Layoffs on the Horizon? How to Lead Through a Reduction in Force

Forbes.com

November 30, 2018

By Terina Allen


Its a big company. They dont care. Its a business. Were numbers. It doesnt matter. This is some of what Tara Gress, a General Motors employee, told the Washington Post in an interview about the companys impending closures and layoffs. Tara was just expressing what most employees are likely feeling as they process the layoff news and begin a journey of uncertainty and change.


This week, GM announced that it intends to completely shut down five of its plants and terminate the employment of approximately 15,000 employees. This is certainly hard news for current GM employees to hear, but it is also the kind of news that likely brings discomfort to employees working in many other manufacturing companies and even in other industries as well. If GM needs to do this with the economy doing as well as it is, we cant help but wonder whether the hot economy has peaked and is now in cool-down mode. Is GM just the tip of the iceberg for more bad economic news to come? CBS News MoneyWatch asserts that this indeed could be the case.


Managements response matters.


GM has shared several reasonsand CNN reportswhy it has become necessary to close five North American plants and let go of 15% of its salaried workforce. However justifiable (or not) these reasons might be, they provide little (if any) comfort to those who will actually lose their jobs. This news, no matter the reasons, has surely created instant anxiety for the employees who might end up on the chopping block and for those who will remain.


The economy and business have an ebb and flow to them that reliably provoke uncertainty, and uncertainty exists within every organization. Still, the approach that management applies as it moves through difficult times like these matters. Employees will become increasingly doubtful and anxious as they watch their colleagues become unemployed and wonder in fear whether they will be next to receive a layoff notice. It is incumbent upon managers to do things to alleviateas opposed to increaseanxiety.


A process for leading and managing an organizational reduction-in-force (RIF).


I outline an effective RIF process below, and you can download it here as well. GM and other organizations facing a reduction-in-force (RIF) circumstance would do well to administer consistent and meaningful processes that serve to benefit employees and managers alike.


Layoffs happen and should even be expected from time to time. But managers unnecessarily exacerbate the challenges for those impacted by withholding information, providing misinformation, being overly opaque, failing to plan for and manage a consistent process and by overlooking the importance of addressing human dynamics. In contrast, the best managers and most effective leaders will do things like this:

  • Determine critical positions and departments and the criteria for these positions regarding layoffs.
  • Give as much notice of pending layoffs as possible. A lack of notice creates real resentment from those being laid off and dramatically increases mistrust of management among remaining staff (also known as survivors).
  • Address the feelings that both the laid off and remaining employees will experience. Provide a safe place to share and validate emotions.
  • Preserve the institutional knowledge and intellectual capital. Be certain to keep enough of the best people on board to accomplish organizational goals and/or have knowledge shared with others.
  • Base layoff decisions on sound business analysis and data intelligence rather than making arbitrary, across-the-board cuts. And avoid making decisions based on personal relationships and biases.
  • Be transparent and communicate openly and often. In the absence of information, employees will simply fill in their fears and anxieties with information, usually negative, about management and the company.
  • Reassure remaining employees of their value to the organization and how they can contribute to building a brighter future.
  • Ineffective implementation of a reduction-in-force plan could lead to unintentionally losing excessive talent and institutional knowledge. Make an investment in those left behind. It is typical for many people to jump ship during uncertain times so be sure to invest proper time, resources and emotional fortitude.
  • Have a clear vision and plan for operating post layoff. Will the new organization or department be in a position to deliver the services and/or products you require? Consider operational capacity in your lay off decisions. What kind of new stresses will remaining employees experience? Have a plan to mitigate this.


During this difficult time, managers and employees at all levels would do well to hone in on specific things they can do to make the entire process work more smoothly. Following is a guideline of best-practices for managers and employees respectively.


Specifically, managers are encouraged to understand and do the following.


In addition to the above list, managers need to be timely, strategic and particularly skilled at managing communications, leading organizational change and addressing human dynamics if they are going to be successful. Those in management are responsible to apply practices and a clear process to make transitioning through the layoff process smoother.


1. Exhibit compassionate and strong leadership.


Be prepared for and address the myriad of emotions that you are likely to observe. In addition to the financial insecurity that can be created, the loss of a job can affect other areas from confidence to self-worth. Expect feelings that span the range of confusion and despair to anger and a lack of trust. This may be one of the most stressful times for all parties involved. Try to empathize and be understanding as you manage this process.


2. Focus on the employees who will remain as well as those being terminated.


In addition to focusing on those who will lose their jobs, it is equally important that leaders recognize and address the mixed emotions of those employees who remain. There is a high likelihood that productivity, morale and commitment will decrease as a result of anxiety, instability and a perceived breach of trust. While implementing plans for the employees who will be leaving, dont forget to rebuild trust and develop morale with those who remain.


