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Lessons from the Holiday Season: Optimize

Everyone puts on a little weight during good times – vacations and holidays are notorious times for over eating, relaxed behavior and good feelings. Well for businesses, the vacation has come to an abrupt end. After years of easy credit and a booming housing market, the bottom has fallen out from under companies more quickly than anyone had expected, and the economic uncertainty looks as if it will continue for some time.

What will businesses do with all of the excess weight they put on during the good times, when they were content and growing with the rest of the economy? Well for those of us who have had to lose holiday pounds before, we know there are a lot of ways to get back in shape. The obvious solution is calorie restriction, cutting back on the excess – but this technique alone will leave you weaker than before you put on the weight. When the economy recovers, companies who depend on cutting calories alone will emerge weak and unable to take full advantage of the changing and improving business environment. Cutting calories alone leads to smaller muscles and a weaker body.

The best approach to losing weight is an approach that optimizes your body. Sure calories will have to be cut, but if you plan and execute carefully, you can ensure that you don’t lose any muscle. You might even emerge leaner and stronger than before. This should be the goal of every company planning layoffs and workforce adjustments for the economic downturn. To optimize the workforce in a downturn you should:

  • Lay off people based on data from the performance management system, so your strongest “muscles” aren’t lost
  • Find the positions within the company that are critical to your success, and ensure that successors are named for those positions
  • Identify the key competencies that drive your success, and ensure that they are cultivated during the downturn, so you can emerge with strength

Companies often focus too much on cutting, or building one part of their organization. Strong arms won’t help you win a footrace. Optimizing the whole body is the best way to lose holiday weight – for companies it is the difference between remaining competitive and falling behind. Use the data in your talent and performance management system to optimize your workforce. Now more than ever companies need to be smart about managing their resources, including their talent.


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