Finding a job after school remains one top priority for many young graduates. This should not be so surprising in our part of the world where educational programmes rarely incorporate entrepreneurial skills. I quite remember how I felt about a decade ago when I had the opportunity to be part of one of the most respectable companies in the country. It was like a dream come true. This was an organisation that purposely came to the tertiary institution to interview, select and train successful candidates to join their workforce. However good as it felt, hardly did I foresee that the company would be shutting down a few months afterwards. Hardly did I know that a redundancy process, and for that matter employees’ layoff was imminent.
Now, back in 2017. A simple search on google.com, with the key words ‘layoff Ghana’, would yield the following and numerous similar results:
- “Government will lay off public service workers”, published on 8th August 2017 Ghanaweb.com
- “Over 400 workers lose jobs in Tema… as steel factory closes”, published on 20th March 2017 Citibusinessnews.com
- “Job layoffs lurk over persistent power challenges- ICU”, published on 28th February 2017 (Citibusinessnews.com)
- “190 Fidelity Bank staff sacked”, published on 1st September 2016 Ghanaweb.com
- “Massive layoffs hit Ghana’s oil & gas industry”, published on 2nd August 2016 Citifmonline.com
- “Massive layoffs to hit banks”, published on 21st April 2016 Myjoyonline.com
It appears that not a single year passes without a sign of employees’ layoff. Even as I’m writing this piece, there is an ongoing retrenchment process in my current organisation. I understand how difficult or uncomfortable it is to talk about job losses. Nevertheless, it may hurt to be aware, but prudent to be prepared.
Reasons for workplace redundancy
Many reasons can be assigned to why workplace redundancy occurs. First and foremost, most companies, in particular, commercial organisations, embark on a retrenchment exercise to reduce cost and fit in the competitive market. I have, in many ways, maintained my stance that almost all commercial organisations have one common goal. That is, “to make money”. Even though this goal may not be explicitly shown to the public, it appears to be hidden in their various vision and mission statements. To some extent, there seems to be an invisible portion of most mission statements, which goes like: “…only if we make profit” or “…as long as we make profit”. Of course, no commercial organisation exists to make a loss. Thus, when you come across a fancy corporate mission statement such as “…we value our people and uphold high standards of integrity to meet the needs of our customers”, consider it as incomplete. The ‘complete’ statement (together with the invisible portion) would read like:
“…we value our people and uphold high standards of integrity to meet the needs of our customers as long as we make profit”.
To reduce operational cost and increase profits, a company may undergo organisational restructuring. In certain cases, roles that were originally hired for may not be required anymore. In the manufacturing sector for instance, some job roles are only needed during the initial phases of organisational start-ups. As production and other operational activities stabilise, employees occupying these roles would be forced out if there are no alternate positions for them.
A company may also be forced to reduce its manpower when there is technology advancement. With the global increasing trend of computer technology, the same task that was done by five labourers can now be handled by three or even one employee.
Furthermore, employees can be laid off during a merge or a take-over by another company (owner). We have witnessed such circumstances over and over, a recent example being the ‘take-over’ of UT and Capital Banks by GCB Bank.
Finally, a redundancy exercise can occur as a result of either temporary or permanent shutdown. A company may result to shutting down its processes when there is no more market for its products or services. Heavy industries that depend much on electricity may similarly be forced to shut down during energy crisis. The Volta Aluminium Company Ltd. (VALCO), for example, is well known for numerous shut-downs during energy crisis.
The lucky ones (unaffected staff) are not that fortunate
All redundancy procedures end in a decrease in the number of staff. While employees unaffected by the redundancy exercise may be seen as lucky, that could be far from the truth. Most organisations, after a redundancy process, are ushered in a new working environment usually perceived by the remaining employees as unconducive.
Employees who are fortunate to avoid dismissal, may be exposed to increased responsibilities per role without corresponding pay rise. Typically, designations of some employees are also ‘forcefully’ downgraded to lower roles, with corresponding decrease in remunerations.
The job atmosphere could get saturated with tension. What used to be a stress-free job turns to be the opposite after a redundancy at the workplace. Trivial matters before the redundancy period would be now considered grave concerns. This is especially the case for companies that roll the redundancy process in stages over a period of time. In a nutshell, the remaining workforce may feel demoralised due to decreased motivation.
How prepared are you for workplace redundancy?
Staff retrenchment can affect anybody irrespective of his rank or role in the organisation. Likewise, your profession or industrial sector does not matter much. Hence, relying so much on the job security of your profession can end in disappointment. Things have changed now. Even the government sector which has long been perceived as a ‘safe place’ in terms of job security is transforming. We have witnessed, in one way or another, a number of policy changes affecting employees in the government sector. At least, I remember how frustrated my kid brother appeared when graduate teachers whose certificates were unrelated to the educational sector were given ultimatum to upgrade themselves.
In fact, workplace redundancy is inevitable. However, how prepared are you as an employee, to face the consequences? Don’t forget that your redundancy entitlements or benefits, if any, may not be sufficient to cushion you from the shocks of retrenchment exercises. At least, not for so long, considering how stressful and long it would take the ordinary Ghanaian to search for another job.
Essentially, being aware of the reality of redundancy can be a starting point to prepare towards any eventuality. Make financial literacy a core aspect of your lifestyle and begin to focus more on your needs while cutting back on luxurious expenses. Avoiding excessive loans beyond your financial capacity would also be in the right direction. By putting your finances in shape, you reduce the shock that may result from any possible job loss.
Every time you receive a pay check, just remember the phrase ‘redundancy is real’. Consider your job as something fragile no matter how secure it may seem. This would, at least, condition your mind to stay alert and focused. Finally, while you still have the means, update yourself with new skills through education and training. By doing this, you prepare yourself for new opportunities should you be affected by a workplace redundancy.