Layoffs have been a recurring theme in the news lately. Major organizations such as Disney, Meta, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs are some of the most well-known organizations that are cutting staff due to concerns of a pending global recession. Layoffs are designed to cut costs and implement a more lean style of business to yield a higher profit. However it can often communicate internal instability to consumers. They might look at other product and service providers who appear more stable to complete business transactions.
Layoffs not only reduce staff, but they also reduce employee morale. They generate a sense of uncertainty as many employees wonder if they are next on the “chopping block”. If employees are tense wondering if they are going to be laid off, they will start looking at employment elsewhere. Often this is with the company’s competitors in the same niche. Although layoffs can be unavoidable, other options worth examining exist before making the decision to eliminate jobs. To help mitigate damage to employee morale and maintain a positive perception of company stability, companies need to explore the option of workforce redeployment instead of layoffs.
Workforce redeployment, AKA “internal mobility”, is a strategic function conducted by Human Resources and leadership to shift existing employees into different roles within the same organization. This is not a new concept. Companies have been utilizing workforce redeployment for years. Particularly in the case of health issues where an employee might not be able to physically or mentally perform the duties of their current role. They are then moved into a different role within the same organization which is more feasible for success. Workforce redeployment is commonly used at times of internal reorganization to help employees maintain employment within the company. Redeployed employees do not necessarily keep the same pay, schedule and working arrangements. Those factors are based on the needs of the new role in which the employee was redeployed.
Currently, workforce redeployment is gaining more traction as a strategic function to offset unexpected situations that impact business functions. The economy will continue to ebb and flow with periods of expansion and contraction so that is a known variable. Unknown variables such as a global pandemic are difficult to anticipate. Over three years later, companies are still reeling from the effects of COVID-19’s impact on working arrangements and job adaptability. Throw in the ongoing challenge of finding qualified talent, and these three items form the perfect storm for business failure if proactive processes to retain talent are not integrated within the company’s strategic plan.
Human Resources and leadership must conduct regular reviews of an organization’s structure. To help maximize efficiencies within an organization, a company needs to evaluate current roles. Then forecast where growth and reductions are anticipated to occur. In departments where growth and value are lagging, examine the likelihood of their future impact and their timeframe of dissipating value. Before the expiration date of those departments and/or roles within that have lagging value, invest in the talented employees. Offer the ability to reskill, as needed, and move into a different role. During times of prosperity, cross train employees. Provide training on skills that are internally forecasted with a high need.
Proactively identifying where cuts are needed, but allowing time to partner with those affected employees, shows the organization’s commitment to their employees. Redeploying employees can boost employee morale and demonstrate a view of solidarity and strength to internal and external stakeholders. Employees who believe that their organization is committed to their tenure and growth are more likely to stay within the organization reducing the loss of knowledge and talent.
For those employees who are redeployed into a different role within an organization, management must take into account that there will be varying degrees of emotion. Employees will run through a gamut of nervousness, excitement, and fear. Establish regular check-ins and monitor the transition into the new role. The redeployed employee is already familiar with the company’s culture and mission, vision and values so time to productivity should be quicker. Allow the employee to openly share their needs, goals and expectations for success.
Workforce Redeployment Challenges
Not all employees will be supportive of workforce redeployment initiatives so there will be some attrition. For those employees who willingly leave the company, keep the door open and offer a warm welcome for a potential future return. Boomerang workers are employees who leave an organization and come back later to work for the same company. Harvard Business Review reports that 20% of employees who left an organization during the pandemic have returned to a previous employer. Losing talent is hard. It is even more painful for the organization if the talent built a positive rapport with colleagues. Provide a positive departing experience for talent who is voluntarily leaving. There is a solid chance they could want to return, and they might be the talent your organization is seeking.
Due to the nature and complexity of the scope of business, not all organizations can launch a mainstream workforce redeployment plan. However, often feasible opportunities exist to shift employees into roles that are conducive to company growth. Creative efforts must be made when examining the potential jobs and employees for redeployment. Create an internal network so employees can have a better understanding of other departments’ functions. Conduct skills assessments to identify skills transferable into different roles. Use an Applicant Tracking System’s (ATS’s) internal application to collect the interest of employees interested in other company opportunities. Maintain performance and employee records in a robust onboarding platform.
To offset financial loss and maintain a competitive edge, include workforce redeployment initiatives in the company’s strategic plan. Companies must forge through merciless storms of talent wars, evolving technology, pandemics, inflation and supply chain issues among many other barriers that disrupt operations and threaten a company’s existence. The loss of talent and the negative publicity that results from layoffs can be a one-two punch that can impede profits and even existence. Taking initiatives, such as workforce redeployment, can mitigate those losses and help keep doors open longer. Having an agile workforce is in an investment that pays in the long run.