Article (September-2018)

Articles

Preventing layoffs and how?

Vikas Khokha

Designation : -   Director - Human Resources

Organization : -  Zimmer Biomet India, Gurgaon

01-Sep-2018

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Do you think layoffs are strange way of dealing with cost-cutting or re-organisation?
VK I would not consider layoff as a cost cutting measure rather I would consider layoff as a measure of faulty planning. This could also be categorised to the lack of synergy in the processes which would lead to an exigency like a lay-off. In a scenario where there is a consistent effort to drive performance, layoff becomes as a last resort to seek the desired operational expense figures because of human capital being one of the biggest contributors to the cost component. Focus on excessive efficiency measures demarcate lay-off as a most inappropriate way to arrive at a long term sustenance and achieve desired results. It is a clear indicator of work force dynamics not in sync with the organisation processes and a adhoc resultant to the desired result which is being obtained through a re-organisation. Re-organisation could also be treated as creating more efficiency in the processes and the systems and the resultant should be better results and more appropriate way to arrive at the solution and lay-offs could relate to dealing with an alternate problem and not the solution to the problem at hand.
What is the biggest challenge in conducting layoffs?
VK There are a few challenges I observe as after effects of a lay-off scenario which has led organisation to have a long term impact on their sustainability :
a. Cultural Impact is quite intense in such a scenario where people in the organisation feel threatened to lose their jobs anytime. I would rather say it would be a cultural barrier for future if not handled appropriately.
b. I always categorise the employer branding as a critical challenge which would have a long term impact on how the organisation is treated as a future employer for the talent to hire.
c. There could be an immediate financial repercussion as the appropriate severance cost may shoot up depending upon the years of the workforce.
d. Communication in the organisation becomes a very big challenge as there is a struggle around the message across the organisation.
e. Dealing appropriately with labour laws is also a very important factor which needs to be kept in mind which defining the lay-off policy and conditions related to the same.
f. Process of conducting lay-off comes out as another critical parameter to arrive at a success which is intended to.
g. Change Management also need to be focussed very critically while executing the plan as it may have a long term impact into this scenario.
Are there alternatives to layoffs? Can organisations think of some creative ways to downsize without letting the employees lose their jobs?
VK I would categorise lay-offs as a damage which is done primarily due to lack of planning and effective execution. I would propose the following measures to manage this well : 
a. Careful planning while manpower forecast which is done either quarterly or bi-annually would help in determining the business situation and accordingly prevent hiring.
b. Stricter performance measures and assessments done through frequent team interactions can help managers to churn out the manpower basis their performance records and their inability to shape up to the future business needs.
c. Evolving entrepreurship models could also help such retrenchment as we support our existing manpower to work as a third party with us either as an outsourced partner or a dealer which would help in engaging them in a much better way.
d. Realistic business plans and more valued assessment of market situation could help in avoiding lay-offs as a gradual adherence to the plans.
e. Employee sabbatical for education or some other projects could also prove beneficial in situation where the time-frame could help in engaging back with the employee once the situation stabilises.
Whose call is it anyway? Does HR have a say in the layoff process?
VK HR plays a very important role in this process as setting context and guidelines in a critical component of assessing the correct platform. There are few highlights which helps HR to play a role of true business partner in such a scenario :
a. Guidelines around employee handling and management really helps business managers to execute their respective plans well.
b. Arranging town-halls or smaller employee forums generally help employees in knowing the reasons of this disorder and get a correct perspective which helps in maintaining a positive environment despite all odds.
c. Getting more focussed approach into the business strategy and deriving people action helps in placing the issues in right perspective than the issue itself.
d. HR can be critical in breaking the communication barriers amongst managers and pre-defined channels.
e. HR can play a very critical role in proactively identifying the re-organised structure looking at the span of control norms and the revised definition of roles and responsibilities basis the business need at that point of time.
f. HR can certainly be a gate-keeper in monitoring whether the decisions on people is right or wrong. This could be easily substituted by getting employee performance data and business data from managers and the past communication around the same in order to help building objectivity in the process.
As an HR manager - what has been the most difficult decision that you have ever made in a layoff process?
VK Whenever I had to lay off or even to execute the separation process of a team member basis line recommendation but without any appropriate data or any past communication to the employee by the manager, I did feel hard pressed in communicating the reason along with the business manager. It's very critical for us as HR leaders to create a process around the involuntary exit so that a philosophy is followed by line managers and leaders to have check in balance of the situation properly in tune with the business goals. For me the decision gets even tough if it's not having a consistent back-up with business results and synchronised with their goals & objectives. The decision gets difficult to be implemented if it's not backed by sufficient communication by the respective manager and there is an understanding gap.
What is the role of HR in meeting employee expectations - of those who are being asked to go and of those who remains but may lose faith in the organisation?
VK HR plays a very critical role in creating a positive web around this fraternity as it's very critical to sustain employer branding despite all the odds. Few tools would certainly help the team members to carry a positive message forward :
a. HR should facilitate such employees with the outplacement services which should help them in grooming for further continuity and not considering them "Goof for Nothing".
b. Ensure managers provide extensive in depth feedback for such team members for them to perform better in future rather than making same mistakes.
c. As the case may suggest, ensuring an authentic calculation of a feasible severance which would certainly help in providing requisite financial support to the exit employee.
d. Very critical component is maintaining the positive environment around them to make them still feel a part of the group and ensuring the deserved respect to them considering that this could happen to anyone including themselves.
e. Last but not the least, making their full and final payment and closures on utmost priority ensuring that they do not have to follow-up for the same.
 
Do you think a dreaded thing like layoff can be dealt with positivity or optimism?
VK Maintaining the environment which is friendly to the employees and also ensuring that the right feedback is given to them would help in maintaining the optimism and better environment in the organisation. A critical lever in this regard is the communication which is spread around this in the workspace and outside which could have a ripple effect on the environment that we would be dealing with in the future. As HR leaders we should always remember that for few employees who are exiting, we cannot put the current organisation's culture and existing employees at risk. It's upon us as HR leaders, we would help in graduating lay-off termed from a negative note to an opportunity it presents to the employees who are a part of it.