LOTUS FACES A LOYALTY TEST. More than 1,000 employees, many of them crucial software developers, can collect cash bonuses in mid-December for staying on. The bonuses, worth 10% to 20% of annual base salary, were IBM's tactic to keep key people after it swallowed the company for $3.5 billion in June. The big question is: Will they stay after the payout?
When IBM launched its bid, many Lotus programmers expressed uneasiness about working for a corporate megalith. Predictions of wholesale departures were rife. But by dangling the bonuses and leaving the hackers alone, IBM has suffered few defections. Top programmer Ray Ozzie indicates he'll stay at least another year. Another concern: Will Lotus' sales force continue to stay intact in 1996? Although most of the salespeople aren't covered by the special bonus, they get yearend commissions.
In the past three months, a bunch of top execs have left, including Chairman Jim Manzi. While the company can manage without most of them, the sales and software folks are essential to meeting IBM's demand that Lotus' Notes boost its already dominant market share in groupware (now 69%). Lotus plans to slash Notes prices and make the program more Internet-friendly.