Rey Ramirez and Jason Walker

Thrive HR Consulting Co-Founders Jason Walker and Rey Ramirez

Jason Walker & Rey RamirezFounder & Management Consultant

Given the current economic climate, employers and employees around the world are becoming better acquainted with the reality of layoffs each day. Joining us to discuss the ins and outs of layoffs are co-founders of Thrive HR Consulting, Rey Ramirez and Jason Walker. Rey and Jason have both held multiple roles in HR for many years, having worked for the likes of Cisco Systems and BMC Software. In this episode, they provide insight into the current hiring (and firing) landscape and the push and pull of navigating the continuation of remote work post-pandemic. We discuss the factors affecting layoffs, the typical layoff process, who’s most at risk, and how to mitigate that risk.

Episode Transcript

Rob Stevenson 0:05
Welcome to talk down to me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the front lines of modern recruitment.

Jason Walker 0:12
We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life. We want to understand how they make decisions where they’re willing to take risks and what it looks like when they

Rob Stevenson 0:21
fail. No holds barred completely off the cuff interviews with directors of recruitment VPs of global talent, CHR rows, and everyone in between. Once I went through the classes and the trainings and got the certifications through diversity and inclusion, I still felt like something was missing.

Speaker 1 0:39
Talent Acquisition. It’s a fantastic career, you are trusted by the organization. You get to work with the C suite and the security at the front desk and everybody in between and everybody knows you.

Rob Stevenson 0:52
I’m your host, Rob Stevenson, and you’re about to hear the best in the biz. talk down to me. Hello again, and Happy New Year to all of you wonderful talent, acquiring a darlings out there in podcast land. Happy belated 2023 to you. I trust that you were able to take some rest over the holidays and are now rearing to go back in the saddle here mid January. I certainly did. And am pleased to be back here with you. I wanted to give a quick shout out to the few 100 of you who opted to spend their Christmas day with us. I couldn’t help but check out this dad’s dashboard and expected a comically low number of downloads on December 25. But I’m so pleased that a decent cohort of you decided to spend your Christmas with top talent to me. I’m so pleased you decided to tune in then. And now here. kicking off the new year. I have a great episode for you, two gentlemen who have really been around the block in the hiring talent and HR world. titans of HR Dare I say? I’ll bring them in here one at a time. First up. He has had many roles up in the HR ladder at companies like Cisco and Polycom networks, the latter of which she was the chief people officer, Jason Walker, welcome to the podcast. How are you today?

Jason Walker 2:12
Good. How are you? Robin? That’s actually really cool that people were snuggling by the Christmas tree in the fire with their computer watching your podcast. I like that vision.

Rob Stevenson 2:20
Right? It’s so wholesome. Maybe a new Christmas tradition for folks. They cuddle up next to the fire with an Irish Coffee make whatever their Christmas dishes and fire up some talk down to me. Why not?

Jason Walker 2:30
Yeah, sugar plum fairies and talk to him. That’s awesome.

Rob Stevenson 2:33
Exactly that. Also here with Jason and I is Jason’s co founder who has had similar roles up the HR ladder at companies like Cisco EA and Deloitte. Now the two of them operate Thrive HR consulting, Reynaldo Ramirez, welcome to you as well.

Rey Ramirez 2:49
Great to be on the show that with you, Rob, appreciate it.

Rob Stevenson 2:52
I’m thrilled you’re here as well. And let’s start with you, Ray, would you mind giving some background about your role, I sort of get the SparkNotes there. And I love for you to share a little bit about your background, how you and Jason met, and then how you decided to found this company.

Rey Ramirez 3:06
My background, I’m a native Texan kind of first generation in the US. But both my parents are from Mexico, and kind of grew up in San Antonio in the barrios of San Antonio. And by great luck, I ended up in HR in the tech industry. And you know, I’ve had a great career doing that. Jason and I work together at Cisco Systems, also at BMC Software. So we’ve known each other for over 20 years. And just before COVID started, we started talking about starting up our own company, and we decided to take the plunge and become entrepreneurs. And that’s kind of how we got here. So we’re, we’ve been very, very lucky. We’ve been in business for about two and a half years. And, you know, we’ve got great clients and a great team. And we’ve been blessed from that perspective.

Rob Stevenson 3:51
Got it. Thanks. Right. And, Jason, I’d love for you to chime in to hear what is going on out there. What are your clients telling you? What is sort of the Thrift of the services you’re offering at this moment?

Jason Walker 4:01
Well, you know, we published an article just last week, about what we’re seeing 2023 And going forward. So there’s a lot of things that are happening out there. Interesting is that layoffs are happening, people are getting laid off, but they’re also getting jobs really quickly. So earlier in the year, when people were looking for a job, they had about five opportunities that they could go to. Now after being laid off that number has gone down but it’s basically about 2.5 to three opportunities that are available for people who are being laid off. So there’s still competition in the hiring market. We’re talking a lot about what we call D globalization. You know, we’ve had this whole world as flat sort of principle for the last 10 to 15 years where we’re moving labor and products off shore. But now since the pandemic and supply chain pieces are coming back manufacturing’s coming back you look at chips and you look at pharma and everything else and said that’s starting to happen and people are scrambling to figure out where that labor is going to come from. And then AI is starting to really pick up if you look just this last week, there’s been two amazing stories about AI. One is that Amazon has outsourced their outsourced. They have aI sourced their procurement department through AI. So buying, purchasing, making sure that the supply chain is kept up and running through automated ordering. So it’s really amazing what they’ve done. And then you saw another story about how White Castle is now have robots doing all of their fry work. So anything that has to do with frying, tater tots, or fries, or mozzarella sticks, or whatever, they have robots and are complete all that work. And so that’s picking up a lot of steam. And then I think just the rise of a lot of contracting gig workers going forward. Because I think companies are going to be reluctant to hire for a headcount that sits on their books in perpetuity, and cost some money. So we’re gonna see a lot more gig work a lot more contract work.

Rob Stevenson 6:03
So the narrative I’m noticing is, it feels like every week, there’s a new report of some layoffs this week, it was Salesforce, you know, something like 10% reduction in force. However, if you’re reporting to me that people are having luck finding roles after are these layoffs over reported, are we not heading for a massive economic downturn, and it’s just sort of labor of shuffling around various industries? What’s happening there?

Jason Walker 6:26
Well, I think we’re seeing the big companies shed a lot of talent. But what’s happening is to small to medium sized business, is really where you’re gonna see the economic engine of the country be. So I think the small and midsize companies are picking up that talent from Google or Facebook where they haven’t had a chance to hire them before and our wave, what are you hearing as well?

Rey Ramirez 6:47
Yeah, same thing. I mean, we’re working with clients that are more the small to mid size, and they’ve still got openings and needs. And now they’re taking advantage of being able to find candidates that they weren’t finding before. So as an example, we sourced a senior software developer from the hedge is just leaving Facebook meta, and we’re interviewing him next week. So before, you know, this company was not able to attract talent from the big players. But now because the big players are shutting talent, now they’re going to be able to talk to them. Unfortunately, the challenge there is the smaller players, sometimes they if you found me one, I need to see three more. And there may not be three more. So that’s our, our challenges. Look, if you find them and they’re good, we need to take them off the board and hire them quickly.

Rob Stevenson 7:40
Is remote hiring persisting,

Rey Ramirez 7:43
Yeah, I mean, remote hiring is continuing. I mean, I think the last 24 months has showed us that work can be done, whether it’s recruiting work, whether it’s development work remotely, so employees still are looking for that, I mean, the few people that are out there are still wanting to be remote first, or hybrid. And that’s where they want to stay. I mean, forcing people back into the office is just gonna be really tough. And it’s going to continue to be a challenge.

Jason Walker 8:11
It’s an MMA cage match, right. So I mean, basically, you know, they’re fighting, employers and employees are fighting it out. So if you’re good, you’re saying, I’m not coming into the office, and you’re pushing back, you know, especially if you’re a top talent, or you’ve got a skill set that’s in demand. And if you’re the employer, you know, you’re wrestling, you know, trying to throw him out of the ring, getting him back into the office. So it’s not gonna go away. I mean, it’ll get a little less intense if the economic situation worsens. And employers feel like they have the upper hand, but it’s still going to continue to be a wrestling match is not going to go anywhere, both sides are not going to win this at some point. You know, when things pick up a little bit, we’ll go back to employees saying, I’m going to go work from home, stop me or I’m going to get something else.

Speaker 3 8:59
We’ve met with a CEO of a company, you know, a couple of weeks ago, saying, I want my employees back in the office, how do I get them back? And can I offer them food? Can I offer them massages? And we’re in well, we basically came back to him, he’s like, look, you can do that. But the reality is, you have to make the office a good place to be. And the kind of things that they’re doing in the office have got to be meaningful, providing feedback, collaborating on projects, getting updates and learning kind of what the organization is doing. Those are the things that employees want to do in the office. They don’t want to come into the office and just go into a phone room and get on a zoom call. Because that’s not good either. You know, they’ve had a commute, an hour and a half to get in. And then we’ll all they do is kind of take their laptop and go into the Zoom rooms.

Jason Walker 9:53
And that’s what you have to do for people to come in to be productive but they still don’t want to come in even though you do that. It’s just basically Faculty hate coming in, but at least that makes it seem like there’s a reason to come in here. You’re not forcing me just to sit at my desk and watch me work because you feel better seeing me work

Rob Stevenson 10:11
on the employer side of that cage match. Why do employers want so badly people to be back in the office?

Jason Walker 10:19
because it’s hard for management, to see that they have this huge line item called employee payroll, employee salary, whatever you want to look at it. And they don’t know what they’re doing. It just drives management crazy, like they want to be able to see you at your desk, and they want to be able to call a meeting and the CEO wants to be able to walk through the floors of the big office building that they have and see people click clacking at their computer, it’s a psychological thing. As much as they say it’s a productivity issue, which I don’t think it’s a productivity issue, because we have enough studies out there that have said, hey, look, productivity, probably Rose 30%, with people being at home. So it’s, it’s really a psychological issue, in my mind, and it’s just really hard for people who have, you know, led companies for a long time to let up on that one.

Rey Ramirez 11:11
The other thing, too, is a lot of organizations have built these massive, billion dollar campuses throughout the US, and they’re empty. And it’s like, well, what do I do with all this space, and all this investment, that’s the other side. And I think a lot of organizations feel that their office, their environment is part of their culture. And they’re just not generating a stronger culture because people aren’t in the office. So lots of challenges there. And that’s going to continue.

Rob Stevenson 11:44
I hear the office investment argument a little bit, right, which is like, we built this big thing for you employees, we wanted you to be able to come to this place and do work in a comfortable, productive way. And now you’re not using it. So there’s like a sunk cost thing going on, hey, use this thing we bought for you. But I do think it’s equal parts what you were saying Jason about, like, management needs to see you working, they need to see you at your desk at nine staying until five they need to see you click clacking at your desk. But that’s such bullshit, right? Like, why should all of your workers have to completely up in their lives and go on a commute? So you feel a little less insecure?

Jason Walker 12:20
Well, yeah. I mean, the problem with that is, you typically have a CFO at most companies. And typically that CFO is what are these people doing CEO? We don’t know where they are. Do you know how much we’re paying? Oh, my gosh, you know, and typically, the CFO, is the one that non technical term is usually the one that spazzes out about, where’s everybody? And why don’t we see him working? And then the CEO gets spun up. And then it just becomes this whole big mess of, well, who’s coming in? You know, let me see badge swipes. Let’s look at productivity. What are we doing with products have slipped and blah, blah, blah? You know, a lot of that stuff would have happened naturally anyway, if you’d been in the office. So yeah, it’s tough. I mean, it’s a it’s a whole mindset. And people don’t want to back off that mindset.

Rob Stevenson 13:13
Yeah, I think that’s right. And I have seen these anecdotes, though, of employees just sort of like, basically forming whatever the 2023 tech version of a union is, and being like, you can tell us to come in, we’re not coming in. And I know you’re not going to fire all of us. And I really do think the companies do have power. It’s like we’re doing our job just as well. You’ve not given us a compelling reason why we need to be back in the office. So we’re not coming. And I think it’s pretty badass. I think that if you’re being told to come back into the office, and you and your co workers don’t want to go, you have that power a little bit.

Jason Walker 13:46
Yeah, I mean, you do.

Rey Ramirez 13:48
It’s a shift. I mean, I think in the last year, when there were five openings for every person that was available to fill a job, the employee had the power. But now with the layoffs and the right sizing, that power shift is changing a bit. So it really is going to depend on the company. And whether they’re in growth mode, whether they’re in maintain mode, or whether they’re in downturn mode, as to where where that power lies. And it is it’s going to be I mean, we’re seeing it in our clients are, are asking us about it. And it is it’s going to be continuous, it’s going to be a challenge now, and I think the companies that are more, that are thinking about this long term, are reconfiguring their office space, you know, they’re making it less cubicles and more open spacing in meeting and gathering space so that when people do come in, it is much more conducive to collaborate, talk to meet people, and I think that’s really going to be the key in the future is having space that kind of encourages people to connect.

Rob Stevenson 14:53
Yeah, I think that’s right that this economic reality had allowed for people to work remotely and to have the power And then once you’re just happy to have a job, if that, you know, it gets that dire, then if they say come in, you’re gonna go in, right? You kind of don’t have a choice.

Jason Walker 15:07
Yeah, it’s Whack a Mole. I mean, if you really need a job, you know, and do you want to put your head up and say, I’m not coming in? If the economy is difficult, you don’t want to be hit by the hammer with the whack a mole. Yeah.

Rey Ramirez 15:21
And the other challenge that’s out there, Rob, is a lot of employees have basically moved over the last two years, I may have been based in the Bay Area, but guess what, now I’m Park City, Utah, Bozeman, Montana. Yep. Yeah, and Montana. And guess what? I’m not moving back to the Bay Area. And so that’s the other challenge. You’ve got, you got critical resources that are not within an hour of the office. So they’re not coming back.

Speaker 2 15:46
Yeah, the Bay Area has been crushed by people moving. And there’s not been a lot of talk about that. But people who are fairly, in the know, realize that many, many people have exited out of the Bay Area. And their whole treatise is there’s no reason for us to be here with remote work like is way too expensive. And just too many people. And we don’t need to be here. And they’ve had a massive reduction in people being in there and office space gluts and everything else that’s going on. So it’s going to be really hard to bring people back in, I mean, the genies out of the bottle. And like I said, it’ll still be it’s going to continue to be a fight for a while.

Rob Stevenson 16:31
The Bay Area has one thing that Bozeman, Montana, or Miami or Austin or all these, like D locating sources of tech doesn’t have which is Sand Hill Road. Right? And if you want to raise money from the biggest VCs, you want to be in their backyard. Right?

Jason Walker 16:44
Well, that’s becoming less and less true. Rob, I think, you know, if you’ve seen some of the things coming out about VCs, a lot of folks are saying, You know what, the VCs are really more willing to let people start companies outside of the Bay Area, because they’ve seen their realization of, hey, it’s easier to hire talent. It’s easier for those people to live and work in a more affordable place. And the reality of it is, is we could probably actually end up running your company more efficiently, more inexpensively, outside of the Bay Area. So that mindset is shifting considerably now, will it change under percent? Probably never. But I think there’s more of that than there’s ever been before.

Rey Ramirez 17:27
Yeah, and the other thing, too, is, we’re even seeing a lot of private equity firms that were Bay Area based. A lot of their employees have now spread out all over the US, you know, one of our key contacts at a private equity firm that we work with a lot. He and his family moved from the Bay Area, and now they’re living on the water in Jackson, Florida, Jacksonville, Florida. So the move to a decentralized kind of workforce. I mean, it’s happened.

Rob Stevenson 17:52
Y’all are probably right. I’m way out of my element talking about fundraising. I have to say, experts. Yes, I’m an expert. Trust me. Exactly. Exactly. Here’s a true fact that just made up. No. Look, you mentioned a moment ago, Jason, the whack a mole, and how you don’t want to get hit by the whack a mole hammer. And I’m glad you use that imagery, because lots of people are getting whack a mole in the form of layoffs. And I had this conversation recently with someone who I’m going to feature on the show, and she is also a listener. And she asked me what halfway through our conversation. She was Rob, why have you not spoken about layoffs yet? My answer was, well, people who are doing layoffs don’t want to come on the show, because it’s not a super good luck to be like, let’s talk about our hiring. And then after a you know, they just had to fire a bunch of people. And the people who do agree on the show are like their companies are probably growing. They’re excited to talk about their hiring, it’s hiring show. So that was my answer. However, her point was well taken, which is this is going on, and we’re not covering it. So I wanted to ask you all about layoffs, I guess, big topic. How do I ask a specific question, I guess, I want to work our way down to how talent people can make sure that they are not affected by layoffs, that they can kind of be recession proof. But first, let’s earn that insight a little bit. Can you maybe because you you both have been in these conversations before. Can you paint a picture of what does it sound like when executives and leadership sits down to have the real discussion like are we going to lay people off?

Jason Walker 19:20
Well, the reality of it is is I wish I could tell you it was a really sophisticated conversation that happens but typically it goes like crap, we’re not making our numbers. And then it just basically goes from there crap, we’re not making our members. We’re 15 20% Whatever it is off, we’ve got to cut expenses. And in order to make our number we’ve got to layoff 10% of our workforce and we’re going to cut travel which will be another 5%. We’re going to cut Tini which will be another 5%. So, once the math doesn’t work, then it becomes a exercise to get the math to work.

Rey Ramirez 19:56
Yep, exactly. And what we’re seeing right now is What a lot of the more mature tech companies have been doing for years, the Cisco’s, the Microsoft’s are always looking at their financials and looking at their run rates, and then making adjustments. You never hear about the adjustments, because they’re always just below the requirement of Warren Act. But that’s an ongoing process and these mature tech firms, I think what you’re starting to see now is the Googles of the world, you know, the Facebook Amazons, now they’re becoming much more like mature tech companies, and they’ve got to watch their run rates, they’ve got to watch their headcount. And that’s why you’re starting to see some of that adjustment happen. But for the companies that do layoffs, and they do it correctly, you know, generally, they will put together some kind of an evaluation, you know, an assessment of employees. And then, based on that assessment is how they will make the decisions to lay people off. And you know, every firm has a different type of an assessment. We did it at Cisco, we did it at BMC. But for the companies that do it the correct the right way, it is a process, it is got to be reviewed, it’s got to be legal, you know, making sure folks that are over 40 aren’t impacted adversely, or minorities aren’t impacted adversely, you know, so those are the ways that these things are done. And there have to be done appropriately. And the other thing that’s important is that you’ve got to treat employees respectfully. Because if you don’t, the same people you’re laying off today, are the ones you’re going to be trying to re recruit in nine months. So you’ve leave a bad taste in their mouth, they’re going to be on social media on the social sites, bad mouthing the organization. And guess what? You’re gonna have a harder time attracting talent in the future.

Jason Walker 21:51
Yeah, I mean, they whiffed on their numbers. I mean, they over hired during the pandemic, they overheard post pandemic, and their numbers were wrong. And so now they’re having to face the reality of their sales are just not as strong as they thought they were going to be, you know, after the pandemic, and that’s, you’ve never really seen Google have to do that. You’ve never really seen, you know, Facebook have to do that. So I mean, it’s not unusual. I mean, lots of companies have had to do it multiple times. It’s just that it’s a new look for a lot of companies that people thought were relatively bulletproof to these kinds of things. But, you know, it’s just a symptom of what’s going on in tech overall, I think that the pandemic largely covered up some things that wouldn’t have happened, had we not had it, I think that there were some, you know, there was definitely companies and organizations that bought into this overbuying that was happening during the pandemic was going to continue. And that wasn’t true.

Rob Stevenson 22:50
Yeah, it’s a good point that a lot of the tech firms we’re familiar with, have mostly experienced a lot of their growth, post 2008, which was the last serious downturn, right. So it’s like, Oh, they’ve only had to grow, they’ve been able to throw comp around, they’ve been able to hire outrageously. But as you said, Jason, they just whiffed. And even smaller companies who are now doing that, clearly, mistakes were made, like you didn’t perform like you thought you were. And now all these hires you made, you can’t afford. So when that guillotine is gonna start dropping, when you have worked numbers, and you will be cut travel, and we cut some of these, you know, we will take lunches away for the, you know, two days a week and whatever we can do to save money, because, as you say, right, what’s happening constantly at a materially run organization, when you get to the layoffs part, okay, we have to reduce our force. What happens when companies go to come up with a list of names?

Rey Ramirez 23:42
Well, a lot of times, you will look at non revenue and non development resources first, you know, so you’re gonna go after HR, you’re gonna go after marketing, it finance areas where you can reduce staff and still continue the operation as much as possible. And if you have to cut deeper, then you start looking at entire product lines, or projects, and eliminate those. So it’s really becomes kind of a prioritization of what you need to do as an organization, and we’ve got critical skills you need to keep, and when you’ve got other skills that aren’t going to be quite as important, necessarily. And so it depends on the strategy of how you want to run the business.

Jason Walker 24:29
Yeah, if you’re a cost center, you’re gonna get hit. So if you’re non revenue, generating new talking tech specifically, companies really want to protect engineering and sales. So if you can not lay off in those areas, that’s typically what they want to do. So every other group that’s more I said more of a cost center and is not generating revenue. They always take a significant hit. Now that’s not to say that engineering and sales never does but you know, engineering will take a hit like Ray said when they there’s duplication of products or there’s a product, this is about selling, or they finally got to realize they got to do end of life on something. Or they just decide, hey, we need to just have less talent internally, and we’re going to come down, you know, 5%, whatever they decide, but that’s typically what happens.

Rob Stevenson 25:18
Yeah. And when you say, if you’re a cost center, you may be affected. I feel like people listening to that who are in those, you know, those departments you listed may be saying to themselves, but I’m not a cost center, I contribute to revenue and XYZ way, and you may, but you need to make that narrative well known, right? Like, it may not be obvious to the powers that be how you contribute to the bottom line. And even if it’s clear to you, you have that spreadsheet, even if you have that understanding, I think you can never make that case enough as a professional of like, how you’re contributing, because eventually everything has to justify itself with making money, right. That’s what companies do. So I always encourage people to make sure you are telling that story.

Jason Walker 26:01
Yeah, I think what happens, and this is unfortunate is this is like, why people get frustrated when they work in a corporation, they work in the corporate environment. Over time, this is the kind of things that jaded people, when things are going really well, you’re not a cost center, you’re adding value, you’re bringing in great hires, I mean, cost shifting, you’re affecting the bottom line. And so you get all of this really positive feedback. Well, then as soon as the numbers start to flatline a little bit, then it’s like, Oh, you guys are a cost center. You know, we’re not hiring, we don’t need all these recruiters, what do we need all these coordinators for? What are we spending all this money on all these tools for? So what happens is the narrative rapidly changes. And that’s what gets people really frustrated, I know, that’s what I get frustrated about, it’s like, hey, it’s either one thing or another, you’re either a cost center, or you’re not. And then let’s operate like that all the time. And I think it’s really important for when you’re managing your career, that you’d be really realistic about where you sit, because you’re never gonna get a straight story from management, if you’re a cost center, or if you’re generating revenue. So I know when I sat in HR, or I was, you know, head of recruitment, or I was a recruiter, when I was starting out, I always knew I was a cost center. And so I always figured that I was probably the person that would be one of the first casualties is unfortunate, because that is to think about,

Rey Ramirez 27:21
yeah, that’s so true. And the one thing that you know, and we talk to other professionals on a regular basis, helping them with their career transitions, folks that have been laid off. And we really encourage people to always watch out that something could happen and to be prepared, because you think can be great. And guess what, somebody scheduled a meeting at 930 in the morning on Friday. And guess what happens? You got cut the schedule at Thursday at 5pm. That happens all the time. So folks, we really recommend that they just prepare themselves financially. Have a good network, just be prepared, because at some point in your career, you will be affected by that. And in many cases multiple times. That’s just the reality of the corporate environment.

Jason Walker 28:13
What do they say Glengarry Glen Ross? Always be closing? Always be networking,

Rob Stevenson 28:19
always be networking, third places you’re fired, I think was also. So I’ve had plenty of friends who have been laid off Ray, as you say, it may affect you at some point or multiple times. And when my friends get laid off, I speak to them and I tell them, hey, you got fired. Everyone gets fired. I’ve been fired. Top performers get fired all the time. You were part of a layoff you were part of a bigger decision. It’s not because you did anything wrong. It’s not because you’re bad at your job. I say all these things to them. Is that true? Am I Am I just like am I just making them feel better? Or is there any truth to that?

Jason Walker 28:55
I mean, there is sometimes in there is not sometimes sometimes you get fired because it’s a great time to get rid of people that we don’t like as a corporation, like hey, you know, we got a big layoff coming. And we’ve got Suzy Jane and we’ve really been dealing with Suzy Jane a lot this last year, and she’s been having a lot issues. First of all, we don’t like working with her. So I think we could figure out how to get Suzy Jane out of here. Oh, yeah. So I mean, there are a lot of times where you are the problem. That’s why you get laid off.

Rob Stevenson 29:27
Yeah, squeaky wheel gets the grease, but the squeaky wheel also gets replaced.

Jason Walker 29:31
Oh, for sure. For sure. And I’ve been part of many of those conversations over my time. Now. We’ve done it legally. And we’ve done the right things. And, you know, we’ve you know, maybe there was Suzy Jane was running something. But we just decided, look, we don’t want that person running that thing. And we’re not even going to do that function anymore. We’re going to live without that function. And we’re going to redistribute the work and maybe it was a really painful discussion to not have that person in that role anymore. But we did Have we made those decisions?

Rob Stevenson 30:01
And like if your entire department gets axed right, then it’s like, okay, no matter how good you were probably, you are not going to survive that. However, you see this post from CEOs like, I wish we could hire everyone. I wish we could keep everyone these people are all amazing. Anyone will be lucky to have them on their team. If you want to introduction, reach out, here’s a spreadsheet of them like there’s they’re such rockstars I’m sure to keep them like what they’re such rockstars Why are you firing them? And the truth is that in any layoff, there are people who are quote impacted. That’s like Newspeak for shrikhand. And there are people who are not impacted, right. And so they can say we wish we could keep everyone. They’re all rock stars. But if they’re rock stars, surely those are the people who weren’t impacted.

Jason Walker 30:46
Yeah, if you’re at the top of the list, if you’re the top performer, you’re not going anywhere.

Rob Stevenson 30:49
So how do you make sure you’re not impacted? In a scenario where your entire department isn’t asked where you would be powerless? How do you stay on the other side of that?

Rey Ramirez 30:59
I mean, one of the things, especially as an example, in recruitment, recruiting departments, talent acquisition departments are always high targets, during downturns, what we would recommend is that folks start to do other things, other than being a recruiter, you can’t just be a recruiter you, you know, figure out ways to add to your portfolio of skills, whether that’s focusing on internal movement, you know, and managing that, focusing on succession planning and developing high potentials. So, there’s other ways to add value within the talent space. And we would recommend that individuals do figure out some other skills that can be utilized other than just being a rockstar recruiter. And that’s one way to kind of diversify your own portfolio, so that you can take on other responsibilities. And the discussion is it? Well, you know, Ray’s, a great recruiter, but that’s all he does. He’s kind of a one trick pony. But Joe, you know, has done these things has led this project, guess who’s gonna stay, you know, if we got to cut one is going to be re, but you gotta look at that, from a personal perspective. You know, and, you know, we really also, you know, it’s like, you’re a professional in an industry, you’re not a professional for a company, using that kind of an approach to career is really important. Because that way, you’re always looking for that next opportunity, and you’re prepared, if there is a change.

Jason Walker 32:39
Alright, here’s my recommendation, this is what I will tell you. So the first is there was an article in the Wall Street Journal that just came out recently, and it says people no longer want to be high performers. They don’t want to volunteer, they don’t want to work to get promotions, they just kind of want to sit in their job and do their thing, and get paid. So if you’re one of those people stop right now. Because what I always did was I volunteered for everything. When I was an individual contributor, hey, I’ll help out on that project. I’ll do this, I’ll do that I’ll do I took on every thing. Because my mentality was when they started to go ask around and say, like, Hey, who’s involved in that old JSON that I use involved in that JSON? Who owns that? Who got that done? Jason did. And so the more my name got mentioned, being involved in things and gotten things completed and finished work, I knew that people would be like, I will be killing him off. He’s touching everything, like, what are we going to do without him like, okay, he’s not even on the list. So move on. So first, volunteer for everything. Second, be easy to manage. There’s just not enough people that are easy to manage. If you’re complaining about everything. I mean, obviously, there’s things that you should bring up. And I know that I get accused of toxic positivity sometimes, which I don’t think I’m a toxic positivity person. But by the same token, just be easy to manage. If there’s something really problematic, bring it up to your manager, but for the most part, help them you know, be somebody that like, Oh, my God, Jason makes my life easier, or, you know, Ray makes my life easier, Rob makes my life easier be associated with those types of terms you want that to happen. And, you know, just work really hard, and be a good team player. And if you do those things, I trust you, you will never be laid off. Honestly. And I know I’m not supposed to use always never. But if you do those things, you won’t be laid off. It just won’t happen.

Rob Stevenson 34:39
Yeah, there’s a fine line between protecting your boundaries and not allowing yourself to be like walked all over as a professional. But if you’re the person who when management thinks about you, they think oh, that’s the person who always says that’s not my job, then great. You’re right. It’s not your job. None of it’s your job anymore. You’re gone. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And the other part yeah, though. making people’s life easier. That was actually my mantra when I was early in my career, I would like go around to my boss, my boss’s boss, my coworkers? How can I make your life easier power for people in the organization? Because guess what, you’re irreplaceable. If someone thinks of you, and they’re like, Oh, if Rob gets fired, that means I have this thing to worry about, again, that’s back on my plate, then you’re safe, right? So these are ways to make yourself indispensable in the organization. And I love what you said, Ray, also about thinking about yourself as a professional in an industry rather at a company, because that is the truth of what you are, you’re going to have lots of jobs and lots of different companies. And also, it’s a way for you to benchmark yourself, right? Like you look at not just Am I the best recruiter amongst these six recruiters that the company has assembled. Like, think of the recruiters, you know, and other companies and the ones who you see making content and then reporting on what they’re doing, like, are you at that tier, because then you’re going to be able to find a new job easily. You can’t just compete against the six people who are in your slack at this moment.

Speaker 3 36:01
Yeah. And the other thing, too, that always happens, is always try to be helping and working your network, the worst thing you can do is connect with people, when you’ve lost your job, and you need their help. But you’ve refused to answer phone calls or emails for the last three years. Yeah, people don’t like that. Yeah. So you know, we’re always in contact with folks, you know, we’ve got it, we’ve got our network. And we want to be able to use the network to help them always because at some point, I may need their help. And they’ll reciprocate if they’ve got a contact with you. But if they don’t have a contact, you can make a lot of LinkedIn connections. But guess what, you know, it’s going to be too late in that

Jason Walker 36:45
when we’re talking about this on our podcast this week, because we do a podcast as well. And there’s a woman who’s out there right now, and she’s making $500 an hour, it was just featured in The Wall Street Journal and a couple other places that she makes $500. Now because what she does is she works with millennials, and she helps them to no longer be afraid to talk on the phone. So millennials have this fear of communicating on the phone where they can’t do it. And so she’s having to rehabilitate these people to talk on the phone. And the reason why I say that is because to be networking means you have to pick up the phone, you have to have human interaction, you have to talk to somebody. Now granted, if somebody doesn’t call you back, and they’d rather shoot you a text, that’s great, but you have to initiate in so doing everything through email. And texting is not the way to really continue to broaden your network, you have to have some personal connection, whether that’s going to lunch or meeting up for a walk or a coffee, or whatever you do. So I’m urging if you don’t want to talk on the phone, that’s probably not your best strategy.

Rob Stevenson 37:52
Yeah, you have to prove that you’re not just a chatbot. Right?

Jason Walker 37:56
Or that you are a living breathing human that it because somebody if somebody’s gonna put you into a job, they have to vouch for you, and they’re gonna know their boss familiar, you know, Rob’s awesome. You know, I love Rob, and we have our coffee talks. He’s this man. You know, I did work with him once. He’s great. And you know, I have worked with him in two years. But I heard he’s done this and this, and this, somebody has to, you know, they’re going out on the limb for you. So just because you shot them a text or you’ve done something on World of Warcraft together doesn’t mean that you’re really networking.

Rob Stevenson 38:27
Yeah. And the just in time networking, as you pointed out, Ray like that is so transparently disingenuous. Everyone has a friend like that everyone has a friend who’s like, I only hear from so and so when they need something from me. And that’s not your friend, that’s someone who sees you as a tool they can pull out on their toolbox and put you in the garage of their 11 and a half months out of the year, right. And so if that’s your networking approach, no one’s going to help you either. You can not just put your head up when you need something. Yep. So that’s all great advice on networking and being indispensable. I wanted to also hear both of your takes on when you can maybe start to sense that a layoff is coming. Because I think there are all these little very subtle changes that start to happen in an organization in terms of messaging, and maybe these people start to leave on their own accord, like rats on a sinking ship. But obviously there’s you know, we know why companies aren’t going to tell you Oh, yeah, we’re probably doing layoffs in q2, like they’re never ever going to announce that it’s going to be a surprise, they’re going to land on your calendar at the last minute. How can employees start to sense if this is maybe going to happen to their company?

Jason Walker 39:28
What are the things that you need to know is that when leaders get very, very quiet in an organization, so quiet always means there’s something looming on the horizon. So if your boss suddenly is quiet, if your VP of your department is suddenly quiet, if you suddenly don’t hear that much from the CEO, you know, something’s gonna happen. And typically, it’ll be like a leadership change or it’ll be a sale or it will be a They off. So when things start to get really quiet, get really nervous. And then if you start to find yourself being aced out of things like oh, no, we don’t need you there. Oh, no, we’ve got it, Rob. Oh, no, Rob, it’s okay. You know, I know you have a lot on your plate. So when you start to hear those things, your red flags should go up and go, oh, boy, something’s happening here. Yeah,

Rey Ramirez 40:24
I think if you start seeing things getting taken away, guess what, there was free coffees, Coke and snacks. Now there’s only coffee and Cokes? Will you start seeing some budget constraints, you start seeing things like we can’t do any more travel or travel shut down, you know, that conference that we had approved you for is no longer approved, things of that nature. And, you know, if you’re in the office, and you start seeing a lot of doors closed, for calls, when usually the doors are always open. Again, like Jason said, I mean, that lack of communication, and those are the things to kind of look for, and also the financials. I supported a, you know, a when I was at Cisco, and also at BMC, software, you know, a sales organization, you better know how to talk to sales, be friends with sales, because they will tell you what’s going on. And they know, you know, is it going to be a good quarter? Or is it gonna be a bad quarter? Do you help me understand what’s going on? And what are customers saying about us? And, you know, you’re hitting your numbers, or we’re really struggling? I mean, understand what’s happening in the organization and financially is really, really important. Yeah,

Rob Stevenson 41:34
that’s such a such an obvious one, too, I think, because usually companies are somewhat transparent, I guess, or just like you’d like to report when you’re hitting your sales numbers, every company I’ve been at anyway. And to be fair, I’ve mostly been at small companies, you know, at the beginning of the quarter here, our goals, and then that deck gets updated with a week left in the quarter or a week after the quarter ends, and you know, exactly how they performed against it. And one quarter missing numbers, you start to sharpen the axe to quarters and starts to drop, right. And so you should not be surprised when when if your company is missing numbers, quarter after quarter that this happens, right?

Jason Walker 42:07
Yeah, but you’d be shocked by how many people don’t know what their company made in a quarter. You’d be shocked by how many people don’t know what they did for revenue the previous year. It’s scary and raise right. Not enough people look at their company and understand me, God, we’re going sideways here. I don’t know. And so that’s never a good place to be.

Rey Ramirez 42:29
Yep, exactly. Exactly. It was funny. When we were at Cisco, I had a buddy of mine, who always could predict how well we’re going to do quarter quarter. And he was in logistics, and he could oversee the shipping docks, and how busy they were throughout the quarter, and especially how busy they were the last week of the quarter, you know, and if he started to see trucks just backing up and taking product and product being at Cisco, he was always, if the product move out of the warehouse into the loading dock, it was a sale. And they could count it, you know, and if you saw these boxes, just lining this to the, you know, the loading dock, ready to be shipped, he knew all of those were sales, it’s gonna be a good quarter. So there’s just different ways to understand that. But it’s just really interesting that you know that folks don’t understand how important that is to the health of the company.

Rob Stevenson 43:21
If you’re seeing some of these things start to happen. Would you just start tweaking your resume and start applying to jobs? like at what point do you stop prioritizing your job because you’re like layoffs are happening, I’m not going to bust my ass to try and save my job here at the last minute, I should just see the writing on the wall. Yeah, I

Jason Walker 43:40
mean, you got to be ready to go. I mean, so like we’ve talked a little bit about networking. So you’ve always got to be networking, you should always be looking into the jobs that are out there to understand what’s available at any given moment, you should have a fairly consistent view of the job market. You know, any good boss or good leader will tell you, you know what you should be interviewing, like, just go out on an interview, see what your worth is see whether the grass is greener somewhere else so that you have kept practiced interviewing, and you know what your worth is. So look, you may not get laid off, you may have a horrible boss that comes in, and you can’t stand them and you need to get out of there. And you don’t want to stay working for him until you have another job and you may want to quit. So you just have to be prepared that something is going to happen. And this is kind of a negative thought, but you have to be facing the fact that there will be something negative that’s going to happen in your job situation. And you got to be prepared for it. And so if you have that mindset, you know, sort of negative as it is, you’re going to be a lot better position than the person that’s just woefully unprepared and gets blindsided.

Rey Ramirez 44:51
Yeah, the other thing too, is is now there’s such a gig worker economy out there that it’s okay to do it. As a side hustle, you know, with a consulting firm and kind of get some exposure and, and just make some extra money, it doesn’t have to be tons of hours, it can be a couple hours a week, you know, it’s a good way to say, You know what, I just got impacted. But guess what, I’ve got contacts at these three or four firms, you know, I can turn that on, and quickly, and if they’ve got work, great, I can help out. So there’s just different things you can do to protect yourself from a situation happening.

Rob Stevenson 45:29
Can I throw a proactive approach at you and tell me if this is sensical or not? Say you are seeing some of those signs you mentioned, and you suspect that laughs are coming? Can you go to your boss and be like, Look, are labs coming? And you can they probably won’t tell you yes or no. But you can tell how they haven’t ha what the real answer is. You know, what if you said to them, I’ll make this easy for you. You can lay off one less person, I’ll volunteer to be laid off. If you offer me severance. Is that a reasonable negotiation?

Jason Walker 45:58
Well, the people that volunteer to get laid off are the people that you don’t get off. Because the people that are here to get laid off are the good people. So I’ve never had a person know they’re gonna find another job. Yeah. I’ve never had a person volunteer to lay off that I was like, Oh, that’s awesome. You’re Robb’s volunteering. Now. It’s always a really good people. And I look at them, and I’ll go, can you go back to work, please. Because if you’re not here, it would really be a problem. You’re not getting laid off. I always tell them, you’re stuck here like the rest of us. So go back to work. That’s always what happens.

Rob Stevenson 46:28
And if you’re the person who Yeah, you do want to lay off voluntary layoff you’re like, No, you’re getting laid off anyway, this doesn’t change anything. Like you, you have no bargaining power. So I guess the answer is, that doesn’t really help, you

Speaker 2 46:40
Now, because the boss is gonna be like, Oh, no, we’re not doing a layoff. I know what you’re talking about. We don’t plan to do that, or I don’t know, I don’t know anything about it. I mean, either they’ll never give you a steal, never give you a straight answer. If you are giving it off. They’ll completely deny it or lie. I mean, because, you know, in business, we lie. That’s just there a lot of times where we lie. And, and I know that’s hard to hear, like, Oh, my God, people are lying to me. Yeah, they do. And so you won’t get a string answer.

Rey Ramirez 47:08
Yeah. And just give you an example. Rob, I mean, I was told by a senior VP of HR, we love you, you’re critical to the success of my team, you have nothing to worry about. And then two weeks later, got the X.

Rob Stevenson 47:23
Exactly. Like photography,

Rey Ramirez 47:27
you know, I was feeling really good for two weeks,

Rob Stevenson 47:29
right? Under what circumstances must accompany offer you sufferance,

Rey Ramirez 47:35
it depends on the company, they don’t have to offer you severance. That’s not a requirement or law. But most organizations have a severance policy if they do a layoff. You know, and especially in technology, technology, firms are usually very generous in their layoff programs. And a lot of them have been published in a lot of the reason is one, they want you to sign the release that you’re not going to sue them, you know, and to, they’re going to be looking to rehire you when things turn around, and six or nine months. But several policies are not written in stone. And sometimes they can be negotiated. Look,

Jason Walker 48:16
if they don’t want to release, they don’t want to give you severance all you get if you especially if you were paid in arrears, all you’re gonna get is your two weeks. However, if they’re smart, they typically want to release and they’ll remember you have to be paid something for the release is you just don’t sign a release without giving something up. So you get the money. And then you give up the right to sue now you don’t give up the right to engage in the class action suit, but you do give up the right to sue on your own.

Rob Stevenson 48:43
That is a good reminder did not sign anything. Like they want you to sign a release, they’ll tell you you have to sign this as part of your onboarding. It’s not right. It’s definitely not you don’t you don’t have to do anything.

Jason Walker 48:54
No, you don’t have to. But most people want the money. So

Rob Stevenson 48:57
exactly. But if you’re offered the money, then fine. But don’t don’t Just sign it because they tell you you have to like sign it like what am I getting for my signature?

Jason Walker 49:04
Oh, no, no, no. Yeah, you have to have something exactly. If you don’t get something in exchange for the release. It’s not a valid release. And yeah, don’t sign anything. And you know, if they have something written somewhat cleverly that says, