This past week over 550,000 people filed a new claim for unemployment in the United States. The reality is that in the coming months millions of additional Americans will lose their jobs. Is this a recession or a depression? To the millions of people who are losing these jobs with little hope of finding a new one soon, it is a depression!
There is a disturbing trend during these economic hard times. Most companies and governmental entities are attempting to solve their economic problems through layoffs. This week three venerable American companies all announced layoffs: Microsoft, Starbucks, and Harley Davidson.
All are profitable companies who see these hard times as an opportunity to do what human resource professionals call “right sizing”, the politically correct term for eliminating higher paid positions, often filled by senior employees, to improve the bottom line profits. Oftentimes these executives who are leaders in this “rightsizing” movement in America are awarded for their efforts with fat bonuses.
A new term for staff members in our American companies is human capital. This human capital is even accounted for like other capital and a price is placed on it and compared to other capital expenditures like buildings and equipment. This concept is not limited to the private sector, as I noted this week when one high ranking public school official in our area said he thought it would be less desirable to close some school buildings than layoff some school employees. Unless, of course, he became that laid off staff member.
I fear that this recession will be tougher than past ones because of our lack of respect for the people who work in our companies and organizations. Not only is it now fashionable to layoff staff to improve the bottom line, we see another revolution to lower the wages of people that are already paid the least in our companies. I do not believe that we can be a great country without good wages and full employment. We are going to exacerbate the current hard times if we do not realize that the life blood of our country is the American worker who certainly deserves a better future. People are not human capital but our relatives, neighbors and friends, a group that deserves a lot more respect and consideration than they are receiving today.