The Day We Embraced Layoffs

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by Outside-In® Team Member, Kelly Hocutt

August 5, 1981. That’s the date it became official.

It’s rare that we can point to an exact date when a business theory of idea becomes an accepted practice. But in the case of mass layoffs, we can. August 5, 1981, was the day President Ronald Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers.

Demanding more pay and a shorter workweek, PATCO, the air traffic controllers’ union at the time, was embroilded in a vicious labor dispute with the Federal Aviation Administration. When the talks broke down, PATCO threatened to go on srike, ostensibly shutting down airports and causing the cancellation of thousands of flights during one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

Such a strike is illegal, according to the sometimes controversial Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. The act essentially prohibits any labor strike to cause unfair harm to those not involved in the dispute or to do any damage to any commerce that would negatively affect the general welfare. This is the reason police and emergency room nurses are forbidden to strike. The damage such a strike would cause is believed to outweigh any grievances over unfair pay or hours.

Without an acceptable deal and, worse, without the ability to find common ground, on August 3, PATCO’s members refused to go to work. Given the strike’s impact on the country, President Reagan got personally involved ordering the air traffic controllers back to work. Meanwhile, contingency plans were put into place, with supervisors (who were not members of the union), a small group of controllers who had chosen not to strike and military air traffic controllers enlisted to cover the losses. Though not a perfect solution, these temporary workers were able to keep the majority of flights going. The effect of the strikes was not as severe as expected, and so, on August 5, 1981, President Reagan fired 11,359 air traffic congrollers, nearly every controller working for the FAA at the time. And it didn’t stop there.

Reagan banned every one of the strikers from ever working for the FAA again for the rest of their lives, a ban that remained in effect until President Clinton lifted it in 1993. Many of the air traffic controllers who were fired that day were war veterans (which is where they learned the trade) or civil servants who had worked hard to earn their middle-class incomes. Because of the ban and the fact that their skills were hardly transferable to other industries (there’s not a huge demand for air traffic controllers outside of the FAA), many of them found themselves in poverty.

This is not a story about whether Reagan should or should not have fired the air traffic controllers. This is not a story about labor disputes and the right of unions to stand up to management. This is a story of something quite diabolical. This is a story about the long-term repercussions when a leader sets a new tone about what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior inside an organization.

In an attempt to alleviate one short-term strain on our country, President Reagan inadvertently created a new, longer-lasting one. By firing all the air traffic controllers, he sent a message to business leaders across the nation. He unwittingly blessed the swift and even aggressove decision to use mass layoffs to guard against a short-term economic disruption. Though I am certain Reagan never intended it as such, some eager CEOs interpreted his actions as permission for them to do the same. There was now a precedent for protecting commerce before protecting people. And so, for the first time ever, the social conventions that had restrained many a CEO from doing something that many may have wished they could in the past were instantly gone.

With the tacit approval from on high, the practice of laying off people in mass numbers to balance the books started to happen with greater frequency. Layoffs had existed before the eighties, but usually as a last reosrt and not an early opiton. We were now entering a time in which even meritocracy mattered less. How hard someone worked or how much they sacrificed or contributed to the company no longer necessarily translated into job stability. Now anyone could be laid off simply to help balance the books for that year. Careers ended to make numbers work. Protecting the money, as economic theory, replaced protecting the people. Under such conditions, how can we ever feel safe at work? How can we ever feel committed to the jobs we have if the leaders of our companies aren’t committed to us?

Placers Adopts a Family This Holiday Season

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As an Outside-In® Company, we strive to make a difference in the lives of those around us in our community and provide them with peace of mind. One way that we extend our Service to the Nth Degree value is by adopting a family every holiday season.

Each year, we partner with Delaware Social Service’s Adopt-a-Family Holiday Gift Assistance program. The program provides the sponsor with a brief description of the circumstances that led each family to the need for assistance. We survey through the available families with the goal of keeping the holiday magic alive.

This year, our hearts went out to a single mother and her two children. The mother is a domestic violence survivor who works part-time while caring for her 8-year old and 17-year old daughters. After being displaced from their residence, they now live with extended family to help make ends meet. She asked for basic necessities like scarves, hats, and gloves, as well as gift cards to Walmart and Kmart, so that she can provide her daughters with gifts from Santa.

Please join us and view our online fundraising page to help us spread a little holiday cheer and provide our family with the joy of Christmas.

CBI Way: What’s Your Sourcing Strategy?

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With a difficult requisition, sourcing usually requires a new strategy, unless its a position you or your team has worked previously. Sourcing is tactical. It takes critical thinking and an overall strategic focus to be efficient. But what goes into developing an effective sourcing strategy? Let’s discuss a few things to consider when tackling your next hard-to-fill requisition.

ID-10049952By this point in the process, you should have an excellent grasp on the position details, summary, requirements, and the ideal candidate. Additionally, knowing the focus of the client’s strategy is key, be it a long-term or short-term recruitment strategy. As discussed often, constant and open communication with the client is also essential.

