Fast Company: Downsizing Should Have Three Stages–No Layoffs, Flexible Downsizing, THEN Layoffs–Not Two

December job cuts were far worse than expected.  A recent headline in the Wall Street Journal read, “No-Layoff Policies Crumble,” as a number of companies with historical “no layoff” policies have been forced by the economic downturn to do the unthinkable.  Unfortunately, this all-or-nothing approach ignores an important, interim possibility—flexible downsizing.

As I’ve written many times (here, here, and here), using strategic work+life flexibility–reduced schedules, sabbaticals, job sharing, project-based consulting—can help organizations avoid at least some layoffs.   But, nevertheless, according to the WSJ article:

  • After 51-years of never laying anyone off, even after 9/11, Enterprise Rent-A-Car is laying off 1,000 or its 75,000 employees.
  • Gentex Corporation, a company that “didn’t even have a layoff policy,” dismissed 15% of its workforce or 370 employees.
  • Life Time Fitness laid off 100 of its 15,000 employees.

In fairness, the WSJ article discussed how the companies tried to avoid layoffs by “freezing salaries,” “drumming up work for idle employees,” “filling openings with temporary workers,” and “moving employees to busy segments from those with little work.” But nowhere did the article mention creative uses of strategic flexibility that would keep valued employees while allowing companies to reduce labor costs. (Click here for more)