Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Where There's A Will There's A Way"

Times are hard right now.  Ask anyone.  Layoffs, cutbacks, reduced budgets, hiring freezes, rising skyrocketing prices, unemployment....practically everyone has been impacted by the really depressing need to hold on financially and hope the economy will eventually recover before bankruptcy comes pounding at the door!

The standard response by employers to the widespread and apparently critical need to reduce expenses is generally a "slash and burn" approach.  Management unilaterally (it seems) decides to eliminate jobs.  On paper it makes sense.  Salaries and benefits are pretty much always the largest expense any employer has.  Cutting a bunch of jobs is the quickest and easiest way to "save" a big hunk of money.  And that's what most companies do.  Some of them even do it annually!  Cutting, cutting, cutting til they reach bone!  The reality is that sooner or later if you continue to lay off staff in order to reduce expenses, you will reach the point where you cannot continue to function as a manufacturer, a service, a consultant, or what have you, because there aren't enough people to do the job!  "Do more with less" can only be stretched so far without breaking!

Still, this is the option of choice by both large and small companies.  To be fair, most companies will try reducing other expenses and costs first, but usually the typical cuts made are not large enough to recapture a robust financial picture and eventually jobs are the only thing left to cut.

That is basic economics.  It's not pretty, but it works.  The trouble is that cutting jobs not only affects the bottom line, it also affects actual, living people with families to feed and house and clothe.  And this is the true impact....5, 125, or 3,000 families suddenly and abruptly face the loss of their livelihood!  And there is NO recourse.  Nothing poor old Joe Schmoe can do when his job is yanked out from under him with no warning. BOOM!  You are unemployed!

Depending on the size and philosophy of the specific company there is generally a great gnashing of teeth from the CEOs and upper management (all of whom will remain employed in their high-paying jobs) as they play Russian Roulette with their employees' futures. You hear words like "painful", "devastating", "heartbreaking."   Management "cares" about their employees.  "We have no choice. There is nothing else we can do."

HORSE HOCKEY!!    "Where There's A Will There's A Way"

I am aware of a medium sized company that is facing it's 4th year of budget cuts and layoffs.   "Slash and burn" is once again the order of the day.  Except not this time!  The upper management team chose to think outside the box!  They chose to look for innovative and less destructive ways to accomplish their budget reduction WITHOUT massive layoffs!  They have established a plan that does NOT devastate their employees, reduce their goals, or hobble their function!  And it affects all of them, across the board!

What are they doing??  How do they plan to reduce their expenses by the required amount without chopping  out a large chunk of their employees?  How can they do this without having to put an increased burden on those who remain??

Innovation!  Alternatives!  Looking beyond what they have "always done."

A few of the highlights (as I understand them) of what they are doing....

* Most staff, including upper management, will only work1/2 time for June and July.
* Benefits will remain intact but will cost more for the two months of 1/2 time.
* Job eliminations will be less than 3 positions instead of more than 15.
* Plan will go into effect NEXT fiscal year.  (Giving staff a full year to prepare, save and plan.)
* In addition, upper management is taking a VOLUNTARY pay cut in their annual salary.
These are the bare bones of the changes planned, but the required bottom line will be achieved fairly and nearly unilaterally without the elimination of a significant portion of their staff!

This is how Management that truly "cares" about their employees should function and rarely does!   In the vernacular, they embody the concept of  "put up or shut up."  This management team is not locked away is an ivory tower, they are down in the trenches right along side the staff they manage and care about.  In order for something like this to work, it must be a team effort. They are NOT asking more of their employees than they are asking of themselves.  Will it work?  Unknown at this point, but it sure sounds like it should!  One thing for sure, this group really understands what TEAM means!  "Where There's A Will There's A Way" and it's just possible this team found it!

Oh by the way, did I mention that the upper management group who came up with and fostered this clever approach is made up of women?  Truly smart, caring, fair, and innovative women!

Well, gee, there's a shocker!  I'm proud to know them.  

Big business needs to watch and learn!

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