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Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need?

Soulskill posted 5 days ago | from the might-be-time-to-reevaluate-the-Clippy-department dept.

Businesses 272

An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday, word came down that Microsoft was starting to lay off some 18,000 workers. As of June 5th, Microsoft reported a total employee headcount of 127,005, so they're cutting about 15% of their jobs. That's actually a pretty huge percentage, even taking into account the redundancies created by the Nokia acquisition. Obviously, there's an upper limit to how much of your workforce you can let go at one time, so I'm willing to bet Microsoft's management thinks thousands more people aren't worth keeping around. How many employees does Microsoft realistically need? The company is famous for its huge teams that don't work together well, and excessive middle management. But they also have a huge number of software projects, and some of the projects, like Windows and Office, need big teams to develop. How would we go about estimating the total workforce Microsoft needs? (Other headcounts for reference: Apple: 80,000, Amazon: 124,600, IBM: 431,212, Red Hat: 5,000+, Facebook: 6,800, Google: 52,000, Intel: 104,900.)

cancel ×


the answer is (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47482791)


How many employees does Slashdot need? (0, Flamebait)

recoiledsnake (879048) | 5 days ago | (#47483113)

Perhaps Slashdot needs some new blood so they stop posting the same MS bashing stupid troll posts in order to milk pageviews. It's a major turn off on this site.

Re:How many employees does Slashdot need? (5, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | 5 days ago | (#47483261)

Nice flamebait, but let's make it an educational moment:

Every product/project-centric company builds up cruft over time, and not just Microsoft. Intel does periodic flushes as they dump R&D groups (I used to work for DHG at Intel). OTOH, let's face it - Microsoft's habit of counter-productivity between teams (coupled with their previous habit of stack-ranking employees) is frickin' *legendary*. MSFT seriously does need to clean house, and badly. They aren't the hungry company they were back in the '80s and '90s, and they've become about as nimble as a supertanker with a busted rudder. I mean, c'mon - who the hell else would sink untold billions of R&D money into a product (XBox/360/One) that still has yet to realize overall ROI, 15 years later?

The new CEO has a big job ahead of him. He's seen what happens to most tech companies as they reach middle age, and he knows that there's no crazy-ass visionary (e.g. Steve Jobs) coming to jump in and revitalize them.

Re:How many employees does Slashdot need? (4, Insightful)

mspohr (589790) | 5 days ago | (#47483681)

I am not a business expert but agree that MS probably has a lot of dead wood and poorly managed employees.
Mass layoffs are one way to deal with this problem and this is what most companies do periodically.
However, it seems to me that it is a sign of a poorly managed company if they need to do mass layoffs. A well managed company would be continuously evaluating employees and their work and making adjustments to personnel requirements every month. It seems supremely stupid for a company to suddenly wake up one day and discover that it has an extra xx thousands of employees.
If a company is continuously adjusting personnel, it is also much easier on the employees since there are more opportunities to move employees to more appropriate jobs, re-train them for new tasks, or, failing that, provide comprehensive out-placement service. This would define a company which values human resources.
Unfortunately, these MS employees are likely to be unceremoniously dumped with minimal chance of re-employment.

Re:How many employees does Slashdot need? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483723)

You realize they just bought most of Nokia and added 25,000 jobs from there right? This IS part of the evaluation of that - and lo and behold 12,500 of those Nokia people are out.

As far as unceremoniously dumped - NO. They will get a package of some sort. For those that don't qualify or don't take it, they will still get something like 90 day notice so that many of them find another job and don't hit Microsoft on unemployment money.

Re:How many employees does Slashdot need? (4, Interesting)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | 5 days ago | (#47483805)

It makes it a lot safer. "We laid off 18k and you were one of them" is more defensible from lawsuits than having to individually justify 18k layoffs.

64 (1)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47482793)

64 should be enough for every company

They need exactly 63 999 employees (0)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47482809)

Because 64k is enough !

Re:They need exactly 63 999 employees (3, Insightful)

rossdee (243626) | 5 days ago | (#47482881)

64K is 65635

Re:They need exactly 63 999 employees (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | 5 days ago | (#47482911)

Unless you always leave the first byte empty, 64KiB is 65536 bytes.

Re:They need exactly 63 999 employees (1)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47482925)


Re:They need exactly 63 999 employees (1)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483177)

Notice that the range 0..65535 is actually 65536 bytes. You can think of it as counting the 0th byte too.

Re:They need exactly 63 999 employees (1)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483295)

7.878... × 10^287188

we don't even have that many protons in the universe

Re:They need exactly 63 999 employees (4, Informative)

tysonedwards (969693) | 5 days ago | (#47482979)

64KiB = 65536 Bytes
64K = 64,000

In no unit of measurement is 64K(anything) = 65635.
65535 is however the maximum value expressible by an unsigned 16-bit binary number.

Re:They need exactly 63 999 employees (0)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483017)

And this is precisely why I read /.

Well done, sir.

Re:They need exactly 63 999 employees (1)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483821)

Apparently it does not take much to impress you.

Re:They need exactly 63 999 employees (1)

Shortguy881 (2883333) | 5 days ago | (#47483069)

Omg! Off by one errors everywhere!

Re:They need exactly 63 999 employees (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483103)

If you're gonna be pedantic, then do it right:

64K = -209.15 C = -344.47 F
64k = 64,000

Re:They need exactly 63 999 employees (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483227)

if YOU'RE going to be pedantic, then kiss my butt!

