HP Retirees Still Get the Job Done for the Company

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Back in August, I blogged about how companies competing for scarce human resources should consider keeping older workers on the job longer and/or tapping into retirees' talents and skills.


One company that appears to be making effective use of the latter strategy is HP, which The New York Times reports is actively recruiting its retirees to serve as brand boosters and even volunteer salespeople. A spry 62-year-old mentioned in the article spends some of his spare time selling HP laptops to shoppers at a local electronics store. Michael Mendenhall, HP's chief marketing officer, calls such folks "great brand stewards."


Mendenhall was joined by HP CEO Mark Hurd at a recent retiree confab to encourage 500 attendees -- and hundreds more who viewed online -- to help promote the company by representing HP at community events, speaking out on legislative issues important to the company and joining alumni clubs.


While some say this gives retirees a valuable sense of purpose and can help them grow the value of their HP stock, others accuse HP of taking advantage of its retirees by expecting them to work without financial compensation. Indeed, a 91-year-old retiree interviewed in the article says he thinks HP should pay those who actually sell its products. Mendenhall's take:

It's about being part of the H.P. community and its rich heritage. That's what they get.

HP does appear to be uniquely positioned among Silicon Valley companies to make such a request of its former employees. As the article notes, it is leveraging a once close-knit culture in which founders David Packard and William Hewlett regularly socialized with workers and Packard's wife gave baby blankets to new parents at HP.


HP has lost much of this warm-and-fuzzy goodwill in more recent years, with less-than-successful reorganizations under former CEO Carly Fiorina and rounds of job cuts made after Hurd joined the company.


It's also worth noting that HP isn't the only tech company looking to help its retirees who may want to continue working. I blogged in January about an IBM program in which Big Blue partnered with the federal government and the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service to help some of its veterans land public-service positions.