Thread regarding Cognizant layoffs

Immediate Changes are Required at Cognizant

Hello All - I have been working in Cognizant for the last 18k years and I feel I should put forward a few eye-witnessed incidents, facts, perceptions and decisions taken by the leadership which has made the company change it’s character over the years. I feel this change in character has led to all the pressure we see today on the company along with insecurity among the employees, where no one knows what will happen next.

I am writing this article under disguise as even after giving 15 years of dedicated and loyal service to the company, I am very afraid under the current circumstances. I feel the company is not going in the right direction. In an industry in which the turnover rate is very high and at times even boils down to months, I feel providing 15 continuous years of service earns me the right to share a few things about “my company”, about what I feel it is doing right and what it is doing wrong. I admit whatever I am today is because of Cognizant and I feel the same way for “my company” as I feel for my mother or my country.

I know there is an old saying that you should not bring out the issues from your home into the market, and Cognizant is my home. But there should be someone at home who should listen and address the issues otherwise people generally go to someone outside the home who can solve the issues, like the police or the court. But now within Cognizant, no one listens. Some people act like they are the decision makers within the company, they are also the police, court and judge. In simple terms “EITHER THEIR WAY OR HIGH WAY”.

The reason I say that no one listens is because, I have tried myself to reach out to the very senior management to share few of my concerns, but even after follow-up didn’t get any response. As I failed to reach the senior management in an official way, I sincerely hope someone reading this would be able to forward a link of this post to the people within Cognizant who really want to know the ground level realities and take some decisions which can bring the company out of the doomsday that it is heading towards.

Now enough of theatrics and let me get down to the issues pointwise.

  1. Hiring based on pipeline with no backup plan: Whenever Cognizant bids for any project, the market team and at times the vertical teams would start putting pressure on the delivery team to start lining up resources. So the delivery team reaches out to the work force management team for lining up resources and more often than not hear the answer that there are no available resources on the bench. So the obvious option left is to go out into the market and hire people. Now what happens to the resources recruited from the market if Cognizant doesn’t win the deal? They move to bench, which is kind of unfair for someone who has recently joined the company. This is an area I believe where all the companies in the IT Service industry have issues with. Unless someone can come up with an innovative solution for this problem, the companies belonging to this industry will always have to fire people every few years. In a different perspective it is the greed to grow and the tendency to bid for each and every opportunity available in the market without checking the internal ability to deliver and availability of proper resources that has led to this situation.

  2. Plan for a particular resource pyramid and deliver with a much higher pyramid: Like for example during the bidding stage for acquiring a project, a plan is made to deliver the project with let’s say 5 senior level people and 15 junior level people to attain a particular percentage of profitability. But when the project starts more than 90% of the time the pyramid is not maintained, the project gets delivered with 10 senior level people and 10 junior level people, thus eating into the profitability. But this is not the end, one year down the line after the delivery starts senior level people wake up and take notice of this and try to optimize by releasing the senior level resources and brining in freshers, leading to delivery issues. The standard dialogue of senior management is “we don’t want delivery issues, but at the same time want resource optimization to happen to increase the profitability”. It all falls on the delivery manager to maintain a fine balance between giving back big profits to the company and at the same time not create any delivery issues. The delivery manager has to have some sort of magical powers to achieve this kind of ideal situation. I have so far seen no delivery manager who is a magician.

  3. Hiring at very senior levels from other companies: More often than not people from very senior management level are hired from other companies and made to sit at department head level. Obviously they come in with their own experience and achievements from the other companies and immediately try to implement their own process and procedures to showcase their worth to their bosses. This results in dissatisfaction among the lower levels. These people do not understand the ground level realities and also do not understand the technicalities, all they understand is implementation of the process which worked in their previous company. Who would make them understand that what worked in their previous company might not work here, as every company is fundamentally different? Anybody who has the courage to walk up to him and explain this, is sure to get a mouthful from him and is also sure to face his wrath going forward. These people are given supreme power as department head, without mentioning the big egos they come with.

  4. The external army that comes along with the senior level people: More often than not, when a senior level person is hired from another company, they also slowly bring in their followers and yes-man’s from his previous company. The reason behind this is something which we have been reading in history for years. When a new king is made he plants spies in different places so that the king can get information of anything that is going on behind him. I feel the reason is same here. More often than not these loyal followers are also hired at some senior level as a reward for being loyal to the king over the past years. But the problem starts when these loyal followers try bossing over the loyal employees of the company. Obviously this doesn’t go well and more often than not results in dissatisfaction among the employees.

