BT announced this month that the company intends to cull their workforce to the tune of 15,000 workers, with CEO Ian Livingston citing "an unacceptable performance in BT Global Services" as being one of the more significant performance disappointments for the year to date. No doubt those workers will be a little disappointed themselves as they join the thousands the company has already shed over the last few years, as will shareholders as their dividends were halved.
The 15,000 to go this year is on top of 15,000 last year. 30,000 is one of those nice round numbers that is of course recognised as being large, but at the same time somehow doesn't quite sink in, but for sure it's a lot of workers.
For perspective, its about five BMC Software sized companies worth, or if Symantec AND CA shut up shop completely tomorrow you would have about the same number of staff out of work. That's a lot of ICT industry expertise suddenly let loose, and BT isn't of course the first. Sage Software offered all of their 2,200 UK employees voluntary redundancy in April, while at the smaller end of the redundancy scale Barclays dropped 400 IT workers back in January, AXA 350, and Sun is culling even as they head into an acquisition by Oracle that will surely result in further wielding of the HR knives. It's hard to count all ICT sector job losses accurately, but one senses that between 100,000 and 200,000 losses globally in the previous twelve months might be around the right mark (and that may well be wildly conservative).
Of course not all of those workers will be technical experts, especially those being let go from vendors, including BT's disappointing Global Services division. Back office support staff, sales, sales support, a range of managers, as well as project managers and delivery types will also have been culled, along with those who have a degree of hands-on technical expertise. A veritable smorgasbord of ICT sellers, doers, coders and assorted hangers on suddenly swelling the available resource market. The question is; where do they all go?
Those with a vendor-related sales background who at least interview well, will no doubt find opportunities in the marketplace amongst competing vendors which themselves are looking to refresh their own underperformers with some new blood. All of which is a "good news, bad news" scenario for the individuals concerned and is a churn that makes no real difference to the overall size of the available employment-seeking pool.
Services and channel partners of culling product vendors will find themselves able to snap up choice ex-vendor staff with the hope that they are equipped with a bulging LinkedIn (or FaceBook for the younger ones) contacts list along with their relevant product and business skills. But that still leaves a lot of people with no obvious place to go as the global economy continues to lurch between reports of green shoots and warnings of further bankruptcies and hiccups. Meanwhile, no one seems to think that the far-side of any eventual recovery will restore it all to the halcyon days of yore.
In a time of more fluid credit we might have seen nascent entrepreneurialism and talent translate into a rash of technology and service startups. While a percentage will no doubt successfully walk that path (<1% perhaps?) again that still leaves a lot more unaccounted for. Optimistically the "green economy" will eventually provide new opportunities, however, for many, that will neither come soon enough nor provide an easily traversed path, coming as it does with a different set of skills requirements. Overall, its not a pretty picture at all and one that just begs for some alternative good news stories to provide a contrasting scene so if you have one, let us know as we'd like to hear it.