In The Workplace

We’ve retrenched 231 workers out of our total 636 staff in response to business losses due to COVID-19. As we begin to normalize our work operations on Oct. 1, we need to find ways to regain lost momentum and generate at least 80% of our net revenue before the pandemic. Any idea on how we can do this? — Blue Leaf.

A little girl was having dinner at her neighbor’s house. The vegetable dish was broccoli. The mother asked if she would want any. The child replied: “Yes Mam, thank you! I love it.” But when the bowl of broccoli was passed, she declined to take any. The hostess asked: “I thought you said you love broccoli?” 

The girl replied: “Oh, yes Ma’am! I do. But I lack the motivation to eat it.”

Many of us often misinterpret how people reply. When the little girl says she likes broccoli, it doesn’t mean she will eat it. For her, “liking” and “eating” are two different things. You yourself may have misinterpreted the basic difference between having a retrenchment plan and a post-retrenchment plan. 

To my mind, a post-retrenchment plan must be an integral part of a retrenchment plan.

The post-retrenchment program must include measures to help survivors cope with the reorganization, with the goal of ensuring a smooth transition. With less than two weeks before Oct. 1, you must cram to do the groundwork which will minimize, if not eliminate the “unsettling” work atmosphere caused by retrenchment.

Part of the “unsettling” atmosphere is confusion about how to work under the circumstances. This includes understanding revised job descriptions and standards, available resources, reporting lines, a skills inventory of the survivors, among others.    

Incidentally, all of these can be done with the help of all line executives who must be appointed promptly even in a temporary capacity. The human resource department must create the guidelines for the implementation of all department heads and ensure their corporate-wide application.

Important measures

Any reorganization triggered by retrenchment is often fraught with difficulty, but not exactly an impossible feat for management. No matter how difficult it is, there’s always one important tool that you can’t afford to ignore. And I’m referring to clear-cut and clearly-worded communication with employees and their managers.

Lack of information will allow rumors to circulate and run recklessly with the help of the gossip mill. In these uncertain times, it’s best for management to proactively issue policy directives to make the transition to the “new normal” easy, practical, and understandable for everyone. Here are few important measures for making the best out of the situation:

One, review the organizational chart. This is necessary to re-define the authority and responsibility of every manager and their staff. Sometimes, you may not have to change the functional reporting but to change only the names of the person who will occupy the “box” in the chart. Corollary to this is the issuance of job descriptions to those concerned and briefing workers on the demands of their new position. 

Two, motivate all survivors. This is the job of all people supervisors and managers who must be taught all the zero-cash motivational strategies. This includes a daily, morning 15-minute meeting (online or face-to-face) between line executives and their workers. Remember, an organization that just downsized is trying to survive with meager resources. Therefore, let’s not think of material rewards for the time being.    

Three, create a multi-tasking environment. Require all workers and their managers to learn a different set of skills, attitudes, and habits so they can cope with the demands of their new jobs. The HR department may screen and recommend various free online seminars and tools workers can use in doing their jobs. To ensure compliance with this directive, HR may require the completion of certification programs as part of everyone’s key results area.

Four, establish a formal job rotation program. This means transferring employees from one job function or geographical work assignment to another. The company may decide that the rotation be done every two years or as soon as opportunity allows, including the determination of an ideal “bench strength” for every unit, section, department or division. If not, to allow non-performing workers to be assigned to the area where they are best suited.

Last, review the company’s waste reduction plan. If there is none, create a program where all workers and their managers work hand-in-hand to systematically define and solve issues that contribute to unnecessary expenses. Such a program may follow the template of team-based Quality Circles or an individual-oriented suggestion scheme focused on eliminating non-value adding procedures from business operations. 

Freeze hiring

By this time, your organization may have already determined that dismissing 231 workers will produce great savings in the short term. But how about the long term? How will you ensure sustained improvements in labor productivity? 

The answer is in continuing to freeze hiring, even for temporary or student workers. If you lower your guard, chances are, you’ll go back to your pre-retrenchment manpower levels that bleed your company resources dry. Any attempt by a department head to be granted an exception to a freeze-hiring policy must be met with strong resistance. In other words, don’t allow any exceptions.

Otherwise, you will be opening the floodgates to more exceptions. For some people, freeze hiring is a bad thing, but not all the time. Rather, continuing with the hiring freeze gives off the impression that the pandemic is not the right time to spend recklessly.       

ELBONOMICS: Great things can happen when you’re out of your comfort zone. 

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