Re:They need exactly 63 999 employees (2)

Pieroxy (222434) | 5 days ago | (#47483705)

Pedantic fail^2

64K = -209.15 degrees Celsius = -344.47 degrees Fahrenheit

This because the much loved /. editor doesn't allow the degree symbol nor the & deg; html entity which I have to write with an extra space.

Re:They need exactly 63 999 employees (1)

Carewolf (581105) | 5 days ago | (#47483713)

64KiB = 65536 Bytes

64K = 64,000

In no unit of measurement is 64K(anything) = 65635.

65535 is however the maximum value expressible by an unsigned 16-bit binary number.

No, that is not even being pedantic. That is just wrong. Please stop.

Re:They need exactly 63 999 employees (0)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483743)

In computing, 64K is 65536. It's only confusing if you're a snotty, obtuse troll who deliberately ignores context. Or a hard drive manufacturer who wants to make their numbers look good for sneaky sales purposes.

Re:They need exactly 63 999 employees (5, Funny)

Dzimas (547818) | 5 days ago | (#47483367)

They need exactly 63 999 employees

You must work in the marketing department of a hard drive company.

Depends what you want to do with them (4, Informative)

Albanach (527650) | 5 days ago | (#47482817)

If you have a business division that you want to maintain, then there's a limit to how many you can get rid of. But Microsoft are clearly closing divisions. They are closing their x-box spin off TV studios, so all those staff can go. Clearly there are large chunks of Nokia that they want to close, likely maintaining the hardware designers but if you're in Nokia marketing, or Symbian/Android software development your coat is on a shoogly nail as they say in Scotland. Similarly, it looks like Nokia manufacturing will also be outsourced, so there are thousands more jobs that will go.

Inside Microsoft is a bit different. From what I've read, it looks like there will be some streamlining of management, so some layers of management will be cut. Most people on here will have seen how management can breed more management, so this is a pretty typical corporate response. Unfortunately for the managers losing their job it may be harder to find a new job. Where a division closes there's always the possibility of a sale to a competitor or some form of management buy out.

Re:Depends what you want to do with them (0)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47482951)

I wouldn't really be surprised if many of these divisions prove able to successfully spin off and partner right back with MS in a different relationship. Those jobs won't really all be gone from the world at all.

Re:Depends what you want to do with them (2)

arisvega (1414195) | 5 days ago | (#47483281)

It also depends on what kind of business you run: judging from Microsoft's products and behavior for the past decades, I would guess that it needs about a dozen software engineers, a bunch of sysadmins, and quite a few tens of thousands of lawyers.

Re:Depends what you want to do with them (4, Insightful)

ranton (36917) | 5 days ago | (#47483479)

Its important to remember that Microsoft is only losing about 5% of its non-Nokia jobs. That makes these cuts have far less impact to the company as a whole. I work in a small consulting company of about 40 people, so this would be the same as us letting go two members of our staff because of a restructuring. That wouldn't be insignificant, but it obviously wouldn't be a major shift for our company.

As I see it Microsoft really only has one major problem, and that is to find a way to capitalize on their R&D budget. They have the fifth largest R&D budget [] of any private company in the world. This far surpases companies like Apple and Google [] which are far better commonly known for their innovative products than Microsoft. If they could actually make use of this R&D Microsoft would be in great shape regardless of what eventually happens to Windows, Office, or XBox.

Microsoft engineers are clearly being funded well enough to help Microsoft grow in the future, they just need better leadership to take advantage of their work instead of just writing salary checks.

Best metric (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47482821)

How many H1-B visas are they requesting?

Consultitude (1)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47482865)

fire everybody hire contractors

Shitpost is shit (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47482877)

What the fuck do you want us to do? Know every single details about that company and come back with a definite number of employees it needs? Nobody here can do that.

What a shitty submission.

Re:Shitpost is shit (3, Insightful)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | 5 days ago | (#47482923)

The submission is so pointless that I'm going to submit my own pointless reply: between one and one million employees.

Re:Shitpost is shit (2)

twistedcubic (577194) | 5 days ago | (#47483429)

Wrong! The answer is 0.

Re:Shitpost is shit (4, Insightful)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | 5 days ago | (#47483007)

Yes the question posed is ridiculous, akin to asking how long is a piece of string.

Regardless, the submitter has created a space in which we can choose either to flame him/her (achieving nothing) or we can choose to have an interesting and useful debate on things like how companies slow down as they scale, whether there should be mandatory size limits on companies a la KSR's Red Mars trilogy, to what extent this move is an indictment of the Ballmer era, to what extent Microsoft's competitors i.e. Google might be suffering over-staffing and so on. Many interesting topics.

So. Who's first?

Re:Shitpost is shit (1)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | 5 days ago | (#47483207)

If they care about their customers (HA!) they should put at least half the employees they're letting go into expanded testing and security divisions.

Re:Shitpost is shit (4, Funny)

Noah Haders (3621429) | 5 days ago | (#47483247)

If they care about their customers (HA!) they should put at least half the employees they're letting go into expanded testing and security divisions.

good idea! if they sic a bunch of HR drones on to testing and security issues, the problem will be solved in weeks.

