It puzzles me when businesses decide to change their strategic direction and begin by laying off staff, while promising shareholders and the public that the savings will be “reinvested”.
Most recently, Cisco has announced eliminating over 5000 staff (“positions”), 7% of their workforce, to shift focus toward IoT and Cloud and “reinvest substantially all of the cost savings”.
These are relatively new technologies; there aren’t exactly 5000 cloud experts hanging out at the mall waiting for you to hire them tomorrow. You’re going to spend a fortune on recruitment and training, and your “key priority areas” are going nowhere during the time you are getting back up to strength.
What you need is a source of smart, motivated people who are willing to learn, and already know a lot about your products and culture. Oh, I don’t know, like many of the people (sorry “positions”) you just eliminated. People are more than positions, people can learn, people are not just the sum of their skills to date.
It’s well understood that a new employee will take 3–6 months to internalise a new corporate culture and technology and become truly productive. So, here’s a plan, take your smart people working on your low priorities, and send them to boot camp on new technologies. Hire experts and have each of them train a team. Expect nothing for 3 months, but have them all iterating on pilot projects or prototypes, you might get some brilliant new innovations.
Not everyone is going to like this, or be suitable. Offer those people redundancies, hire your experts to lead the ones that stay.
I predict that the benefits of this alternative way of restructuring are faster on-boarding in new projects thanks to staff who already “know the ropes”, and a lesser toll on morale organisation-wide. I’ve trained several people who’ve pivoted out of eliminated departments and become key contributors in new roles.
In my experience it’s worth striving to preserve and nurture your organisational culture by offering people whose position has dead-ended a chance to grow and continue to contribute. Your people will surprise you.
(This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.)