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It’s A Good Question To Ask: Is Verizon's Voluntary Separation Program An Attempt To Layoff An Older Generation Of Workers?

Published Tuesday, December 18, 2018
by Jack Kelly/Forbes
It’s A Good Question To Ask: Is Verizon's Voluntary Separation Program An Attempt To Layoff An Older Generation Of Workers?

Verizon Communications bought Yahoo, AOL and The Huffington Post - in an attempt to build a media empire, and Oath - to compete with Google and other Social Media Giants.

The Oath division was valued at about $4.8 billion last year, and today it is estimated to be worth roughly $200 million.

Verizon is now investing $10 billion into the rollout of their new 5G Technology Program, which is touted by the company to be “one of the fastest, most robust technologies the world has ever seen.”

To compensate for the disastrous loss in the Oath Division and the need to pay for the 5G plan, Verizon instituted a “voluntary separation program” - one that appears to be a thinly veiled massive layoff.

Hans Vestberg, Verizon’s CEO, in a corporate press release, stated that “approximately 10,400 Employees have been accepted as part of a voluntary program to leave the business as the company better positions itself for future growth.”

A total of 44,000 Employees were offered this option out of a total of 152,300 workforce.

The Voluntary Separation Program will provide up to sixty weeks’ of salary, bonus and benefits - depending on the length of service.

This is a dilemma for many Employees, particularly those age 40 and older.  It's tough to pass up such a large sum of money (especially during the Holiday Season), but remaining has its problems too.

The job market is not kind to older Workers. 

Recently, IBM was sued for alleged Age Discrimination after it enacted a large layoff, which included 20,000 American Employees over the age of 40, which was 60% of the total job cuts.  

Verizon itself was criticized last year for placing a job advertisement on Facebook showing a smiling, Millennial-aged person.

The data offered by Verizon to Facebook for the job listing specifically targeted 25-36 year olds.

If you were older than this range, you would not have seen it in your newsfeed and would not have had the opportunity to apply for that role.

In my personal experience as an executive recruiter, it takes substantially longer for a seasoned person to find a new job compared to their younger counterparts.

It's not solely due to ageism, as older Workers tend to earn more money and, therefore, it is more costly to hire them.

A big risk for this class of Employees is that if they pass up the offer, they may not find a comparable job and be forced to take a position far below their status.

This move may have poor, unintended consequences for Verizon.

When massive layoffs are announced at large corporations, I’ve noticed that the best, brightest and most-talented Employees are the first to leave.

This group is confident in their abilities, recognize that they have marketable skills to offer and quickly seek out and find new jobs - or they are pounced upon by recruiters like me in an effort to solicit them away to another opportunity.

The company will then be left with the less-talented Employees who are unable to find a new job or just want to hold on for as long as they can.

Those who remain will be anxious, worried and lack motivation, especially since it was announced that Verizon struck a $700 million deal with Infosys, a large outsourcing firm, which will remove 2,500 IT Employees from Verizon’s payroll.  They will become part of Infosys.

In light of the outsourcing and voluntary separation plan, the remaining Employees will be worried about what’s next.

It's reasonable for them to think about whether their jobs will be moved to India, other lower-cost locations or eliminated in future downsizings.

This doesn’t make it a pleasant and productive work environment to foster enthusiasm and innovation.

Employees will have one foot out the door as they face an uncertain future with the company.

I recognize that Verizon is in a difficult situation, but it seems disingenuous to offer a “Voluntary Separation Program” while outsourcing jobs.

It sends a message that their Employees are not valued or safe.

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