Laying people off is not necessarily a bad thing


MediaCorp CEO Shaun Seow announced on Friday last week that they have laid off 33 employees and redeployed 50 others. Redeployment entails a review of job and salary scales as well, sometimes resulting in a lowering of the base salary, if not a salary freeze.

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It is reported that the outcome of this exercise has left Mr Seow with a “heavy heart.” I too have had this experience of having to redeploy, review salaries, and lay people off, and while I have had a heavy heart, I have also seen the positive impact of right-sizing an organisation. So in this article, I want to talk about why laying people off may not necessarily be a bad thing.

1. It frees up positions for others

When there is an incumbent who has obviously reached the pinnacle of his career with the company, and can no longer contribute in the same capacity as others in the same level, keeping him there will not help the organisation. It also prevents others who are more capable than him to take on the position and effect a positive change. Moving the person, either through redeployment or layoff, will help reinvigorate the organisation. Keeping people past their effectiveness date creates “rigor mortis”, and ambitious ones will leave the organisation seeing that there is no way up. You end up with an organisation of non-performing people.

2. It allows them time to build their next career

Some employers think that retaining people is a way to show that they are a good organisation; it may well be just the opposite. Keeping an employee past his re-employment age, will make it a harder for him to establish a new career. All new careers need a minimum runway to reach full potential, and when an employee re-enters the job market older, and with a higher monthly salary, the odds are against him in obtaining that new job. So if one is found to have risen to the point he can no longer rise and contribute, it is time to allow him to move on and find new footing before it is too late. Keeping him actually is doing him a disservice, even if he doesn’t see it at first.

3. It keeps the organisation fresh

By having a healthy turnover of staff, all the while bringing in new capabilities, new ideas and new talent, an organisation can keep itself on the leading edge of change, and stave off organizational redundancy. It keeps them fresh. There should be a renewal plan in the organisation, where everyone sees their role as temporary, and that they are holding the position for the next more capable person to take it, and take the organisation higher. Gone are the days when we have employees for life, and every one of us has to come into an organisation with the view of being able to add one or two line items on our CV before we leave. If we can accept that this is a mutually developing relationship between organisation and employee, we will know when it is time for us to leave and let someone more capable than us to take over.

Change need not be difficult

If we understand that this is the new normal, then we should design our jobs for just such a redundancy. If we come into a position with the understanding that we have to leave it better for it, and for someone better than ourselves, then we will not feel traumatised when we are finally asked to go. Change need not be difficult if it is designed into the process. Perhaps it is time for us to look at employability in a different light. It will actually make us more marketable, and we can even demand a higher salary, simply for our strategic view of human capital management.

Now, isn’t that what we all want?

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