Why hiring and firing isn’t the answer anymore.

Layoffs suck. Seeing my LinkedIn feed spiral with news about yet another wave of folks #opentowork, I’m disheartened. I know the passion and hard work these people put in every day. I know how hard they worked to get those jobs. I don’t know how much money their companies invested in recruiting them, onboarding them, training them, and supporting them — but I know it’s a lot.

I know this because I’ve been an employee at one of these companies, I studied hard for a daunting round of interviews, hustled to perform while I worked there, and benefitted from incredible coaching sessions. Just like each of these people.

But I also know these companies are doing something wrong. I felt it. That icky uncomfortable feeling you get when you feel stuck. Stuck by process, by role constraints, by “the way things get done.” Every new initiative is a fight for “headcount”, “budget”, and “resources.” And when you don’t get those, they become the scapegoat for lack of progress. But you know deep down there’s just got to be a better way.

Looking back, in the post-pandemic surge of demand for THINGS and ACTION, and NORMAL, every company reacted by hiring people to deliver the things, perform the actions, and bring in fresh energy to wash away the pandemic blues and make things feel normal.

But hiring people is a big decision. It’s costly, and it fundamentally changes the DNA of your company. As a result, hiring is a decision to make when you truly don’t have the capacity or required skillsets available in your business to reach optimal productivity and profitability. Now, trying to make that case gets a little suspicious when the company has thousands of people. You really don’t have… anyone with some capacity who can do that? OK, and no one wants to try, even if they can’t do it today? You’re sure that none of your existing employees has that skill in their back pocket?

The cost of that decision is most poignant when things get tough. When you need to maintain your bottom line, your most costly assets — your employees — are put into scrutiny. You look for what’s most essential to your business and make tough decisions to prioritize and slim down functional areas to stabilize your profit margin.

In doing so, you overlook the fact that your employees are your greatest asset to compete. You’re saying none of these incredible people being laid off could be refocused on improving productivity and profit in the areas deemed critical to your business? None of them has the skills most essential to help your company meet the most pressing demands? Well maybe you aren’t saying it, but you’ve made a damning decision because you don’t know and you haven’t tried.

Now, I could turn this into a shameless sales pitch and wax poetic about Gloat’s Workforce Agility Platform and how it’s pioneering a new way of working that solves all this, but that would be pretty lame. Instead, I’ll say this: I left an incredible enterprise company because I was tired of “process,” “headcount,” and “out of scope,” to join a startup building a technology to buck those trends because I believe there has to be a better way to do things. What keeps me motivated to work for the company I joined is hearing our customers say things like “we avoided layoffs during the pandemic by using this product to redeploy our people” and “our employees feel empowered.” That’s starting to sound better to me.

I know that layoffs and hiring are both an essential part of business and aren’t going anywhere. But I don’t think businesses today are approaching these decisions as efficiently and thoughtfully as they could be. These are incredible, innovative, market-leading places to work that are doing a lot right… but unfortunately, too many people were caught up in a cycle of hiring and firing and you deserve better.

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Noelle Bloomfield

Product marketer @ Gloat. Former Salesforce, AT&T. Background in PR and competitive intel. Avid foodie on the hunt for the world's best guac.