I received an thought-provoking query from a graduate student at my alma mater, Purdue (where I earned my Masters in Education) that I thought would be interesting to discuss here on my blog and especially to open up for your thoughts:
“The scenario for our assignment is as follows: I am a VP of a major company. Said company gives me a list with 60 names of non-managerial positions (making up about 10% of “my” employees). These people will not have a job in 6 months. We are told June 1st, and thus no more positions as of January 1st.
“I need to write a paper telling exactly what date I would tell my employees, and reasons for why I chose the date.”
There’s more to the situation than this simplistic scenario, but it’s a good jumping off point. Here’s how I would handle this situation…
The most important question is: are these employees who are working on long-term projects, or are they day-to-day staff a la a support team, customer service, etc. Think salaried versus hourly. The answer is very different based on the perceived cost of losing their services.
My first though is to let them go at least 30 days early so that you:
- Avoid The Christmas Layoff syndrome (which is a ghastly thing to do to anyone) and
- Have the budget to give them a decent severance check as they walk out the door.
In any situation where you announce a layoff you are going to have a percentage of the workforce immediately walk, walk a few days later, and then a smaller group stick through to the end, with the quality and enthusiasm of their work inevitably degrading over time.
As a result, if my team was doing day-to-day tasks, I would give them a 30 day notification on 1 November, offering them a 14 day severance check when they left the firm over and above their accrued salary, vacation time, etc. If they were able to stay through until 1 December, I would double that bonus check, offering them an additional month of pay. That essentially gives them sixty days to figure out their next move.
If they were long-term project workers, I would announce it earlier, perhaps 1 October, that the team was being shut down at the beginning of December, and that the projects needed to immediately switch to document or terminate mode. If only individual workers on a team were being laid off, then the responsibilities would need to be shuffled around so that existing employees would be clearly tagged as adopting specific subtasks and the departing workers then focusing on documenting and handing off their work. If another group in the firm or an outsourcing team were going to take over, that’d be the focus of the next two months. If the projects were simply to be cancelled and dropped, then a final post mortem document would be produced at that time.
Since project-based employees are typically salaried, not hourly, and are typically paid more, I would also offer them better incentives to stay. For example, while the hourly workers were offered a 14-day bonus for sticking around, the salaried workers might be offered a 30-day salary bonus to ensure the transition was smooth, and a 60-day bonus if they stayed through until the very last day.
In both cases I would also contract with an outside job placement agency to come in and help my employees update their resumes, get profiles on LinkedIn, and learn how to write good cover letters and interview effectively, all for those last few weeks of employment. The productivity will go down at that point, of course, but they’re people and being able to help them land on their feet is more important than a few thousand dollars of company budget.
That’s my opinion, but I’ve never been in those particular trenches, laying off a group of workers. Have you? Even if not, how would you handle this particular situation and what kind of answer would you offer up to this professor if you were in this class at Purdue?