Re:Shitpost is shit (1)

jones_supa (887896) | 5 days ago | (#47483243)

We cannot discuss even those things with much accuracy. It would still require more information about how product teams and other structures are arranged inside those companies.

Re:Shitpost is shit (1)

Java Pimp (98454) | 5 days ago | (#47483351)

Since when does a discussion on Slashdot require having actual information?

Just one with a brain would be nice (1)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47482885)

It would be nice if they just had one person in the company who can see that Windows 8.1 and metro are a piece of shit and is in a position to get rid of them.

Windows is currently unusable on the desktop.

Re:Just one with a brain would be nice (1)

jones_supa (887896) | 5 days ago | (#47483371)

It would be nice if they just had one person in the company who can see that Windows 8.1 and metro are a piece of shit and is in a position to get rid of them.

I believe Satya Nadella actually sees this. It's just hard for Microsoft to completely halt the Modern UI strategy as they are so deeply married to it by this point. The Start Menu in Windows 9 is taking things back though.

Windows is currently unusable on the desktop.

By the way, along the silly UI, the update system is also very glitchy in Windows 8. After dropping Service Packs they have gone with weird patch levels stacked upon each other like "8.1 Update 1". They quickly pulled the carpet from Windows 8.0 support altogether. Then, the updates from Windows Update often do not apply cleanly, leading to "Installing updates failed. Reverting changes." Not to mention that the Control Panel Windows Update section often has problem downloading updates or showing the status properly (the backend worker might be doing its thing but the UI never shows any progress). The 8.0 to 8.1 update process is also a major pain in the ass, being unreliable and leading people having to do various magic tricks like unplugging all USB devices or removing display drivers so that everything goes fine.

About half of Apple's employees are in retail (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47482889)

About half of Apple's employees are retail employees (working in Apple stores). Only about 40,000 work as developers, testers, etc.

Apple's 2013 10-K Annual Report states []

"As of September 28, 2013, the Company had approximately 80,300 full-time equivalent employees and an additional 4,100 full-time equivalent temporary employees and contractors. Approximately 42,800 of the total full-time equivalent employees worked in the Company’s Retail segment."

Re:About half of Apple's employees are in retail (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | 5 days ago | (#47483561)

oh, it gets worse than this. After MSFT fire everybody their headcount will still be higher than it was last year.

AMZN has lots of people in the warehouses. Redhat is more focused. FaceBook is more focused and has outsourced (depending on you define outsourcing) a lot of its processes. Etc. all are lousy companions.

Corporate culture (5, Informative)

cphilo (768807) | 5 days ago | (#47482899)

My son is certified as a Microsoft Architect and at one point in his career was a senior Microsoft executive. He described the upper levels as very political. There was little team spirit.There was a lot of jockeying for position, backstabbing and attempts to degrade people to to elevate yourself. He eventually left and started his own company (which is doing quite well. He just bought a 40' RV)

Re:Corporate culture (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483253)

This post and a comment in another [] help explain the problems common in management systems.

Initially, you have enough managers to stay busy keeping track of the work and relaying status to the guys at the top. As base employee numbers shift, some managers become overworked and others have free time. The managers with free time try to convince the C*Os that the overworked managers are just inefficient, while the overworked managers attempt to convince the C*Os that they are overworked and need underling managers (and that the underworked managers are slackers, not really doing their job). Once a few underling managers get added, there becomes a war of status over who has the most underling managers, regardless of the actual utility of any of them. The upper managers bicker for the favor of the C*Os, the middle managers compete over improving their rank, and the lowest rung of managers is stuck either trying to do a good job and crippled by the weight of decisions from above or ignoring their job and trying to squeeze up a few tiers.

Sometimes a CEO, board of directors, or other high rank will notice that 2/3 of their budget is going to managers, 50% of their staff is management, and productive employees are leaving citing "management troubles" as their reason for going. Then starts a vicious burn cycle that tries to preserve the most competent managers and cut out all the dead weight (success rates vary), like the one that has been going on at Microsoft since Windows 8 went retail while not just ignoring but actively rejecting customer inputs about the release candidate versions.

Re:Corporate culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483269)

My son is certified as a Microsoft Architect and at one point in his career was a senior Microsoft executive.

He described the upper levels as very political. There was little team spirit.There was a lot of jockeying for position, backstabbing and attempts to degrade people to to elevate yourself.

He eventually left and started his own company (which is doing quite well. He just bought a 40' RV)

I'm honestly not trying to Godwin anything but that sounds alot like career politics in the Third Reich.

Re:Corporate culture (2)

swillden (191260) | 5 days ago | (#47483303)

My son is certified as a Microsoft Architect and at one point in his career was a senior Microsoft executive.

He described the upper levels as very political. There was little team spirit.There was a lot of jockeying for position, backstabbing and attempts to degrade people to to elevate yourself.

He eventually left and started his own company (which is doing quite well. He just bought a 40' RV)

I'm honestly not trying to Godwin anything but that sounds alot like career politics in the Third Reich.

With the small difference that in the Third Reich those who failed badly enough at the politics ended up with a bullet in their brain.

It sounds a lot more like career politics in most corporations. Not all, certainly, but most.

Re:Corporate culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483369)

It sounds like career politics in every single US company I've ever been part of, dealt with, or had friends in.

