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The upside to being let go by Nokia (bbc.co.uk)
78 points by sambeau on Jan 31, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 51 comments

A great difference between Nokia and, say, Zynga:

When Nokia killed MeeGo, they let Jolla take the technology and make a new company out of it when they could have easily thwarted it with any number of legal/IP/HR chokeholds. But Nokia looked the other way and let Jolla continue.

When Zynga killed OMGpop (of "Draw Something" fame), the original people wanted to keep OMGpop going, and even offered to buy it back from Zynga. Zynga refused and insisted OMGpop's remains be destroyed.

Good Guy Nokia

See also Valve, Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson, who were let go but allowed to take the tech they were working on to start CastAR:


It's a pity that these situations are notable and not the default.

While I am not sure how well Nokia ran its technology strategy, I completely respect their views on their employees and the society. I think they were one of the earliest companies to think of how to recycle electronic waste created by disused mobile phones.

Also, this article makes me think of the IP stockpile within a company in general. While most companies tries to cash in from their research work, what Nokia has done is to enable the creation of hundreds of startups. I hope more companies emulate such models to help advance the state of the art rather than gather dust in vaults.

It's very difficult to imagine an American company doing this, especially in the face of declining revenue. American corporations have a ways to go when it comes to treating employees like human beings rather than resources.

There are multiple ways to look at this. In one respect, you could say that this generous "easing redundant employes out the door" policy hurts the company and the employees still in place as it diverts money that could be spent keeping the company in business by refining existing products and developing new ones. If the company goes under, everybody is hurt. And if you're not careful, your employees that can help the company the most may try to get laid off in order to fund their side projects.

On the other-hand, morale must be terrible at places like Nokia and Blackberry right now. Programs like this help the company as it creates loyalty and helps keep good employees in place as they know that there will be assistance if they do get laid off. But once again, it could create or hasten a death-spiral. Employees can see that these layoff programs are expensive so they may bail out to get theirs before the money runs out. Tough times. Touch choices.

Well, one of the costs of hiring and having employees is you have to ringfence some money for redundancy payments.

This is a completely predictable expense - a company shouldn't be put out of business by paying redundancy money any more than they should go out of business when the electricity bill comes in or the printer needs a new toner cartridge.

Another way to look at it is seeding the ecosystem to create new markets over the long term. Nokia knows about pivoting. Before they made phones, they made rubber boots!

As European, I have been always put off by the work conditions there.

On the other hand, 6 figures salary is as well a rarity in Euros (in EUR currency countries) for engineers.

EDIT: I should had put more emphasis on "rarity" - lets say almost unimaginable. At least, I have an impression that it is much more common in USA.

Speaking as another European who has always been put off by the usual American conditions, money is not a very big concern to me beyond my (admittedly quite frugal) standard of living. Time is a far, far, far more important resource, and working in the USA seems to include insane hours and constant overtime and few vacations.

Also, I think you don't need that much money in Europe, thanks to things like socialized healthcare.

Also food companies are allowed to do way more dodgy stuff in USA. E.g. M&Ms can't even sell their peanut-butter version in UK because of additives.

Agreed. As you get older too, you start to appreciate how much time is burned by working. It's good to work, just it shouldn't dominate your waking life.

Your forgot to include nightmarish commutes in your list of North American time-vampires.

Well a quick multiplier of 1.35 means $135k in USD yearly for a 6 figure salary. Well that's a rarity even for software developers here in US unless you are pretty darn good. BTW, how much is the average salary paid by american companies in Europe ?

I would say that's middle-of-the road for an experienced engineer in NYC.

Location is everything, I suppose.

My time on earth with the ones I love, is more important than money.

Not really. In many EU countries it is about 3x of average salary.

living costs are much lower though, at least in the parts of the US where 100k are common. besides, what do you count as 'salary'? companies pay into the 401k and the social security, doesn't show up in the salary though. and they pay quite a bit depending on the actual salary.

Me too, except I lived here all my life.

They lost 40% of their revenue in mobile phones in Q2 2013. It is amazing they retained any composure at all after being so thoroughly crushed.

The old Silicon Valley was this way. Hewlett-Packard did a 10% across-the-board pay cut and gave non-executive employees a day off every 2 weeks. If a startup had to cut staff, the people were let go with great references and introduced to investors so they could try their own startups. Even when people had to be let go, management would make sure it helped their careers in the long run... because Silicon Valley was still a world in which the little guy mattered.

The new Valley isn't that way, and that's actually a bit dangerous. I know someone who was let go from a startup, not given investor contact (or even a severance package) and he pretty much destroyed the place.

I can confirm this.

I had several family members work at Intel in the early 80's. I remember the stories about how Intel was known to really take care of their employees, even after they left the company.