3. Be as transparent and forthcoming with information as you can.


As stated earlier, in the absence of regular, open communication, people will seek to fill in the blanks with unconfirmedoften untrueinformation. Be sure to serve as a valid and dependable source of information and resist the temptation to appear secretive, inaccessible, or withdrawn.


4. Provide as many resources as you can.


Help employees believe that you have their backs. Even when their jobs are being eliminated, employees can feel a sense of dignity and respect when the process is deemed supportive and fair. Make it a goal to provide real meaningful resources to help them move forward.


5. Stay in your lane and balance empathy and understanding with company loyalty.


This is the balancing act that you will need to succeed at. As a member of management, you will be expected to demonstrate a unified front and solidarity with the management team and the organization. Balance this expectation with the needs of the employees, and be a leader among leaders by advocating that all the recommendations listed here get considered and acted upon. Its a delicate balance, but one you will need to master.


6. Be smart about the restructuring and realignment process.


Really look at the remaining talent pool along with the organizational programs, products, and services and make sound restructuring and placement decisions. As best as you can, match people with the right positions based on interests, talents and skill sets. How you go about doing this will send powerful messages about your commitment to the remaining employees and, if done well, will go a long way to rebuilding trust and organizational commitment.


Specifically, employees are encouraged to understand and do the following.


If you are one of the people losing your job as a result of a layoff, I recommend you do the things listed below as well as read this article entitled Im Losing My Job, Whats Next? Doing these things will help you transition through this difficultand possibly frighteninglife change as good as anyone can. Yes. You can get to the other side with your dignity and mental health intact. Start here:

  1. Remain committed to advancing the organizational mission and producing high-quality workwhether you are remaining or being let go.
  2. Ask questions and bring concerns and doubts directly to management; resist the temptation to gossip.
  3. Become aware of institutional policies regarding reduction-in-force (RIF) policies, and take advantage of any and all career transition programs which might be available.
  4. Remain connected to colleagues (as best you can) even after the RIF. This is important for those who remain and for those who leave.
  5. The remaining employees need to be open and share their feelings and concerns with senior leaders in the organization. These individuals should also serve as a support system for one another and help to rebuild the future of the organization.
  6. Lean into the change. Accept the reality of the situation, and be proactive in managing your career, your emotions and your finances.
  7. Build and/or solidify your professional network and inform others of your impending change and interest in new and challenging opportunities. Stay connected! Lean on your support system.
  8. Build collaborations and establish a communication strategy that exhibits confidence and advances your interests.
  9. Present yourself professionally and in the best possible light (i.e. language, attitude, resume, interview skills and presentation).
  10. Motivate yourself! Dance, laugh, sing, and do anything else that gets your juices flowing. You are responsible for you, and you have to pull out the energy and determination to move forward. No matter what, stay in the drivers seat, and dont become a victim.
  11. Get up tomorrow and the next day and the next day and keep it moving. Refer to this list and this other article as often as possible. Take notes on your progress.
  12. Stay engaged and committed to high performance. You still want to bring your best day and day out despite what is going on. You are responsible for your credibility and your brand.


Continual learning is key to ongoing career and leadership success. As an employee, you want to stay curious and get your mind around starting a new job or a whole new career. As a member of management, you want to provide as much support and resources as you can to those who are leaving, and work to shape the culture and rebuild trust with those who are staying.


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GM Transformation Makes it the Latest Auto Giant to Pivot Towards Technology

Canadian Press

November 30, 2018

By Tara Deschamps


When General Motors Canada workers in Oshawa put down their tools and headed home Monday morning after being told their plant will shut down next year, the automaker billed the closure and impending layoffs as part of a transformation towards a more tech-savvy future.


GM said it was doubling resources allocated to electric and autonomous vehicle programs with a focus on virtual tools that will lower development time and costs and improve quality and the speed it takes to get a product to market.


Experts say the move puts GM in a growing group of vehicle-makers revving up their technology-based efforts in a bid to conquer the crowded auto market, where consumers expect the latest in innovation.


Long before GM announced its pivot, Tesla was already disrupting the auto world with cutting-edge battery and powertrain technology and the first ever premium all-electric sedan. Meanwhile, Ford was focused on the transportation services market, investing in an on-demand transportation service for non-emergency needs called GoRide and driverless car start-up Argo AI. Even Volkswagen got in on the action, toying with on-board Wi-Fi hotspots and fingerprint readers for added security, while some Mercedes Benz and Jaguar models were produced with seats that offer a massage.


More and more companies have been paying attention to the notion of a connected car, said Mahmood Nanji, the director of Western Universitys Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management and one of Ontarios negotiators for the bailout of GM and Chrysler following the 2008 financial crisis.


