It is Not Too Late

My people,

This has truly been a difficult week. Just as in any previous times and administrations when layoffs were conducted, Barbadians are being rocked to the core. Domestic and professional families are facing great uncertainty and there are costs that will have ripple effects in the years to come. My heart goes out to all who have been impacted and my sincerest prayers are with you.

I think what was even more difficult than the cuts themselves was how they were done in some cases. There was no consistency and there were too many mixed messages.

The Prime Minister communicated her empathy clearly to the public, which has its merits, however, without thoroughly preparing those tasked with the execution of the layoffs, a difficult situation was made even more difficult.

I could stay here and rehash all of the things that should have been done, but that can wait. We need to look at how they should be done moving forward.

We have been told that this is just the beginning. That more cuts are on the horizon. Before taking further steps in that direction there needs to be a regrouping.

There needs to be a series of meetings starting with evaluative sessions where not only all who were responsible for giving this sad news are assembled, but also HR, communications and counseling specialists. There needs to be an assessment of what worked and what did not during this process. This information will be the basis, along with advice from the aforementioned occupational experts, that will help to build a comprehensive plan to how such an exercise should be conducted in the future.

The persons who have to be bearers of bad news will not only have the opportunity to contribute to this plan, but the consensus reached should result in guidelines for these persons to follow. There needs to be uniformity in how the process is executed.

Workers do not only need empathy but they need clarity. These managers should not only be trained how to perform the layoff process but how to properly handle the emotions of the survivors of the process. Empathy needs to be evident but the messages also need to be clear about how the present is to impact the future of these organizations and how their roles impact this future.

And even after all of this is done, there is still more work to do to break the cycle of downsizing as a first resort. There is still more work to ensure that our organizations are functioning effectively. 

This is going to require some sacrifices at an ideological level. Politics and partisanship need to be replaced by occupational best practices. This should run the gamut of HR, from fair competence-based recruitment to strategic performance management to effective succession planning.

We can do better. We have to do better. It is not too late.

Best regards,

Bajan HRM

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Why Use Last In First Out (LIFO) in Restructuring?

My people,

Let me start this article by plainly stating, I am not partisan. The only thing I am partial to is good strategic management and non-greasy fishcakes that actually have in salt fish. That being said, for those who are criticising the Barbadian Government’s choice of the LIFO method in this recent phase of layoffs, to be open-minded, it is quite possible that they did not have much of a choice. Let me explain.

Let us start with the foundation. What is the LIFO method? Simply put, it is as it says, the last ones hired will be the first ones fired. In  other words, those who have the shortest lengths of service will be the first to go in a restructuring exercise. Some refer to it as the most objective method to carry out such a function, but there are those who disagree, noting that when LIFO occurs in the public sector, soon after a change of government, more often than not those on the other side of the axe are supporters of the former government. Of course, this is under the supposition that fair hiring practices had not taken place during the previous administration.

If we are honest with each other, there are political benefits that can be derived from this method, but it does not discount its value when quick decisions have to be made (e.g. at the International Monetary Fund’s behest), at as low a cost as possible. It is simple to collate names who were hired after X time period and lay them off, following labour legislation, of course. It is also a less expensive exercise since the severance payment obligations would be much lower. It is also less of a headache at the Social Partnership bargaining table since the LIFO method is widely preferred by trade unions.

Does this mean that I am an advocate of the LIFO method? Au contraire. The ideal method to procure the strongest possible organisation would have to be based in strategic performance management. There would need to be an assessment of the organisation’s strategic objectives as well as the employee evaluations which are part of an effective functioning performance review and development system. An understanding of where one wants the organisation to go, and the human resources and accompanying skills and attitudes required to reach them, are decisive strides in strong organisation development and longevity. I will expound on the benefits of an efficiently functioning PRDS at another juncture, but it seems as in this case the government had to work quickly with what was available and what would be least contentious.

What needs to be common in any restructuring method is empathy and compassion. Employees are not statistics and should not be treated as such. Counselling services as well as factors to mitigate fallout such as through training and other opportunities are paths in the right direction.

And do not be fooled, no matter the method, this is nothing that can be done overnight. There needs to be assessments, engagement of key stakeholders, proper reporting and documentation, contingency planning, and of course, monitoring and evaluation.

These are times when knowledgeable HR practitioners can do much to buffer the blow felt by their organisations. Finding ways to cushion those who are going home and to bolster the confidence of the survivors of restructuring.

Best regards,

Bajan HRM