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Improving Productivity in the Face of Corporate Layoffs

Headlines touting yet more layoffs are seemingly endless. In 2008, 1.9 million jobs were lost, and more are on the chopping block in 2009.

Productivity has taken a hit along with headcount, according to survey results published in the San Jose Business Journal.

Conducted by Leadership IQ, a Washington, D.C. organization specializing in management research, the recent survey showed 74% of the 4,172 workers surveyed who had survived a corporate layoff in the past six months felt that their productivity had declined since the layoff.

In addition, 64% of those surveyed also felt that their co-workers productivity had declined. As a result, 69% said the quality of their company’s product or service had declined, and 81% said that service to customers had declined.

Diane Valenti, President of Applied Performance Solutions, Inc. ( offers the following suggestions for improving productivity.

Analyze the Job

Now more than ever it is in companies’ best interest to ensure those left behind are doing the right things right. DACUM, a job analysis methodology that was originally developed to help trainers design a curriculum to teach new employees the ins and outs of a particular job, might be just the solution.

DACUM is an archaic acronym for Build a Curriculum. During this two-day process, top performers within a single job category are gathered to identify the mission of the job, key responsibilities and specific tasks required to fulfill those responsibilities. The outcome, a simple chart showing these elements, can be used to help improve the productivity of those left behind to do more with less after a layoff.

Ensure Alignment

The first step is to ensure that the mission of the job is aligned with the strategy of the organization. No doubt with the economic meltdown, organizational strategies have shifted. So, it’s time to make sure that everyone is rowing the boat in the same direction and not working at cross purposes because they are operating under outdated assumptions. If there is not a clear path between the mission of the company and the mission of the job, it’s time to revamp the raison d’etre of the job to ensure it supports the company’s current goals.

Use the 80/20 Rule to Prioritize Work

Next, it’s important to admit that the idea of doing more with less is merely wishful thinking. Many employees were already working long hours to keep up with an unrelenting workload before the layoffs. Cutting their colleagues has undoubtedly made the problem worse. To ensure that employees are focusing their time and resources on doing the right things, you can use the DACUM chart to review the specific tasks employees are performing. Ask employees to rank the tasks by how essential they are to the mission of the job. People can prioritize the tasks based on three categories: essential, important, and nice to do if they have the time. This helps employees focus on doing what is important rather than what feels urgent or is easy.

People may discover that some tasks should be eliminated because they don’t contribute to the mission or should be shifted to another job role entirely. For example, one of Valenti's clients discovered that its sales representatives were spending time in the office preparing information sheets for their prospects. This took time away from their mission of selling, and the task could be easily delegated to administrative staff. This is exactly what Valenti's client decided to do.

Identify Quality Criteria

Now that the company has identified the tasks employees must get done, they can ask the DACUM group to confirm (or develop, if they are lacking) specific, measurable quality standards for the essential tasks. This helps ensure that everyone knows what right looks like and for what the company will hold them accountable.

Identify Time Wasters

While top performers are gathered together, leaders can also ask them about barriers to performance – in other words, what gets in the way of their ability to achieve the mission of the job? If employees are spending time and energy on workarounds, that means they have less time and energy to get their essential tasks done. In good times, companies can afford to be a little sloppy in their work processes. Bad times require that key processes be tightened to conserve resources.

Use the Results to Set Expectations

Once the DACUM process is complete, the company can disseminate the results to the entire job population and their supervisors. This allows leaders to set expectations about what needs to be done within this job.


One of the added benefits of using the DACUM process is that it not only allows the company to determine what the right things are and what doing them right means, it can improve morale. Simply by investing a couple days of the time of 10 or so of the top performers, companies show employees that they care about their predicament. It demonstrates that the company isn't sending them on a mission impossible.

And, when business picks up, the company can use the DACUM chart as a basis for identifying the knowledge, skills and experience new candidates will need to be successful in this job.

For more information about this topic and Diane Valenti, visit

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