Demonstrate value

Stock markets dive, earnings dip, and almost instantaneously companies announce layoffs and restructurings to get a small, temporary, bounce in stock price-maybe-until the wind blows in another direction. Sound familiar? Philips cuts up to 7,000 jobs; Kodak sheds 3,000 jobs; Timken cuts 1,500 jobs; Texas Instruments plans to lay off at least 2,000; Cisco Systems reduces jobs by 8,...

05/01/2001


Stock markets dive, earnings dip, and almost instantaneously companies announce layoffs and restructurings to get a small, temporary, bounce in stock price—maybe—until the wind blows in another direction. Sound familiar?

  • Philips cuts up to 7,000 jobs;

  • Kodak sheds 3,000 jobs;

  • Timken cuts 1,500 jobs;

  • Texas Instruments plans to lay off at least 2,000;

  • Cisco Systems reduces jobs by 8,500;

  • DuPont to cut 4,000 jobs;

  • More layoffs expected at GE; and

  • Procter & Gamble may cut work force by 10-20%

Has it happened at your place?

So do we just shrug our shoulders and figure that's life in the ultra-competitive corporate world today? Or can we help stop this cycle of destructive madness? Here are a few potential solutions:

1. Establish a reasonable stock and/or 401k mutual fund portfolio according to sound economic principles, and leave it alone.

Daily, weekly, or even monthly switches according to market whims sends the wrong set of signals to executive management. They answer to stockholders. If you want to get rich quickly, donate to a lottery. Don't help send the market into gyrations that reward executives for delivering knee-jerk cost savings through quick and arbitrary staff reductions.

2. Communicate and expand value.

The best-rewarded control engineers are those that communicate their value and their team's value through the organization. Ensure you upgrade your skills as you go, cross train, and expand your worth into areas of anticipated growth, without ignoring current revenue streams. Align personal goals and goals of the control engineering team with those of the organization, and get the necessary communication with and feedback from upper management.

3. Automate and integrate.

Appropriate levels of automation deliver information and efficiencies in manufacturing. Integraing that information within the enterprise and supply chain can deliver additional benefits.

Information integration shouldn't only be in one direction. Demand to see what information and parameters executive management use to make their decisions, and ensure you're feeding appropriate measures of value into their equations.

Widgets produced per employee might be an inaccurate metric. Left-handed widgets, although they take longer to make, are more valued by customers, and cost the company less in the long term because fewer are returned for repairs under warranty.

Sure, that's a simplification, but without the proper knowledge, someone may make the wrong decisions about staffing levels for the wrong reasons—and you may unwittingly be contributing to the madness.

Organizations spend a lot to hire, mentor, and train high-performance employees—some estimates put the cost of turnover at twice annual salary per person. Some might see this as bleeding-heart naivete that won't do any good anyway—but I think there are things we can do to work proactively for ourselves and our teams in case this hits close to home.

Mark T. Hoske, Editor-in-Chief mhoske@cahners.com





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