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Peter Martin and Tim Colebatch

May 1, 2012

AUSTRALIA is a more equal society than it was, and the global financial crisis can take the credit.

New Tax Office data shows a sharp slowdown in income growth in Australia’s wealthiest suburbs, offset by rapidly climbing incomes in Australia’s poorest postcodes.

In Victoria the postcodes encompassing Toorak, Brighton and Portsea continue to report the highest taxable incomes. But with the exception of Portsea (down 31 per cent) the average incomes are little changed between 2006-07 and 2009-10, the two years that bookended the financial crisis. The average in Toorak is up 4 per cent to $165,100; in Brighton it is up 5 per cent to $126,600.

In contrast two of the poorest postcodes encompassing small communities near Lakes Entrance and the Yarra Ranges National Park did well. Average incomes increased 12 per cent in postcode 3887 and 9 per cent in 3778.

Assisting the poorest postcodes were the substantial pension increases in the 2009 budget. Holding back the richest postcodes was the collapse in sharemarket prices during the crisis.

The figures for 2009-10 are the latest available. The tax on incomes in that year is not calculated and paid until the following year and it takes another year to process the data. Surgeons remained the highest-paid professionals in 2009-10, reporting average taxable incomes that year of $332,800. Apprentice hairdressers were among the lowest-paid, collecting $22,700.

Primary school teachers are moving up the scale earning $57,420, somewhat more than plumbers on $56,615. Barmen and baristas, although enjoying high social status, earn less than cleaners, taking home $30,169 compared with $33,204. Journalists are doing surprisingly well, taking home more than the average professional sports player – an average of $66,427 compared with $63,146.

A record 1.7 million Australians were landlords in 2009-10, one in every seven of the 12.4 million personal taxpayers. Almost two-thirds were negatively geared, meaning they lost money letting their properties.

A total of $4.8 billion was lost renting out properties in 2009-10, down on the $6.5 billion lost in 2008-09.

More of us are using the e-tax computer system to complete our tax returns; only 1.2 million still use paper. But it is taking us longer, an average of 4.9 hours in 2009-10, up from 4.5 hours.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/business/more-equality-in-some-taxing-years-20120430-1xv3i.html#ixzz1tZJENIjC

22 April 2009 6:33pm

The recruitment industry might not have hit bottom yet, but there are still “glimmers of opportunity”, say recession-surviving executives.

First, the bad news: the signs that precede a recovery are not evident yet, says Aquent international CEO, Greg Savage.

The most the industry can hope for at the moment, he says, is that “we’re now bouncing along the bottom, but I’m not even a hundred per cent convinced of that… I don’t think any signs in Australia of a meaningful recovery have been seen yet.

“I think it’s really bad; I think it’s worse than 1991. Perm is a complete comp case; temp is still here but even that’s lower than I expected it to be. The best you could hope for is that… things will improve in the second half of the year. I don’t see any meaningful benchmarks that it’s about to turn, but I’d love to be wrong!”

Scott Recruitment Services MD Rosemary Scott, however, says there are some signs that things are picking up: “there’s some things happening in China that are fairly positive in regards to their requirements for aluminium… so that will help our mining industry”.

She and Olivier Recruitment’s Helen Olivier agree that there are “glimmers of opportunity in the market” but they stop short of declaring that the industry has hit the bottom just yet.

According to Norris and Partners director Lisa Norris, some recruitment companies appear to be on round nine of their redundancies while others are making their first cuts and “this would indicate we have a little way to go”.

The signs
If Australia’s employment market were on the upturn, “we would stop seeing people being laid off; we would stop seeing people’s hours being cut; we would start seeing an increase in advertising volumes on the websites and in the press. We would start to see better candidates being hired; we would start to see clients being prepared to pay full fees. And none of those things are happening,” Savage points out.

Scott says recruiters should monitor what the stock market is doing and what’s happening overseas, “because generally we tend to follow the trends happening in the UK and US. The US seems to be showing some signs [of recovery] so that’s positive.”

