Friday, 7 August 2009

Newsletter Issue 170, August 2009

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 170, August 2009

Hi guys,

Be careful with redundancy - read on in The Double-Edged Sword of Redundancy below.

For those of you documenting processes and procedures, Capturing What's On Your Screen may give you a hand.

Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

The Double-Edged Sword of Redundancy

Recently, Michael Smyth, the Approachable Lawyer, wrote an interesting article in July about redundancy, asking "Is slash and burn the right strategy for your business?". View that newsletter at Michael kindly allows sharing of his work, which is great for all of us, so I have repeated his July article below for you all.


When the economic downturn first started to impact John’s business he was quick to act. First signs that turnover was dropping caused John to focus on his biggest overhead – the wage bill.

A swift round of redundancies gave immediate relief and he was able to sustain profit levels on an even keel. Six months later, however, turnover had dropped even further and he was facing a personal grievance claim from one of his employee’s with a possible payout of $1000s.

Where it had gone wrong

For several months following the redundancies, the business had been on an even keel and everyone was working harder to keep turnover at a respectable level. But after 3 months, John noticed that the performance of one of his key sales people was dropping off. Sales were there, it was just that he was losing out to the competition.
John’s immediate reaction was to embark upon a performance management process with Martin. At the initial meetings with Martin, John would hear complaints that Martin was overworked and didn’t have the support he needed to do his job. John considered these comments to be just an excuse and with more people in the job market as a result of the economic downturn, thoughts that there may be better qualified sales people out there looking for work crossed his mind.
Doggedly, John persevered with the performance management process. Sales didn’t improve (in fact they got worse) and verbal warnings were followed by written warnings until Martin was on the brink of dismissal.

That’s when the personal grievance was raised

The personal grievance alleged that Martin was suffering an unjustified disadvantage in the workplace. The specifics of the allegation were that the performance management process was unfair in that it:
  1. Failed to recognise that Martin needed more support in his role and therefore the targets which had been set were unreasonable;
  2. The time given to Martin to improve was also reasonable since he had a greater workload;
  3. Since the redundancies, Martin’s workload has significantly increased leading to workplace stress

Stress affects performance

It is now proven that stress affects performance both positively and negatively. In order to perform at optimum levels we require a degree of stress. Deadlines can be good because they force us to work efficiently and productively. However, too much stress has a negative effect on performance. Long hours at work, and working weekends without adequate rest impair performance and productivity. If this is allowed to continue for too long, physical symptoms manifest such as inability to sleep at night, poor concentration and moodiness.
Unfortunately, in times of recession these symptoms are all too common. An employer, will recognise the symptoms as poor performance rather than stress and therefore embark upon a performance management process. Of course, this increases the stress for the employee: the end of the employment relationship is inevitable unless the employer has a change of strategy. The only question is whether the employee raises a personal grievance or not.

The problem started with the redundancies

As part of the redundancy process, John made a number of his sales support staff redundant. This caused more work for the sales people, like Martin. Initially the sales people were able to cope, but after several months the cracks started to appear. Martin was the first to crack as he found it increasingly difficult to compete with the opposition. Consequently, turnover dropped and John started to panic. However, the problem wasn’t the recession: it was John’s initial slash and burn strategy. The redundancies had gone too far and placed too much pressure on those employees who remained in employment. John needed to re-think his strategy.

When to make redundancies

There is no question that redundancies are a good method of streamlining in order to survive an economic downturn. However, be careful how far you take your streamlining process. Consider the effect on the remaining employees because if you over-burden them too much, you could decrease productivity and decrease turnover even further. Worse still, you could end up being hit with a personal grievance. Redundancies are a good opportunity to trim the fat, but make sure that you don’t trim the meat.

By reducing the wage bill, you are still hoping to service the same number of clients. You aim to increase profits through reducing expenses.

But redundancy cannot come without a reduction in remaining staff workloads. As an employer you must make reasonable and fair decisions around what is a 'must have' and what is a 'nice to have'. You must prioritise the non-essentials; postponing, deferring or cancelling projects; axeing some work elements altogether; dumping some information requirements; streamlining or automating processes to lighten loads; or contracting out essential services that is no longer to be completed by employees. Many jobs can be rationalised via a restructure - ie, shuffle your existing roles around to focus them on what you really want to have completed - but you can rarely rationalise roles through redundancy.

