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Dear Employee: Please Go, Please Stay.

On the one hand, organizations plead with workers: "Please stay" On the other, despite a strong economy, some employers are telling workers, "Please go." Whether you're an employee or an employer, you've certainly been confronted with this paradox.

The difficult and complex decisions involved in asking someone to go or to stay were the subject of an internal report at Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH), an international outplacement firm. Please Go, Please Stay: The New Rules of Downsizing and Retention is based on research conducted by Global Strategy Group (GSG) on behalf of LHH. GSG surveyed 450 senior human resources professionals from throughout the United States whose organizations had eliminated a significant portion of their workforce in the previous three years (1996-1999). In addition, GSG conducted 20 in-depth interviews with senior executives from around the world whose organizations have invested time, energy, and creativity in their retention efforts. These companies had emerged from prior job eliminations with insight on realignment and retention. Most had used downsizing as a management tool to help them adjust to changes in technology, globalization, or business direction. Some organizations talked about workforce realignments, job eliminations, or "rightsizing" to conform to new business initiatives. Others acknowledged an ongoing need to recruit new talent that would enhance their ability to compete in a worldwide arena. Thus, job eliminations and downsizing will continue alongside a strong need to retain valued employees. Below are some results from the GSG research.

In response to the question, "What drove your most recent downsizings?" human resources professionals answered as follows:

* 34 percent said their organization was in reasonably sound financial health but was trimming its workforce to strengthen its future position,

* 21 percent were seeking staff realignments rather than reduction in head count,

* 21 percent acknowledged that their company was in difficult financial straits,

* 17 percent cited mergers or acquisitions, and

* seven percent gave other reasons.

Middle-management functions were most likely to be severely affected by downsizing:

* 53 percent in operations,

* 20 percent in business line management,

* 20 percent professional specialists, and

* 20 percent sales or marketing staff. The largest organizations anticipate more downsizings in the next three years (2001-2003):

* 62 percent of organizations with over 10,000 employees,

* 37 percent with 1,001 to 10,000 employees,

* 45 percent with 501 to 1,000 employees, and

* 26 percent with fewer than 500 employees.

Respondents expected the following factors to drive downsizing in the next several years:

* 84 percent--changes in technology,

* 77 percent--mergers or acquisitions,

* 77 percent--global competition,

* 54 percent--shifts in business direction,

* 38 percent--desire to cut head count to strengthen future position, and

* 23 percent-difficult financial circumstances.

The bottom line is that downsizing is widely used as a management tool to keep organizations responsive, competitive, and resilient. The expected and unexpected impacts on the organization of downsizing are another story In the face of widespread job elimination, especially in large organizations over the past several years, human resources executives reported a relative decrease in the negative effects of downsizing on morale, trust, ability to cope with stress, productivity, and teamwork:

* morale--negative effects down from 86 percent to 63 percent,

* trust in management--negative effects down from 77 percent to 50 percent,

* ability to cope with stress--negative effects down from 55 percent 32 percent,

* productivity--negative effects down from 42 percent to 22 percent, and

* teamwork--negative effects down from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Have these decreases occurred because employers and employees are inured to the psychological impacts of losing touch and trust? Or because they acknowledge their ability to cope with stress and can thereby improve their productivity and teamwork? Or both? Or are there other reasons? Human resources executives concur that whatever the cause, no-fault terminations will continue regardless of economic conditions.

With respect to retention, the study "reaffirmed that it is impossible to set forth universal prescriptions.... You retain individuals, not groups.' Back to "Please go, please stay": What is the retention link? How can an organization differentiate its message so that unwanted turnover associated with downsizing does not put the organization and its valued employees in peril?

It's extremely important that job terminations and downsizing efforts be carried out with sensitivity for supervisors and for employees who choose to go, those who are chosen to go, and those who are given a choice. In my experience as a career counselor, coach, and outplacement consultant, living through each of the above choices is accompanied by pain, fear, and lots of insecurity--along with relief, exhilaration, and a sense of chaos.

And that's the subject of next month's article--life beyond downsizing.

Dr Hagevik has agreed to provide NEHA members with a free resume review. If you desire assistance in creating or making revisions to your resume, a reasonable price for this service will be determined based on the extent of work requested
COPYRIGHT 2001 National Environmental Health Association
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:human resources survey
Author:Hagevik, Sandra
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2001
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