Nearshore Americas

Staff Reduction: How to Make the Most of a Painful Situation

A crucial aspect of many IT outsourcing and BPO initiatives is internal staff reduction. Despite the cost savings and more efficient operations that might result, few managers look forward to determining who stays and who goes when a department outsources certain functions. But properly evaluating employees in the event jobs need to be terminated is absolutely critical to BPO success.

Michael D. Brown, a corporate speaker, coach, and trainer who specializes in personal and professional development, has a few tips for managers trying to successfully execute an outsourcing-related staff reduction.

Think of the Customer

Although reducing staff is an internal process, Brown advises managers to begin with an external focus. “Define the experience you want to create for your customer, and then assess whether you have the right skills to deliver it, to be competitive, and to stay fresh and take it to the next level,” he says. “If you have some folks who can’t deliver this kind of customer experience, that’s your first filter.”

Doing the Job Is Not Enough

Brown also advises managers to be leery of employees who are willing to “do the job,” but little or nothing else. “Let go of people who never went above and beyond their job and never proactively went outside the job’s parameters to take things to the next level,” he says. “You want people who seek personal growth and have a hunger for more. People lacking these qualities or who are myopically focused on their jobs, you can do without.”

Brown warns that employees who strictly adhere to the official boundaries of their jobs don’t provide the necessary bandwidth for a company to grow. “You can’t pay for every piece of an employee’s contribution. Something has to come from passion and loyalty,” he says. “You want to keep people who say, ‘I know this isn’t my job but I really like what I’m doing,’ and develop their own skill-set on the job that they can also use in other areas of life.”

Be Honest and Open

Frequently, companies will shroud staff reductions in a veil of secrecy, leaving employees who will potentially be affected nervous and prone to gossip and innuendo. Brown says by maintaining an honest and open approach, managers can minimize disruption in the workplace.

“Be transparent early, quickly, and frequently,” Brown says. “Don’t let people hear things someplace else. If there are things you aren’t in a position to reveal, inform your employees, ‘I can’t tell you everything now.’”

Brown also recommends that managers help keep control of the inevitable office rumor mill by maintaining an open door, which can include making information available online or via a phone hotline. He further advises managers to provide transparency by holding meetings with individual departments or small groups of employees, in addition to large corporate meetings.

“Some people won’t want to ask questions in a big group setting,” he says. “People can deal with change but they cannot deal with uncertainty.”

Treat Everyone with Dignity

While Brown is clear about which employees should be the first targeted for a staff reduction, he is just as adamant that everyone, especially those whose jobs are terminated, be treated with dignity and respect throughout the process. “Don’t damage your brand with layoffs,” he says.

“The people you let go will eventually become your customers or have influence on your customers. They understand things happen and will get over it [if reductions are handled correctly], but with the effect of comments on social media like Twitter and Facebook, brand damage from disgruntled former employees can cost you more money trying to undo than the cost of creating a dignified process with features like help lines, extended benefits, retirement planning seminars, and resume workshops that help employees have a smooth exit.”

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Move Forward

After reducing staff, managers must then act to assuage any fears or concerns remaining employees might have. “Reinforce why your business strategy required layoffs,” Brown says. “Don’t get into reasons why individual employees were terminated. Instead, explain why the employees who kept their jobs were chosen and how they can make themselves more competitive.”

And finally, Brown says managers should provide a direct answer to any questions about possible future staff reductions: “If people ask whether this will happen again, you need to be honest. Say, ‘We’re in a dynamic and changing marketplace and will respond accordingly.’ You can’t promise it won’t happen again.”

This article was originally published on BPO Outcomes




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