I attended a workshop today that was promoted on the basis of “Managing Staff during Difficult Times”. In Toowoomba (where I live) we've had a few challenges recently, most notably was the flooding in January and on top of the GFC, its having some serious impact on the local business community.

During the course of the workshop, the question was raised by the presenter "what do you do when you have too many staff and not enough work?" There was a bunch of the usual stuff (and some unusual suggestions such as give your additional staff to your competitor temporarily????? – hello did I actually hear that correctly) and of course, the suggestion of putting off additional capacity.

The recommendation from the presenter was when working out who; start by putting off the casuals, and then part timers and finally permanents - to which I took umbrage

Are you kidding me? In what universe do you manage restructure or rightsizing based on how each player is engaged?

This is of course the “standard approach” and typical of a HR Manager applying a compliance based strategy to workforce management, rather than a true strategic approach based on whats best for the business.

It so reminded me of the old work place adage, "last on; first off". Most modern employers abandoned this process during the 80's and 90’s.

Sure, you might consider how someone is engaged when thinking about rostering, but when it comes to picking your players, essentially betting on your future, you want to ensure you have the best team, regardless of who is engaged in what employment capacity. Its just may be that your recent casual hire is a better fit than your longest standing permanent.

You want to draw on and keep the players who are most aligned with your company culture and those who are delivering and meeting their KPI’s. These are indicators of the people who will ensure your long term success

The compliance methodology helps with the financial burden of redundancy and is the “safe” approach, but during the difficult times, if you’re making these difficult decisions, you need to keep both eyes on the long term strategy. You want to ensure you have the best team on the field now (to ensure survival) and also for when the upturn occurs.

Change your focus to who you keep, not who you let go. And if your doing that, the way someone is engaged is no longer a consideration.

This of course is not only relevant when your rightsizing an organisation, but should be continually reviewed, even in the most buoyant of times.

The World According to Shane - If your caught in the unfortunate situation of having to “rightsize” you business (and if your in business long enough, believe me, you will), focus on keeping the best team, regardless of how long they’ve been there, or how their engaged. It will pay bigger dividends, quicker.


Shane Ridley is the Founder and Managing Director of the Park Consulting Group, including Working Holidays DownUnder, CPE Rural and JelliFish! and is a specialist in Strategic Business and Human Resource Management.