What if Layoff or Termination Cannot Be Put Off Any Longer?
When recessions drag on, even well-meaning employers often find themselves having to use this last resort. This blog post will help guide non-union employers in making perhaps the most difficult choices they must make: choosing among employees to let go. Union employers are often restricted in these choices by terms of the collective bargaining agreement that they have negotiated with their employees.
Some people say that recessions are like disasters such as hurricanes and forest fires. They correct excesses that have been allowed to accumulate, such as carelessness about regularly maintaining good practices. Maybe keep this bright side in mind and consider the following factors when confronted with needing to make layoffs or terminations:
1. Focus on skills. Start by thinking about skills of the employees, just like you do when you hire job applicants. Base your decisions on skills in order to have a strong organization after the recession. Basing your decisions on skills may well also help you if claims are made later of discrimination during the process of letting employees go. This is another way that the process we’re talking about here is like the hiring process, but in reverse.
2. Notice what is out of date. During the good times, were there employees you hired for special projects or for particular purposes that were popular during the good times but may not become popular in the post-recession environment? For instance, did you make hires to work with consumer purchases they made with excess disposable income they may not have for a while yet? If so, they may now be candidates for transfer to other parts of your organization or for layoff or termination without great impact on the organization in the immediate post-recession period.
3. Move talent around. Are portions of your organization now a little “skill-heavy?” By this phrase, I do not mean to imply that I suspect you have portions of your organization that are over-staffed. Most organizations I know of are seldom over-staffed.
By “skill-heavy” I refer to a situation that often occurs after a prolonged period of not hiring staff. Because existing staff normally leave employers for a variety of reasons, I suggest you scrutinize your entire workforce. Employees who remain may now have overlapping skills in some areas in which you now do not need as many employees. In other areas, employees may have insufficient skills because the “stars” left for whatever reason. Now might be a good time to see if some of the employees with redundant skills would consider moving into other areas to fill gaps.
4. Review skill history. When making the step I suggested above, before asking employees if they wish to move to other areas of the organization, review their personnel files. Look for hints that the employees have skills in the areas you plan to ask them to move into. Check their employment application and their training record for skills that you did not hire them for initially or that they have added to their skills toolbox while in your employ. Now is your chance to make sure any training classes they missed work to attend, or that you plan to pay for, really give back to you.
Ask employees to update their training record before you ask them to move into a new area. That way you will have more information on which to base your request. The transfer process should be oriented toward making the organization stronger in the post-recession period; not in finding an outlet for bored employees who want to try something new but for which they show no propensity.
It’s better to transfer talented employees and keep their talents than to let those employees leave-- especially if you paid to cultivate those skills through training or classes.
5. Make recommendations. This next suggestion takes corporate responsibility to another level. If you have to layoff or terminate employees maybe you can help them find another job. Do you know other employers who may be able to use the employees’ skills? You know how great it is to get a referral of a good client. Help out employers in your network by referring to them great employees.
6. Stay in touch. It’s always a good idea to keep track of former employees you would hire again. Why? Things change. Sometimes the new job does not always turn out as well as they expected when they left your organization. If your revenue comes back to where you can start hiring, consider calling people you were compelled to lay off or terminate due to pressures of the recession but they were outstanding performers. They will appreciate your effort to bring them back, and even if they do not return, you may have made a loyal customer out of someone who may have been unhappy that you had to let them go.
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