We are seeing the emergence of all of these different technologies from simple things like sensors on vehicles to pretty sophisticated things that tell you what is happening with your engine or that have the ability to navigate you.


Nanji said many of the auto companies pivoting towards technology are doing so because they want to remain competitive, but also because they are reacting to demand.


He didnt find GMs Monday announcement surprising because he said the company was forced to re-evaluate its strategies when it fell on hard times during the financial crisis and governments that bailed it out were clear that if they helped GM, the brand would have to get it right and not come crawling back for more.


Now, Nanji said, they are looking at where is the market going and thinking where can we go.


Speaking to reporters on Monday, GM chief executive and chairwoman Mary Barra conceded that the industry is changing very rapidly and innovations in propulsion, autonomous driving and connectivity are pushing the company to ensure it is well-positioned.


The vehicle has become much more software-oriented, when you think of that hundreds of millions of lines of code that are in a vehicle that operates today, she said. Thats only going to increase, so we need to make sure we have the right skill sets as a part of the General Motors workforce, not only for today, but for the future.


Barrie Kirk, the president of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Institute, said he doesnt expect the industryor GMto hit the brakes on its tech push any time soon.


If you look at a typical new car today the percentage of technology is maybe five or 6%, but by the mid-2020s between 40 and 50% of a new cars value will be technology, Kirk said. Thats going to be a huge change.


Hes predicting the future will be autonomous, connected and electric and will do wonders for reducing accidents and cutting down on greenhouse gases. People who are elderly or living with impairments but still have mobility needs will also be well-served by the technology, he believes.


He attributes much of the tech-auto boom that is currently being seen to Alphabet Inc.s Waymo venture, which he calls a pioneer because it unveiled a driverless car prototype without a steering wheel or gas or brake pedals in 2014.


Kirk recalls Waymo wasnt taken seriously at first, but other brands quickly awoke to the intersection of tech and auto and started to innovate.


Now, everyone from ride-sharing platform Uber to Chinese internet services company Baidu are working on driverless vehicles, joining automakers in the race to profit from the integration of tech and cars.


While they havent rolled out the technology for daily consumer use yet, Kirk said he is encouraged by the speed brands are moving at and the importance they are putting on innovation and its potential.


Its amazing look back at the last five years how much the whole sector has gathered momentum.


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We Need to Stop Equating Disruption With Displacement: Where Additive Fits Into Manufacturing

Forbes.com

November 29, 2018

By Sarah Goehrke


Additive manufacturing is often seen as a disruptive technology. We need to stop equating disruption with displacement, though, as additive fits best into manufacturing alongside existing solutions.


Raging discussions on the technologies of the future focus on Industry 4.0 and all the interconnected, advanced capabilities under this broad umbrella that are set to disrupt workflows. Disruption: its a term often bandied about as nascent technologies take their place as some kind of wunderkind manufacturing solutions. Too often this is spoken of interchangeably with the idea of displacement, but thats a mistake. The real power of the latest technology suites, including additive manufacturing, is alongside existing production solutions.


When we talk about traditional manufacturing we usually mean either subtractive processes that remove material to create a component or casting or molding, where a mold is filled with material to make a part or product. Advances in technologies like CNC and waterjetting have brought digital precision to these subtractive techniques, enhancing accuracies and speeding workflow. Injection molding, for its part, remains a mainstay in mass production as huge quantities of parts can be made incredibly quickly. By comparison, additive manufacturing is slower, often less accurate and requires significant initial investment for new adopters. So why should additive take over manufacturing?


It shouldnt.


Disruption is changing workflowsbut that doesnt have to mean reinventing the wheel.


Interconnected production operations at an automotive plant highlight the variety of technologies used in manufacturing.


Additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, is a manufacturing solution. Like any other manufacturing technology, though, it is notand never will bea one-size-fits-all solution. The importance of the right tool for the right job cannot be overstated, as the old adage holds true even as todays toolboxes expand exponentially.


So where does additive fit into manufacturing?


Whether working with metals or plastics, for one-off specialty goods, mass production or mass customization, solutions are being found in almost every industry to put the unique benefits of 3-D printing to use.


Serial production, while a rising trend, is years from being normalized in industry. Today, some of the biggest adoption of 3-D printing in manufacturing is in seemingly small use cases, such as custom tooling and jigs and fixtures for production lines. These applications often see desktop 3-D printers enabling on-site tool making, as manufacturing usage isnt limited to the large industrial systems. Both desktop and industrial systems are put to use in the creation of spare parts, as digital inventory systems begin to impact the global supply chain.