According to Lisa Norris, most recruiters know that one indicator to watch is when temp demand increases, because this usually follows “bloodletting” redundancies.

But, she says, “the indicators most recruitment leaders would use to gauge where we are on the ‘bell curve’ are not that clear this time”. In other recessions after redundancies were made there was a “period of pain” while the reduced team was expected to cover the workload, followed by a need for temps, but “the workforce cycle that previously has been a good indicator of potential market growth may not play a part in this recession”.

Scott says there are some recruitment companies taking advantage of the good talent available and gearing up for more buoyant times, but Norris expects many will be reluctant to take on new staff in the last quarter of the financial year, preferring instead to put as much money to their bottom line as they can.

Norris adds that the imminent announcement of the NSW Government C100 contract is likely to have the next big impact on the recruitment industry, with agencies that weren’t successful shedding their consultants into the market.

What to do
This is the time to build relationships with organisations, “because when those companies do want to recruit again, they will be coming to those people who they have relationships with”, Scott says.

Olivier agrees, saying: “The key is to manage people well. Whether you are a recruitment organisation, or a talent manager or account manager, you need to be managing relationships in all areas really well. I think that in the good times, people have a habit of not developing their candidate relationships, and I think the key to actually making a very promising living in the recruitment industry, is to look after people on all levels.”

She adds that to survive the downturn, all recruiters and organisations must be “prepared to change, and to be flexible, and not be limited by your own horizons, and work with people closely”.

And when the worst is over, “I don’t think you do anything different except a massive ‘thankyou’ to all of your supporters”.

How are you lifting spirits around you?
Olivier notes it’s vital to “bring the fun in during these tough times”.

She suggested that Recruiter Daily compile a list of what recruiters are doing to have fun in their workplaces, and we’re more than happy to do so. Send us an email by clicking here and we’ll publish the list next week.

http://www.recruiterdaily.com.au/nl06_news_selected.php?act=2&nav=1&selkey=39328

Could HR practitioners be making bad decisions as well?
___________________________________________
07 April 2009 6:53am

No matter how bad the economy seems, it’s always a mistake to accept poor-quality clients, says business coach Ric Willmot.

Willmot, the CEO of Executive Wisdom Consulting Group, says some “really bad decisions” are being made in the corporate arena right now – particularly in the professional and personal services sectors.

The mistakes he has witnessed recently include:

reducing or discounting fees;

pressuring the staff left after redundancies to accept increased workloads;

adopting pricing tactics such as adding credit card service and administrative fees; and

sending reminder notices and payment demand letters – or making abrupt telephone calls chasing payment – within 14 days of an invoice being sent.

Businesses will continue to succeed if they can deliver their service to clients in a way that reaches their objectives, Willmot says. “Make the client significantly better because they have you.”

He says businesses should:

Rid themselves of non-quality clients. “I call them X-class clients; those clients who are low value to you and your business. They consume your corporate capacity. Capacity that will be much better served invested in A-class clients who do appreciate your value, and do good, regular business with you, and refer good people to you.”

Be prudent with the new clients they accept. “You do not have to accept every prospect who comes to your door. A poor prospect never makes a good client. It’s not about more business in this economy, it’s about better business. The litmus test: if the economy couldn’t get any better… would you still want them as a client?”

Understand the difference between revenue and profitability. “They are frequently confused.”

Avoid indiscriminate cost cutting. “Now is the time you should be increasing some expenditure, by investing in innovation, product and service development, human talent and retention of staff and customers.”

Re-tool. “This is a term from the days of Frederick Winslow Taylor referring to plant and machinery. I use the term specifically referring to people.”

Build relationships with their clients. “Strong relationships.”

In addition to the above, Willmot says, leaders should realise that procrastination poses a bigger threat to their success than the economic situation does.

