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A Strategy for staying employed in 2011

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It’s the start of 2011.  The economy is in sad shape.  The unemployment rate is in the high 9% by the official reports.  The real unemployment rate may be as high as 17% if those who have fallen off the lists or those who are underemployed are considered in the statistics (see links below).

Why your job may be in jeopardy;  Who will survive?

Company sales are suffering, revenues are down, competitive pressures are up, and companies are finding they may have over capacity.  One of the typical reactions are RIFs (reductions in force).  Or, layoffs if you want a more direct and less politically correct term.  Whether you call it a “RIF” or a layoff, the end result is the same.  Some number of employees will lose their jobs. 

If the economy is down for a significant amount of time companies may revisit their strategy to find new ways to compete in existing or new markets.  The execution requirements of a new strategy will most likely involve deep organizational change which would be disruptive to the existing workforce.  A revised strategy may change the landscape of what job positions are important to the company and those job positions which are not. 

No matter the driver, careful reevaluation of the composition of the corporate workforce does happen, will happen, and perhaps accelerate in 2011 if the economy does not quickly rebound.

But who will lose their jobs?  What segment of the company workforce will be retained?  What segment of the workforce will be eliminated and not replaced?  What jobs will be retained but retained through outsourcing – so the job loss to an american is the same as elimination.

What are the prospects for your job in 2011 given the poor prospect for the economy?

The New Workforce Management

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change” — Charles Darwin

Companies have to get smarter about workforce management if they are to survive and even excel in this economy – or any economy for that manner.  There is supposedly this saying by Darwin, “The survival of the fittest”.  That is not what he wrote.  What he wrote is quoted above.  And what is quoted above is different from the survival of the fittest and a much more powerful concept.

It’s NOT the survival of the fittest

Survival of the fittest has the tacit implication of a static environment.  A species survives because it is “fit” for the environment that it now exists in.  What if that environment changes?  You see the real power of what Darwin wrote – What survives in the most adaptable.  That mean being able to change with the environment.  Better yet, would be to change in anticipation of the environment.

Those companies what will survive will be those who are most adaptable to changes in the economy and all that makes up the external environment in which they operate (PEST).  Those employees that survive in the workforce will be those most adaptable to the environment in which they work – and that is the corporate environment for whatever industry or business in which they are employed.

News Flash – the corporate environment will change.

The area of workforce management in corporations is changing – it must.  Adaptable companies are realizing that if they are to survive they must pay even closer attention to the composition of their workforce.  All employees will not be treated equally.

Some leading companies have taken the approach of understanding their workforce as a portfolio.  Every employee will be placed into one of these classifications.  Each class of employees will be treated differently.

A re/definition of  A Players ( & A Positions)

The idea of an “A Player” is being refined into an extended concept of A/B/C positions in which you can be an A, B, or C player. A positions are those positions that have a disproportionate impact on the corporate strategy and by the range in the performance level of individuals in these positions.

It’s no longer about your performance per se.  It’s about your performance linked to the criticality of your position to the underlying corporate strategy.  The implication is that you may be the most competent and highest performing individual in a particular job (A Player) – but if that particular job position  is not strategically important to the company your job may be at risk (C Position)

Here are the three job classifications that are suggested.

  1. STRATEGIC (A Position) – Has a direct strategic impact AND Exhibits high performance variability among those in the position, representing upside potential
  2. SUPPORT (B Position) – Has an indirect strategic impact by supporting strategic positions and minimizes downside risk by providing a foundation for strategic efforts. OR Has a potential strategic impact, but exhibits little performance variability among those in the position
  3. SURPLUS (C Position) – May be required for the firm to function but has little strategic impact

Take a look at the table below to better understand these classifications

The Take

It is not the survival of the fittest – the tacit implication being a ‘static” fit.  According to Darwin those species that survive (and thrive) are those who are the most adaptable – the explicit implication being the dynamic nature of the capability to adapt.  Those companies that are proactively adapting to the new economy are adapting by thinking more deeply and critically about their workforce.  The key is differentiation.  Not all job positions are equal.  Companies are sorting people based on importance to corporate strategy.

The implication for employees that want to survive and thrive is clear – adapt.  First, understand clearly the corporate strategy.  Second, evaluate  your current job position in terms of the categories of Strategic, Supportive, or Surplus.  Third, if you want to stay employed, adapt by moving to a strategic position through whatever means is available.

If your job position is Supportive or Surplus – you have some thinking to do in the context of reductions in force.  Take a look at the following table to better understand the new workforce management that is being pushed by management consultants.  Be aware the corporate strategies may be changing based on the external environment and actions by competitors.  Changes in strategy are most disruptive as it may/will involve deep organizational change.  New skills and competencies may come into play while others will be retired and eliminated.  Be prepared for change.

Use your intelligence

The advantage that humans have over animals is that humans have intelligence to anticipate the future (animals live in sort of eternal immediate presence and present).  Employees that are not executive management have an advantage over executives in that as middle managers or as individual contributors, by careful inspection of the corporate 1-3 year strategy, you can know – to some extent – what is coming and what positions will be of strategic importance to the company  and what positions will be considered support and surplus.  In general if you are not in an A player in a A position or in a support role and seen as promotable to an A position – you may be at risk.  Executive management do not have it so easy.  Nor did the dinosaurs that saw a giant fireball in the sky.


The real unemployment rate –

Nothing is forever – the digital adaption

See a simple slide on one candidate for workforce and HR strategy –


Written by frrl

January 2, 2011 at 8:42 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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