The FINANCIAL — If you look around you today, you’ll see tons of people who have become victims of staff reductions or are under such threat. The biggest corporations have had to lay off their employees because of the global financial crisis. Hoping not to be next, any advice from professionals would be helpful. “Everyone suffers”, says expert Olena Stepanchenko-Crouch. While, “Maybe you don’t know the solution to a problem, but you should be able to find the path to a solution,” says Samson Pkhakadze, Chairman of the Wissol Board of Directors.
“Staff reduction unfortunately is an unavoidable process that an employee has to go through at certain periods of their career development. The process depends on the type of organization and the industry in which s/he operates. If we take for example a mobile communications company, where more than half of the employees are engineer professionals, here emphasis is made on specialists directly,” says Mr. Mikheil Bregvadze, an expert in Human Resources and Networking.
Bregvadze has been working for several global telecom and mobile telecommunication sectors. He is the Head of the Employees Services Division that includes Human Resources and the Administration Department of Geocell, owned by TeliaSonera AB – the leader in the Nordic and Baltic countries, with strong positions in Eurasia, including Russia and Turkey.
The major shareholders of TeliaSonera are Sweden (37.3 %) and Finland (13.7%). TeliaSonera and its associated companies provide communication services to over 100 million subscribers in 18 countries and employ over 28,000 staff.
“When I was just starting out on my career path, there was an occasion when I had to go through such a process. The mobile communications company that I was working for around 8-10 years ago had to lay off significant numbers of employees. I was quite lucky as the management was able to give proper explanations and provided appropriate other options. A Line Manager helped me and other employees to find alternative vacancies in the same and other companies. Since then I have appreciated such efforts from manager toward their subordinates.”
But do younger employees have higher chances than older ones? Which is more important here, new blood or more experience?
Bregvadze says it doesn’t matter whether you are a 5 month worker or a 5 year employee. It depends on the professionalism, competence and attitude that you have. You may have been working at a company for 10 months only and yet be more into what you’re doing than a person who has been working there for 5 years.
As experts say, proactiveness is the key to survival. Being a valuable employee is what saves you. Make suggestions to management; ask for more roles and responsibilities, especially if they are available because people have already left. But remember not to get overloaded, don’t lose your sense of balance.
“Everyone suffers. However, if you are in such a situation try to network with as many colleagues as possible, let them know that you are looking for new roles and responsibilities. Try to utilize all the skills and knowledge that you have and be ready to do something different than what you have done before,” explains expert Olena Stepanchenko-Crouch, who is the Career Development Centre Director of Caucasus University.
“Coming up with uniqueness or relevancy, doing something extra for your manager, is an option. Make life better for him or her. It reduces the stress that the manager is under and gives them more time to focus on other issues and tasks. It shows your value as an employee and it is valuable employees that are best situated to survive a downsizing.”
Not all experts agree that doing extra work can lend a hand in this case.
“First of all let’s think is it ethical enough to start doing extra work only when you’re under threat of losing your job. If the management demands it and asks you to do some extra work then there’s no question. But such initiative shouldn’t be coming directly from the employee. Do what you are asked to, what you’re supposed to and take the responsibility for that only. A good manager always knows what’s behind the employee’s actions, so taking extra responsibilities without being asked to, wouldn’t help in making long steps forward,” claimed Mikheil Bregvadze.
One thing that is unquestionable among specialists is the teamwork issue. Teamwork is justified in nearly all occasions, including this one. A company is only as strong as the team of employees that work there. By working together you create a stronger company, divisions, and unit; achieve greater efficiency and become more valuable employees as a group and as individuals. If everyone looks after their own interests they are not looking after the company’s interests and that makes things worse. According to experts an individual is better in dealing with difficulties as a team, rather than just standing apart. If there’s a proper understanding of unity in a team, if the goals are well met, “we” as a team have better chances of surviving a staff reduction than “I”.
You may think that making yourself invaluable, so that if you left life would be more difficult for your manager, would help.
When talking about the uniqueness of an employee we have to take into account that in general there are no employees that can’t be changed.
“Succession Management is very popular and has a high level of importance today in companies worldwide. For those employees who hold critical positions, the company should always have a “back up” person in mind. In terms of “back up” we mean a person who can handle the job and take the responsibility after the previous position’s holder leaves the company or gets promoted,” Mr. Bregvadze told The FINANCIAL
“As a suggestion for employees, I can only say that there is no better way to show one’s irreplaceability than well performed work that is a part of a team’s overall success – this underlines comfort for management and confidence in the employee for the organization.”
If there’s a dilemma of laying off an employee with a wife and kids or an unmarried person: Professionalism comes in first place always, that is the rule of a business life.
“I like the approach of one company that started their redundancies from the most expensive employees (top and middle management) that had not performed well for the last 6 months. This allowed the company to keep it’s younger and less experienced people as the company considers them its future,” stated Stepanchenko-Crouch.
Analysing experts’ views concluded that downsizing in tough economic times is a normal business occurrence. The trick is to be a valuable employee that stays on because every downturn is followed by an upturn and this means that you are better placed for promotion and rewards when things improve and the firm begins to grow again.
Never do this: offer to take a lower salary.
Value yourself and your contribution. Do not offer to take a lower salary. It may make management believe that they can continue to pay you less when things improve. Now the topic of pay cuts may come up but that is the management’s decision and you and your colleagues need to negotiate the best deal for yourselves. It’s very important to keep your job, but if a reduction has already been decided by top management, then a lower salary offer from an employee won’t help.
As for top managers, experts advise that they should keep in mind a golden rule: talk to your people, explain your strategy; let them know what is happening in the organization and outside.
“In this way employees avoid getting a nasty surprise and you do not have to lie to them about what is happening. The best way to communicate is by having a meeting, not just emails as your employees may think that managers are hiding from them and do not tell them important information to their faces,” added Olena Stepanchenko-Crouch.
“The executives should be confident in their financial capabilities. If the financial side of a company is run adequately then more or less the risk of staff reduction decreases,” explains Dr. Samson Pkhakadze, Chairman of the Swiss-Georgian oil company Wissol, (the largest retailer of petroleum products in Georgia) Board of Directors.
Dr. Samson Pkhakadze, 38, completed his MBA at Moscow State University and Master’s in Public Policy and Management (MPP) at Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government.
“The most important thing to remember for an employee is to feel that he brings synergy to the company. You shouldn’t bother to show your manager what profit you can generate for the firm you work for. If they see you become ballast, believe me you will be the first who will have to leave. Maybe you don’t know the solution to a problem, but you should be able to find the path to a solution,” Pkhakadze added.
Without a doubt, no matter who you are, if you’re an organized, honest worker and you do your job responsibly, your chances of surviving during a staff reduction are the highest.
If you want to be invaluable, remember that your honesty while doing a job is a major factor that makes you such a person.
These are the 7 tips for surviving a staff reduction, offered by Mikheil Bregvadze:
1. Always being punctual and organized at work, is one of the key attributes to success in every environment, especially during a staff reduction.
2. Avoid slandering your co-workers or gossiping about your supervisors.
Be slow in criticism of your clients or employees, whether face to face or behind their backs.
3. The subject of the appearance of an employee at work is significant at all times, in terms of grooming, hygiene, etc.
4. Understand your company’s corporate culture, vision and mission statements and match them with your own responsibilities as actions.
5. Behave towards your colleagues in such a polite manner as you would like them to treat you.
6. Remember and realize each remark or comment made by your manager, and try to never make the same mistake more than once.
7. Always enhance and improve your skills and level of professionalism in the field of your activity.
Written By Levan Lomtadze