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No Job, No Interviews, No Problem?

November 21, 2012

There’s a phenomenon that many companies can’t fathom, and it’s not all that new.  When business conditions require cuts, many companies are trending to not doing wholesale and somewhat-random layoffs these days.  They’re instead targeting some subsection of the company in an effort to thin the skill sets.  The Register has an example of Sharp doing this is Japan.

Reports emerged in September that it was set to slash 11,000 jobs worldwide, halve bonuses and sell off some of its factories in a bid to return to profitability.

Some of those will come from a voluntary retirement programme announced back in August, which was set to run from 1 to 14 November. However, the firm has revealed that it was shortened to 9 November “due to oversubscription”.

I’ve seen these things offered to near-term retirees, or to underperforming employees of a particular group, or sometimes to the general populace as a way to make the numbers work.  Most of the time, these things don’t generate the numbers that management is seeking, because business conditions outisde the company are just as bad as the ones inside.  Few people will leave a job they have unless… hmmm…

Yep, I’ve seen the results of this as well.  About six months after the exodus, the reports usually come back along the following lines: The people who we wanted to leave, stayed.  The people we didn’t want to leave left, and they found new jobs or started something on their own.  In the end, we the company are left with an exacerbated problem because our good people went away and the content people are further weighing down the ranks.

Obviously this isn’t universal for every employee, but think about it… wouldn’t people who had a chance to do something better for themselves do the calculus and take the jump?  If those near retirement are actually prepared ahead of time, wouldn’t they take a chance to hop off the train early just because they can?  Well, yea.

I’m not saying that actions like this are bad for a company universally.  They’re certainly better than the old, “every other office gets a pink slip,” actions that we used to hear about.  However, the unintended consequences of an HR action rarely are thought through prior to the action starting.  I’m consistently amused when I see companies react in shock when Employee A+ takes a flyer and runs to a new job when, “he was obviously someone who had a future here.”

This is similar to key execs leaving when a new regime comes into town, but different in that executives drive a strategy and mean success for an entire project.  Employees, however, do little things that keep little things running, and a little sand in the wrong gears can make even the best executive stumble if there’s no adjustment after the action.

This is just another friendly reminder that corporations are not human, but that humans in a corporation can really make or break the company in unique ways.

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