To help build business, he says, managers should:
send letters not email if you really want your client to read your correspondence;

speak at business networking functions to expand your reach;

initiate some low-cost PR measures;

reach out laterally to your existing customers by providing additional products and services;

attend a seminar or training course;

write a press release for the local media; and

whether you are travelling across town or across the nation, leverage the trip and arrange to meet other people who haven’t bought from you yet.

http://www.recruiterdaily.com.au/nl06_news_selected.php?act=2&nav=1&selkey=39214&utm_source=daily+email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily+Email+Article+Link

Patricia Karvelas, Political correspondent | March 20, 2009
Article from: The Australian

THE Coalition last night adopted Peter Costello’s position on unfair dismissal, shifting closer to Labor – but the Rudd Government’s bill to destroy Work Choices was still destined to fail unless Julia Gillard agreed to a last-minute compromise today.

The federal Liberal and National parties decided at an emergency meeting last night to join independent senators Steve Fielding and Nick Xenophon to fight for an amendment to the bill to increase the definition of a small business from Labor’s position of 15 full-time employees to 20 workers.

While the Coalition’s own amendment was for small business to be classed as 25 workers, the special partyroom meeting decided to ultimately support Senator Xenophon’s changes.

The Coalition backdown on the last sticking point of the proposed laws comes after Mr Costello suggested the definition of 20 at last week’s heated partyroom meeting. The former treasurer argued that the figure should be 20 in line with the definition used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Last night, after its amendment was voted down in the Senate, the Coalition voted for Senator Xenophon’s amendment.

The Coalition’s compromise is a victory for Mr Costello, who had put the definition forward but was told shadow cabinet had decided on the more ambitious target of 25.

Ms Gillard, the Workplace Relations Minister, is now under pressure to compromise on her definition of a small business or risk seeing her entire bill fail.

The Government will today test the resolve of Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull to stand firm on his new position on the bill.

The Government will change the definition back to 15 when the Fair Work bill returns to the lower house.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Michael Keenan said last night the Coalition would fight for its amendment and would not accept Labor’s push to change it back to 15.

“The Coalition parties will not change our minds,” Mr Keenan told The Australian.

If the Coalition votes against the bill after the Government uses its numbers to change it to 15, Ms Gillard will paint Mr Turnbull as being pro-Work Choices and failing to keep his word to kill the workplace laws championed by John Howard.

Senator Xenophon and Senator Fielding, of Family First, were also expected to vote to increase the small business employee threshold definition to 20, making it impossible for the Government to get its laws passed intact.

The last-minute turnaround from the Coalition meant the bill was on track to pass the Senate with the new definition of a small business. But the Government vowed to change the definition back to what it proposed in the federal election, 15 employees, in the lower house, where it has the numbers. The bill will then be returned to the Senate for a second vote.

The Government has extended the parliamentary session to allow it to reintroduce the bill today, and is vowing to have it in place by July 1. The decision not to wait three months to reintroduce the bill means it will not form a trigger for a double dissolution.

Mr Keenan confirmed the Coalition would “insist” on the Senate amendment when the bill returns to the upper house for a second time.

He accused the Government of putting their pride ahead of the successful passage of the bill.

“The idea that the Government will throw away its whole new system over the definition of a small business would be putting the minister’s pride over any sensible outcome,” he said.

The Coalition has essentially also decided not to insist on its other amendments on union right of entry, conceding the proposals did not have a chance at success without the support of the independent senators. The Rudd Government has repeatedly ruled out changes to the provision.

Ms Gillard revealed figures that showed that if the definition of small business was changed from 15 to 20, an extra 485,720 workers would not be offered unfair dismissal protection.

If the Coalition was successful in getting its figure of 25 up, 735,000 workers would lose the protection.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25213651-601,00.html

Posted Fri Mar 20, 2009 2:45am AEDT
Updated Fri Mar 20, 2009 7:16am AEDT

The Senate changed the Bill to expand the number of businesses that would have special unfair dismissal rules.

The Senate has passed the Government’s Fair Work Bill in an amended form after debating it into the early hours of this morning.

But the amended bill is likely to be rejected when it returns to the Lower House and that is already prompting talk of another election.