  5. Now obviously I am not against hiring senior level people within a company, as I truly believe heterogeneous culture needs to be built with the genes of a company for achieving greatness. But the problem is no loyal employee or a loyal person would want someone hired and made to sit on his head overnight who has no idea about the DNA of the company. Hire high level executives and induct them into the system, make them understand DNA of a company, evaluate their progress and then give them responsibility and targets. Also don’t allow them to bring in their own army instead groom internal talent so that there is an ideal mix of external and internal culture in the department.

(continues as #6 in comments)

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The senior management knows all of this. They are not dumb. This kind of thing is going on at almost every major corporation right now.

There are major changes going on in the nation and world. You have been fast asleep and thus are ignorant of this fact. So you assume these execs are just stupid, when in fact they see a big picture that you are clueless about.

All you need to do is go to "Latest Posts" and you will find one after another posts saying much the same things you have said, about numerous companies. It is not a coincidence, it is a coordinated change taking place.

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  1. Egos are more important than good work: I hate to say this, but this is truth as I have faced this multiple times. You are doing good work and delivering good for the company, but if it hurts the ego of a senior level person, you will be sidelined. It is no different than a government office where you will be transferred to an unimportant post if you hurt the ego of political leader. There will be no discussion, just an organizational change and you will be shifted. At the end of the day they do not realize the looser is going to be the company.

  2. For every couple of workers there are at least 4 brokers: These brokers come in all shapes, sizes and across locations and available especially at onsite. Their only work is to take the work done from the people on the ground showcase it to the client or internal management in a way as if without them this work would not have been possible or they have personally done this work. They do not care about their teams on the ground, they are only concerned about their personal year-end appraisals and how much bonus they can earn. As more often than not, these brokers are mid-level management or at least manager level people, the workers on the ground feel afraid to take them on and bring the truth in front of the world. These brokers call themselves project leads or delivery managers and can be seen across all types of projects. Not only they try to gain recognition for work which they have not done, they also exploit their project team members from time to time in various ways. These people will always be a shield between their ground level team members and the client or the internal senior management for each and every issue, as if the ground level people cannot speak. The brokers at onsite are even worse, they will try to win the confidence of the client by hook or crook and remain at onsite forever. Even if someone tries to replace them they will get the client into play and no one can touch them thereafter. Everyone knows across the company knows this, but no one takes any action in order not to dissatisfy the client.

  3. Training and Care for Employees: Yes, there are trainings scheduled, but for good technical trainings the project has to take the cost, otherwise most of the trainings are worthless and sheer waste of time. There is a program within the company for building the career of an employee from a low level to a higher level, but if anyone talks to any employee who is undergoing this program the feedback would be appalling. Someone sitting higher up introduced this program and lot of money and effort is put behind it, but there has been no initiative to gather the actual benefits of this program, which is none. Only for the fear of not getting promoted to the next level, employees complete the program under pressure. Now talking about employee care, for the past couple of years astonishingly it has degraded like anything. People are being made to join in huge numbers every month, but only plan to nurture them and make them grow is a career architecture which is lack-luster program as discussed above. The moto here is to somehow earn the dollar, don’t care about the people or their career.

  4. No formal bottom-up feedback process: There exists a appraisal process where managers can pass on their feedback to their reportees and rate them on their perception but there is no bottom up approach where the reportees rate their managers. Managers hold supreme power and based on their likes and dislikes they rate people and decide their fate. I do understand that there is no perfect appraisal process that exists in this world, but rating someone just based on perception is also not a good way. A near perfect appraisal process could be getting feedback from the client, the employee peers along with the employee manager. But this never happens resulting in disappointment for the employees. There are cases where client has rated an employee highly but due to the employee's relation with his boss the employee has been given a poor rating. Lastly there should be a process where the employee should also be able to pass on anonymous feedback about his manager or report any grudge he is holding to someone or some committee which should be able to take action based on the merit of the case. Someone needs to understand that this is a people driven industry and keeping people happy and addressing people issues should be of prime importance. Right now people are just too terrified to pass feedback against someone higher up as there have been numerous cases where the employee reporting the issue has landed up at the receiving end due to the supreme power of the seniors.

