It’s probably just as well that Aviva Investors talks only about its markets and its clients on its website home page, and not its employees.
According to a report in the Telegraph, the HR department at the asset management firm fired all 1,300 employees on April 20 – by email, and by mistake.
[...] There was a stunned silence at the London headquarters as staff across the division read the unsympathetic memo – intended for just one employee.
It instructed all Aviva Investor workers to hand over company property and security passes on their way out of the building, and submit all electronic passwords.
The terse communication reminded staff not to spill any company secrets.
It read: “I am required to remind you of your contractual obligations to the company you are leaving. You have an obligation to retain any confidential information pertaining to Aviva Investors operations, systems and clients.”
Of little consolation, the final line said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and wish you all the best for the future.”
Minutes later staff were relieved to receive a grovelling message from HR apologising for the blanket email.
In the absence of specifics, you can only guess at what probably happened: HR staffer preps the email, text ready, chooses recipient from his/her global address list, by mistake selects an alias or name of a list that actually includes everyone, and clicks ‘send.’ Even if the mistake was spotted straightaway and a recall attempted, that would most probably be too late.
The company apologized for its mistake with company spokesman Paul Lockstone telling Bloomberg that it was the “result of a clerical error.”
“[...] Most people recognized immediately that the e-mail was a mistake,” he said, adding, “From time to time, things go wrong.”
Indeed, mistakes can happen – from a previous life, I recall with some discomfort one involving such an ‘email moment’ with a draft financial results press release going out publicly by mistake instead of being saved as a draft.
Yet even if the email is the culmination of a dismissal (or resignation) process at the company – it’s described in the Telegraph report as an ‘exit email’ – you have to wonder about a company that conducts a significant aspect of the employer-employee relationship with not much care for security and confidentiality of communication, never mind mistakenly including everyone in the email distribution. You really can’t have such a lax system or procedure for something like this. Where’s the duty of care?
Or is this how things are done in big corporations in the financial services industry these days?
I’d say Aviva Investors has some work to do to rebuild trust with its employees.