I've seen corporations in the U.S. change the locks on doors and not tell employees. The next morning, they'd have security officers escort workers back to their former offices so they could get personal pictures and things. Employees were 'watched' by security to ensure they didn't take anything or turn on a computer. America is a different place. It can be very hostile here.

Terminating an employee can be tough on both sides. I was involved in a situation where we should have had security escort the terminated employee back to his office to get his belongings. This employee was basically let go after multiple warnings about not showing up for work and not calling in. When he was told, he returned to his office and proceeded to smash up some equipment. Lesson learned. I obviously wouldn't want him back in the building and wish security would have been at his office. Tense situation.

But it is tougher when one side expects to be able to get away with anything, and so often sees no downside in acting like total dicks.

I'm from Norway, and I was shocked when I moved to the UK where typical notice periods is only one month. In Norway it is extremely hard to write a contract that will hold up that limits notice periods for full time non-seasonal workers to less than 3 months.

Most of the time people work out a 3 month notice period. And in fact, except in special circumstances, we generally have the right (and duty, if we want to continue to get paid through our notice period) to keep showing up for work and doing our job.

In practice, most people who are offered/asked nicely to stop coming in to work earlier will come to a suitable arrangement, but it is not very common.

Yes, as an employee it would be nice to have a three-month notice. But the downside is that it makes employers hesitant to hire someone in the first place if they know they will be stuck with them for three months. In the situation I described above, the employee in question failed to show up or call in for his very first day of work and gave some poor excuse the next day. And this behavior continued in the following weeks. We had obviously made a mistake in hiring him and I was grateful that our team wasn't stuck with him for three months.

What percentage of employees are total deadbeats like you describe? And what percentage are honest folks who would never do such a thing or even consider destroying their employer's property after being told they will be let go?

When you have a generous policy like this, you have to take the good with the bad. Personally, I feel that there are many, many good, decent folks who will benefit without screwing their employer for every deadbeat who will take gross advantage of the policy. In the case of the guy who smashed up the employer's equipment - what was the loss? $2,000? $5,000? Now what's that compared to the retained goodwill of hundreds or thousands of employees who are laid off over the lifetime of the company but leave with a positive impression because they weren't escorted around like a criminal?

It's a matter of your outlook on society. Do you have trust in the public, or do you target the worst-case scenario? This is the same thing as onerous requirements for getting welfare or unemployment payments. They are focused on the 1% or less who are trying to the game the system. In the process, they are hurting the 99% who just need a hand getting through a tough time. Why optimize for a 1% case?

I'm no human-resource expert, but as far as the policy to escort terminated employees out of the building, I think this is one case where you need to trust the manager of the employee and hope for the best. If the manager knows that the employee is prone to outbursts or seems to have anger issues, it's likely best to do a more restricted process. But if the manager knows the employee well and is otherwise on good-terms it obviously would be better to do the termination without involving the humiliation of a formal security escort. I've seen both processes in the same company.

In the situation I described earlier, perhaps this employee's odd behavior (not showing up the very first day without even a phone call???) was a clue of larger issues that his manager should have heeded and keyed him to call in security when the time came to end his employment.

This completely depends upon the industry, but from my experience in retail, I'd say the percentage of deadbeats / honest folks (when it comes to work ethic) is higher than you might think. At least here in the US.

Well, it's retail. Retail jobs are a dime a dozen. Employees and employers both treat each other as completely expendable. That's why Costco swears by their approach of paying above market rate - it makes sure that their staff actually value their job, because it's not instantly replaceable by walking to the next high-turnover purgatory up the street.

Yeah, there is an establishment north of Houston that is a very common stop on the way from Houston to Dallas. They pay pretty high above market, and from what I can tell, it seems to work. Kinda sad that, by definition, everyone can't do that, although I do wonder if the above market pay just lets you find those who are stuck working retail but are willing to value the job.

" But the downside is that it makes employers hesitant to hire someone in the first place if they know they will be stuck with them for three months."

The 3 month notice period is actually not required by law, but is so widespread that most people assume it is the minimum.

The minimum mandatory notice period depends on how long you have worked there. 0-5 years (1 month), 5-10 years (2 months), 10+ years (3 months).

The notice period specified in the contract do not apply to new hires. When someone is hired they are often put on a "probation period" that can last up to 6 months. In that time you can leave or be fired with a minimum of 2 weeks notice without having to explain why. Usually the contract specifies the maximum probation period (6 months) and a longer notice (1 month).

The probation period is completely optional, but most employers include it in the contract to avoid situations like the one you experienced.

