by CIO Staff

Acxiom Shows Leadership With Layoff Alternatives

Jun 15, 20013 mins
IT Leadership

Last month, our CIO Confidential columnist took on the topic of layoffs done in the name of short-term earnings at the expense of long-term business capabilities and employee morale. He pointed out that in most cases where corporations are slashing jobs, senior management is often not held accountable and rarely shares in the pain of cutbacks. At the writer’s former company, where the second round of layoffs is in progress, senior execs are still enjoying a number of high-priced perks, including a fleet of executive jets. Not only is this wrongheaded and unjust, it’s a recipe for disaster when things pick up again.

We’ve received a flood of e-mails in response to the column (“Cogs in the Machine,” May 1, 2001), and we’ll run some of them on our letters page next month. One reader addressed the effect of cascading disaffection. “[Laid-off employees] will find positions [elsewhere] while actively recruiting their former coworkers….The casualty count will increase until frantic hiring ensues, trying to keep the maintenance of the users and other customers up to a bare minimum….Too bad the ’leaders’ of these companies have futuristic and historical short sight.”

In light of such shortsightedness, it’s all the more impressive when a story like Acxiom’s comes along.

In case you missed it, in April, Little Rock, Ark.-based Acxiom (which provides data integration and database management products and services) announced it needed to make cutbacks of around $70 million. But rather than lay anyone off, it did a 5 percent across-the-board pay cut?in exchange for company stock of equal value. A week later, in a huge vote of confidence, 36 percent of employees (1,973 people) took an additional voluntary cut for a 2-to-1 match in stock. As a result, the company expects to save some $30 million while actually strengthening morale and employee commitment to the company?despite the leaner times.

Acxiom’s approach anticipates that when things turn around, as they inevitably will, companies that have an experienced, motivated and coherent workforce will have an advantage.

How refreshing.

Sometimes layoffs are unavoidable. But it’s heartening to see a company try other ways to cut back first. Kudos to Company Leader Charles Morgan (yup, that’s his title) and the rest of Acxiom’s executive staff and board of directors.

For more on managing in a down economy, please read “Welcome to Hard Times,” by Staff Writer Simone Kaplan, beginning on Page 118.

Has your company come up with smart ways to cut back without laying people off? Let me know, and if it’s something other readers could use, I’ll include it in a future issue.