The Senate changed the Bill to expand the number of businesses that would have special unfair dismissal rules.

The Government wants it limited to firms with less than 15 staff, the Senate says it should be any business with the equivalent of 20 full-time staff.

Human services Minister Joe Ludwig says the Government has a mandate for 15.

“We put the detail of what we would actually do and I am here now doing just that,” Mr Ludwig said.

“It was crystal clear what we were going to do when we got to office.”

Family First’s Steve Fielding has questioned if the Government would dare use it as a trigger for another election.

“Tell this chamber how you’re going to go to the public with a double dissolution around 15,” Senator Fielding said.

Greens Leader Bob Brown has warned the Opposition, Family First and independent senator Nick Xenophon that if they insist on their change, they risk the Government calling another election.

“Accept the judgement of the people in 2007 or face the ire of the people in 2009,” Senator Brown said.

The Bill goes back to the House of Representatives later this morning where the Government is likely to reject the Senate’s changes.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/03/20/2521274.htm

Jacob Saulwick and Phillip Coorey
March 19, 2009

THE existing contracts of executives will be unaffected by the clampdown on “golden handshakes” announced by the Government yesterday as part of its campaign against greed.

After months of railing against excessive executive salaries, the Federal Government flagged laws giving shareholders more power to control the size of exit payments granted to executives.

The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, also charged the Productivity Commission with a nine-month, sweeping review of executive pay, meaning further limitations could be imposed next year, before the federal election.

Mr Swan said the community was “rightly offended” by excessive bonuses paid to some executives. He framed the measures as necessary to rebuilding confidence in the economy.

“If there isn’t a level of trust between executives and workers and the wider community we cannot build a stronger economy for the future,” Mr Swan said.

Under the changes, the Government will lower the maximum payment a company can grant a departing executive without asking shareholders.

As it stands, companies can lavish exit payments on executives of up to seven times their annual remuneration without seeking shareholder approval.

The changes to the Corporations Act will make termination payments limited to one year’s base salary – excluding share options and other instruments used to drive up pay – before requiring shareholder assent.

The Government also widened the range of executives whose termination payments need to be put to shareholders. But the laws will not be retrospective, so they will have little effect on the current crop of executives.

The announcement will bolster the case the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, makes at the Group of 20 summit in London on April 2, where he will urge other nations to curb executive largesse. He will also be armed with as-yet-unreleased recommendations from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority on reducing greed-induced risk-taking in financial institutions.

Mr Rudd has been coming under pressure from his own back bench to do more than talk about executive salaries.

Several MPs have raised the matter at successive caucus meetings over the past fortnight, citing anger in their electorates.

Last year Malcolm Turnbull said shareholders should decide the entire remuneration of executives and board members, not just their severance packages.

Yesterday the Opposition Leader said a review was not needed and his proposal was “the simplest and fairest solution”.

The Minister for Corporate Law, Nick Sherry, said the “retirement gold watch” had been “replaced by a truckload of gold bullion”. He cited as examples Owen Hegarty at OZ Minerals, who received a bonus of $8.35 million, and John Alexander’s $15 million bonus from Consolidated Media – as payments that would be difficult to make under the new legislation.

The director of the corporate governance advisers Riskmetrics, Dean Paatsch, praised the initiative. “I think they’ve got the balance right. They are acting to constrain the worst excesses of compensation structures.”

Allan Fels has been appointed an associate to the Productivity Commission and will help inquire into executive pay. The Government said all options are on the table for the inquiry, which will report early next year.

The chief executive of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, John Colvin, lamented not being consulted. “Acting in haste or going too far with legislative solutions could be counter-productive,” he said.

The Business Council of Australia said excessive corporate salaries “that have occurred overseas have not been such an issue here in Australia”.

Sandy Easterbrook, director of the advisory firm CGI Glass Lewis, said boards had responded to complaints about excessive exit payments and would no longer be likely to grant them. “It is shutting the door when you don’t need to,” he said.

http://business.smh.com.au/business/rudd-takes-action-on-bosses-pay-20090318-927w.html?sssdmh=dm16.367000

Michelle Grattan and Peter Martin
March 16, 2009

AUSTRALIA’S intake of skilled migrants will be slashed by 18,500 over the next three months — 14 per cent of the annual intake — in a dramatic move to protect local jobs.

