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graphic
iconFeeling jerked around at work? See who carries the load once a job has been eliminated, in this chart from the American Management Association. (Hint -- you don't see the boss sitting down to help out, do you?)

Are you coming or going?

Hiring and firing
in America

November 27, 2000
Web posted at: 4:41 p.m. EST (2141 GMT)


In this story:

Shifting the load

Good help is hard to find

Info up

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



(CNN) -- "We've found that in both the short term and the long term, growing companies tend to outperform downsized firms -- especially in such areas as employee morale and turnover rates."

Ellen Bayer is global human-resources chief for the American Management Association. And its new survey results suggest that -- despite a perceived shortage of skilled workers -- major companies in the United States increased the sizes of their staffs by an average annual rate of 5.9 percent for the 12-month period ending in June.

"I think we're seeing companies settle down," says Ellen Bayer.

  QUICK VOTE
graphic Have you had to take on more work because someone else's job was eliminated?

Yes. I'm now doing a substantial part of the work another person once did at my job.
Not sure. I'm doing more work but some of my former duties have been given to others.
No. Jobs have been cut where I work but no one is being made to do more to cover.
View Results

Rather than simply downsizing to increase profits, she says, many companies appear to be creating new jobs in areas in which they need improvement -- even as they eliminate some positions.

For this most recently studied 12-month period, 36.1 percent of companies responded not only eliminated jobs but also added positions. That's the highest such response tracked in the past five years by the survey. Thirty percent of the firms responding say they hired previously dismissed employees for new positions.

"I think there's a very strong message," says Bayer: "The need for workers to constantly be engaged and learning new skills."

She gets no argument from Denise Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO. "As new jobs are created," Mitchell says, "we really like to see education and training and career ladders created for current employees.

"The best way for that to happen is for employees to have a voice in that. Consult with employees. Give them the ability to say what kinds of training would be useful to them."

graphic

Shifting the load

The bad news for employees is that 80 percent of companies that reported cutting jobs simply shifted the work to remaining workers. Only 8 percent of the job-cutting companies said they eliminated jobs solely because the work no longer needed doing.

"I think it's a contributor to the 'mandatory overtime' work that people complain about -- the feeling that work is encroaching more and more on their personal lives," Mitchell says.

graphic

"One of the things we hear more and more is people saying they have a sense of so little control over their job hours because work is shifted to them in a way that's arbitrary."

Bayer acknowledges there are plenty of studies showing that employees are working more hours than ever and feeling highly stressed as a result. "There's a limit to doing more with less," she says.

graphic

Good help is hard to find

The number of workers in this latest survey who said they were affected by job cuts -- 11.8 percent -- is by far the highest in the past five years. And the 5-percent increase in sheer numbers of employees is a smaller rate of increase than in 1996-98, according to the American Management Association.

But that 5-percent increase was reported even as 10-percent more employers reported that skilled workers in their industries are scarce.

In other words, officials at more than three-quarters of the 1,441 companies polled said finding good people was getting harder -- but it appears they found enough to put together a jump in staff size.

graphic

The number of representatives of the firms surveyed who said they eliminated jobs without creating any new positions last year was the lowest in five years, coming in at 12.2 percent. As recently as the 12-month period ending June 1996, 18.2 percent of large-company respondents said they had cut but not added jobs.

"It's certainly true the economy is stronger and that workers feel more secure," says Mitchell of the AFL-CIO. "What in some ways is surprising is that the numbers (of eliminated jobs) aren't lower, given how strong the economy appears to be. Why is there still a 12-percent rate?"

Bayer responds: "We're talking about an economy that's not always consistent across the board. There probably are going to be companies that use downsizing as a quick fix in lieu of real, substantive planning. Sometimes it looks like a good stopgap measure if you're hemorrhaging money. Look at the dot-coms."

graphic

Info up

•  The percentage of new jobs earmarked for professional and technical people dropped dramatically, according to companies surveyed -- to 10.8 percent this year compared to 17.9 percent last year and 20.3 percent the year before. This may be because of a shortage of skilled technicians, the recent shakeout among dot-coms, the disappearance of real or imagined Y2K problems or simply more hiring in other areas that lowered the average for professionals and technicians, the management association says.

  MESSAGE BOARD
graphic How does downsizing and hiring look from your workstation? Have you seen an instance of a company saying more help was on the way -- but the new hires are given new work, so you get no help with what already was too big a load? Or have you seen genuine benefits from the creation of new jobs? Tell us here.
 
  HOW ACCURATE IS IT?
graphic The American Management Association's survey of hiring and firing trends generates responses from some of the country's largest corporate workplaces. Is it a valid look at the country's directions in employment?
 

•   The survey indicates that more than four times as many new jobs were created in information systems and technology as were eliminated.

•   For a fourth year, more companies added jobs than eliminated positions because of automation or other new technologies -- 11.4 percent vs. 9.4 percent. "I think probably there have been jobs lost because of technological advances," Bayer says. "But it's created new jobs to service that technology."

•   Representatives of 70 percent of the companies that cut jobs said they did so for reasons other than anticipated demand for their products. Instead they cited reasons including organizational restructuring and reengineering of business processes. But increased market demand was the leading reason given for creating new jobs.

Looking ahead, half the companies surveyed say they plan to create more jobs in 2001, while 20.5 percent anticipate eliminating jobs. The reality is, both figures may be too low.

For the year ended July 1999, for example, 48.2 percent of the companies' representatives said they expected to create new jobs. Some 77.8 percent actually did so.

And while 20.0 percent said they expected to cut some jobs, 48.2 percent surveyed said they made cuts.

Job growth is great, Mitchell says, but the type of jobs matters, too. Employers are increasingly filling positions but doing it in cheaper ways -- with part-time workers and contract employees who are excluded from company benefits such as health insurance and pensions, she says.

graphic

 

RELATED STORIES:
Review: Betrayal in the workplace
November 27, 2000
U.S. job creation slows
November 3, 2000
Third-quarter wage costs in line
October 26, 2000
Jobs overseas tempt U.S. high-tech workers
September 26, 2000
CIA to young job applicants: Come spy with me
February 21, 2000

RELATED SITES:
American Management Association
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


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