Aerospace applications are perhaps, as the highest-flying, also the highest-profile; showcase pieces like GEs LEAP engine fuel nozzle have served for years as the poster children for what additive manufacturing can do. Proving that the technology is capable of keeping airplanes flying is all well and good, but the bulk of that plane was still made using traditional manufacturing technologies.


Additive manufacturing proved to be the right tool for the LEAP fuel nozzle job because of its unique benefits of part consolidation, complex geometries and lightweighting. The team had tried to cast the part but failedeight times. Once redesigned for 3-D printing, the part quickly succeededas a one-piece unit rather than a 20-part assembly, and weighing 25% less than the original while offering five times the durability. To date, more than 30,000 of these nozzles have been 3-D printed for use in LEAP engines. These statistics are impressive, but the little fuel nozzle is only one component of a full airplane. Airplanes, as it happens, are actually quite large. We need to look past the fuel nozzles to see the plane as a whole. The entire aircraft is something of a symphony of manufacturing technologies: 3-D printed, welded, cast, cut, stamped, milled and molded into a cohesive whole ready to wing passengers through the air.


Did the 3-D printing of one component disrupt the way the engine was made? Yes. Did it displace all the other technologies in use? No.


The automotive industry is another strong market for additive manufacturing, as 3-D printed replacement parts and custom retrofits and even fully 3-D printed car bodies are being made today. While 3-D printed airless tires have also made a conceptual debut, theyre nowhere near ready for mass market, keeping good old rubber tires with traditional rims firmly on the ground for the next generations of automobile. The same goes for engines, mirrors and, indeed, most elements of most cars. Big-name manufacturers including Daimler, Ford, GM and Volkswagen have adopted 3-D printing into their operationsenhancing, not replacing, their production lines.


Additive manufacturing is a disruptive technology, almost by name: it adds. The real disruption is not in displacing already functional solutions but in adding a new dimension to manufacturing.


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Samsung to Compensate Factory Workers Who Suffered From Work-Related Illnesses

Indian Technology News

November 29, 2018

Samsung Electronics on November 23 made a formal apology to all victims of work-related diseases who were employed at the companys chip and display production lines, settling the long-standing dispute that lasted for more than a decade.


Samsung Electronics President and CEO Kim Ki-Nam, who heads the tech giants crucial device solution division, expressed deep regrets on behalf of the company to the victims, claiming that Samsung will make every effort to comply with the compensation plan prepared by the mediation committee.


Beloved colleagues and families have suffered for a long time, but Samsung Electronics failed to take care of the matter earlier, Kim said. We lacked being considerate of such pains and promptly settled the issue.


Samsung Electronics also did not fully and completely manage potential health risks at our chip and liquid-crystal display production lines. Today, we wish to express a sincere apology to the workers who suffered from diseases, as well as their families, Kim added.


The standoff involving the South Korean tech giant surfaced when Hwang Yu-mi, who worked on a Samsung chip production line, died of leukemia in 2007.


Victims have been claiming that Samsung should provide compensation, apologize and come up with measures to prevent further outbreaks, Yonhap news agency reported.


The worlds top chipmaker and the supporters for the Health and Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry (SHARPS), a group of victims, agreed to accept any decision made by a mediation committee in July, unconditionally.


Earlier this month, the mediation committee announced the settlement that included compensation of up to 150 million won (U.S.$132,000) per illness. The compensation plan also covers congenital diseases suffered by children of the victims. The agreement, however, did not acknowledge that the workplace environment is directly related to the diseases afflicting some employees.


On Friday, Samsung and victims accepted and inked the mediation plan as agreed in July. Government and industry officials attended the event as well.


Kim reiterated that Samsung will unconditionally accept the mediation.


Samsung said the compensation will be carried out by a third partyJipyong, a South Korean law firm. The deadline for the compensation is October 31, 2028, although it can be extended depending on circumstances.


All incumbent or former workers of Samsung and its sub-contractors, who have served at the companys chip and LCD production lines in Giheung, south of Seoul, since 1984 will be eligible to apply for compensation.


Along with the compensation, Samsung donated 50 billion won to the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency to help improve workers safety and health in the country.


The fund will be used for researching and building facilities for industrial safety.


Samsung and Jipyong plan to open an office to carry out the compensation scheme in December and start the process within this year at the earliest.


Honestly, todays apology made by a Samsung Electronics CEO is not sufficient for the victims of the work-related diseases, said Hwang Yu-mis father, Sang-ki. But I will consider the apology as Samsung Electronics resolution.


We still have more tasks. The work-related diseases are not limited to Samsung Electronics chip and LCD segments.


There are also ailing workers from Samsung Electro-Mechanics, Samsung SDS, Samsung SDI and other affiliates, after handling hazardous substances, Hwang added. I hope Samsung prepares a comprehensive compensation for all workers suffering from such illnesses.


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