Re:Corporate culture (1)

Daniel Hoffmann (2902427) | 5 days ago | (#47483585)

Sounds like career politics in every single company that is at least medium-sized. When a company grows beyond a certain threshold it eventually loses the team spirit, people inside the company do not consider themselves part of the company but instead part of the small group they are in that just happens to be inside a company umbrella. So they regard the other employers not inside their groups the same as they regard people outside the company. This is not true only on the management level.

Re:Corporate culture (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | 5 days ago | (#47483337)

40' RV? That's like when the trashiest of white trash wins the lottery.

Re:Corporate culture (0)

gunner_von_diamond (3461783) | 5 days ago | (#47483691)

40' RV? That's like when the trashiest of white trash wins the lottery.

That's hilarious. Measuring your son's success by the length of his RV. I bet all the MS exec's are drowning in envy. Maybe the company is doing X number of millions in sales or has a workforce of thousands of employees. That would be an impressive success quota.

Given their monopolistic tendencies... (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | 5 days ago | (#47482941)

... enough to deprive potential competitors of necessary human resources.

They're finishing off Nokia (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | 5 days ago | (#47482947)

and scaling back XBox. The CEO more or less said he wanted to cut XBox because it wasn't profitable enough, and Nokia is a no-brainer. Microsoft lost the smart phone/tablet war big, and they've probably got redundancies to eliminate.

The part that I'm wondering about is with these new, ultra efficient companies that merge up like crazy how much work is there going to be for the rest of us to do? Between that an automation it just looks like we're running out of work to do..

Re:They're finishing off Nokia (1)

Junta (36770) | 5 days ago | (#47483159)

The part that I'm wondering about is with these new, ultra efficient companies that merge up like crazy how much work is there going to be for the rest of us to do? Between that an automation it just looks like we're running out of work to do..

I think that's a bit of overestimation of these 'new, ultra efficient' companies. The volume of IT work has increased a lot over the past couple of decades, despite a seemingly more homogenous IT world with fewer 'newer, ultra efficient' companies (compared to the state of things in the early 90s).

In practice, the industry has just been shuffling I think. Some key specific cases see some gains or else loudly think they got gains, but there are losers too.

Some areas that were more automation friendly actually get less automated (some expensive automation features are falling out of favor in some datacenters in favor of low lost local labor). Many of these have sensibilities of 'buy a whole new server' rather than trying to fix something, meaning more volumes for their server vendors.

In the rise of 'cloud' we see a phenomenon where a lot of companies end up paying twice. They outsource their needs, but find out their IT staff actually is still needed (since the cloud providers actually don't help on as much as the stack as would be needed, and even when they do, they don't find a lot of takers). So they end up funding more headcount for their provider without getting to significantly reduce their own (which frequently means increased actual IT cost).

This is a bit on the pessimistic side of things, but these phenomenon add up to the chase for the 'magic bullet' continually driving change but not necessarily workforce reduction.

Re:They're finishing off Nokia (4, Interesting)

tobe (62758) | 5 days ago | (#47483347)

> Between that an automation it just looks like we're running out of work to do..

You are dead right there.

Drive for a living? Not for much longer.
Fly for a living? Not for much longer.
A broker or agent of some kind? Won't be needing you so much.

Globally huge numbers of traditional blue collar jobs are being made obsolete and they're not being replaced in sufficient numbers with new opportunities. We're going to have to adjust to the reality that within, say, 100 years... unless climate change or war or whatever hasn't significantly affected global demographics.. most of the developed world's population is not going to be economically active within the existing model of trading labour for goods. We're going to have to find cheap ways of keeping them fed and pacified whilst still being able to look at ourselves in the mirror.

Re:They're finishing off Nokia (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | 5 days ago | (#47483389)

You're making shit up. What he actually said is "we will continue to innovate and grow our fan base with Xbox while also creating additive business value for Microsoft," []

Sure he's cancelling the XBox Original TV Shows idea, but in all honest that idea was incredibly stupid and really added nothing to 99.99% of XBox users.

This a question that Microsoft should answer (4, Informative)

mykepredko (40154) | 5 days ago | (#47482957)

This week, I got a real WTF when dealing with Microsoft products and the amazing amount of redundancy that is possible in the company.

We have a robot product that we can communicate to using Bluetooth SPP and we are creating an application that can control it remotely. We originally went with a serial interface (after pairing, recording the "com#" of the device and then passing it to our application), this is somewhat cumbersome so we wanted to pair from our app and connect directly (saving the user from doing those operations manually).

Logically, this would be one set of APIs, but it seems there are five depending on the OS - the only ones that are common are for Vista/Win7. I would think that right here there are four teams that are redundant - pick a single, consistent API, add it in Service Packs for all supported OSes and assign one team to the job.

I would expect there are many more examples out there of similar inefficiencies that somebody within Microsoft should be able to answer with the ability to make things easier for developers and make developers available for squishing bugs.

Sorry about the rant, but standard IO interface APIs should be just that, standard.


Microsoft and redundancy (4, Interesting)

King_TJ (85913) | 5 days ago | (#47483845)

As has been pointed out already, the "How many employees does MS need?" question is ridiculous, as there's no way ANY of us here is qualified to give even an approximate answer that's not just a complete guess.

That said, it *is* possible to talk specifics and point out areas where improvement is needed.

