Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mr. Gore, Maybe you'll listen

I'd like to go back to what I have defined as Service Severance (please see some of my earlier blogs). If financial severance needs to be bolstered by service severance, what do I mean by service severance?

Service severance is the answer to the reality that financial severance pays the bills (for a while), but service severance finds a new job. All financial severance a stop gap measure that prolongs the inevitable; financial severance is likely to run out before you find a new job.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics would probably disagree pointing out that statistically unemployment duration isn't significantly greater today than it was yesterday, last month, last year. The problem with their data is that it doesn't measure the quality of a new job. Is it at the same salary as the lost job? Is it on the same shift as the last job? Is it within the same hourly commute as your last job on a similar mode of transportation.

What this discussion begins to open up is the real underlying value of service manage what I would call job quality.


Senators Clinton, Obama and Richardson Will You Listen?

What will it take to get your attention? As I have discussed in this blog more than once, American workers have been relegated to being the currency for growth for corporate America. They are acquired, spent and cast to the winds. There needs to be a better safety net placed underneath them. Severance, as we have all known it, just doesn't cut it any longer. Sure the financial benefits help, but it is real advocacy, new skill training and accountable assistance that they need the most.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Taking Control

Given: Corporate management looks out for shareholders and themselves, not us. So it looks like those of us who are among the "displaced" need to get off our butts and organize...not just for the sake of collecting a large "membership" but also for the sake of prevailing on our collective wisdom to develop smarter, better, more "elastic" severance benefits...a kind of workers' cooperative for severance.

Shareholders have been very successful in organizing and pushing their agendas on management. Politicians from both sides of the aisle have helped them. Why shouldn't we workers do the same? No we wouldn't be just another union-like organization. We will be focused only on severance benefits...both financial and non-financial.

I've got some ideas, but I can't fight the fight alone.


Friday, June 22, 2007


Time to start thinking...yeah, you too Citibank folks.

Can severance really be made to last longer? I think so. Can it be "customized" to meet the needs of the people who have been fired? I think so. Are there other services that the company that is doing the firing can provide ? I think so.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Elastic Severance

Following up on my blog from earlier today, my guess is that your imbedded overhead is pretty much fixed, as is your severance package. So the real challenge is making sure your severance can last long enough to allow you to find a new job.

Realistically, how long is that? Well, you can go to the Bureau of labor Statistics and research unemployment duration at They have monthly "UD" data going back to 1946. The good news is that this data will give you the average and median unemployment duration. The bad news is that it isn't specific to age, sex, ethnicity, geography, industry, job description, tenure, salary range, etc.. But at least it can you give you some sense of what to expect. Once you've got an idea of where unemployment duration is, do the simple arithmetic. How long will your severance support you? If that is less than the average unemployment duration, you've got a problem. The reality is that your severance won't support you long enough to allow you to find a new job.

Then what to do? Is there a way to make severance last longer? Think financial engineering. Think creatively. Think legally. Think ethically. The answer is "yes", and if you bear with me a few more weeks, I'll introduce you to a company that has developed a patented underwriting template for the insurance industry to underwrite a transfer-of-risk alternative to funding the costs associated with severance. The cool thing is that there is now a way to take that system and turn it to your advantage. The same company has developed that, as well. Stay tuned. There just may be light at the end of the tunnel.


Scary Thought!

Here's a little exercise for you to see just how exposed you and your family are to the whims of your employer's senior management.

  • Go through your checkbook for the last month and add up every fixed obligation you paid like mortgage or rent, car payments, credit card bills, tuition payments and the like.
  • Then add up what you spent on food
  • How much did you spend on imbedded annual expenses like insurances (all of them!), utilities, etc.
  • Add up the paychecks that you deposited in your account.
  • Is there a positive balance? I hope so, but likely not.
  • Now go to your employee handbook and look up their severance plan (sometimes called a separation plan).
  • How many weeks of benefit are you eligible for?
  • Do you think you could find a job in that period?
  • No more paychecks/benefit checks.
  • The bills keep coming
  • You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know what starts to happen next.

Is there a system or product or service or strategy that could help you? I believe so.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Collective Advocacy

Collective Advocacy = Collective Wisdom

My mind is wandering...collective advocacy, collective wisdom, collective bargaining, mutual benefit. Remember, we are talking about service severance. What is the best approach to supporting displaced workers? Is there a way to harness the collective horsepower of the unemployed?

