Attorneys for solar-panel maker Solyndra LLCsay they’ve reduced by more than $100,000 the amount of bonus money they want to pay a handful of current employees still working for the bankrupt company.
But fired employees still oppose the plan, which is up for a hearing Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. They say there’s no reason to provide extra cash to workers at a time whenSolyndra is being sold off part by part.
Solyndra attorneys say they need the bonuses to keep current employees from leaving for other jobs. Otherwise, they say the company would have to pay out even more money for expensive consultants. The company has fewer than 100 employees, down from 1,100 before it went bankrupt.
The maximum to be paid out under the bonus plan is now $368,500, down from $500,000 in the incentive payments first requested. The proposed bonuses have drawn sharp criticism from several Republican members of Congress.
Rep. H. Morgan Griffith, Virginia Republican and a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has been investigatingSolyndra’s collapse, was among dozens of Republican lawmakers to send a letter to the White House asking that the administration oppose the bonus plan.
“Personally, I agree with them 100 percent on the bonuses and I don’t understand why the Department of Justice didn’t get in there and oppose the bonuses,” Mr. Griffith said in an interview Tuesday.
Solyndra filed for bankruptcy last fall two years after the company won more than a half-billion dollars in federal loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
While the Justice Department, which represents the Energy Department as a creditor, made no objection to the bonus plan, the department did file a motion recently backing Solyndra in a separate dispute between the company and fired employees.
Solyndra attorneys made no mention of members of Congress in unveiling their downsized bonus plan in a recent court filing. The revised bonus plan came about after negotiations with a creditors committee, according to the filing.
Under the previous bonus plan, one employee was eligible for up to $50,000 in extra cash, but now the maximum bonus payout is $30,000. The names of the employees were not included in bankruptcy filings.
In opposing the bonuses, attorneys for fired employees filed a motion in which they asked a host of questions about the cash payouts.
“What specific tasks are the bonus winners being incentivized to do? How does payment of a bonus directly translate into a measurable benefit for unsecured creditors? For senior managers already making six figure salaries, why is any bonus necessary as additional motivation?” the fired employees’ attorneys asked.
Chrysler predicted an even better 2012 with total U.S. auto sales projected to rise by more than 1 million to about 14 million. On Wednesday, the company said its January sales rose 44 percent compared with a year earlier. The company, which is majority owned by Italy’s Fiat SpA, forecast a net profit of $1.5 billion this year with an 18 percent revenue increase, to $65 billion. Its share of the U.S. market, where it gets 85 percent of its profits, rose 1.3 percentage points last year to 10.7 percent.
CEO Sergio Marchionne said Wednesday that both salaried and hourly workers would get profit-sharing checks, but he would not reveal the amounts.
He told employees in an email that they have earned the rewards.
“You have been to hell and back, and you defied predictions of our demise,” Marchionne wrote. “Your efforts rewrote the history that so many naysayers had forecast.”
Even with the 2011 profit, workers at Chrysler won’t get as much in profit-sharing as their unionized counterparts at Ford and General Motors.
Ford will make profit-sharing payments of around $6,200 each to its 41,600 U.S. hourly employees in March. GM workers are expected to get more than the $4,000 they received last year. The company announces its fourth-quarter and annual earnings on Feb. 16. Source: Washington Post Bloomberg.
By Rob Markey who is co-author, with Fred Reichheld, of the book: The Ultimate Question 2.0: How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World, just published by HBR Press. He is a partner in Bain & Company’s New York office and head of the firm’s global Customer Strategy and Marketing practice.
Employee happiness is becoming a hot topic among CEOs and in boardrooms, and it’s about time. The current issue ofHarvard Business Review, which includes a series of articles focused on employee happiness, is just one more sign of the growing recognition that happy, engaged employees are more productive and generate better outcomes for their companies.
But there’s also a risk in all this attention to “happiness.” Happiness for its own sake is not the right outcome to seek. If you want happy employees, you can just pay them more. You can give them more time off. You can give them free lunches by celebrity chefs. Only a few of the things that make employees “happy,” however, result in real, sustained benefit for the company. As Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath note in one of the recent HBR articles, “It’s not aboutcontentment, which connotes a degree of complacency.”
My colleagues and I agree with that. We have been studying the links between employee engagement and customer loyalty for a few years now, and we’ve found that the only route to employee happiness that also benefits shareholders is through a sense of fulfillment resulting from an important job done well. We should aspire not just to make employees “happy,” but to do so by helping them achieve great things. In short, we should earn our employees’ passionate advocacy for the company’s mission and success by helping them earn the passionate advocacy of customers.
That’s an ambitious goal, of course. And it necessarily links employee engagement to customer outcomes, the ultimate source of a company’s success. Most companies’ approaches to employee engagement fail to achieve the right sort of engagement. Here’s some of what’s needed:
1. True ownership by line managers. Most large companies depend on HR to measure and manage employee engagement. HR collects the feedback, analyzes it, and then “cascades” it through the organization, beginning with the CEO and then at progressive levels down to the front line, along with recommendations for improvement. But this keeps control, ownership, and responsibility firmly in the hands of a central team.
Real engagement — passionate advocacy — comes from making customers’ lives richer, and there isn’t much that HR alone can do to help employees achieve that. So Apple stores, JetBlue Airways, and others deliver employee survey results directly to operating managers, who can then sponsor shop-floor change initiatives. Perhaps more important, they feel full ownership of the results and for making progress. At Apple, for instance, employee focus groups identify key themes and issues from the surveys; employee teams then help develop solutions, which they present to store management. By the time the next survey comes around, managers can see whether the solutions have had the desired effects.
2. Simpler measurement. Most companies gauge employee satisfaction through the time-honored annual survey, managed centrally and comprising a huge number of questions. They often result in tremendously detailed reports across a large number of metrics. But many companies are taking a page from the Net Promoter playbook: They survey employees more often, ask just a few simple questions, and simplify the reporting. How likely would you be to recommend this company to a friend as a place to work? How likely would you be to recommend the company’s products or services to a potential customer? What’s the primary reason for your response? These companies allow employees to use their own words to identify opportunities and issues. The feedback can be difficult to hear — employees tend to be tough graders. But it can be much more powerful as a motivation to take action.
3. Direct feedback from customers. The most important step, of course, is providing a steady stream of feedback from customers and then “closing the loop” quickly by sharing it directly with employees in its most raw form. When frontline employees and managers hear directly from customers — when they see how customers scored their experience, when they hear what went right and wrong in the customer’s own words — the effect is dramatic. Applause in the form of positive feedback inspires them to keep up the good work. Criticism often inspires employees to improve their performance on their own or to seek additional coaching so they can do better next time.
And it isn’t just customer-facing personnel who can learn from customer reactions. Logitech, for instance, compiles Net Promoter scores for each of its products and ensures that the engineering teams responsible for each one see and hear what customers think. When one new keyboard got negative reviews, the company was able to identify the problems and quickly bring out an improved model.
Loyal, passionate employees bring a company as much benefit as loyal, passionate customers. They stay longer, work harder, work more creatively, and find ways to go the extra mile. They bring you more great employees. And that spreads even more happiness — happiness for employees, for customers, and for shareholders.