Layoffs are no longer a matter of stigma


San Francisco: Yahoo Inc will begin layoffs of thousands of employees next week and will announce a plan to restructure the company the week after that, according to a media report. Yahoo declined to comment.

The layoffs, which will not take place all at once, will mostly affect Yahoo’s product, research and marketing groups, according to the report in the blog AllThingsD, which cited anonymous sources.

“End of one job does not mean end of employability. Insecurity is not about the next job, but about how good the offer will be,” says Santrupt Misra, Director, Global HR & CEO, Carbon Black Business at Aditya Birla Group.

The ‘I’m Laid Off, I’m Sort of OK’ phenomenon is explained by several factors. ET’s conversations with many employers, HR heads, headhunters and executives who have taken being laid off in their stride identified four broad reasons for what is clearly a big change in India’s white collar culture.

One, the concept of contingency workforce – people who work for short term – has caught up. Related changes are the dilution of the distinction between permanent and temporary jobs and job hopping becoming the new normal.

Prithvi Shergill, Chief HR Officer at HCL Technologies, explains the change by pointing out that the sudden disappearance in the demand for a skillset can make a valuable job obsolete. Employees are far more familiar with market-led fortune changes now, HR professionals say. Getting comfortable with getting laid off is a part of this learning process.

Misra points out that when 20-somethings take six-month breaks to figure out what they want to do next and when even the attitude of middle managers is changing, the high value placed on certainty in employment naturally goes down. Plus, say HR experts, higher salaries have afforded a bigger cushion for people who are job hunting.

Two, globalisation has made Indian executives more familiar with the Western idea that getting laid off is part of market ups and downs, not a matter of personal failure.

Navnit Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, India, Korn/Ferry International, recalls how layoffs in banking became a big issue for employers and employees in 2001. A HR head then, Singh says layoffs were traumatic, families often broke up. But now, after more than a decade of being an increasingly globalised economy, “people and organisations have learned to live with layoffs”.

Three, the talent market has learnt to differentiate between those laid off for non-performance and those who are let go because of company-wide rationalisation.

As Piyush Mehta, HR head, Genpact, says, there’s “heightened sensitivity about the reasons behind layoffs”. Agrees Padmaja Alaganandan, Executive Director, PwC. “There is a lot more maturity in the way employers look at talent…even for those laid off, they are judged by their merit.”