The last I heard, Microsoft had an internal structure where those developing new applications weren't the ones responsible for debugging them. They just spit out the code, and another team would have to fix/clean it up. To me, that makes absolutely NO sense, as the people best qualified to get a program running right are the ones who wrote it in the first place! I've heard that's one of the things that's going to change to improve efficiency, and if true -- I sure hope so, even if it means laying some people off.

I also understand that finally, the Mac and the Windows Office developers have been instructed to work as a team -- vs. treating the Mac Office developers as an isolated group in the company. (That *may* have been originally done based on a silly interpretation of the financials, vs. any true benefit to the development of the code? I remember the Mac division of Microsoft once bragging that it earned the highest profit margin of any division in the company, per employee hired -- simply because it was such a small team.)

I will say I find it telling that even Intel corporation has over 20,000 fewer employees than Microsoft does, right now. I can't really imagine that chip development and sales by the world leader in that area would require less manpower than Microsoft needs to sell and support some of the code people can run on those chips?

Fire all the marketing, and reduce to 4 levels (0)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47482963)

Step 1 : Fire the entire marketing department, as well as most of the sales staff.
Step 2 : Simplify the organizational structure so that the lowest employee only has 3 bosses (at most) between him and the CEO, so the entire company is no more than 4 levels deep.
Step 3 : Nobody outside the engineering department should have input towards new features, which bugs get fixed, etc. Fire anyone else who does.
Step 4 : ???
Step 5 : Redemption, renewed respect from the tech world, victory and profits.

Re:Fire all the marketing, and reduce to 4 levels (1)

dcw3 (649211) | 5 days ago | (#47483541)

4 levels? How many direct reports do you expect one manager to effectively handle? I'm at the 3rd level in my organization (we've varied between 80-120k employees over the last dozen years) with 5 direct reports, and and additional 58 below them at several locations in different timezones. And yet, I'm still 5 levels below our division president...not even the CEO.

I'm sure you could tell me how my time could be used more effectively managing many more people. I'm looking forward to your reference to where you've successfully implemented this strategy.

Re:Fire all the marketing, and reduce to 4 levels (1)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | 5 days ago | (#47483553)

You understand that for a balanced organization EVERY manager would need 18-19 direct reports. That is crazy. I don't want the CEO having 18 direct reports, and I certainly don't want my boss having 18 direct reports. Doesn't work
Frankly, if you think 3 is a good idea - I would have you fired as most engineering departments NEED outside input - otherwise you end up with Linux/OSS in general where they think the best idea for a leading editor is either VI or EMACS. I don't even know why that is a debate.

Just Steve Ballmer (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483003)

This guy can sell anything! Even Reversi and Windows 8!

Too bad he's gone now.

Random Guess Required (1)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483019)

Because how would anyone here have a clue?

How many? Hard to say (5, Interesting)

andyring (100627) | 5 days ago | (#47483021)

I work concurrently in a large company (45,000 employees) and a small company (50-ish, but for years we were in the 5-8 range). I am solidly convinced that the larger a company gets, the higher the number of excess employees.

How do I work concurrently in both companies? My primary employer is the small company, but the large company has subcontracted me via my primary employer to work in their HQ 3 days a week because a specific department (which my primary employer specializes in) is swamped, or so they say. So, 3 days a week I work at the big place with very little to do and end up doing a small amount of work and lots of web browsing or reading or working remotely as I'm able on tasks for the small company. And then 2 days a week I'm at the small company, swamped and playing catch-up.

Granted, this is but one example, but the contrast I see on a daily basis is stunning. Even in my smaller employer I see us getting more inefficiencies and "dead weight" employees. Back when our employee count was in the single digits, it was a whole different ballgame. We were small. We didn't have the resources to carry extra employees. When someone would quit, it was a huge deal because we'd be losing literally like a sixth of our entire workforce. And it was a fun environment! It truly felt like a tightly connected team.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I've been employed at the small company for 16 years and have no desire to leave. But to get back to the original question, the bigger a company gets, the more dead weight they'll carry until the times get really tough. Then, you'll see where they can cut the fat.

Here's an example. A few decades ago, the Rock Island railroad was a well-known railroad across the Midwest. They went bankrupt in about 1980 if memory serves. Leading up to their insolvency, they ended up leading the industry in getting down to a 2-person train crew because they simply had no money to pay additional crew members. From what I've heard, managers literally told train crews "Tough luck, you get an engineer and a conductor because we can't afford to pay for a brakeman." And now the industry standard is a 2-person train crew.

Aside from Microsoft, a FAR better question would be (not to turn this political, but it's a fair question): "How many employees does $government really need?"

Where am I going with this? I'm not sure. Maybe I'm rambling because I'm bored. :)

Re:How many? Hard to say (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | 5 days ago | (#47483225)

I work concurrently in a large company (45,000 employees) and a small company (50-ish, but for years we were in the 5-8 range). I am solidly convinced that the larger a company gets, the higher the number of excess employees.

certainly large companies have more excess employees, after all the are larger and if only 10% of a company's employees are excess then, using your example, one has 45k and the other 5 excess employees. I suspect the percentage is larger at large companies because it is easy to hide employees and hire, rathe than layoff, staff.

What is the right number of employees? It depends; largely on their revenue generating ability.I've worked at companies where if an employee was billable 65% of the time everyone was happy. I've worked projects where I did 20 hours of work and 40 of free time and that was fine because we still had huge margins. Not having the staff to put on projects costs more than keeping them around so they can work high margin jobs. I've worked at big companies and small ones and in defense of big ones is when you need resources to throw at project they have them; whereas small ones often don't.

