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Pleading the case for voluntary leave - why it's better for business and better for your people

We are in strange times. Covid-19 has thrown us into an increasingly VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) with unprecedented speed.

Businesses heavily reliant on Asian markets have already been hit. Europe is only just waking up to the far-reaching effects of lockdowns across our interconnected economy.

We know what’s coming… and it’s coming faster than it has ever done before. A global recession now seems not likely, but inevitable. Most of the population will recover from the virus, if we get it. It will then be our businesses and economies that need to recover.

With recessions, come redundancies as businesses struggle to keep their lights on.

I have a simple plea…

To all business owners, managers, executives, leaders… please creatively consider your options before putting the permanency of redundancy on the table.

Redundancy is a lose-lose situation.

For business, you lose your talent, you damage your brand, you lose workforce capacity to recover once things turn around, redundancy pay-outs are expensive and it’s expensive to re-hire

For your people, its life altering. They lose security, stability, their careers.

My plea is this…

Consider voluntary leave schemes before you decimate your workforce with redundancies.

It’s close to a win-win and it’s better than the alternative.

How does it work?

Give people who are able, the option of helping the company by taking unpaid or part-paid leave for a period of time, for example 3 months. Give them as much certainty as you can that they will have jobs to return to once the crisis is over.

It’s better for business

  • You’ll get your best people back when you need them to recover revenues.

  • You’ll save on labour cost when you can’t afford it.

  • You’ll avoid expensive,permanent redundancies

  • You’ll avoid expensive recruitment costs once you recover

  • You’ll be more agile to respond to the recovery.

It’s better for your people

  • They retain their employment (important for visas, insurance, tenure, career continuity).

  • They have some certainty with a time period to weather the storm.

  • They have the ability to switch gears into personal development – Complete that online qualification. Write that book they always dreamed of. Spend time in nature.

  • They recharge their energy, refocus their mind and return to work ready to put everything they have into building the business back up.

This is not a new idea – but it’s not used as often as it could be.

This scheme is how my career survived the GFC

During the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2007/8, I was the beneficiary of one of these schemes. I was a new hire at KPMG, green and keen. My career in Management Consulting was just starting out. Then the crisis hit. The work dried up. All the other big firms were making massive redundancies. But KPMG took another approach. They offered us voluntary part paid leave. I could take 3 months off, paid a 30% pay and return to my job. There was no work for me anyway and as a young professional with low fixed expenses I could take the pay cut.

I rented out my room and travelled around South East Asia for 3 months. It turned out to be one of my most cherished sabbatical memories. I returned happy, recharged and even more loyal to KPMG who’d given me the opportunity to keep my job while my friends in the other firms were losing theirs. I was there and ready to grow then the work started flowing back in again and I kept my career – that’s what was most important to me.

There are ways to turn bad situations into opportunities – even in these dark times. Let’s get creative in how we respond. Let’s look for solutions that make us resilient in the short term and strong in the long term.

If you want to talk options through, I'm here to listen and help. Contact me (below) or connect with me on LinkedIn.

Every cloud has a silver lining - today we just have to look a bit harder to find it.


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