Don't Forget the Survivors


By Eileen Feretic

Employers have announced 1,652,082 job cuts since June 2008, according to a report from Challenger Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement consultancy. That's a frightening statistic, and the firm expects layoffs to continue to "remain heavy through the end of the year." The only good news is that "monthly job-cut totals have trended downward since reaching a seven-year high of 241,749 in January."

Looking at this problem from corporate America's perspective, Challenger asked HR executives about their post-layoff challenges. One of the biggest challenges, according to 54 percent of the survey respondents, is "keeping the surviving employees engaged and focused."

That's a legitimate concern. Employees who survive layoffs tend to be overworked, stressed out and worried that their jobs will be the next ones cut. So top management needs to make these workers feel appreciated and recognized for their hard work and dedication.

The problem is that executives are worried about the company as a whole--and possibly their own jobs. That's understandable. What's not understandable is the attitude held by some execs (hopefully the minority) that employees are lucky to have jobs and shouldn't expect any pats on the back from management.

That's a short-sighted--and wrong-headed--viewpoint. In the near term, management needs the remaining employees to keep producing quality products and services in order to hang on to existing customers and attract new ones. And, when the turnaround comes and new jobs open up, companies will need to retain their best workers in order to compete effectively and grow the business.

Employees who have felt neglected or unappreciated by their managers will be polishing their resumes and looking for a company that offers more--more opportunity, money, challenges or recognition. To forestall that, executives should add this to the top of their to-do list: Show employees that you recognize their efforts and dedication--and will reward them when the economy improves.