Downsizing or Rightsizing or Team Sizing?

Downsizing is sub function of Selection & Recruitment, and it has been in practice since long, actually we don’t know when exactly it was discovered. Downsizing is mostly done when there arises a need, but that’s not the only rule, we have seen organizations downsizing even when need was not in place.

Recently, in USA alone, hundreds of thousands of professionals lost their jobs and leftover are highly insecure. Corporations continue to cut jobs and in fact they are eyeing current fiscal year by evaluating recessions’ performance to decide the future of employers. Such a situation is called “workforce optimization in response to economy decline”.

In last two years, we observed that in Pakistan recession hit couple of sectors including banking and advertising. Resultantly, both the sectors optimized their workforce on large-scale, in which most of the banks limited their operations.

I believe before I discuss downsizing conditions, let me first discuss that what recession actually is and its impact on workforce?

What is Recession?

Recession is crunch of economy for more than 6 months consecutively with a decrease in production of goods and services by the people of the country. So in particular, every product and service oriented organization is dependent on the external customers.

As in the decline of economy customer will not be willing to buy a particular product or service because of future uncertainty in the market and eventually all this result into a  burden on a particular organization. This burden is equalized by downsizing, as this is assumed the most liquid way to save some bucks.

So, if you understood what recession is and how it gets started and how it comes to an end. Then let me start the topic that why companies do downsizing.

  • Low Revenues
  • Economy Crunch
  • Cost Cuttings
  • Workforce Optimization
  • Low Performers – (But , company needs to do plenty of stuff before downsizing them)
  • Lots of other examples are available around you.

In Pakistan, we have not seen usual downsizings curve as it happened in rest of the world; reason could be that we have not been affected by recession that badly, as the western countries..

Downsizing for the sake of Team Sizing

Recently, we have seen some drastic downsizing in many industries of Pakistan. People claiming it downsizings, but I believe we better call it “Team Sizing”.

Team sizing is the concept that is usual with the change of leadership – as the new leaders comes into an organization, he/she brings in new strategy, vision and concept of a team with him. These new things are sometimes beneficiary for in-groups (like minded) and non-beneficiary for out-groups.

This is common practice that managers take their teams to next destinations whenever they switch the jobs or given new assignments and they also believe that their success is only because of their teams.

That’s what actually happened in banking sector, upon the change of leader, his/her team got changed, as he took it with him/herself, or the HR kicked the whole team out of the play land.

Again, this is not hard and fast rule, but we have observed this happening on many occasions.

Now let me discuss downsizing because of “Non-Performance”:

Now days, professional organizations are much busy in retaining the workforce instead of lay-offs, because of the cost they incurred on developing a single personnel for a particular job. So, when they do “Cost Benefit” analysis they get to know that it’s more feasible retaining an individual instead of laying him/her off. For the purpose corporations conduct proper research on these particular non performers for answering a question that why they are not performing well? And on the basis of findings they designed specific programs like:

  • Counseling
  • Trainings / Workshops
  • Forceful leaves (to enjoy time with family)
  • Needs assessment and relationship with reward
  • Job rotations
  • Task rotations
  • Skill set assessment and development and this list goes on!!!

Particular example that I want to quote here is of AT&T :

AT&T developed an alternative to downsizing called Resource Link, which is a temporary unit within AT&T composed of AT&T general management and technical professionals. These  associates perform much of the work that AT&T previously contracted out. They work on a contractual basis for the various AT&T business units backfilling vacant positions, supporting temporary peaks in workload, providing specialized support, importing needed expertise, or providing cross-business unit experience.

Participants are AT&T associates who have been declared excess by their business divisions, or associates who have volunteered to broaden their experiences and opportunities. Approximately 600 associates participate; over one-half are volunteers who chose to work in Resource Link. This pool of employees is cost effective and helps to balance staffing needs with business needs (AT&T, 1994).


Like above, there are lots of best practices available around us to take the litmus test before doing anything like downsizing.  Organizations have particular policies for downsizings in intense times. But just informing of non performance and giving a job dismissal letter at spot is not an ethical practice in all over the world.

