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The War for Jobs: Voluntary Pay Cuts

To avoid layoffs, CEOs should enable the company's employees to opt in to a temporary salary reduction—and many more will volunteer than you think.

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that there is a war going on, but most people think it is only a medical war being fought by the brave men and women in hospitals, health care facilities and laboratories.

In fact, there are multiple fronts in this war, and I believe that one of the most critical is the attack on jobs.  So, I’d like to propose an idea that would allow more people to enlist in this fight: voluntary pay cuts.

Here’s how it could work…

Employees can go to the leaders of their companies and propose a program for voluntary pay cuts for as long as this crisis continues. Maybe ten percent of their salaries. It will depend on the situation. Companies would then use that money – or set it aside – expressly for the purpose of avoiding having to lay off any employees during this time.  What is critical is that this program be:

• Voluntary: Some people are in a position to make more sacrifices than others, and some aren’t in a position to make any sacrifices at all. That’s fine. Let’s just tap into the desire of so many people who want to offer what they can to help others.

• For the purpose of avoiding layoffs: This isn’t a cost cutting measure to protect the bottom line of a company. It is about preserving the dignity of real people who have enough to worry about right now, and shouldn’t be afraid of financial ruin.

I am convinced that we will all be SHOCKED at 1) the number of people who will volunteer to do this, and 2) how it will improve their morale and the overall morale of the people in organizations that take part. I realize that there will be a dozen reasons why your company’s lawyers and accountants might object to this. I get it. That’s their job to think of obstacles. But do it anyway! Find a way! Do it soon! We are in a war, and a big part of that war is the sense of helplessness that people feel when they can’t make sacrifices for the good of their colleagues who are suffering.

Now, for those organizations that are fortunate enough to avoid any immediate concerns about layoffs, here’s another idea:  Ask employees to volunteer to cut their salary and use that money to make purchases, or even gifts, to small- and medium-sized vendors and partners who are in great need. Those vendors span plenty of industries, but especially include those in hotels, restaurants, travel-related services and personal care services like cleaning, hair care and child care.

Let’s all enlist in this war that threatens the dignity and financial health of our brothers and sisters. Let’s find a way!


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