Today in the 3rd installment of "Corporate Life in the Rearview Mirror", we consider the forgotten stakeholders in the DysCo debacle: the customers. When a company like DysCo decides that enrichment of the executive team and (if there's anything left) the shareholders is the "core value" that trumps all others, you know things won't end well for the employees.
Colorful, bandwidth-consuming e-mails from "corporate" about what a great place DysCo was to work notwithstanding, the communication that resonated with the workers was the handwriting on the wall. Another quarter where DysCo didn't make "plan"? Round up a few more of the employees and toss them into the volcano so Wall Street will see that we're serious about turning around this ship of fools.
Among these human sacrifices were some employees that our customers valued greatly, even if DysCo viewed them as expendable. Nothing tells a customer that you value their business than laying off the people who were providing them with service. No worries, management assured the clients; we'll just plug someone else into the account and you'll be good to go. Secretly, DysCo's operations managers figured this might help increase profit margins, if a cheaper person could be plugged in and billed out at a more profitable rate.
Like our employees, DysCo's clients were bright, hardworking people who had been around the block a time or two. Like us, they could see the handwriting on the wall. As they saw the people who had been doing a good job on their projects get tossed aside by DysCo, they peered into the growing abyss between the promise of this "top rated" company and the stark reality of corporate greed and obeisance to the Gods of Wall Street.
Follow along below the death spiral for more on how the customers came to be the forgotten stakeholders in the DysCo debacle...
In some businesses, employees may be truly interchangeable. However, in a service sector that requires an intimate knowledge of a customer's business - knowledge that may take years to acquire - the people who service the account are anything but interchangeable. A good project team that operated efficiently and remained intact was part of the "value proposition" that DysCo could offer a client... back in the day.
There's always some turnover of personnel in a company like DysCo, and that's fine if there's succession planning to mitigate the impacts. DysCo didn't waste time on foolishness like that, unfortunately. Proper succession planning takes thought and time. For every position, a company identifies the logical person to take over in the future. That person then gets to participate in "job shadowing" or other preparation (training, variation in work assignments, etc.) so that they're prepared when the time comes. The person they replace goes through the same thing for their next role. It's a great idea for everyone: employees get to craft their career path; customers are assured of continuity.
DysCo didn't spend any time on succession planning. First of all, it was an overhead activity. Why work on that when you could be working on paying projects? Secondly, with their already high rates of turnover (voluntary and involuntary), why bother with career paths, when they all end so soon?
As a result, when key people were let go, the clients were left hanging. Many of them simply followed the laid off people to their new employers, and those employers were only too happy to have them bring along their clients. So, to recap: DysCo lays off a person or two, and loses the whole account, which could be millions in current and future work. Brilliant.
In some cases, though, the customer remained with DysCo, as we were one of their "approved suppliers". If our witless management laid off a person who was needed to wrap up some important project work, no worries. DysCo hired them back as a "contract employee" with no benefits, just hourly pay, but billed them out to the client at their previous full rate. Again, brilliant!
Like the neutron bomb that kills off the people but leaves the building intact, DysCo's plan to rid themselves of pesky employees rolls on. Those not laid off are "looking", and doing so with more determination than ever. "Headhunters" looking to populate other companies with good people have been swarming around DysCo like vultures.
The good news for the already laid off and the remaining DysCo folks is that the customers still need to be served. If DysCo can't or won't do it, competitors can step into that vacuum. Sure, there's perturbation of everyone involved in changing employers, rewriting contracts, and getting back up to speed, but apparently it's a price worth paying when contrasted to the DysCo service model.
The age of DysCO dinosaurs may be winding down. Quite a few of the wily little mammals that DysCo threw into the volcano (your intrepid diarist among them) have climbed out and launched their own companies to serve the clients more efficiently and capably. Somewhere, Darwin is smiling. I know I am.