Re:How many? Hard to say (3, Funny)

osschar (442236) | 5 days ago | (#47483233)

I bet you're working for the large company today :)

Re:How many? Hard to say (1)

andyring (100627) | 5 days ago | (#47483325)

Hmmm, how'd you guess? :)

Re:How many? Hard to say (1)

nblender (741424) | 5 days ago | (#47483657)

I like to think of it as "Silting up"... big companies with little apparent strategic direction tend to lose their most talented employees to 'churn'... The least talented employees have fewer options so they stay put marking time.. They become silt..

None (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483023)

I don't think they need any employees...

Found a cause and effect (2)

UrsaMajor987 (3604759) | 5 days ago | (#47483073)

"The company is famous for its huge teams that don't work together well, and excessive middle management." Can you guess which one causes the other?

Depends... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483091)

... For the given area, are they embracing, extending, or extinguishing the relevant technology? Embracing requires a few talking heads. Extending requires acquisitions and/or development staff. Extinguishing... well, we're seeing the final results of that here....

Every Windows User (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483101)

Should be paid a salary for having to put up with this crappy OS.

Change takes Change (0)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483119)

I heard on NPR this morning that, other than Nokia/mobile overlap, the biggest areas of layoff were in middle management. If so, then layoffs may be the correct thing to do. The same report said that Microsoft was increasing hiring in areas. If, for argument's sake, Microsoft got rid of 75k bureaucrats (middle managers, asst department heads, etc.), and replace those with 50k engineers and architects, and a reasonable number of project manager types (who can actually manage projects and do more than cover their own ass), they will be moving in the correct direction

Hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483123)

Over 9000!

Better math facts please :) (2)

Kingkaid (2751527) | 5 days ago | (#47483133)

The Nokia aquisition added 25k to their roster and they are cutting 18k. So why all the big hupla?

1 employee per 400-500K of revenue? (4, Interesting)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | 5 days ago | (#47483139)

Just a rule of thumb I've seen in the lower end of the tech market to stay profitable. At $100B revenue (per year), that's 200K employees. At 110K employees, they're around 900K per employee, which is great.

Only 2 (0)

Lumpy (12016) | 5 days ago | (#47483155)

The CEO and the guy to manage all the offshore people in India.

where would i be without IBM? (1)

jsepeta (412566) | 5 days ago | (#47483209)

does IBM have 400k employees? is the count ~300k for temp staff?

Re:where would i be without IBM? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483435)

I don't know IBMs numbers, but Microsoft has at least as many temp staffers as FTEs. In some teams the CSGs FAR outnumber the FTEs. I think it's hilarious everyone's paying so much attention to 18K FTEs getting the axe because Microsoft has been fast and loose with firing CSGs for years. Most contracts start as a 3 month job. Then they'll extend you 3 months etc up to a year (if you're a-). Then you have to take a 100 day break from employment at Microsoft. If you're a vendor (v-), this process can go on as long as they want.

Most CSGs have an eye on becoming FTE someday, but Microsoft doesn't even think about helping out in that process. They don't do training, they don't do mentoring, they don't even give you access to the online courses every single FTE has access to. Microsoft doesn't give a second thought to hiring from its CSG pool. If you want to go that route you go through the external Careers website just like everyone else. I can't tell you how many Microsoft managers absolutely depend on CSGs and their knowledge and experience, yet won't lift a finger to get them hired full-time.

The should restructure as an income trust (3, Insightful)

west (39918) | 5 days ago | (#47483285)

If they really wanted to do what was right for the stock holders, they should acknowledge that they've got an incredibly lucrative income stream from a gradually dying product line. They should milk the Windows/Office franchise for everything they can, while cutting down development which only at this point enrages customers who have to spend big bucks on migration costs.

Cut everything way back, and send every penny you make straight back to the stock holders (i.e. an Income Trust).

MS Stock would instantly become the hottest income stock on the market. "Hey, we're *not* going to blow every penny we've made for the last 30 years in a futile attempt to stave off the end of our industry. We're just going to make you very, very wealthy!"

MS is sitting on the world's most profitable oil field. There's no shame in acknowledging that it won't last forever - just exploit it as profitably (i.e. cheaply) as possible and give the money to the stock holders.

How Many Employees are Required? (1)

catchblue22 (1004569) | 5 days ago | (#47483291)

Consider the history of major software projects, and how many employees were required. BSD unix was a university project, developed by faculty and students. Linux was developed initially by one person, and then a relatively small team. NeXT was developed by a fairly small team over a relatively small amount of time. Mac OSX was basically the NeXT system ported over to the Mac platform; at the time, Apple had about a tenth of the employees of Microsoft, and was under significant financial stress. iOS and the iPhone were developed by a very small team within Apple (20+ employees if I am not mistaken). The interesting thing is that all of these systems have displayed remarkable stability and security. This likely has something to do with the fact that these OS's are all unix derived. However I find it interesting that such excellent products did not require large numbers of programmers to develop.

