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Posted: September 01, 2011

State of the state: Labor

How Companies Can Avoid Cutting Good Workers: Keep Staffs Lean

Mike Cote

The good news: Employers in the post-recessionary economy want to avoid having to lay off good workers when times get tough. The bad news: They're going to hire fewer people.

"Many of us do not want to go back to the pain that existed throughout the majority of the recession where you have to turn good people out," says Mark Stelzner of Inflexion Advisors, a human-resources consulting firm based in San Francisco. "At the beginning of the recession, you can look at the lowest 5 percent of performers and cast those folks out, which is the standard churn in most organizations. But when you get to another 5 percent, it becomes whimsical and very subjective."

Stelzner will be the keynote speaker at the Colorado Council of the Society of Human Resource Management's annual conference Sept. 28-30 at the Keystone Resort Center. Employment issues in these less-than-boom times will be among the topics he'll address.

"If you survived the layoffs, sometimes you look around, and there are people who are smarter than you are and more productive packing up the boxes and walking out the door," Stelzner says. "That culture of fear, waiting for the ax to fall, that uncertainty, no one wants to return to that."

That means companies will try to be more flexible in their work-force planning, thinking globally and tapping contract labor so they can expand and contract their organizations depending on projects and sales opportunities, Stelzner says.

"All of those abilities to be successful are data driven," he says. "You have to have not only a good sense of your current population skills and abilities but you have to have a good sense of what the market can bring to bear."
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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at

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