Is there something to be learned from the mutual insurance company approach, i.e., the policyholders are the stockholders. They have a stake in the product delivered and the success of it.

If employers are looking at us as expendible currency, then what's wrong with involving ourselves in the underlying value of that currency. It would seem to me that collectively we have a lot more to gain than trying to go it alone.

Do me a favor and think on this for a couple of days while I go out on a contract job and try to put a few bucks in my pocket.


Turning the Tables

How could the system possibly be turned to your advantage? Right now, you sit down, go on-line, read the newspapers' classified, go to industry publications specific to your training and identify possible advertised job opportunities and network as best you can. Then you either e-mail or mail your resume to companies that are trolling or you think are trolling for a certain skill that you could provide.

The Monster's of the world try to help you out and let you post your resume on their site, so that hiring companies can punch in a few key words and if you're lucky enough to have one of them in your resume, you might make it through to where someone actually reads your resume. Again, kind of like buying a lottery ticket.

Maybe the old concept of employment company isn't so broken. Outdated, certainly...but not broken. What is missing from my point of view is real accountability and advocacy. Do you suppose there's a chance something like that could be created using the power of the internet?
Maybe it's a hybrid high tech/low tech kind of business model.

I've got some ideas along those lines. Think "collective advocacy".

More later.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Service Severance

Service severance...what do you suppose that really means? In my world that means benefits that you would receive after you have been fired...not in lieu of cash benefits but IN ADDITION TO cash benefits. Service severance benefits (and I strongly differentiate these from outplacement) have to be accountable, ie. the provider doesn't get paid unless there is a result that directly benefits YOU, e.g. you receive training or you find a new job. But what could some of those benefits be? The obvious one is training. But training just to learn a new skill does not necessarily lead to a new job. Targeted training leads to a new job. Another benfit could be assistance in identifying the job market. I don't mean going to and plugging in your resume. That doesn't identify the active job markets. It just trolls your resume through the electronic universe. In my book, kind of like buying a lottery ticket, especially when you realize how many job boards are out there and how many of those are specialized, so that a generalist board may not even be sourced by a company looking for a specific skill. Remember! Companies hire skills and fire people. When you're looking for a job, you are selling your skills!

Do you suppose there's a way to turn the tables on your looking for a job?

We'll talk in the morning.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cash Severance

Cash severance. What are the options?

  • All at once...lump sum?
  • Same as paycheck before you got fired...for as long as it lasts?
  • Spread out over a period of time that you that you know you have cash to pay your bills?
  • Paid directly to a training program/university, so you can upgrade your skills?
  • Paid directly to your mortgage, credit card, tuition payments, car payments, child support?

These are the ones I can think of right off the top of my head. How say you?


Monday, June 11, 2007

Cash Severance vs. Service Severance vs. Both

Let's assume that the New Severance should include cash and include services designed to help you find a new job. How should the cash benefit be structured? Lump sum? Paid out over time? Should that time be based on some specific formula, or should you be able to determine it? Should it be directed towards paying for new training? Should you have the ability to pre-fund your severance account? Are there any "tax smart" approached to paying out/receiving severance?

And then what about the services provided by the New Severance? What could a company possibly do or pay to have done that would provide the greatest benefit to those people it just fired.

Think about it. We'll talk tomorrow.


More than Money

That perfect world scenario I talked about yesterday...We should define it, promote it, insist that it become the "gold standard". It should be based on the need for "New Severance" to include more than money and virtually meaningless outplacement services.

What do you suppose "New Severance" should include?


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wake Up Google

Geeezz, I Google the word "severance" today, and what does it show? The first "page" is all links relating to the new movie, save one link which is "Riley", and that is all about executive severance. Something is wrong here when a search engine the size of Google can't differentiate between entertainment and real life circumstances, when it prioritizes movies and highly paid executives over the real people in the workforce. You know the ones who actually do the work. Real people are getting hammered every day for being loyal, hard working employees, and the largest search engine highlights a Hollywood product and executive benefits. What about the real know, those folks who are the human side of human capital, those folks who management looks at as being "expendible", those folks who define reality in this country, those folks who can't go more than two pay periods without a paycheck before they're in trouble.

Where am I going with these ramblings? I'll tell you where. There's got to be a better way to deal with the loss of your job than receiving what we know as severance. Believe me, I'm dealing with the problem. Just like another over 1.25 million professional, administrative and white collar workers with three years of job tenure with the same employer, I'm out of work, earning nothing and picking up part time work just to make ends meet. Sure as hell my former employer doesn't care. There's only two people that wife and me.