Contrast the above with the offerings of Microsoft over recent years. Most especially consider Vista, Win7 and Win8. During the development of these systems, Microsoft had a huge number of excellent programmers. Why did it take them so long to develop these operating system versions? Why has MS had such difficulty porting over to different processor architectures, such as ARM? Apple has had no such difficulty, porting OSX/ iOS from PowerPC to Intel to ARM. I believe that a fundamental cause of the difficulties that MS has experience with Windows lies in the early stages of operating system development. Whereas the systems based on Unix were built on a solid and proven foundation from their earliest versions, Microsoft has from a very early stage shown a tendency to build its own early versions on its own unproven architecture, with the intention of fixing the significant problems later.

Early versions of Windows 95 had very limited networking protocols, that were intended for home networking only. Wide area networking was added as an afterthought. Contrast this with unix variants, which are based on an architecture that grew up in an environment of university main-frames with hostile tinkering computer science students vying to break the system.

Anyone who worked with Windows 95 can attest to the buggy mess that it was. I supported people using it, and I remember the problems. User says, "my system crashed so I rebooted it. It still didn't work so I rebooted it again. It still didn't solve the problem." Tech guy responds, "well there's your problem. Tap the computer twice, pray to the god of your choice, and reboot it a third time, and it should be fixed."

Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8 all originate from that same architecture, right down to the fact that they all share the engineering disaster that is "the registry". How can Windows ever be truly solid when it is built on such a bad foundation. I believe that the reason why Microsoft has had such difficulty building a solid OS stems from this weak foundation. It explains why it took MS many years and a staff 10x that of Apple to build the marvel that was Vista. As Mythbusters showed, it is possible to polish a turd. However it takes a lot of effort. And in the end, you still only finish with a polished turd.

Re:How Many Employees are Required? (1, Informative)

kamapuaa (555446) | 5 days ago | (#47483513)

Actually Windows XP was based on the Windows NT architecture. Windows 95, was based on the DOS architecture.

Windows 95 was decades ago, it wasn't up to modern standards but it was certainly better than Mac OS 7 or Linux 1.0. It's time to move on.

640k (0)

Katatsumuri (1137173) | 5 days ago | (#47483297)

640k should be enough for anybody.

Not really a layoff (0)

Sentrion (964745) | 5 days ago | (#47483299)

Microsoft isn't really laying off these people. They just expect they will come back and code for free and for the love of coding as they launch the development of Windows OPEN. Coming soon to

Opinion: Satya Nadella is not a competent CEO. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | 5 days ago | (#47483319)

It seems to me that anyone who says this, I synthesized our strategic direction... [] , is utterly incompetent at coordinating a large group. That is unthinking corporate-speak. It communicates non-verbally that he has no understanding of what is needed.


"... realign our workforce..."

"... work toward synergies and strategic alignment..."

"... drive greater accountability..."

"... become more agile and move faster."

"... fewer layers of management, both top down and sideways, ..."

"... flattening organizations..."

"... increasing the span of control of people managers."

"... our business processes and support models will be more lean and efficient with greater trust between teams."
Comment: Corporate-speak does not build trust, it destroys trust.

"... more productive, impactful teams..."

"Each organization is starting at different points and moving at different paces."
Comment: That is utterly obvious.

"We will realize the synergies..."

"... align to Microsoft's strategic direction."

"... we will focus on breakthrough innovation that expresses and enlivens..."

"... builds on our success in the affordable smartphone space..."

"... aligns with our focus..."

I'm very interested in the sociology of this. My understanding is that the Microsoft board of directors is utterly incompetent, has little understanding of technology, and merely chose the person to be CEO who was consistently most pleasant and ingratiating.

A competent CEO would not announce a huge advancement until it was already accomplished.

The sweeping changes Satya Nadella is announcing require huge amounts of research and understanding. It is simply not possible to accomplish successfully a re-organization of a huge company as though it were one action.

A competent top coordinator would announce a little at a time and provide meaningful and detailed explanation about why each change was necessary, and how decisions were made.

A competent top coordinator would make it clear that much of the wisdom of ideas about changes came from other people inside the company.

My opinions.

Re:Opinion: Satya Nadella is not a competent CEO. (1)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | 5 days ago | (#47483507)

I explained this in a thread yesterday, but there's a good reason (in this case, anyway) for the buzzword-laden speech. The reason is that this is a massive layoff, and Satya Nadella doesn't want to give a single one of those 18,000 employees ammunition to use against the company in a wrongful termination or discrimination suit. At the same time, it's a PR issue - there was a lot of press coverage of these layoffs, and he doesn't want to give anything to the press to use against the company either.

In reality, everyone knows what happened: MS is laying off a bunch of people from Nokia and the mobile division because there was a massive amount of position overlap - this is normal during a merger. They're also laying off a lot of middle managers and some people in the Xbox division - the managers because they're essentially dead weight, and the Xbox people because Nadella has said on the record that he thinks the Xbox division should be eliminated in conjunction with the wishes of some of the people on Microsoft's board of directors. However, if MS ever admitted any of this, they'd look like a big evil corporation swallowing up other businesses for their IPs (which is more or less what they did with Nokia) and firing off all the workers. They have to at least make it look like it's not corporate evil.

Re:Opinion: Satya Nadella is not a competent CEO. (1)

mbone (558574) | 5 days ago | (#47483683)

What you don't realize is that "Dilbert' is now a word-smithing resource for upper level management.

No Worries (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483339)

A mass layoff would normally be a tragic thing for the employees. However, these are people with programming experience from a top tier computer company. With all the recent reports of the huge need for more coders, they should have no trouble getting new jobs. RIGHT?