  5. Margin and Revenue story: Revenue is something which comes from projects and margin is the profit margin on which projects are executed. The business development team has revenue targets and the project delivery team has margin targets. So the story goes like this. The business development team in order to win projects and to meet their targets will bid for projects at low margins, as it is a competitive market. There has been instances where deals have been signed with high revenue but with low margins even under 10% or at minus margins. The business development guy meets his target by winning such projects and assuring revenue in-flow for the company. Now once the project is won the pressure falls on the delivery team to improve the margin and at times unrealistic margin targets are set based on the whims and wills of someone senior. Like for example a target is set for a project to achieve a margin of 30% which has been signed at 10% or less. The delivery team is not a magician to achieve such impossible targets and they resort to different ways to achieve their target like bringing in Automation and replacing high cost senior and experienced resources with junior people. Now Automation is a separate story altogether which is fed to the senior management and also to the client in a nice wrapper showcasing 80% of the work that is done manually could be automated. No one gets deeper into the details weather it is actually possible or not and asks the question as to whether automation which is kind of buzz-word in the industry currently is atall mature enough to replace human beings? Everybody is just happy with the fact that if 80% automation can be achieved then I can release atleast 8 employees out of a 10 members team, resulting in huge savings. No question is asked where will those 8 employees go?

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  1. Reporting and calls all day: If you happen to reach a certain level in terms of designation, you are expected to attend to calls and make reports only for senior management. Evenif you want to develop yourself technically, opportunities will be few and at the end of the day your appraisal results will be hurt, as no one wants to hear what you have achieved technically. Only story they want to hear is how much your project has made and with what margin? How many open positions have you fulfilled which has brought in revenue for the company? While keeping track of revenue, margin and fulfillment of positions is important, but those would be automatically taken care-off if the quality of delivery improves and you have a happy client. There is also a particular species in Cognizant who call themselves as Solution Architects and I regret saying this that apart from a selected few, the architects in Cognizant no way compare with the architects from other companies like an IBM or an Accenture. I have spoken to my friends in other companies who as architects and when asked about the architects from Cognizant, they just give a quiet smile. Cognizant solution architects are good in designing resource pyramids without a plan on how to achieve them. The bottom-line remains that excellence in quality of resources and also the drive to achieve that excellence from the senior management is missing. A company which only focuses on revenue and margin only without focusing on quality of it’s core products which is people in this case would definitely meet this kind of storm every few years.

  2. location theory: There is a theory in Cognizant that every project that comes in should be operated out of Chennai. If the project is of a few million dollars then the location strategy is decided at a very high level and obviously it is Chennai. It basically depends on where the big people are located, as most of the big people are located in Chennai, most of the projects are operated out of Chennai. No one understands, that whether a project is executed out of Chennai, Bangalore, Pune or Gurugram eventually the revenue and profit is for Cognizant and judicious choice should be made to avoid risk by concentrating everything in Chennai only.

  3. Bad Treatment of employees by Managers and above: This has started over the last few years as there is no anonymous bottom-up feedback process. Even if some employee dares to take up the cases with the HR Team, action on managers and above are rare. Employees are threatened more often than not and are made to deliver as per the wish of the delivery managers. Genuine employee issues are ignored. Employees are given mouthful for each and every small or big issue. Employee career growth opportunities are ignored. Only people who are good at oiling and buttering get their wishes granted and get good results in their appraisal. No one cares for good work and perfect delivery, it is all about oiling and buttering your manager and getting a higher bucket at the end of the year.

  4. Unhealthy Environment: People in this company know how to be selfish. Ohh!! Sorry I used the wrong word. People in this company know how to be extremely selfish. They can beg, borrow or even steal to meet their target. They do not think what will be the implications of their action on others. On top of this if you have the blessings from any top leader of the company then no one can touch even a manager level person. He can go on doing whatever he wishes to. He can select projects he wants to get into, he can ask his subordinates to pick his son from the school, he can threaten people and what not. At the end of the day he also gets a high rating in his appraisal, just because someone at the top is there with all his blessings showered on this sick soul. Just a quick scan across the company in an unbiased manner would give anyone who wants to bring the company on the right track would reveal this picture. There is no respect for a low level employee, they are being treated like some daily laborer daily.

  5. No one wants to hear “No”: If you want to work in this company, you should learn not to say “No”. They want “Yes” for all questions. If you say “No” to anything, people will go to your boss and bring a “Yes” from him. If your boss also says “No” then they will go to his boss to bring a “Yes”. This simple game is called “If you hear a No, escalated and get a Yes”. This I believe is one of the reasons that the company is seeing such bad days now. There is no respect for people saying “No” and everybody is bringing in growth for the company, and you should say “yes” always to that growth. They will dangle a carrot in front of you and get a “yes” from either you, or your boss or his boss.

There are many more reasons and I can go on and on and on. However, I really hope that someone forwards this link to the senior management of Cognizant and they do some introspection. Cognizant is my mother company and like all sons I am not happy that my mother is sick and I desperately want my mother to recover and recover fast. Get well soon Cognizant.

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