Zookel Blog: News & Views

More Lessons from the downturn!

I’ve increasingly been reading about (or more like seeking out) innovative strategies both individuals and companies are coming up with to deal with the economic downturn.

Having previously asked the question what can we learn from Graham Edwards. I thought it would be good to look at it from the other side and consider what we can learn from the strategy of Paul Levy, CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre.

The background story in a nutshell:

  • Facing the need to find $20 mil in budget savings Levy was being forced to consider layoffs.
  • Levy examined the details of how the Hospital worked – especially how the often-overlooked frontline employees did their jobs. He was impressed by what he saw, and wanted to both protect the lowest wage earners and recognize their commitment.
  • When Levy gathered his 6000+ employees together to discuss the options rather than making mass redundancies, he offered a creative solution: “I want to run an idea by you that I think is important, and I’d like to get your reaction to it,” Levy told the assembly. “I’d like to do what we can do to protect the lower-wage earners — the transporters, the housekeepers, the food-service people…If we protect these workers, it means the rest of us will have to make a bigger sacrifice. It means that others will have to give up more of their salary or benefits.”
  • The consensus was that the workers didn’t want anyone to get laid off and were willing to give up pay and benefits to make sure no one did.
  • As a result of the combined commitment of the management and staff the number of necessary redundancies has reduced dramatically, from over 600 to about 150, and this will be achieved at the same time as providing earnings protection to the 900 lowest wage workers.

The three lessons I take from this brilliant initiative are:

  1. Creativity is not an option it’s a requirement. Just as candidates need to be increasingly creative when presenting themselves (using videos and psychometrics etc) and networking for new jobs, so do Employers when determining how to deal with the downturn.
  2. Honesty & Transparency is the best policy. We’ve consistently endorsed honesty in terms of candidates CV’s & interview answers. Equally as employers (putting aside the times when you can’t legally share all you’d like to) we believe that the only way to gain trust and respect is to treat employees with honesty & transparency.
  3. Mindset & Attitude are key. Could Levy have achieved this without having a team that reflects the mindset & attitude he wants within the organisation? Unlikely. Equally would you as an employee or job seeker be willing to make a similar sacrifice if you didn’t share the same mindset & attitude as your colleagues? Also unlikely*.

See other lessons? Let us know by leaving a comment. And as always good luck with the job hunt, and please feel free to drop us a note if we can help.

Paul & Team Zookel

*Granted we’re biased as one of the reasons we built psychometrics into the core of Zookel is to allow candidates to understand their career motivations and the type of company they’d be successful working for.

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