Now it’s time to start asking yourself some questions about the ideal candidate you are searching for while executing your strategy. Where would this person be engaging with other industry professionals? Whether it be social media, networking events, associations, publications, etc. Where would you most likely find your candidate “hanging out”? Identifying these outlets is going to go a long way in determining what appeals to and gets the attention of passive candidates.

This part of developing the strategy can lead to approaches you may not have originally established. It is going to be much easier to productively promote and market the opening when all of the outlets most frequented by target candidates are identified and investigated. However, mapping out locations of ideal candidates is just one of the steps to developing an effective sourcing strategy. Check out the next CBI Way Blog where we’ll continue to discuss putting together your approach to sourcing for a hard-to-fill job.

The War on Talent: Tempting the Temp

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In recent blogs, we discussed both the War on Talent and How to Attract & Engage Contingent Workers and shared how now more than ever, staffing firms and employers need to appeal to qualified candidates. The way in which you market your brand, as well as your clients brand, can either make or break your candidate’s desire to fill the position.

Here are a few tips to set yourself up for success with marketing your (and your client’s) brand in order to tempting the temp:

Know the culture. The culture of both your company and your client’s company is the one of the biggest deciding factors in a candidate’s decision to temp. Make sure you study and know every facet of your client’s culture so you can present it to candidates.

Communicate effectively. Communication is the best way to prevent any snags or iron out any kinks throughout the process of attracting, on-boarding, and maintaining new employees. Make sure that you consistently communicate to both your client and candidate to ensure that all of you are on the same page. Show both sides of the table that you are customer-centric and that you truly listen and are engaged in the entire process.

Reward & recognize. When building your brand, make sure that you are known as a company that recognizes and rewards all-star behavior and good work. Highlighting incentive and training programs is a great way to show that you’re a company invested in your employees and their success.

Your company’s brand and reputation greatly affects attracting talent and encourages them to return to fill other positions. If you market your culture properly and stay engaged with both you clients and your candidates, you’ll be sure to have success in filling positions and building a stellar notoriety.

Happy Thanksgiving from Outside-In® Companies!

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Each year, the Outside-In® team likes to express our gratitude in a fun and unique way. This year we asked our team members what they are most thankful for and had them write it all down on a piece of paper to create an appreciation wall. View our video below to see what we are most thankful for!

Wishing all of our customers a safe & happy holiday!

A Truly Human Furlough: An Alternative to a Reduction-In-Force

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by Outside-In Team Member, Kelly Hocutt

I recently posted one of my talent management takeaways from reading Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek, whose first TEDx Talk on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” is the 3rd most viewed video on Here is another one of my takeaways, inspired by the story in Leaders Eat Last called “Eating Last is Repaid with Loyalty and Hard Work” (Chapter 8, page 68).

First, I’ll summarize the story: Barry-Wehmiller is an American manufacturing company that suffered like many other companies when the stock market crashed in 2008. After an immediate 30% drop in orders, CEO Bob Chapman and his team faced the “uncomfortable reality that they could not afford to keep all of their employees.” Layoffs seemed to be the obvious next step. However, Chapman refused to layoff any members of his team, and instead implemented a mandatory furlough program. Every employee (including Chapman) was required to take four weeks of unpaid vacation time. The program helped turn the company around and today Barry-Wehmiller continues to operate under its culture of Truly Human Leadership.

As a talent management company, we help companies through rough times like Barry-Wehmiller experienced. When company performance suffers, change – in some form – needs to be made. While layoffs for many companies may be inevitable, this story reminds us that when it comes to running a company, we can’t look at our talent as the most expensive line item in our operation expense. Instead, our talent is made up of people. People who have both feelings and bills to pay. People who have made commitments and who we as employers have asked to remain loyal to us. People that are truly human, just like the leaders of any company.

Many leaders may feel like Chapman, who came to see his company as family. “We would never dream of getting rid of one of our children in hard times,” he says. “If anything, the whole family would come together, maybe suffer together, but ultimately work through the hard times together.” Thus Chapman sought out a family and team-oriented approach. Instead of selecting a group of people to suffer through a reduction-in-force when the company was going through hard times, Chapman found a way to spread out the pain. When Chapman announced the program, he said, “It is better that we all suffer a little, so that none of us has to suffer a lot.”

Simon sums up what happened next: “The protection Chapman offered his people had a massive impact. Unlike in a company that announces layoffs, sending everyone into self-preservation mode, at Barry-Wehmiller the people spontaneously, and completely on their own, set out to do more for each other. Those who could afford the time off, traded with those who could afford it less. Though they were under no obligation to do so, they took off more unpaid time than required just to help someone else out. The overwhelming feeling across the company was one of gratitude for the security they had been given. I suspect in other companies that face hard times, most of the people would also rather lose a month’s pay than lose their job.”

So, if you are a company or talent management leader, remember this story. Hold on to it for a time when your company is going through a rough period and layoffs seem to be the most obvious next step. Remember that people are truly human and when approached with honesty and respect, most people would rather suffer a little so that no one on the team has to suffer a lot. How will you spread the suffering? And if a reduction-in-force is unavoidable, how will you treat people in a truly human way through their transition?