The other day I heard a report on the radio about a large corporation who chose to implement a massive downsizing by staging a fire alarm. Once everyone was safely outside the building they were told that this would be the last evacuation drill some of them would participate in. An announcement came on to say that due to the economic downturn the company had no choice but to let about half of them go. All employees were to attempt to go back into the building. If their access card were still active, they would continue their employment at the company. Those unfortunate enough to be denied access were to consider themselves terminated and would have all of their personal belongings sent by courier to them the next day.
I later learned that this tale has been around for over a decade and of questionable origins. Even so, it certainly got my attention as I’m sure it did for many others. As someone who focuses on team building for a living this story made my jaw drop. I couldn’t imagine how it would feel to be let go that way and even if I was one of the ”lucky” ones that got to stay I doubt I would be feeling much loyalty to my employer after that.
Coincidentally, on the same day I received an email from HRPA about managing your workforce in an economic downturn. There are many approaches to take in the management of capital and human resources – downsizing is usually a last resort. The article linked to an excerpt from the Employment Standards Act outlining provincial legislation around downsizing and cost savings initiatives. It included some effective leadership strategies designed to make it easier for you and your team to navigate through rough economic waters.
These strategies included;
• Keeping up regular, consistent and open communication
• Engaging employees in discussions and strategic planning relating to the company’s future
• Providing employees with the tools, resources and training to take on extra duties
• Encouraging employee initiative and innovation
When you consider a management team who acts on this advice vs. the one in the fictional fire drill story, it is easy to see how the different approaches would have a deep impact on the existing workforce even long after the economic crisis is over. Understanding the way today’s leadership strategies impact tomorrow’s organizational performance is vital to ensuring that when this economic storm has passed your team is even better positioned to embrace new opportunities.