Cutting jobs is a difficult decision for employers, but when the economy isn't flourishing or the business is in financial trouble, it seems like the only option. Dissolving an existing position usually means laying off the person working in that position, but that's not always the case. There are ways to cut expenses, and sometime positions, without job losses.
Attrition refers to cutting back on staff by not filling positions after people retire or quit voluntarily. When you know you must dissolve some positions in your office, try to cut the jobs through attrition. As people retire or quit, shuffle the duties of the position to existing employees rather than filling the open position. This cuts back on your overhead without the need to lay off people who want to continue working for your company.
Turning Full-Time into Part-Time
When you must eliminate positions, restructure your employees so most of them are part-time instead of full-time. You might lose some who are unhappy with the change, which gives you the option to dissolve those positions without laying off anyone. Part-time workers don't require the same kind of investment; you usually don't provide them benefits such as health insurance and 401(k) matching, for example. After deciding which positions to dissolve, create a job-sharing structure so that people who held the dissolved positions move to other positions part-time. When two people share the same job, each performs a different function of the job or they work different days to make sure the job is always covered. Although this scenario reduces the salaries and benefits of all employees, they still have jobs. This is often better than laying off employees to save the jobs of a few. Part-time doesn't have to mean 20-hour work weeks. Reducing everyone's time by five to 10 hours a week might qualify them as part-time employees, which saves you money on payroll as well as benefits.
To prevent the need to dissolve positions at all, consider other cost-saving options. Allowing more workers to telecommute means you can cut back on your overhead by moving into a smaller space. Offer voluntary pay cuts to your staff or cut extras such as holiday parties and bonuses. Delay equipment upgrades and lose the travel budgets and expense accounts for your employees.
Return to Work
When you're the person who's job is being dissolved, you might be open to going part-time or taking a pay reduction rather than lose your job. However, sometimes downsizing means laying off employees, and there's no alternative. As the unlucky one, take some steps to make the best of the situation. Negotiate a severance package with your employer to help tide you over until you find a new job; remain positive with your boss and co-workers. Even in downsized offices, new positions open regularly as employees quit or retire, or when business starts to pick up again. Express an interest in returning to the company, and make sure there's a return-to-work clause in your severance agreement. This ensures the company will look to you first when a new position opens to see if you're qualified and interested in filling the position.
Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.