Westlake-based Hyland Software, a perennial "top workplace
" in Northeast Ohio, has laid off nearly 150 employees in its product delivery department. The mass axing "came out of left field," according to a former employee, and was communicated to unsuspecting remote workers in a pre-recorded Zoom message Wednesday morning.
The layoffs reduce the department by an estimated 1/8th, with software developers, quality assurance specialists and testing engineers all unceremoniously getting the boot. Hyland is seen as a "shining star" among tech companies headquartered in Northeast Ohio, (a region which desperately wants to become an innovation hub), but the layoffs yesterday confirmed for many current and former employees that the company's corporate values are waning, its #hylandlife reputation souring.
"This has shaken up the culture of Hyland and absolutely compromised our trust in the company," one employee said. They and others said the company was coming off a record profit year.
Hyland has not yet responded to multiple requests for comment, but the Mayor of the City of Westlake, Dennis Clough, issued a brief statement.
“The City of Westlake has been told by Hyland Software that the company is in the middle of a restructure but is doing well overall," it read. "The city extends best wishes to the employees who were informed that their jobs would be eliminated.”
Hyland sent Scene the following statement Thursday evening.
"Hyland is in the midst of a multi-year strategic initiative to build a cloud-first platform for the future while supporting our customers’ success today. A component of this strategy is to hire more than 300 additional technologists and increase our overall employee count by 15 percent in 2021. As we focus on innovating our platform and strategically expanding our global footprint, we have made the difficult decision to eliminate some positions on our current Product Delivery team. We are providing affected employees with assistance in their transitions."
Current and former employees who spoke to Scene anonymously said that the layoffs felt like a betrayal, especially after Hyland has invested considerable financial resources into HR and marketing to create a corporate brand that emphasizes a "family" culture. CEO Bill Priemer joined Hyland as the VP of Marketing in 1997 and touted the "family" dynamic of Hyland in a recent local magazine profile
For employees within the large product delivery department, two Zoom meetings were announced Wednesday morning with the vague header "Product Delivery Update." Those who were given a link to a 10 a.m. meeting were greeted with a pre-recorded message from Hyland's Chief Product Officer John Phelan giving them the bad news.
The 10:30 a.m. folks were also greeted with a scripted message. It assured them that their positions were safe but noted that a restructuring was afoot. This would include, among other things, local layoffs and a significant ramping up of workforces overseas at Hyland's offices in both India and Poland.
Over the past 24 hours, employees — virtually all of whom have been working from home during the pandemic — have experienced a "collective freak-out," said one employee. They are scrambling to figure out new responsibilities on existing projects with the realization that massive workloads loom, all while trying to delicately ascertain who was "separated," the preferred lingo of Hyland HR.
One employee noted to Scene that while "ethics" was removed from Hyland's core values in 2020, "family" still remains. ("We care deeply for one another and help each other achieve maximum personal potential while maintaining a healthy work-life balance," the Family entry
on Hyland's core values page reads.) It was in that spirit that multiple employees reached out to Scene to decry what they viewed as a rotten way to part with their colleagues, many of whom had been at Hyland for 10 or more years.
"Hyland has been acquiring companies left and right for the past few years, making money hand over fist for its majority owner [the private equity firm Thoma Bravo
]," one former employee said. "And with acquisitions, you always suspect that people will be let go. It's unrealistic to expect otherwise. But it's the method
that has people spooked. You might expect this at a GE, but not at a company with humble beginnings like Hyland."
The lack of clear communication from Hyland leadership has led to rampant speculation and conspiracy theorizing. Back in June, 2020, CEO Bill Priemer announced that due to Covid cost-cutting measures, employees wouldn't be able to roll over vacation time from 2020 to 2021. Did he know that layoffs would be forthcoming?
The most common view, employees said, was that Hyland simply made the decision to save money. After all, software developers in Katowice, Poland
, make, on average, less than half the annual salary of developers in Cleveland
. (Though the office scuttlebutt holds that, relative to other local tech companies, Hyland's programmers and engineers are criminally underpaid.)
"From a numbers stand point, maybe it makes sense," one current employee said. "I guess you'd expect a company to look out for its own bottom line over its employees. But you have to understand, Hyland's whole thing is that we're not a company. We're a family. Well, we got screwed."
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