Layoffs and Employee Engagement

by Edward Henkler on November 12, 2013

Very few days pass without another company announcing layoffs…hundreds, thousands, and sometimes even tens of thousands of employees suddenly unemployed.  The stock market often applauds the move but many are affected negatively and I’m not even certain that the stock market reaction is rational if you look long term.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you know that I believe you need to approach a layoff with a positive spirit but this is not about the employee that is laid off…it’s about the employer.  And, for the second post in a row, I’ll recommend “The Dream Manager” by Matthew Kelly, as a resource to change this dynamic.

Lifetime employment is unlikely to return for decades, if ever.  That is only a problem if employers view their employees as expendable commodities, rather than valued resources.  Human capital is a great phrase and reminds us that employees are every bit as valuable as the buildings and equipment for which hundreds of millions of capital dollars are allocated.  Employers need to recognize that employees have dreams and those dreams may not always revolve around staying at their current company.  In the course of a career, an individual may take time off to pursue an advanced degree or for childcare or eldercare.  They may also move between large companies, mid-sized companies, and entrepreneurial settings.

Rather than desperately working to retain their employees, they should help them realize their dreams.  They will build a cloud of advocates who refer other people to their employers, past and present.  They will also always give their best, knowing that they have a reciprocal relationship with their employer.

Returning to the theme of layoffs, understanding your employees’ dreams creates an entirely different way to approach layoffs.  When you ask for volunteers to accept a lucrative package, you often lose your best and most experienced employees.  What if you knew in advance who might be ready for a career change and used the layoff as an opportunity to facilitate that change?  You probably wouldn’t accommodate everyone but you might convert a very negative event to one which has helped quite a few people realize their dreams.


You are fired – layoffs abound

It’s about the employees – value them and they’ll take care of your bottom line!

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