AT&T recently announced that it will cut 12,000 jobs. Credit Suisse Group will cut 5,300 jobs, and DuPont will cut 2,500. The situation seems more dismal each day as more layoffs are announced, and organizations across the country are worried about what the future might hold.
According to a recent poll of 450 HR professionals by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 70 percent of HR professionals feel budget cuts across entire organizations are likely if the U.S. economy continues to struggle. Fifty-five percent said hiring freezes are likely, 50 percent said that cutting bonuses is likely, 45 percent said freezing wage increases is likely, and 39 percent said layoffs are likely. It’s not a pretty picture, but there are actions organizations can take to prepare themselves for what may happen if the economy doesn’t get better.
“Anytime there are cuts, one of the things that [you’re] obviously concerned about is layoffs and downsizing in your organization,” said Deb Cohen, chief knowledge officer at SHRM. “The first place to start would be to take a look at [your] hiring. If you have any open positions, should [you] really go ahead and hire those positions? Is this a critical position, [or] is this something that’s going to tax [your] organization in the next six to 12 months?”
Typically, training is one of the first items to be cut, but Cohen believes organizations should avoid that route.
“I’ve always felt it’s really unfortunate that organizations take the view that we’re going to cut training because if you’re not hiring, then you really need to think about cross training employees and [making] sure that the existing staff can handle the assignments,” she said.
In the case of budget cuts, learning and development organizations need to be prepared. To avoid haphazard cutting, organizations should look to see they can tighten their belts.
“You really need to think about what the costs are associated with training,” Cohen said. “You try to find ways to continue learning but minimize other structural costs that go along with it. If it’s possible, shorten the length of training. Where you might have purchased a three-day course [before], think about purchasing a one-day course. Obviously, you have to think about [whether] you can meet your learning objectives. But my hope for organizations is that they find a way to continue the learning, but reduce the cost associated with that learning.”
Learning becomes even more critical when an organization is cutting back on raises or bonuses, as these are ways to retain employees.
“One thing that employees appreciate, particularly at a time like this, [is to] feel as though they’re being [developed] and that the organization is still focusing on their professional and personal well-being,” Cohen said. “That’s something that’s attractive to folks [and will] help retain them not just now, but even after the economy starts to strengthen. An employee will remember [that the] organization tried to give [them] as much as they could, instead of cutting as much as they could.”