That sounds like a pretty good compromise, but you can imagine that it will still cause permanent employment friction. For example, say you run a small contracting company with a few 3-month probationary employees on staff. You're waiting to hear about the next big job. When that 3-month period gets close and you still haven't got word on the new job, you might be tempted to let them go because if the job doesn't come in, you'll be paying their salaries without the equivalent revenue coming in. That could break your small company. If the job does come in, you'll need to scramble to replace them and push your permanent staff harder, but you'll still be in business. If you weren't bound by a three-month requirement, you might have keep the probationary employees on staff a bit longer waiting for the job to come in.

The real-world isn't this cut-and-dried, but to a lesser extent, these are the tradeoffs that the employer has to make every day.

Most companies specify a 6 month probation period where the contract can be terminated with 1 month notice. That should be enough to plan ahead.

The customary 3 month notice only applies to "permanent" employees, but the company is free to specify a 1 month notice for those employed for less than 5 years if they are not confident.

Norway must be nice. The short notices and general environment in the U.S. (everyone is suspect) really makes American families feel on edge.

And, most Americans are very reasonable. I would never smash-up something that belonged to my employer even if I was upset. That's wrong. Most of us would just like to be treated with respect and dignity and be able to contribute to society and provide for our families and be part of our communities.

I know people at UK companies who were banned from doing any work at all for their employer, or even coming into the office while working out their notice. They called it "gardening leave" and said it was standard practice by their company for all employees, as the company was extremely paranoid about what people might do when made redundant.

>most people who are offered/asked nicely to stop coming in to work earlier will come to a suitable arrangement

What kind of arrangement? Keep all the money but don't come in? I would think three months at a position you are leaving would be kind of awkward.

Why would that be awkward? Your employer gets your expertise in training your replacement and you get enough time to find a new job; this seems rather sensible to me.

"....proceeded to smash up some equipment."

"..I obviously wouldn't want him back in the building"

I am sure he won't be back (at least for a while) because he will most likely be in prison for sometime. He was an outlier. For the most part though, people are reasonable and just want to be treated with decency when getting laid-off/fired.

Yes, he was an outlier. Most people will not behave this way and will act reasonably. But of course, the problem is determining which people will fly off the handle in stressful situations. I never would have guessed that this guy would turn violent. And if he would have struck and injured someone else things could have been much worse. The company would have likely been held responsible for not having security around. So most companies go the "better safe than sorry" route during termination.

Nokia has been a special place to work. I have loved working here and learned so much as the company invested so much in me and in others.

But the market doesn't reward companies for doing the right thing for its employees. It rewards companies for making products that people wanted to buy. And we failed to do that (mainly because we made catastrophically wrong choices in which operating systems to get behind).

It is a shame. As someone staying behind in what is now "New Nokia" I can only hope the company remains a special place to work.

EDIT: by "we" I mean "our leadership". I don't think many of the Nokia rank-and-file would have supported the 2011 decision to do Windows Phone and only Windows Phone (if anyone would have asked them).

Good PR for Nokia, it was a lovely company but I don't see how they are still relevant in this time of Android and iOS.

The Windows phone, while not terrible, is completely eclipsed by the forerunners which have cornered the smartphone and tablet markets, using experience to guide them.

Windows mobile seems to still operate under the illusion that they can dictate how you use your phone, which would work, if they'd been as ubiquitous as iOS has become.

With the sale of the phone business to MS, Nokia is pivoting to mapping and connected cars: http://conversations.nokia.com/2012/09/28/top-auto-brands-tu...

Nokia bought Navteq for ~$8 billion a few years back. They're the only source for mapping data that is comparable to Google.

A recruiter from Nokia contacted me about a Android developer job. I'm not sure if this was the Microsoft Nokia or the other Nokia.

Nokia was on the decline even as early as 2005. The iPhone just exacerbated things. The enterprise division, primarily based in the US was not treated as well as the programs in this article. Many in the enterprise division based in Finland were folded into other groups, which was good.

Also the reorganization under Elop wasn't all warm and fuzzy either, from what friends in Finland told me. Recall the protest over the Windows Phone decision.

I liked Nokia, left on my own, but this warm fuzzy, not always the case. The fact that many started their own companies, etc, is a great thing to learn though.

Things could have been so different for Nokia if it had gone with Android instead of WP. There would also be a lot better designed Android phones.

One question I have for European companies with branches in America: do the US arm of these companies have similarly good benefits for their US employees or do they revert to the norm for American companies?

to read this article right after reading http://i.imgur.com/huUv09m.png (the Zynga today's articles on HN) was intriguing.

One benefit of this is Nokia could potentially acquire the successful ventures - once Microsoft is out of the picture and they're allowed to return to the smartphone business.

I like the Lumias, I would buy one with Android.

The upside to being let go by Nokia is not having to work for Nokia any longer.

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