Our company is planning to reduce staffing by as much as 35% due to reduced revenue caused by the lockdown. I’m worried that I could be a part of those who will be retrenched. How do I protect myself from the cutbacks? How do I make my job an important part of the organization? — Worried Wally
A man once said: “I’ve got so many troubles that if anything bad happens today it will be two weeks before I can worry about it.” That is to say he’s got a full schedule in terms of managing his many problems and new problems will need to wait.
In your case, is this the right time to worry about the cutbacks?
How about making your job an important part of the organization? Unfortunately, the right time to ask those questions was when you were hired. The second right time to ask those questions is today. The trouble is that even after I answered your questions, it may be too late for you to make the necessary adjustments.
But let us try with the following possible approaches that your management can take in choosing those who will be retrenched. Off the top of my head, there are two possible objective rules that your organization can use: First, the rule in many organizations in case of a crisis like the ongoing pandemic is “last in, first out.” They may decide to dismiss the people who were hired in recent months or years.
Second, they may opt to target employees who are consistent poor performers. When push comes to shove, if only to achieve the 35% target, they may even consider some workers with average performance who display attitude problems as manifested in poor attendance and punctuality, among other things.
EIGHT BASIC APPROACHES
You may have heard the statement “No one is indispensable in this organization.” Chances are, it’s usually blurted out by managers exasperated by the attitude of some workers who think they can’t be removed because of their in-demand skills. Even if such workers possess unique talents, that will not prevent management from laying off that person when things get tough.
Therefore, if you appear indispensable because of your cutting-edge skills or consistent performance, management will not hesitate to terminate you, with or without a pandemic.
Now, to answer your question on how to protect yourself from possible cutbacks, here are some basic approaches that you can follow:
One, recap your past and current accomplishments. Be factual. When the time comes, you’ll be ready to argue your case before management who may be oblivious of what you’ve done or may have forgotten.
Two, minimize the gaps in your skill set relative to the job’s requirements. This means taking stock of your weaknesses as defined by management and not by your own biased interpretation. You can review the results of your latest performance appraisal.
Three, build up as many core competencies as possible. This is related to number two. The goal is to make yourself unique compared to other workers who are similarly situated. Do this by anticipating the needed skills ahead of the others.
Four, demonstrate your newly-acquired skills as soon as you can. Benefit from them right away. Once you’ve attained a new competency, it’s equally important to immediately apply it to your job and make clear its immediate benefits to your organization.
Five, create every opportunity to showcase your skill. Volunteer for certain projects that are close to the hearts and minds of management. For example, research on how to solve recurring office problems, like eliminating operational waste.
Six, exceed management expectations every time. There’s a well-worn rule that remains very important — underpromise, but overdeliver. Go the extra mile whenever you can, not only in terms of quality and quantity but in timeliness as well.
Seven, pay attention to the unwritten requirements of the job. You can get some idea when other workers are praised for what they’ve done. Find out what makes them tick. You may soon realize that not all job standards are written.
Last, prepare a career development plan in sync with company policy. That is, if you want to stay long in your current organization. If not, research what’s needed in the job market. You should understand that the top three skills needed for 2020 are data literacy, critical thinking and tech-savvy, in that order, according to Bernard Marr of Forbes.com.
BOTTOM LINE PROTECTOR
Mastering both general and special skills for your job will make you indispensable in any organization. Just the same, don’t be lulled into complacency or even overconfidence. You can prove your distinct value to your employer and colleagues, but only up to a point.
Whatever job or skill set you have, it’s your responsibility to help the organization protect and preserve its bottom line. Don’t sit and wait. You could be an outstanding performer in every way, but if you don’t assist your management in saving precious resources, especially during the pandemic, you won’t survive any retrenchment.
This means understanding how your organization defines cost-effectiveness. Company ABC may consider one system as inappropriately expensive, while Company XYZ would view it as a wise financial investment. Your value in preserving resources does not mean saving on small things like pens or paper. It should be about more than that.