There is lot of work to do before lying off someone from job, instead of just informing that “You are no more with us!” “They follow ILO in giving 3 months’ salary in advance”, but why don’t they follow ILO in obeying other particular sections.

Organizations need to think about developing particular department for personnel’s development – most commonly known as “HRD” Human Resource Development Department or Organizational Development Department to conduct semi annually skills performance assessments and many other best practices instead of that rigged “Performance Appraisals” .

I know couple of organizations in Pakistan which are working on Organizational Development in the particular industries, but still they need transparencies and complete implementation of best practices in particular cases in the organizations.  “The Next Challenge for the whole world is to build Human resources instead of laying offs as world is already scarce with built in talent professionals”.

This is also fact that with recession, lay-offs are common to observe as most of the companies do not have good profits in achieving their targets, so particular remedy for remaining at the same profit or at bit low profit point is to lay-offs, but again it is in the case of recession not in the case of non-performers.

  • Exactly!! U r rite!!! organizations must not downsize @ the cost of performance @ spot!! they must give some time to develop his/her skills.

    like in the case of Mobilink, They downsize their major core with illogical reasons of performances. where they have been performing for couple of years!! and all out of sudden they got to know they are not performing well?? how come??

    Thanks for clearing Downsizing concepts and telling abt the depth of downsizing and team sizings.

  • It is quite an interesting and informative post for a non-technical person like me.

    Thank you Reality Bites :-)

  • True inside of Downsizings!! nice article!! worth to read!!

    this is not even available in books!!

  • I believe there is strong need for re-organization before one starts downsizing. Management should adjust staff in different departments rather than giving them a letter of termination. This practice is very common in the banking sector.

    During growth times, banks lend aggressively and when the growth euphoria ends, the loan default rate increases and at the end of day lower level staff suffer the most (in case of low increment if any or no increments and even up to things like downsizing!) On the other hand, senior management highlight their performance by showing the number of people the laid-off or reduction in cost by not giving salary increments and they (senior management) is given bonuses. Usually, fuel allowance for a senior manager in a bank is much more than the average salary of a lower level employee. The senior management also takes sign-on bonuses and avail house loans at a subsidized interest rate. These costs are always more than the cost of retaining employees.


  • these suggestions are nice but in reality, I don’t see them being implemented in organizations specially MNC. These outside investors are very dangerous as they are in only for money and profit. Their strategic goals are not aligned with government or society goals.

    • @ Usman, u r bit rite in many cases…but in many cases MNC’s also invest in societal issues and sponsor lot of stuff.

      But here we need to ensure the proper interest in True HR practices that narrate the world standards not self developed.

  • My question is why Mobilink is not doing what NTT Decomo is doing in Japan? Whe you look at NTT Decomo orgnaziation from outside, it looks so interesting, they have been front runners in technology developments and have nice plans for future. For someone interested in this industry, i never seen any interesting job that make sense or future vision coming out of Mobilink or operators in Pakistan.

    Why people working in these companies are reduced to be brain deads or منشی (finaincial hasabi kitabiz). Also it is insane to allow 6 companies for a small market, and it is also insane that no local company is left. Outsiders will follow their stragtegic goals. Telenor has more interest to develop Norwegians than you brown fat tummy creatures. Thats why we dont see anything interesting (vision, innovation) coming out of these elephants.

    It is interest of country to go to 3G, and have latest networking infrastructre, will we wait on the mood of these companies to take our society to information highway bandwagon? Japanese companies are interesting because they are developing each new coming technology in co operation with west or on their own. Because theese companies are taking into account society interests. If they dont develop any technology, they will end up importing everything that will make them indebted and poor like we are.

    These outsiders will only hire منشی (financial managers) and other khasiz who cannot develop anything. This fact is quite obvious when looking at job description of these Pakistani BOOMING industry players. Also my personal observation is international vendors in telecom also hire only khasiz so that they can configure and install their technologies etc.

  • Ltd feature videos

    Watch more at LTD