball” the employees you need to provide them perks above and beyond just the paycheck. That is often something like lots of vacation time (X), good working environment ( ), good bonus scheme ( ), predictable pay increases ( ), clear career path that is flexible and attainable ( ), and recognition of a job well done ( ). Hmm, my checklist seems to be missing a few checks.

The biggest problem with that checklist is that we had them all up until recently. The only perk we have left is a standard 4 weeks of vacation. That’s a nice perk, but it doesn’t make up for the standard for engineering staff being at least 10%-15% below market value for this area. 4 weeks of vacation is only a good thing also if you get to take it. This year so far I’ve scheduled 1.5 weeks of vacation, and taken less than 1 week. My vacation has in fact been canceled by the company because of projects that were so messed up that they couldn’t find anyone else to do the work that needed to be done.

Another beef with Citi, and one which to be honest was only a relatively minor issue until relatively recently was the lack of a clear career path. Now, my feeling is a good career path should contain clear career path for those employees who are technically excellent, but don’t wish to be managers. Until recently, I felt that the best way to move on in my career was to become a manager… so I pushed to become a team lead as a starting point. This provided me no pay increase, or even allow me to move up a pay scale but did allow me a taste of management. What did I discover? That while I can manage people, I am far happier as a technical person.

So then I looked at the career path for technical people. It appeared I had reached a plateau. Citi provides no career path beyond where I already was for those who wish to remain technical. If you’re already high up in your pay scale, then you’ll reach the top and stay there unless you move into management. What the hell is that crap? No offense meant to any managers out there, but I’d much sooner pay good money for good technical people than for managers. Sure, managers work hard too… but the job of a manager is to facilitate the work of the employees, and that teamwork makes the team itself look good. Where is the impetus for the employee to work hard if they know there’s no chance of a pay raise unless they want to get into management? That creates an environment where everyone is jockeying for management positions, and actually eventually leads to an environment like we have right now at Citi where there are almost more managers than there are employees. This is an untenable position, and one that is going to push Citi over the edge into a very painful position.

More happened in the aftermath. I heard more details about the upcoming NAIT goals; they’re creating a new IT organization and while St. Louis will be one of the major hubs, they won’t say how many (if any) of the existing people they’re going to retain. My odds of a position in NAIT were very favorable, but I decided to continue my goals to move on to pastures new. Realistically, it’s going to be months before the dust settles on this one… maybe if there’s a position available in the future I’ll at least negotiate. For now though, I have to do what’s right for me and my family.

Sorry for the rant here, but as usual… it’s the way I see it 🙂

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