Monday, February 16, 2009

Unemployment rises further

Unemployment has been creeping steadily upward in the UK. We are approaching the 2million mark.

Today, BMW laid off 850 people in the Mini plant in the UK. Every day we hear yet another story of people being laid off.. and the blue-collar workers often seem to be the hardest hit. We live in a pretty blue-collar area and one can almost see the change in people's demeanour. Every new story is like another physical blow. Today's was particularly tough because the workers were given only 1 hour's notice. The announcement was made an hour before the end of a shift and it got pretty ugly.

The first time I heard this, I huffed and puffed in indignation. Then I did a little research and discovered that the majority of the people affected were from an agency. They were not employees and therefore not entitled to a redundancy package. In effect, BMW did nothing illegal.

Sadly, in these uncertain times, more and more companies are going the route of engaging agency personnel, rather than committing themselves to employees... and all that that entails.

I understand that BMW needs to think of their bottom line. But I am saddened that there seems to be no middle ground. That the bottom line is pursued at the cost of many people's livelihoods. Where are these peremptorily unemployed people going to turn?

For us in the field of L&D, there is no distinction. When we provide learning solutions and performance support, we do so for everyone equally, because productivity levels need to be consistent across all contributors.

Just imagine this scenario:

Company X, like so many others, is facing a dry patch. But they understand how economies work. They know that the tide will turn. They know that all their staff members have families to feed. They know that people are being laid off left and right, and that any workers they lay off will have little chance of finding other employment.

So they sit down with their staff. They lay their cards on the table. They discuss ways that they can all weather the storm. Together.

Staff members are challenged to use this period to hone their skills. To broaden their skillsets. To examine their process and systems to see where they can be improved and optimised. Those who want to take early retirement are permitted to do so. But no-one is laid off. Everyone is in the same boat and everyone busts a gut to row in the same direction.

When the storm passes - as all storms eventually do - imagine the loyalty of the workforce to a company that demonstrated that, when it said "Our people are our greatest asset," it meant it! Imagine the buy-in of a team of people who have helped to bring the company through. Imagine the bonds that have been forged between people who have had to bear one another's burdens is a way they hadn't been called on to do in generations. Imagine the increased skill sets. The honed processes.


Imagine the readiness to take full advantage of the newly buoying economy, while other companies are frantically recruiting and up-skilling.

Or am I just dreaming one of my idealist, Utopian dreams again?


Anonymous said...

This is sad and really don't know how the state of world's economy has come to this. It seems the figures of growth were fake and inflated. The layoffs and recession, there must be a solution to all this, sustainable living? Your son is cute and your picture with your dog is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

This is a very sad time indeed. Sometimes I feel with my decision to quit was right as when I went to the office later, it was good to see three people working in my place. For me the money was not a necessity, for them it is. Your son's picture, even with face erased is cute and yours with the puppy is really sweet.

Clark said...

It's a dream worth dreaming, don't abandon hope!

The upsycho said...

@Clark Oh, I'm not! But I am keenly aware of the effect of those that are. We're in for a bumpy ride - we should be pulling together.