Alignment Performance Results

Escape Layoffs: Avoid the Cut

Posted on 09/17/2018 in Executive Coaching, Featured Articles by Jack Speer

Most organizations will tell you that people are their most important asset. So why do they get laid off? Don’t people do the work, sell goods and services, and make customers love them?

I always hate to get calls on Friday afternoons from people I haven’t heard from in a while—it’s all too often the bad news that they’ve been laid off. Friday’s the day that HR determines is the final pay period and a representative gives people the word they’ve been laid off, along with their final pay check.

What so often surprises me is—they didn’t see the layoff coming. Cruel but true, they were putting their heart and soul into their job, often working 12 hour days into the weekend. Along with the financial kick to the gut is the feeling that after giving heart and soul for an organization, the organization cuts them loose to survive as they might.

Employment Today—What is it Really Like?

People take comfort in the fact that if you get laid off—or fired—in the 21st Century that you’re in good company. I cannot tell you how many people I know at the top of their game, skilled both technically and interpersonally, have gotten laid off (or fired) during the last 5 years.

Understanding Layoffs—Why Companies Cut People

Most organizations will tell you that people are their most important asset. So why do they get laid off? Don’t people do the work, sell goods and services, and make customers love them?

So why do you lay off your most important asset?

That’s because an organization’s most important asset—the organization’s people—are also their most costly expense. If you’re earning $90,000 a year and if a company lays off 10 people at your level, with the cost of benefits, office space, employee expenses, they’ve saved way, way more than a million dollars. If I’m the Chief Financial Officer of your company, it’s easy to make the case that it would save the company a lot of money if your job were eliminated.

How to Survive Job Elimination Through Technology

So how can hundreds of jobs—and your job—be eliminated and the organization still stay successful?

Most likely technology. The majority of the jobs that have been eliminated or will be is through technology, directly or indirectly. The process began decades ago and is getting faster and faster. The great job my father had as an inventory clerk, when I was growing up, has not existed in decades—his job is now a small function in a large software program.

Job elimination through technology has just begun. Jobs we thought would be impossible to eliminate will be eliminated before your career is over. The least specialized jobs will go first—cashier functions replaced by self check-out, sales jobs to online ordering, physician diagnoses will be replaced by algorithms. There will be 3-D printed goods and modular skyscrapers that will be more assembled than built, eliminating thousands of construction jobs.

There is no bullet proof vest that prevents getting laid off or fired, but here is a checklist of the areas you need to focus on—and if you focus on these areas, even if you are laid off, you’ll land faster, smoother, or better.

1. When you land your dream job, start looking for your next job immediately. You may stay where you are a decade or more, but be ready to leave tomorrow. Maintain your resume as if it were your family vehicle, every part updated. Becoming visible and networked after getting laid off or fired is like trying to fly a Boeing 707 after it’s been parked for several years.

The function I regularly use on-line is LinkedIn biographies. If I don’t find a current, updated LinkedIn bio, I write that person off. Facebook and Instagram, and other social media are the way people network today, and it’s important to read updates and to post, much more important than the lunch, dinner or drinks of the 80’s and 90’s.

2. You Can’t Impress Your Way to Success with Long Hours—You have to Add Value.
A CEO once remarked to me, “People come to this organization and 2 years later they’re working 12 hours a day and most weekends, and they don’t know what their role really is.” Employees are deceived thinking that management values them because they work so many hours. When you are evaluated as to your worth, people at the top ask, what does this person bring to the table that’s taking this organization where it needs to go?

3. Be Visible in Your Organization.
Often people believe that if they do good work, hunker down, and keep a low profile, those around you will see your value within the organization. This can sometimes be the case, but its all too often not the case. There are many ways to get people to understand your value.

I always put together my own annual report on Jack Speer. I wrote a report on what my goals had been for the quarter/year, my successes, and their value to the organizations. My colleagues and bosses, rather than thinking the report was from a narcissistic show off, valued understanding what I had done, and this report was adopted organizational wide. There are many ways to communicate your value to your bosses, colleagues, and direct reports—find your voice and use it.

4. Exhibit Leadership. Leadership is the most valued quality in organizations today. You can be a formal or informal leader where you are and throughout the organization, increasing your value to the organization. Leadership, as we define it is the ability to organize a group of people to accomplish a specific objective in a specific time. If you can see the objectives around you that have to happen and bring people around you to accomplish them, when the foundations of the organization crumble, you’ll be able to lead people through the crisis and survive.

5. Enhance your skillset. It is inevitable that if you don’t improve your skills, the skills you have now will not carry you forward in your career. You’ll have to develop new skills for jobs you’ve never done before and didn’t exist five years ago. It may require you to take short courses or go back to school or to change your career. Knowledge is your tool, and tools are constantly changing. Graduating from college is only the first step in your education.

6. Understand how your company is doing.
It’s always amazing to me that people within an organization don’t know their organization is on the edge of financial collapse. You just have to notice what’s going on. If expenses are up, revenues are down and sales are low, that means that people are certain be cut from the organization, and that means layoffs. CEO’s can be quite inspirational, but check before you drink the Koolaide. If the numbers tell a different story, you owe it to yourself and your family to find other opportunities. Don’t be surprised.

Staying employed today is more than giving your all in the workplace where you find yourself today. It is doing well where you are today and preparing for tomorrow. The only way to remain valuable and agile in the workplace is an intentional plan. If you know how to manage your career well, your chances of being ahead of layoffs and firings are much better.

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