Manpower downsizing made easier

DOWNSIZING or rightsizing as its called by apologists, can clearly be termed as one of the most painful experiences for both employees and management alike. To call it draining would be an understatement. Each part of the exercise, is more painful than the other. What makes it utter chaos, is that no method is followed and no body is trained for running the process well. Most Organizations suffer collateral damage in any or more of the following types:

LOSING HIGH PERFORMERS because there is no clear performance management in place. High performers are normally well connected and find it easy to find other jobs, unless it’s made clear to them that they are safe, they are most likely to take up other offers at first sign of trouble. Challenge for Organization is “how to assure high performers that the are safe”.

NON PERFORMANCE ACROSS ORGANIZATION, as panic sets in. Most downsizing programs run too fast, leading to widespread panic. There is an attempt on the side of management, to get through it quickly, like a clean & jerk operation. But such an attempt is likely to inflict serious injury to the brand and recovering from low morales can take long time. Challenge for Organization is to arrive at an “optimal phasing plan for downsizing.

INCREASED RISK OF BUSINESS LOSS. Badly managed downsizing efforts quickly spiral into business challenges in streets. Absence of clear communication, coupled with demoralized field force leads to clients and potential clients feeling jittery about their engagements. References stop coming, business loss is deep and prolonged. Organizational challenge is “how to communicate with clarity to market”.

REHIRING CHALLENGE. Once burnt twice shy, it takes Organizations quite a while to restart hiring. Lack of clear manpower plan becomes another issue and chances of making same mistakes again remain high. Due to downsizing, engaging recruiters gets tough as hiring consultants get reluctant and candidates are exposed to negative sentiment about the Organization. Challenge for Organization is to build a “sharp manpower plan without repeating mistakes”.

There are so many other small costs that come along when you undertake downsizing program. Should you be afraid to go this path? Should you keep running on high manpower cost? 


Downsizing may have its pains, but the outcome can be awesome not just for the Organization but for employees as well. It’s quite natural for workplaces to become bloated on manpower front over a period of time. Work keeps getting added, most teams lose sight of their core work areas and lose opportunity to train themselves. Downsizing forces staff to refocus on priorities, their skill levels, training needs thus bringing a sense of purpose to all. Downsizing also forces Organization to explore multiple uses of talent and opportunities of job rotations. If managed well, downsizing can be quite a worthwhile exercise.

Here’s are some ideas that can help as you deal with the challenges of downsizing:

How to assure high performers that they are safe.

Well, it helps if you have an existing performance management program. Then team doesn’t feel that you have created the performance story only for the purpose of firing people. So best time to begin performance management would be when you are not downsizing. That way, at any point in time, you would have an almost ready ranking of staff by their performance levels. Often, if you have a running PMS, staff also is quite informed of performance ranking of people. With such a backing, taking hard comes becomes easy and not many would doubt your modus operandi. Naturally then, high performers feel safer than others and its easy for you to sound out an impending downsizing program while keeping high performers at ease. 

plugHR sets up such a clear PSM program in Organizations, it takes less than 3 months and entire performance management runs on its own thereafter. 

Most effective phasing plan for downsizing.

Clean & jerk isn’t the way. That’s rough, high handed, often devoid of any science and sensitivity. Speed doesn’t get you through the painful part clean, preparation does. There is no sense in doing one big downsizing exercise if you can avoid it. Trick lies in making frequent small downsizing a habit. Best way to do it to have a clearly drawn post appraisal action plan that involves rewarding high performers, improving those who can and steering clear of low performers who can’t improve. So again, best time to downsize is when you aren’t downsizing actually.

plugHR app makes running such a program a breeze with its unique target setting, review, feedback, training needs identification and appraisal engine doing it for you almost on auto.

Managing market communication

Not just market but both external and internal communication needs careful handling during large scale downsizing. If above mentioned two suggestions have been followed, markets would see downsizing as a usual way of working for you. But even otherwise, it makes sense to up the communication frequency with clients, service providers and employees. Mixing good business news with the manpower related information can be useful. That way everyone knows that business is running as usual. Extra care should be taken to not default on market commitments related to product, payments, customer service etc. Leadership team needs to get on the frontline and increase field work volume. 

plugHR consultants are trained on active communications. They run town halls, emailers, social media platforms and can keep stakeholders engaged to ensure continuous positive conversations.

Building sharp manpower plan that’s low cost yet effective.

Nothing beats plugHR’s simple manpower planning tool that allows for creating roles, required skills, define KRAs and plan for annual manpower requirement against each role. Not just that, plugHR app ensures that each hire is evaluated against the required skills and skill gaps are highlighted real time, so HR can begin training effort to fill those gaps before they become reasons for low performance. Best part of the tool is that it leads the thought thus reducing effort for management by 70%.

plugHR tool or any method, having a clear manpower plan and a defined assessment method goes a long way in rebuilding a sharp, high performing Organization.

To summarize:

It's best to incorporate downsizing as a regular performance practice, it's fair then to call it rightsizing. Best way to achieve this regularity is by setting up a robust and clear performance management program at a time when you'e not hard pressed to cut manpower cost quickly. 

But in case you have arrived at a point when high speed downsizing has become imminent, you can prepare for it and ensure that collateral damage is minimized. There is no harm in seeking support of specialists like plugHR or any other firms that can think beyond what you can.

If you want to build strong HR practices in your venture, plugHR can make it easy for you.