Dear Workforce How Do I Decide on Layoffs

By Staff Report

Oct. 24, 2006

Dear Bearing Bad News:

Instead of looking at this as a firing decision, view it as a hiring decision. In other words, use this as an opportunity to redesign work, increase employee and customer satisfaction, and select the most qualified people. This makes the process becomes more positive and effective. The negative emotions that surround downsizing help no one.

Start with a clean piece of paper and list all the tasks that need to be done once the downsizing is accomplished. Begin with the results you want, and then list the tasks that must be completed to ensure those results. A thoughtful review of what the customer truly values helps you eliminate non-value-added work that creeps into jobs over time.

Think through each necessary task and estimate the actual time necessary to do it in a quality manner. This activity will help you more effectively communicate which tasks your staff no longer will be able to complete. The reality of any significant downsizing is that some work you currently accomplish must be eliminated. Failing to properly identify and communicate these changes is one of the best ways to end up in a no-win position: less staff and the same workload.

Once you know which tasks remain and how much time each will take, you should design new positions that make sense given these needs. The requirements, skills and experience necessary for each job will flow from the work that must be completed.

If the downsizing has been announced, you may find it helpful to engage current employees in the selection process. Ask each potential candidate to prepare a specific, point-by-point document that details their demonstrated successes and experience with each major job task. Asking employees to self-identify their abilities, rather than just their interest in a position, may result in some candidates voluntarily opting out of the selection process.

If the downsizing must be planned without input from employees, look at performance reviews and other measurements that relate to the specific tasks for each new position to justify your selections. Remember, selections must make sense to you, your superiors and the affected employees. Good performance data describes previous successes and predicts the likelihood of future ones.

If everything else is relatively equal, I typically would keep employees with the most seniority. Employees who have a longer-term commitment likely are more willing to work through these changes if they are for the good of the company.

SOURCE: Richard D. Galbreath, Performance Growth Partners Inc., Bloomington, Illinois, January 30, 2006.

LEARN MORE: Some ideas for inspiring employees when downsizing. Also, 13 Alternatives to Downsizing gives HR directors food for thought. Link to about 75 other items about downsizing.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

Ask a Question
Dear Workforce Newsletter

Schedule, engage, and pay your staff in one system with