There are plenty of steps that companies can take to improve operations while the economy is in a down cycle, says Sisko. Training is one area of particular promise. Key employees can be moved from one task to another, to deepen their skills and make "core operators" more valuable to the organization. "You want to retain the people whom you want to keep," he says. "And there's a good opportunity, frankly, to clean house."
Layoffs are an obvious way to go, as well as temporarily cutting back on the hours of the employees who remain. But an effective plan must go beyond a mere reduction in numbers. The cost of a good training program can be minimal, says Sisko, especially if the company's top employees are involved.
"Communication is the biggest thing," he says, drawing on the results of a recent roundtable on the topic of labor management and corporate survival strategies. The companies most likely to weather a recession are those that do a good job of informing their employees of what they're doing in that area. "They told people what was going on," Sisko says. "That made it easier for [employees] to accept reduced hours and salaries."
He does see some signs of recovery. "We're finding more inquiries about potential job offers and assignments," he says. This night also be a good time to introduce new software packages such as warehouse-management systems, because they will be less disruptive to operations. Some companies are viewing the recession as a chance to replace legacy applications with systems that are more upgradable, and include such modern features as voice and radio-frequency capability. Nevertheless, Sisko says, "people are not ready to start spending big bucks on hardware and equipment." The challenge of the moment is to get more utilization out of existing workforces and assets.
To view this video interview in its entirety, click here.
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