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Help for Caring Leaders of Companies Laying off Employees – Maybe?

{ 12 comments… add one }

Cancelledemployee Yesterday I posted my thoughts on leaders being careful about the “just be happy you have a job” attitude towards employees. What goes around comes goes around is what I said. And when the economy gets back on track, those employees treated poorly might be out the door quicker than you can say “where are you going?”

A reader (thanks Ashlee Erwin) sent me a nifty little article that appeared on NPR back in September. Click here to read the full article. As companies continue to lay off thousands of people, this company found an innovative way to keep the people they care about (all of their employees) in jobs and prevent families and lives from undo adversity and possible poverty. How did they do it? By setting up what they call “alternative work.” Work that was contracted out is now done by employees. They even have a corporate garden that employees work in and sell.

Of course this is a small town and a small business (only 68 workers), but I am sure if companies were thoughtful they could come up with innovative ways to retain a lot more workers and help prevent the type of stress and downright depression that occurs when someone in the family loses their job (I speak from personal experience).

What innovative things have you seen companies do to retain their employees instead of laying them off?

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  • Philip Webb November 3, 2009, 12:23 pm

    What many business Leaders seem to fail to understand is that the human capital that are so quickly and easily reduced in numbers due to financial pressures are often the very people who have the skills and the incentive to help a company not only survive but sometimes grow in a recession. Many business Leaders who are perhaps more enlightened will find a method to bring the teams together in such a way that the latent energy and skills are harnessed for the immediate good of the Company. I have grown a business during the 92 recession and I am growing one right now, but linking in to the people in businesses. Be bold in times of adversity, it’s amazing how your teams will support you and your company.

  • Debora McLaughlin November 3, 2009, 12:26 pm

    I agree, some of the organizations I work with also shared the situation with employees and asked “what can we do” they were suprised (I wasn’t) when the employees came up with creative ideas on how to reduce costs, how to offer vacation time to keep others employed, and how to optimize the company. Many great companies were grown out of the depression and recession periods. Engage your people, ask for their brillance, leaders do not have to carry this weight themselves. There are opportunites especially for small business growth due to lack of trust in bigger business, big business can work on building a better performing collaborative culture, there is much to do and being in action is key.

  • Michael Hartwell November 3, 2009, 12:27 pm

    The difference between a caring leader and an uncaring leader is that the caring leader feels bad when he/she lays off an employee.

  • Steven Bocker November 3, 2009, 12:28 pm

    Sometimes the decision to remove human capital is counter intuitive. The concept of loyalty and team work dissolve when the cutting starts. Controlling the fallout from these decisions can be difficult and seem uncaring. Organizations sometimes fail to retain the best, brightest and most capable. The methodology may be rooted in corporate culture that relies on making choices that will be viewed as “safe” or the best for the organization. During a contraction decision makers may choose to remove competition within the ranks. Over the last few years many quality professional managers focused on supporting upper management lock step only to be victims of their own delusions when thier own number came up for termination. From this example the positive take away is always be prepared and ready for the possiblity of a career transition. Stay confident, focused and well honed for the next challenge in front of you. Nurture relationships from yesterday, find new relationships for today and plant the seeds for possible relationships in the future.

  • Phillip Webb November 3, 2009, 12:29 pm

    Relationship building has to be part of your career management, whether you are a team worker, lower, upper management or even a Director (especially) It should be part of the development of the business in any event. Question I have it this… once the cost cutting exercise has completed, and the P&L stablised, what effort is put in to supporting the teams that still have a job, and remain traumatised by the events of losing their close colleagues. In my experience, Companies try to wrap it up as “business as usual”, when in fact it is anything but. A structured plan investing in those remaining is essential if the downturn is to be made an upturn.

  • Debora McLaughlin November 3, 2009, 12:30 pm

    How true. With the current statistics on employee engagement, moral and motivation is lost when your lunch collegues are no longer there and there is no one talking about the loss and changes. Fear rises in many, “am I next” and some disappear out of site for fear of being found less competent. As a result profits and performance fail anyway. I recommend that businesses engage their people in the fallout effects, talking about how to move forward even when they have these emotions, offering opportunity to express concerns. Helping employees leave with ease helps those that remain as well too. Offering letters of recommendation, career coaching, references for support etc helps those that move on and shows good favor on the company. What have others used as strategies to keep the current staff motivated in times of employee loss?

  • Pamela Stambaugh November 3, 2009, 12:31 pm

    I have a client who brought his executive team together and did a thorough analysis of how to cut costs, including getting their understanding, agreement, and appreciation of the difficulty in having to cut everywhere, including their salaries. A month later, he has done all the cost cutting, and saved all those jobs. Being in on the decision making, everyone took a cut, and all are working as hard as ever.
    I co-facilitated that difficult conversation, and was touched by the camaraderie and sense of community — it felt like an old fashioned barn raising must have been like…. I’ll do this, you’ll do that, we’ll all pull together.

  • Ray DePena November 3, 2009, 12:32 pm

    They also fail to understand that much of this talent will be landing at their competitors and understand full well how to compete effectively with your organization. I know of several colleagues that were snapped up by competitors.

  • Debora McLaughlin November 3, 2009, 12:33 pm

    Yes organizations need to consider the financial loss of the the collective intelligence of their people, when they go it is more than their salary that goes with them, its all the training, mentoring and company knowledge. Joan use the social networks to find a new position, that is where most of the jobs are found these days. Let me know if you need to know more. Well off to work on my presentation at Rivier College for tomorrow “Unlocking the Personal Power of Influence in Today’s Leaders to Create Sustainable Businesses for Tomorrow. I hope the college business educators see that new leadership skills are needed to transverse the new landscape of business today.

  • Cindy June 14, 2012, 8:05 am

    I had one operation and then I found out I had to have a second operation because a cyst I had removed had cancer cells in it.
    I told my boss and he told me I needed some time to get my health back and was told the same day I found out I had cancer I was let go. It has been three years since I have been able to find a job due to the economy.
    I lost my cobra in December and my unemployment ended in April. Luckily my husband has been still working

  • Mike Rogers July 3, 2012, 2:58 pm

    I am sorry to hear that Cindy. That is a tough story. Thank you for sharing.


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