Almost everyday you can pick up a copy of the newspaper or turn on the TV News and hear about an organization which has announced that it is cutting jobs to lower costs. In this current economic climate I can totally understand wanting to reduce costs. However I ask you what is your goal - to sustain the organization for the long haul or to satisfy the stockholders for a quick response to economic "dire" warnings?
Let's consider the two perspectives in place in many organizations. The first one is based in the concept that our human capital are nothing more than an expense item. When the organization is blowing results out of the water, we tend to hire based on the demand. As a result when we find that the economic conditions are headed in the opposite direction the first reaction by many management members is to see how you can cut costs. This includes cutting staff. In order to meet the demands of the board of directors and other stakeholders the strategic direction is cut costs at any cost to the organization. Never mind that as you cut overhead we forget that the workload does not get less. In its place you have added to the stress level within the organization. Typically we find eventually that work does not get done on time alienating the organizational customers. While we may have helped meet the demands of the stakeholders we have not helped the future of the organization
Consider the other side of the coin if you will. In this scenario we find a total different view of management. They recognize that our greatest asset is the innovation and thought processes of our human capital. Management fully understands while the short term solution seems to be the logical route, in actuality we have failed to recognize what the knowledge drain will mean to the corporation.
Consider this: There was a company about five years ago who decided that the sure fire method to cut costs was to offer early buy out to anyone with 20+ years with the company. Almost all the employees took the corporation up on their offer and they were out of business in 6 months.
So let's turn this into a strategic discussion - You are in an industry where sales are dropping due to the economy and its trials and tribulations. So what do you do? The first thing I would tell you that unless you are planning to close your doors, N0 ONE SHOULD BE LAID OFF. Let me repeat that, no one should be laid off. There are other ways to reduce costs and keep the organization flowing. Review the organizational widgets (We all have them whether we make something or not) and locate the ways we are spending money out the door due to wasteful activities. If you are thinking, we don't do that here, go ask your clients how well you are meeting their needs. Jay Arthur in his book Free, Perfect and Now suggests that for every $100 of corporate spend, you are wasting between 25-40 in wastes. On a continuous basis review how you are doing business to cut these wastes from the operation.
Talk with your human capital assets and let them know a true picture of how the organization is functioning. Talk with them about ways to have everyone pitch in to save the organization for the long term. Talk to them about TEMPORARY job sharing. Talk to them about shortening the work week. Each and everyone of these strategies is designed to save the organization monies and not hurt the future of the company. Understand that if you have a problem meeting customer needs, cutting staff is not going to meet the customer needs. If you are not meeting the customer needs there is something. wrong with the internal processes.
So here is your dilemma - we recognize the value of the intellectual properties of our leased, non-owned corporate assets, but we are getting extreme pressure from stakeholders to maximize their return on investment. You need to demonstrate to the stakeholders that the maximum return on investment is not on financial returns for next week or next month. Maximum return on investment is based on what the organization looks like five or ten years down the road. We do not maximize the ROI on the back of our keys to innovation.
Take the time to review how you picture the organization in the future. Make the necessary changes to enhance the level of employee engagement within the organization. Think ahead as to what your product or service is going to look like in response to the voice of the customer and start preparing your human capital to be ready for when the time comes. Promise them that unless you are planning to go bankrupt or close your doors, we are going to plan on maintaining all staffing levels. We are going to the very best we can to establish our rightful place within the business community. We are not going to promise the rose garden if we can't deliver it.
So here is your path in front of you - one fork is to follow the path to short term responses to the demands of the organization. The other fork is to look at how to sustain the brand and the reputation for the long haul. One fork looks at the here and now the other looks at the future. A future which can be bright, vibrant and fully supportive of the path the organization has chosen. You make the decision.
By the way let me know are you stuck in the short term quagmire or are you following the yellow brick road to the future, where your bottom line increases because of the steps taken by the entire organization- rank and file and management together in consultation to improve the end result of the organizational voice of the customer requests.