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Cutting costs? Ask your employees for help

Post COVID-19, smart leaders will tap into their employees’ knowledge of the organisation before making important restructuring decisions.

Cutting costs is a priority for nearly all businesses as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic bites. But, writing for Harvard Business Review, Patrick Daoust and Paul Simon say compiling economic forecasts and benchmarking data from only a small number of executives won’t give you a clear and detailed picture of what’s really going on within your organisation.

Delve into the day-to-day work of teams across the company and, with their help, you’ll pinpoint potential savings with far greater accuracy than would otherwise be possible. “When leaders take this bottom-up approach, we have found they not only cut costs significantly but also realise their goals more rapidly because managers and employees are motivated to help. Changes are then also more likely to stick.”


Ask department heads to note 20 or 30 important activities carried out by their particular teams. These can either be repetitive routine tasks or special period-specific projects. This breakdown allows you to pick out anything that is non-essential or missing. One company discovered sales and marketing teams were continuing to try to sell at conferences despite consistently poor results.


Task department heads with holding workshops with managers to establish how much input and resources are required to accomplish the listed tasks, and look for ways to accomplish them more efficiently:

“One leadership team may discover armies of people are executing the same basic support tasks after a series of acquisitions – like IT, human resources, legal, finance and government relations. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, more people may be needed to carry out critical responsibilities.”

Restructuring could eliminate duplicate activities, freeing people to move to where they’re needed more.


Ask managers and staff to label activities to prioritise, streamline and cut:

  • Prioritise essential routine work and projects that have potential to differentiate the business from competitors and promote growth.
  • Streamline standard routines through downscaling, amalgamating employee effort, or by automating services.
  • Cut activities that are irrelevant or no longer create value.


Encourage your employees to think creatively. Ask your managers and teams how they would revamp their departments to help the company emerge confidently from the downturn. Encourage them to be ambitious in their suggestions for reinvention or redeployment and they will be keener to help.

With a wealth of relevant data at your fingertips you will be in a much stronger position to decide how to redesign your business and bring your employees with you, even as you begin your downturn restructure.

Source Article: In a Downturn, Include Your Employees in Cost-Cutting Decisions
Author(s): Patrick Daoust and Paul Simon
Publisher: Harvard Business Review