Less than a year after increasing the skilled migrant intake to record levels, the Rudd Government has responded to the deepening economic crisis by removing building and manufacturing trades from the list of workers Australia is seeking from overseas.

Bricklayers, plumbers, welders, carpenters and metal fitters will no longer get entry. The list of critical skills is now confined mainly to the health and medical, engineering and IT professions.

The cut reduces the skilled migrant intake for the 2008-09 financial year from 133,500 to 115,000.

The Government had already foreshadowed a reduction in skilled migrants — who form the bulk of the immigration intake — next financial year, with details to be announced in the May budget.

The decision to cut the number of skilled migrants now shows the Government’s growing concern about ballooning unemployment, which in February rose from 4.8 per cent to 5.2 per cent.

The official forecast of a 7 per cent unemployment rate by mid next year is certain to be revised up in the budget.

The deep cut in skilled migrant numbers follows December changes that meant only migrants sponsored by an employer or in an occupation on the critical skills list could get a permanent visa. Almost half the visas granted in this category are to people already working in Australia.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans promised further paring back of the critical skills list if warranted. “The Government will remove occupations from the list if demand for those skills can be satisfied by local labour.”

Senator Evans said the overwhelming message from business and industry “is that Australia still needs to maintain a skilled migration program but one that is more targeted so that migrant workers are meeting skills shortages and not competing with locals for jobs”.

There were still shortages in sectors such as health care. The measures will enable industry to continue to get the skilled professionals needed “while protecting local jobs and the wages and conditions of Australian workers”, Senator Evans said.

He added that the Government remained committed to a strong migration program. “Skilled migration plays a crucial role in stimulating the economy.”

The cuts came as Mr Swan signed an international communique agreeing to “fight all forms of protectionism and maintain open trade and investment”.

Finance ministers and treasurers from the Group of 20 large industrial and developing nations met in Horsham, south-west of London, to thrash out an agreement that committed them to “take whatever action is necessary until growth is restored” with the proviso that they kept their borders open.

“We will try to ensure that there is no intended or unintended trade protectionism,” said the meeting’s chair, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, speaking to reporters after the meeting.

Mr Swan told the ABC there had been little disagreement: “You didn’t see that in the meeting today. It was a very encouraging outcome. I’ve been coming to a number of these meetings over the last six months or so and today I saw a resolve we haven’t seen before.”

Ministers agreed to boost their contributions to the International Monetary Fund to let it help countries that can no longer get credit.

The leaders of the G-20 nations including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will continue the negotiations in London on April 2. The global financial crisis will dominate Mr Rudd’s first face-to-face meeting with US President Barack Obama next week.

Mr Obama yesterday singled out Australia as a country taking appropriate action in the face of the global economic crisis. “Kevin Rudd has taken similar steps (to stimulate the economy) in Australia,” he said.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/skilled-migrants-cutback-20090315-8yyp.html?page=-1

MORE than 53,000 full time jobs were lost in February, and it will get worse as the year goes on, economists say.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data released today showed the unemployment rate climbed to 5.2 per cent in February, despite total employment increasing by 1800.

Part-time employment increased by more than 55,000.

HSBC economist John Edwards said the data was surprising in that overall employment had increased, as opposed to a fall which most economists were expecting.

“This is the second consecutive month in which it’s increased against market expectations, and this does confirm the resilience of Australian employment in the face of relentlessy bad economic news,” he told news.com.au.

But Commonwealth Bank senior economist John Peters said the shedding of full-time staff “really captures the market at the moment”.

“Obviously, turnover in companies and production is being cut as there is switch from full-time to part-time workers.”

Mr Peters said unemployment was a lagging indicator of the economy and was only starting to reflect the sharp slowdown of late 2008.

