Former NZ Lenovo staff spray company over culture, service

The company did not deliver on retention bonus promise, says ex-staffer

Former Lenovo New Zealand staff are accusing the PC manufacturer of not meeting financial obligations to them and of being unable to deliver to customer requirements.

“It’s an awful place to work and an awful place to be a customer,” says one.

Lenovo bought IBM’s ThinkPad division in May 2005. In New Zealand, there were eight redundancies and four resignations. There are now six positions within the company, where there were 14 in the IBM division.

In May this year, Lenovo said planned global restructuring wouldn’t dramatically affect the New Zealand operation, that some jobs had been reallocated and that, where possible, staff had been offered other roles.

Not so, say staff. “No one was reallocated in New Zealand or offered another role”, one ex-staffer says. “When IBM sold the business, commitments were made in writing of retention bonuses if we stayed two years,” says another ex-staffer. “But no one got the bonuses because of a performance-based technicality. The bonus promise had stopped me going to another job.”

Another ex-staffer says the performance bonus criteria process was never completed during the transfer from IBM to Lenovo systems. The former employee says his performance rating was suddenly downgraded. Many emails had been sent to the HR manager in Australia but there was never a reply.

“They will ignore you to death. No one [at Lenovo] knows what to do and no one will take responsibility.

“Staff have been stressed to the max, working long hours and unhappy.

“Every single one [redundancy negotiation] was acrimonious. There were issues around what people got and what they thought they were due.

“Lenovo made it difficult and dragged it out.”

Lenovo Australasian general manager Alan Munro says the company has made a lot of effort in the past year to build a high-performance culture where bonuses were linked to performance. “They are metric-driven. All bonuses and commissions are around this.

“Every individual with an issue I’ve personally reviewed. I’m very comfortable [with that].

“People were paid as they should be, off KPIs. That shouldn’t be a surprise to any individual. I’m confident that was good and fair.”

He says the retention bonuses were linked to KPIs. When asked how many staff members were affected in New Zealand, he didn’t have any numbers to hand. The company responded later by saying 95% of staff in Australasia had received retention bonuses. Two people (of three sales staff) in New Zealand hadn’t.

Another former staffer says Lenovo was haemorrhaging from a cultural perspective. “It was moral degradation. It’s crazy. They keep cutting staff and increasing work loads. People are working round the clock but are incapable of meeting sales targets because they don’t get recognised till product is shipped.”

That, the former staff members say, was a major issue. “There were delayed shipments and misplaced orders,” says one. Another says the company was completely incapable of delivering to requirements.

“They want to be a Dell but they’ve got nothing to deliver at the back end. New customers were promised 10-day delivery but they were lucky to get product within a month, so they left.”

The former staff member cites major customers being told in December that it would cost $50 a unit for air freight. “Instead, someone high up hadn’t met their KPI and sent product by sea freight. It got here at the end of February.

“A lot of customers in education had paid people to be there in the school holidays [for installation] and nothing turned up.”

A channel partner, which wished to remain un-named, says there were delivery issues. “There was also no information about when product was arriving.”

The partner says that at a Lenovo conference two months ago the company acknowledged it had delivery issues.

“We heard there had been similar problems in the US but that that was nearly resolved.

“In New Zealand, the company needs to resource more. They need more sales and pre-sales people and more from a channel perspective.

“Lenovo is using an Australian call centre. That’s not going to fly.”

On the supply chain issues, Munro says that has picked up in the past six months. “We’re reducing the model numbers to where the market is buying. 92% of products are now delivered within 19 days.”

He says Lenovo had had some issues with its logistics partner in New Zealand, where stock had gone missing.

“We’ve reviewed that bi-weekly and we’re now comfortable.”

One of the ex-staffers had claimed that a deal done with Noel Leeming in New Zealand had been abruptly terminated when management — without staff knowledge — did a separate deal with The Warehouse.

“We were doing business with Noel Leeming and were pretty happy,” Munro says. “Then we got an opportunity with The Warehouse that was good for us and good for The Warehouse. The Leeming deal was never an exclusive and they didn’t want to go with us if we went with The Warehouse. It was their choice.”

Lenovo asked Computerworld, in the interests of balance, to speak to business partners and a customer the company nominated.

Noel Jack, of Cyclone Computers, says matters have improved since a “realistically” expected transition period.

“The improvement stems from the IBM days,” he says. “There were some delays to product but Lenovo has been quite forthcoming about compensating me and the users.”

Liz Gosling, director of IT services at Auckland University of Technology, says it was open knowledge that the supply chain had problems earlier in the year but these had been resolved very quickly.

She says Lenovo is a very good company to deal with and she’s been happy with all their staff, both past and present.

“We’re getting product turnaround in ten days. The only issues are with models.” She couldn’t say what the previous turnaround time had been.

AUT, which is one of the largest PC sites in New Zealand, has around 600 ThinkPads.

Gen-i’s head of enterprise technology, Andrew Allan, says his company has no more issues with Lenovo than it does with any other manufacturer.

“On large deals, which most of ours are, we get excellent dedicated resource.”

Allan has been in the role since last October.

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