Cali Yost: Photo by Doug Mott
As job losses continue to pile up, you'd think someone would be asking if layoffs are the only answer. Cali Yost, a workplace consultant and author, has been asking that question a lot lately (as have some others.) She has shown that that once you consider the direct and indirect costs of a layoff -- outplacement, unemployment benefits, re-hiring and training new employees, layoffs end up costing a company between 150 percent and 250 percent of an employee's salary and rarely improve financial results. And she is on a mission to convince employers to start thinking differently. Yost has been keeping a list of companies she calls Downsizing Flexibility Champions, which honors companies that have figured out alternatives to figure out alternatives to layoffs.
So what do you do if there's a whiff of layoffs in the air and you'd like to get your employer to start thinking like one of those champions on Yost's list? I spoke with her about how to get a conversation started about alternatives to layoffs at your company.
Shine: How can you tell if your company would even be receptive to a proposal?
Yost: Float the idea to your manager and see what the response is. Chances are most will not have thought about it. Share the research from my blog posts showing the business benefits of thinking differently. At least it's now on their radar screen, and the earlier the better before layoff decisions have already been made.
Shine: Is this ever something a group of employees should team up and talk about?
Yost: Absolutely. There's more power in numbers because there's more labor cost savings in numbers.
Shine: So you're saying it won't feel like a conspiracy if a whole department starts talking about this.
Yost: No, because you're leading with the business need and fulfilling a need for the manager, and you are going to go in there with a well thought-out plan. You'd be coming to them with a way they can save a lot of money, and keep experienced people around to help work through a tough time. It's not a conspiracy as much as it is a welcome potential solution that you will all work together to implement. Remember, no manager likes to lay people off, but unfortunately too many still think they have no choice. You're simply sharing options that make solid business sense. And while some job cuts may still be necessary, there may be fewer.
Shine: Say you're on the other side of this and wondering if there are alternatives to laying people off, what should your first steps be?
Yost: First, get a sense for how much you're trying to save. Then, go to your team, tell them what your goals are and ask them to come up with ideas for solutions. Give them some options. Suggest reducing schedules and salaries, job-sharing, adding unpaid vacation days to the calendar, or offering furloughs and sabbaticals.
Yost: I would say it's not big enough, but awareness is growing as people hear about what other companies, like Beth Israel Hospital, are doing. More people are starting to say maybe we can think about this differently. One good sign was the recent Watson Wyatt survey that showed the number of companies saying they planned to make future job cuts decreased in February. Finding alternatives to layoffs simply makes good business sense, not to mention helps more people keep their jobs.