“We expect to see a further rise in unemployment over the course of this year,” he said.
Worse without stimulus – PM

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the jobs data would have been a lot worse without the Government’s stimulus measures.

“Any job loss is one too many as far as I am concerned,” Mr Rudd told reporters in Canberra.
“But had we waited and done nothing … these unemployment figures would have been a lot worse.”

The economic slowdown on jobs is likely to intensify in coming months with the Federal Government predicting a jobless rate of 5.5 per cent by June this year, rising to 7 per cent 12 months later.

The gloomy prospects for employment had been highlighted earlier this week, with an ANZ survey finding in the year to February, the number of job advertisements in newspapers and on the internet fell nearly 40 per cent. This was the worst outcome in the history of the survey.

In January, the unemployment rate jumped to 4.8 per cent from 4.5 per cent the previous month.

Economists had expected the number of people employed to have dropped by around 20,000 in February after increasing by a slim 1200 in January.

Mining states hardest hit
States most associated with mining and manufacturing were the worst hit in this latest spike in the jobless rate.

Western Australia saw the biggest jump in unemployment in February, surging to 4.2 per cent from 3.3 per cent, while in Victoria it rose to 5.6 per cent from 4.8 per cent.

In NSW the jobless rate rose to 5.8 per cent from 5.5 per cent and in South Australia it increased to 5.8 per cent from 5.6 per cent. In Queensland it rose to 4.5 per cent from 4.4 per cent.

The rate in Tasmania was unchanged at 4.5 per cent, as was the case in the Northern Territory which recorded a 3.9 per cent jobless rate and the ACT which posted a rate of 2.4 per cent.

http://www.news.com.au/business/story/0,27753,25175631-462,00.html?referrer=email

by John Zappe
Feb 24, 2009, 5:00 am ET
While you digest the consequences of eliminating your college recruiting consider one of the benefits of maintaining — or starting — an internship program: You’ll have an uncrowded pool to swim in.

Steven Rothberg
As you might already suspect, internship opportunities for college students this year have been severely curtailed. Numbers are hard to come by since many internships are informal or are called something else. However, Steven Rothberg, founder and president of CollegeRecruiter.com tells us his site has about 10,000 jobs categorized as internships, which is half what it was a year ago.

“The number and quality of internship opportunities are significantly down this year over last,” says Rothberg, noting that it appears the majority of those available are unpaid. Again, no hard numbers on paid vs. unpaid internships — “that’s impossible to track,” he says — but from his conversations with employers, “They are either eliminating the program entirely or they’re eliminating the compensation.”

This comes at a time when the competition for what used to be called summer jobs has rarely been keener. Because companies across the U.S. have been retrenching, this spring’s crop of graduating seniors will face a tight job market. A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) issued in October showed employers expected to hire the same or fewer students than they did last year.

“Overall, hiring looks flat for now and some employers are indicating some movement to cut back,” Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director, said when the report was issued. “In August, approximately one-third of employers said they were going to trim their college hiring; in our current poll, however, 52 percent said they were going to adjust their college hiring downward.”

Now, four months later, that projection looks almost optimistic. Thus graduating seniors who would have entered the labor force in years past will now be competing with juniors and sophomores for internships, says Rothberg.

“This Spring’s going to find a lot of college seniors taking unpaid positions,” he told us. “If they can’t get a paying job, they’ll be looking for the experience for their resume.”

Richard Bottner
Richard Bottner, founder and president of Intern Bridge, a consultancy that helps SMBs develop and administer internship programs, tells us, “This is a year unlike any other year.” He’s referring not only to the scramble for jobs by college students, but to the opportunities for recruiters.

“Recruiters have a bigger advantage this year than in any other year that my generation has experienced,” says the 24-year-old. “It used to be more balanced” between internships available and the students seeking them, he explains. Now, “recruiters will find it easier to find better talent. There’s a lot more competition out there for every internship.”

He laments the conversion of paying positions to unpaid because it takes out of contention students who simply must earn money for school. On the other hand, Bottner says it makes even the low-paying positions far more attractive.

