There was something funny about the recession last year. In the fourth quarter of 2001, productivity increased at a sizzling 5.2 percent for the nonfarm business sector as supposedly disruptive layoffs continued to whack corporate jobs.
How could that be? According to data from international outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., it seems companies are learning to fire with laser precision. The average tenure among the downsized shrank to 4.8 years in 2001 from 9.8 years in 1999. By retaining their corporate memories, companies can make quicker decisions--a key to higher productivity.
But thinking only about expenses when downsizing is shortsighted. Keep your most productive employees, even if they carry big salaries. The valuable employees aren't those who once sold a big project. They're the ones who do it over and over.
However, you can't expect long-term star performers to give you their loyalty just because you didn't lay them off in a recession. "Corporate memory is valuable," says Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger. "[Employees] expect to be compensated for that." Once a recession is over, eyes will wander if you don't pony up.
Better Take a Book
Summer vacation is a great time to unwind. You get to spend time traveling or hanging out with your family rather than worrying about accounts receivable. Is it any wonder that it's also when most of us reassess our lives? This evaluation sometimes generates ideas that can spur your business to greater growth.
To help this summer's re-discovery process along, toss two recent books into your beach bag. In Toxic Success (Inner Ocean, $24.95), Paul Pearsall contrasts those who feel pushed with those who feel pulled. The former drag themselves out of bed in the morning. The latter bound into the day. Guess which one leads a more fulfilled life? A clinical psychoneuroimmunologist, Pearsall suggests ways in which toxic success syndrome can be turned into sweet success--and no, that doesn't mean giving up your business.
Aspirations of Greatness (John Wiley & Sons, $27.95) by Jim Warner approaches similar topics from a more familiar perspective. A successful software entrepreneur, he sold his company in 1992 and set off in a new direction. He became a coach to other entrepreneurs, businesspeople and even clergy. Through their stories, he explores the various paths that lead to midlife crises. Then he sets about exploring ways to break the cycle.
If you feel guilty walking away from your business for a week, spending some of that time with these titles will ease your anxiety. They help you think about the big picture and prepare yourself to return to work recharged.
Business writer Chris Sandlund works out of Cold Spring, New York.
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