Work rationalisation takes all the nous within your business to think through the "what ifs" with procedure changes. The people doing the job can think about all the tricky 1% of transactions, and find a process for them before you you go live and are dealing with real customers, with real money. Redundancy, on the other hand, means you strip away your nous and have your remaining staff band-aiding the tricky problems as they arrive in real time. Not only are those who remain having to deal with "Survivor Guilt", they are having to make continual seat-of-the-pants decisions, which is very stressful. When - during redundancy - that kind of decision-making becomes the norm, you will lose your employee goodwill very quickly.

To my knowledge, no one has ever saved themselves into millionaire-hood. Most people spend their way to wealth.

So think very carefully before you take the redundancy route. You may be better to explain your problem to your staff and ask them for their solutions. They are your experts in getting things done - and what can be done away with - after all.

To quote Michael's words "Wouldn't you love to stumble upon a secret library of legal advice for no cost? Head down to today and judge for yourself". Check out his book, "Employed but Not Engaged" as well; a very reasonable buy at

Capturing What's On Your Screen

If at any point you need to copy what you are seeing on screen for any reason (usually when you need IT help, or when you are documenting a procedure for staff training), most of you will know that there is a handy keyboard button - PrtScn - that will capture the image you are seeing on screen right this minute (aka 'screen dump'), and will paste it to the Windows Clipboard.

From there you can copy the image into whatever programme you desire; Ctrl & P will drop the screen dump into your open Word, Excel, Publisher, PowerPoint, image manipulation software ...or your email file.

However, some of you may not realise that there are another couple of refinements that you can add to this process.

  1. Firstly, you can hold the Alt key down while you tap the PrtScn key, and just capture the 'active' object - the box that you are in. So, for example, if you were in Word, and had the font box open, by Alt & PrtScn you could copy just the font box; not the entire background. This is a very useful facility to use when creating procedures.
    However, that still won't allow you to show the cursor, right click menu options, or layered windows. If you need that type of work, then you probably need some additional software....
  2. Secondly, you can download and install a piece of software such as Snagit ( or Winsnap ( These pieces of software allow you to do quite a lot more image manipulation, to amalgamate images and set things up for use in presentations, procedures and publications. Snagit - the more sophisticated of the two - will cost you USD$50, Winsnap USD$25 for a single licence. To view what Snagit's user tutorial online, go to

Move All Image Files To One Location

Here's a handy little tip to find - and move - all the photos on your system, using either the Windows' Search function, or "Everything" (download from

Start your search for your most common image types (eg "*.jpg, *.gif, *.tif") in your My Documents folders or your C: drive. The latter will copy all the icons you have on your system, all the desktop backgrounds, screen dumps and any other images your system uses.

When the search is complete, Ctrl & A to highlight all the files, click Ctrl & X to cut (or Ctrl & C to create a copy), then go to Windows Explorer and navigate to the folder you want to store the images in, and key Ctrl & V to paste them into the new location.

Very easy :-)

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) for you:

  • DVR, Digital Video Recorder. A DVR is a kinda sorta Video Cassette Recorder, but with a hard drive for recording.
  • ZIP, Zoning Improvement Plan. The US ZIP code - aka Post Code - actually has a meaning! When it was introduced in 1963 in the US it "improved" on an earlier system of two-digit postal zones.

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys

Over the next few newsletters, we are looking at all the things you can do with Alt, Shift, Ctrl in Windows Media Player. This is our third section in this series:

  • Windows Media Player "Show the Tools menu" Alt & T
  • Windows Media Player "Show the View menu" Alt & V
  • Windows Media Player "Go to the Features taskbar features" Alt & V, G
  • Windows Media Player "Move left or right or up or down on menus or lists" Arrow keys
  • Windows Media Player "Switch to full mode" Ctrl & 1
  • Windows Media Player "Switch to skin mode" Ctrl & 2
  • Windows Media Player "Select or clear check boxes for multiple items that are not contiguous" Ctrl & arrow keys, Spacebar

Hot Linx

For those of you in fresh & wonderful new relationships, you might want to know something about limerence. Check out the dictionary definition at and a Time Mag short at,9171,952554,00.html

Take a couple of minutes out and take a look at this stop motion film by Takeuchi Taijin on YouTube - a variation on the Three Little Pigs fairy tale - at 

Any women who are wanting to put themselves forward for Government roles, as well as registering with CCMAU and IOD, can also register at the Ministry of Women's Affairs, at

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here

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