Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On Layoffs - Advice to Indian Companies

The market conditions are bad now and those of us who want to survive until better times are upon us have to take harsh decisions. Those harsh decisions include cost cutting, and in most Indian companies, this means layoffs. By letting some people go, the company becomes better equipped to protect the rest of the company. That's reality. Now here is how I would like Indian companies to handle layoffs.

1. Do not couch layoffs as your regular performance related terminations.
Not only are you terminating people, you are also making it difficult for them to find other jobs. Who would want to hire someone who has been let go for lack of performance? If that is the genuine reason, do say so by all means, but not if your real reason is cost cutting. With no social or economic support, and a drastically diminished chance of landing another job, what will these people do?

2. Do it at one go.
Don't do your layoffs in bits and pieces. It justs makes the whole organization tense and does not create a management friendly or supportive environment that is required post-layoffs for the company to survive.

3. Don't start a witch-hunt.
Do not start scrutinizing employees' old resumes and expense reports to find minor discrepancies that can give you the opportunity to fire them on disciplinary grounds. If you believe somebody had genuinely cheated the company by falsifying records, fire them - I don't mean to condone such crimes. But not this way!.

4. Help the laid off employees to find new jobs.
Have a job fair. Give them good reports and genuine service letters specifically written by their managers. Introduce them to your trusted placement vendors. Use your network to place them in other offices. Give them open offers so that they get priority when a suitable position reopens again. Write them nice recommendations and help them improve their online credibility - there are sites like jobsbyref.com and linkedIn where you can do that easily. I am sure you can think of many ways to help them find another job soon.

5. Don't shy away from explaining.
Talk to the entire organization. Tell them your layoff plans - the reasons, the actions, the consequences (if you do and if you don't). Talk to those who are being asked to go and to those ones that get to stay. Do all that you can to make everyone understand why you are doing what you are doing.

6. See how you can provide some monetary support to the laidoff people
Can you afford to give more than the mandatory notice period payment? Maybe for an additional month or two? Those that are staying in company accommodation, can you let them stay for a couple of months more till they find their own place to stay? Waive/postpone repayment of any pending loans taken from the company? Double the notice period by halving the salary? Allow them to encash any of their unavailed leave? I am sure we can find ways to help without drastically affecting the company's future.

It would be a real nice New Year if some Indian CEO somewhere takes the lead and tells it like it is. It is time our society and the politicians face the truth. I guess Jet airways tried. Most commendable, but next time do not give in.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rebooting India

I have been reading all of James Herriot's books again (for maybe the fourth time!). In one of his stories in the book The lord god made them all, he describes how after the war the students who come to train under him teach him all the new advances and techniques that they have learnt in veternary college. "I found I was learning from them just about as much as they were learning from me", he says.

When was the last time you learnt from a student who came to your organization to do a project or an in-plant training assignment? More often than not, we find students coming out of college don't even know the fundamentals of their chosen discipline.

What could be the reason for this?

  • Do we need a war to spur development and progress?

  • Has the standard of education gone down?

  • Is everyone only working on financial engineering these days and neglecting real engineering like Tom Friedman is saying?

  • Has the average IQ of people gone down?

  • Have televisions, cell phones, cutthroat competition, stress, the internet and all the other distractions shortened the attention span of the younger generation to such an extent that learning has become very difficult?

  • Has the older generation failed to provide any good role models to emulate?


Whatever be the reasons, as Tom Friedman says, it is time to reboot, not just America, but India and the rest of the world as well!

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Layoffs by any other name...

An ex-employee of one of my previous companies called me today. He wanted to know if that company still existed (it does). It has been over 7 - 8 years since he left that company and joined the MNC where he currently works. So the sudden interest in my old company piqued my curiosity.

Apparently, his company(a very large MNC) has suddenly started scrutinizing the profile/resume, including previous employment and education records, of every existing employee . This chap (who has been working in that MNC for the last 7 years!) thinks this is a witch-hunt to layoff people on frivolous grounds. I cannot agree with him more.

And this is not the first (nor the only) company to do so. I am seeing this two-step process more and more often. The process is very simple.
1. Scrutinize the profiles and past data. Kick out people with discrepencies. If layoff number are met, end the exercise. If not proceed to step 2.
2. Scrutinize all expense reports, trip reports, sick leave, blog writings,... Kick out people with discrepencies.
Repeat until numbers are met.

Does this happen in other countries also? I don't mean layoffs - those happen everywhere - I mean disguising layoffs as firings (purportedly due to performance
or conduct).

There is another article in here about the multiple ways in which corporate India is screwing people in this current economic situation. And the cultural and political compulsions that are leading them to do so. Coming soon...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

News from Jobsbyref.com

The employer side functionality has been released. So now companies can register, post jobs and manage respondents.

Registered members can also now search for jobs and apply online. More to come.

Will post more often soon...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Laid off before joining!


Well over 80% of the fresh graduates who get job offers every year are recruited through campus recruitment drives. This year has been no different. Medium and large companies have gone to all the top tier and second tier colleges and "recruited" thousands of fresh graduates.

Like in recent years, the graduates who have passed the tests and interviews have all been given not offer letters but "letters of intent to induct at an apprpriate time". When the appropriate time will be is anybody's guess.

There is an article in Hindu Business line that talks about candidates given such letters in May (or even earlier) this year who are yet to join. In fact one company alone, which has "recruited" over 13,500 students, has yet to induct over 9000 of them! This company is not the only one. Most of the companies have been slow to induct their "recruits".

For the students, on the threshold of their careers, this is like getting laid off before even joining. Many of them are waiting patiently for the promised letters and hence are not even looking out for other opportunities. The bitter truth is, given the market condition today, many of them may never get their joining letters.

There is no point in blaming companies alone for this situation, for they have their own problems to solve. Not even the biggest and the greatest companies have been spared - why, even google is tightening its belt.

I urge every youngster to start actively looking out for a job now, irrespective of whether you have an offer letter or not.

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