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What to Bring to the Table

November 25, 2001
Related Topics: Downsizing, Featured Article
As the economy convulses, layoffs will continue to be an inevitable fact of business. HR frequently isn't included in the planning of cutbacks, but is expected to deliver the pink slips. For the health of an organization, here are suggestions from top business consultants about how to get the ear of executive management, and how to become an active participant in guiding layoffs:

  • Change how you view your role. Rather than trying to protect individuals from getting cut, your job is to protect the business in the long term, because that will save jobs.

  • Know the company's turnover rate in every department, and calculate the cost of replacing employees. If you feel that cuts are warranted in some departments but others should be spared, quantify your opinions. Robert Morgan, president of the Human Capital Consulting Group at Spherion, says, "If you can't bring those numbers to the table, you can't lobby for what you want."

  • Learn how your company makes money. For example, if it is a sales-driven organization and the company proposes a 10 percent cut across all departments, you can argue that cutting 10 percent from sales would be far more devastating than cutting into finance or recruiting.

  • Recognize that it's possible to ramp up quickly by outsourcing certain functions and enlisting temporary help, but you risk losing corporate knowledge. "Calculate what it costs to build that corporate-specific know-how, not just in terms of training, but in time," says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray and Christmas. "It takes a while to get a new person up and running. It will be a while before they are as good as the people you already had in place."

  • Offer predictions about what will happen to customer retention rates by measuring customer and employee loyalty. Show how your company stacks up against the average company and the "loyalty leaders" that Reichheld writes about in Loyalty Rules. contains surveys that can be downloaded for free. The reports include benchmark data and simple questionnaires. By asking the question "Does this organization deserve your loyalty?" HR personnel can determine whether the company is destroying its asset base of people or building it.

Workforce, November 2001, p. 50 -- Subscribe Now!

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