In the perfect world what should the best severance alternative be? Maybe one that gets Google's attention, so it can stop pushing movies and executive benefits to the surface. PEOPLE need real resources. It's time to focus on those. People (the real workers...the middle class) are the backbone of this country and they are being used as currency for corporate growth, fired when it fits the priorities of the corpoartion, given severance to shut them up and ushered out the door with a hollow, "We're terribly sorry, but your services are no longer needed. Sign here and we'll give you a check."

It short severance needs to be more than just money. It needs to provide some income while you find a new job AND it helps you find that new job. The new severance I am thinking about needs to address BOTH the human and capital sides of human capital.

More later.


Thursday, June 7, 2007


OK, I've moaned a bit over the last couple of days about how corporations perceive their employees. I've taken the position that mangement considers its employees as capital, not as people. I've taken the position that currency (money) is expendible. Duh! I've taken the position that corporate counsel and corporate HR types have opposing responses to the question, "Why severance?"

If you agree with me, good for you, but what does that get you...ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE! It's time to take control of your own destiny. It is FACT (assuming you fit within the averages)that you are going to have over three jobs in your lifetime. It is FACT that the majority of you will not voluntarily leave those jobs. You'll get fired. Oh excuse me; in HR-speak you get displaced.

The way I see it, in order to be displaced someone has to push you aside. Remember, corporations hire skills and fire people. What's going to push you aside is new expendible currency (people) that better fits the immediate needs of the employer.

The corporations are looking out for themselves. Who's looking out for the people?

I wonder how the displaced Citibank people are feeling. Anybody looking out for them?


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Other Reality

Why do you suppose companies provide severance? Out of the goodness of their hearts? I think not. They do it to get you to sign a general release saying that you won't sue the company. They do it because they are scared of you. Just ask any corporation's chief Human Resource counsel.

The interesting dichotomy is that the HR department in the same company would tell you that severance is a reward for being a long and loyal employee. Hey guys, it can't be both.

Let's go back to the whole human capital thing. Flesh or money? We know it's the money. So why can't HR departments shoot straight? They've lost the argument that they represent the human interest (flesh) side. Yet they have absolutely nothing to contribute to the dialogue. They pay lip service to displaced employees, yet don't do jack to provide a constructive alternative severance benefit package that would actually help displaced employees.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

It really is reality!

Just ask the folks from Citibank or ATT or Pfizer or The Hartford whether it's reality or not. Over 30,000 of them are...or will be...dealing with reality. No job. No income. Financial obligations...mortgages, rent, tuition payments, credit card bills, car payments, FOOD. The average American can't go 30 days without receiving a paycheck.

Since most workers are no longer represented by unions, who's looking out for them? Who's making sure that severance packages are intelligent solutions to the reality of job loss? Absolutely no one. The American worker is on his/her own. Figure it out, folks. It's reality. There's nobody out there on your side...EXCEPT YOU.

But there should be. Let me know what you think is/would be your greatest priority if you lost your job. Income? Assistance finding a new job? Access to upgrading your skill set? What? I'm interested.


Skills vs. People

OK, if workers are expendable, as I suggested in yesterday's blog, that means (according to the dictionary) that workers are "capable of being, or to be, consumed, used or sacrificed". Geeez that's a little scary. No, a lot scary. But apparently reasonably accurate given corporate America's approach to managing human capital. Workers are "consumed" by virtue of the fact that companies suck every bit of benefit out of them that they can. And "used" only to the extent a worker can benefit the corporate interest. And then "sacrificed", when retaining a worker is no longer in the company's immediate financial best interest.

Gives new meaning to the mantra that companies hire skills and fire people. Clearly, the corporate priority is skills, not people.

Is that right? Is that ethical? Is that compassionate? Should it be the American way? No, to all of these. But it is REALITY.

More later.


Monday, June 4, 2007

Flesh or Currency?

#1. OK I'm a cynic. What is "human capital"? I guess it usually refers to people (that's the human side). But where does capital come in? That's money, right? Wouldn't you think that either we're human or we're money? Oh, but maybe corporate executives only look at their families and their friends as humans. And they look at their employees as capital. Worth thinking about.

So, OK, we're money; we're currency; sort of a commodity, I guess. Where does that lead? I guess it means we're expendable. That's comforting. Especially, when you've got a mortgage, tution payments, a credit card bill, etc. etc.

Think on it. We'll talk some more tomorrow morning.