Re:No Worries (0)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483671)

Are these the coders that put together the XBOX One OS ? *shivers*

Are we talking Employees or H1Bs? (3, Insightful)

Rinikusu (28164) | 5 days ago | (#47483433)

Because they don't need any of the former, but low and behold, a half million of the latter.

Layoffs in Redmond (0)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483481)

The good: quick execution: rumors/announcement/termination within days. Good severance package. Layoffs timed so that outgoing employees receive bonuses and vested stock. Alignment with business strategy: smaller teams of engineers, less process, more dev-focus.

The bad: layoff by algorithm, a lot of surprises in who got laid off and who got to stay. Management not aware of coming layoffs until the day of termination. Some opportunities to cut parasitic orgs not realized. Morale impacted.

One... (1)

jpellino (202698) | 5 days ago | (#47483483)

just that last one to turn out the light. At least for the mobile division.

Answer to Quiz (1)

carrier lost (222597) | 5 days ago | (#47483527)

How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need?

With any luck, no more than is necessary to shut the doors and turn out the lights.

Begs the question (0)

Anonymous Coward | 5 days ago | (#47483537)

How many programs could a microsoft programmer program if a microsoft programmer could program programs?

Acquisitions (1)

BenJeremy (181303) | 5 days ago | (#47483587)

HP has over 317,000 employees, thanks in large part to acquisitions - Microsoft is no different here.

Lots of redundancies can be eliminated (unfortunately for those employees) - and in some ways, this is a very bad thing. As monopolies grow, they are able to be more efficient and eliminate jobs. We don't stop and think about the fact that in a massive conglomerate corporation place once stood several competing corporations that meant competition (lower prices, better service to consumers) and more jobs - but of course, less return to investors and less pay to executives.

This is a troubling trend, as the American Dream is snuffed and the middle class finds itself dwindling deeper into poverty, while the richest seem to work tirelessly to increase that gap. I'm no socialist or communist, but it occurred to me the goal of these assholes wasn't to get richer - that's something that happens when you are that rich anyway - it is to make the rest of us poorer.

Just one... (1)

smitty97 (995791) | 5 days ago | (#47483593)

... to close the door on the way out

Better question... (1)

Last_Available_Usern (756093) | 5 days ago | (#47483615)

How many employees does the US Govt really need.

Amazon are a bit different (2)

Geeky (90998) | 5 days ago | (#47483617)

I'm not sure including Amazon in the list is a reasonable comparison. Their numbers will be boosted by all the shelf pickers. Same with Apple and their retail stores - it's a different kind of business (OK, perhaps MS have some stores, but I doubt anything like as many). Some tasks are just more labour intensive (at least until Amazon perfects their robot pickers!)

I know what they think (1)

mbone (558574) | 5 days ago | (#47483641)

In modern corporate thinking, the answer is two - the CEO, and a flunky to fetch coffee and do any actual work the CEO should be doing. Every other position should be either automated or outsourced.

All large orgs are like this (2)

ErichTheRed (39327) | 5 days ago | (#47483675)

I work for a medium-large organization (a few thousand people worldwide, nothing like a Microsoft or IBM.) Both very small and very large organizations have problems. Small businesses are usually run by a tyrannical owner and their family, and all others are treated like "the help". Large organizations develop their own political infrastructure, and yes, they collect a lot of unnecessary employees. I'm not sure which is the bigger problem.

When things get too big, there are some people who get very good at either (a) hiding out and not doing a whole lot, or (b) taking advantage of the size of the organization and slowly building empires around themselves. I'm on a very small (way too small for the amount of actual, real customer work we do) product engineering team and am sometimes amazed at how easily some other groups within our company can just ask for and receive more headcount. Good politicians do very well in large organizations. In addition, there are simply a lot of jobs that involve processes that could be automated, but for whatever reason they're not. How many large-company employees do you know that simply take an input stack of work, perform some sort of transaction on it, and pass it on to the next person in the chain? A lot of this is probably holdover from when companies actually did have thousands of people manually processing paper and requests.

Also, in large organizations with long-term employees, it's very easy for the employees to get wrapped up in the organizational procedures themselves. I have a lot of friends who work for the state university system and in local governments, and they tell me all sorts of stories about people throwing fits over the number of sick days they have banked, etc. just because it's a very important part of their work culture. There's a lot of bureaucracy just for the sake of it, and long-term employees use "the system" to maximum advantage. The problem is that it distracts from the actual work that needs to be done.

I'm not really sure we _should_ get rid of every single inefficient position, for one simple reason...these office jobs keep a huge chunk of middle class with reasonable skills and medium levels of education employed. Take those out everywhere and suddenly millions of people start defaulting on their debts and the economy collapses. In that case, either (a) the economy reorganizes around a Star Trek The Next Generation model, or (b) we start seeing some really bad stuff happening in the near future. Losing manufacturing was bad -- imagine what happens when millions more have nowhere to go and nothing to do.

That said, try to get a bug fixed or feature added in Windows or's not easy and I think I know part of the reason. :-)

At least 1 less than they currently have (1)

kimanaw (795600) | 5 days ago | (#47483719)

Stephen Elop is somehow hanging on and getting promoted, despite turning Nokia from a one time cellphone powerhouse into a shell of an IP holding company, and finally into MSFT's redheaded stepchild. See Om Malik's take []
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