“This is a year that many of the smaller companies should be able to compete for really top talent, if they don’t cut out the pay,” says Bottner, who has been advising the small and medium sized businesses he focuses on to “pay what they can, but pay.”

Though Rothberg’s view is that it is better to offer an unpaid internship than none at all, he, too, says recruiters with paying jobs should brace for the onslaught of applications. “They’ll have their pick,” he says, even if their company isn’t one of the big names.

His advice to students is to take a job “any job and then intern part-time.” Even fast food jobs, Rothberg suspects, will look better and better to college students as the end of semester nears. “Any job that is associated with a paycheck will be a cool job,” he predicts and most students “would rather get the experience than nothing at all.”

Both men do agree on this: Companies that hire interns now will be better positioned for the eventual recovery. Says Bottner, if the internship is well structured, something Intern Bridge can help ensure, then “the student the company hires and who gets something valuable from the experience is going to be a prime prospect later on.”

http://www.ere.net/2009/02/24/paid-internships-may-be-scarce-but-its-a-way-to-hire-the-best/

February 11, 2009

By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

When people ask me what I do, I like to tell them that I am an “Executive Search Consultant,” but I always then clarify that with, “you know, a headhunter.” I am not a Human Resources professional, but I interact with them on a regular basis, and based upon those interactions I thought I could offer up some different suggestions that Human Resources professionals could be doing during these slow times. Now, I do have a couple of good ideas, but I have decided to hold off on those ideas for now as a friend of a friend set me straight about what many Human Resources professionals within the civil engineering industry are going through right now, and it is a topic that is worth mentioning.

The economy has slowed down, but you have not…many of you are still working 50-60 hours week, but now you are experiencing the dark side of human resources where the best skill sets you have are guts and compassion. Downsizing, layoffs, RIF, whatever you want to call it, it is not a pleasurable experience, no matter which side of the desk you may be on. I speak here not through experience, but through the account of this process from a Human Resources professional in our industry.

Preparing for layoffs is grueling:

Compiling staff review documentation from managers;
Working with managers in identifying who will be laid off ;
Coaching those managers as to how to best approach the looming conversation while knowing that no coaching can really ever fully prepare someone for what it’s like to let a colleague go;
Organizing and implementing severance programs;
Administering COBRA;
Conducting outplacement assistance;
Fending off lawsuits;
Taking on the tasks of those in your department who were recently let go;
Much more that I am surely missing.
Maybe the most difficult duty you have right now though, is having to sit down across the desk from a mom or a dad, from a single parent, from an employee whose spouse just lost their job a week ago, from a parent with a sick child or a child who is just getting ready to go off to college, from a young woman who just put a down payment on her first home, or from a friend, and telling them that they are being laid off. ..and then dealing with roller coaster of emotions that are felt from that employee, their family, from yourself, from their supervisor and from their friends who still work there.

This is not what you signed up for, but there is no better trained or more qualified person in your organization to deal with the current situation than you:

You have the guts to stick to the orders that you were given as opposed to packing up your desk and bailing;
You have the compassion to empathize with these folks;
You have the ability to absorb the verbal abuse that is unleashed on you;
And you have the know-how and the desire to do EVERYTHING in your power to make sure that these folks are granted their severance, that they are provided everything they need to know about applying for COBRA, that they know who to call to roll over their 401K into what you hope to be a new 401K in the very near future, and to coach and to help these individuals find new employment.

Especially during these tumultuous times, the Human Resources professionals are clearly the unsung heroes whose compassion, resiliency, hard work and dedication are the rock…wait…the mountain…that everyone leans upon.

The great thing about being in America is that we are resilient. We have the ability to dig down DEEP and to be strong, to stand tall, to fight tooth and nail, and to land on two feet. It is not an easy thing to be a part of, on either side of that desk, but the smoke will eventually clear and most people will be a better person for it.

http://civilengineeringcentral.wordpress.com/2009/02/11/human-resources-heroes/