How to trim a work­force

Ottawa Business Journal - HR Update - - Downsizing -

It is rarely a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence, but cut­ting staff is an in­evitable part of hu­man re­sources. Han­dled prop­erly, down­siz­ing can save a com­pany money. If mis­man­aged, it costs more. So how should it be done?


List all of the ac­tiv­i­ties for which your or­ga­ni­za­tion is re­spon­si­ble. This should in­clude both rev­enue-gen­er­at­ing and cost line items. Once you have a com­plete list of ac­tiv­i­ties, rank them in order of im­por­tance. The most im­por­tant ac­tiv­i­ties would be those that, if you stopped do­ing them, would mean your or­ga­ni­za­tion would not be able to achieve its mis­sion, now or in the fu­ture. What is the vi­sion of your or­ga­ni­za­tion? What are your strate­gic ob­jec­tives?


List all of your or­ga­ni­za­tion’s po­si­tions. Fo­cus on po­si­tions, not peo­ple. Which are most crit­i­cal to your or­ga­ni­za­tion? Re­mem­ber it is the role, not the in­cum­bent in the job, you are as­sess­ing. Rank ev­ery po­si­tion from most crit­i­cal to least crit­i­cal. This does not nec­es­sar­ily align with com­pen­sa­tion.


Re­flect back on the two lists. Given the tasks that you need to ac­com­plish, what po­si­tions do you need? How many po­si­tions need to be dropped? Which out­puts? Draw a line on your list of ac­tiv­i­ties to in­di­cate what needs to be dropped to achieve the de­sired sav­ings.


Even in union­ized en­vi­ron­ments, con­sider per­for­mance. With a strate­gic mind fo­cused on value to the or­ga­ni­za­tion, now and in the fu­ture, put your em­ploy­ees into three groups: those whom you must keep, those whom you would like to keep, and those with whom you could sur­vive with­out.


Go back to your list of po­si­tions. Do you have em­ploy­ees you placed in the “sur­vive with­out” cat­e­gory that are in your crit­i­cal roles? Or are your “must keep” em­ploy­ees in jobs you plan to cut? What would it take to align peo­ple and po­si­tions? Come up with a sin­gle list of peo­ple and po­si­tions that could be down­sized.


If you are in a union­ized en­vi­ron­ment, look at your col­lec­tive agree­ment. Col­lec­tive agree­ments rarely, if ever, re­strict the em­ployer’s abil­ity to or­ga­nize the op­er­a­tion, so the re­duc­tion of po­si­tions is usu­ally not lim­ited. It likely does cover what hap­pens to those em­ploy­ees af­fected by the cut­ting of po­si­tions. Is there bump­ing? Sev­er­ance en­ti­tle­ments? Re­quire­ment for union con­sul­ta­tion? Are you able to down­size us­ing dis­cre­tion or must you do it by se­nior­ity? Read and reread the col­lec­tive agree­ment to un­der­stand the process you are re­quired to fol­low.


Brain­storm. You must fol­low the col­lec­tive agree­ment. You must achieve the dic­tated sav­ings. How can the or­ga­ni­za­tion be struc­tured to do this? Ex­plore all op­tions.


You need a com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­egy. When are you go­ing to im­ple­ment this plan? How are you go­ing to com­mu­ni­cate it? To whom? When? Who is de­liv­er­ing the mes­sage? How are you go­ing to sup­port the peo­ple who are be­ing down­sized? How will you sup­port the peo­ple who stay?


Im­ple­ment and mon­i­tor. Are you achiev­ing your de­sired out­come? If not, go back to your plan and make ad­just­ments. Su­san Hay­wood is pres­i­dent of Hu­man Re­source Blue­prints and a board mem­ber of the Ottawa chapter of the Hu­man Re­sources Pro­fes­sion­als As­so­ci­a­tion.

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