In The Workplace

As we prepare for the expiration of the Enhanced Community Quarantine on April 30, what would you suggest for management to operate in the “new normal” of business? The future appears gloomy and we seem to be headed towards a reduction in manpower to cut costs and save the organization. Please give us your advice. — New Leaf.

As a rich old man lay dying in a hospital, he summoned his nurse and silently told her: “Would you call for me, my lawyer and my doctor, right away?” Within half an hour, both the lawyer and doctor were at his side. The man’s breathing was labored by this time but he remained silent.

The lawyer and the doctor asked: “What did you need us for?”

The reply came momentarily. “Nothing,” he said. “I just wanted to know how Jesus felt when he died between two thieves.”

When the time comes, there will always be occasions when we need to prepare for the worst. And even in our last few minutes or days, we must prepare for the great beyond after the crisis, much like what’s being done in dealing with COVID-19. In any event, it’s always good to hope for the best even as we prepare for the worst after the lifting of the lockdown.

It’s imperative for management to look for ways to save money in order to save the business. More often than not, labor costs are often at the top of the cost-cutting agenda. This is when department heads are forced to look for viable solutions to save jobs.

The people managers who prevail in any crisis are those who prepared to meet it head on. But exactly what kind of preparation is needed to save jobs and earn the revenue needed to stay afloat? Here are some ways to reduce, if not eliminate, the possibility of your department being singled out in the cutbacks.

Emphasize what your department has done well in the past. Be specific about its contributions to improving the company’s revenue. When you do that, it would be easy for top management to reward productive groups that thrive in good and bad times. Note, however, that there’s a good chance your department’s accomplishments could be compared with that of others which may have done a better job.

Reduce or eliminate the hiring of contractual workers. You may be surprised how labor productivity will improve after taking such an easy, practical approach. Usually two temps are needed to do the job of a regular worker who is paid more. Therefore, don’t forget to factor this in into your department’s argument, which is that you’ve already contributed your share to the cutbacks.

Make an updated inventory of all employee skills. It’s a preparation for understanding where to reassign people to areas where they are most needed. Cross-training is often ignored by managers who want to build an empire. Therefore, watch out for this kind of selfish manager and require all workers to equip themselves with new skills to meet the demands of the “new normal.” The end goal is to prepare them to do other jobs.

Emphasize your department’s value as a revenue center. Even the human resources or even the accounting departments can prove their monetary value to the organization by being indirect contributors to profitability. To justify this, you can explore cutting waste (not costs) by applying the principles of Kaizen and lean manufacturing to your operations. For one, you can minimize the red tape that makes your organization unprofitable.

Be an active motivator in good and bad times. The thing is, you can’t motivate others if you’re not motivated yourself. In other words, you can’t give what you don’t have. Therefore, before you try inspiring people, reflect on what you can and cannot do. When cutbacks can’t be avoided, the best thing that you can do is to minimize its adverse effects to the victims and the survivors.

When your top management says “enough is enough” and layoffs need to be done without delay, it’s important to keep the employees informed of the bad news. This means holding meetings to keep everyone informed either by a series of video conference to simulate town hall meetings presided over by the CEO and the senior management team.

Encourage the workers to ask questions and give answers that are truthful and respectful for everyone, but not bland reassurances or false expectations. Level up with the workers on what’s possible and impossible. If top management can’t answer difficult questions (like “why don’t you reduce your salaries”) promise to tackle the issue with the management team and act on it with dispatch. The faster you can handle those employee concerns, the better for everyone.

The sooner you can get things moving back to normal, the sooner every survivor can make things better for you and the organization, the faster the fear of job losses will fade into memory.


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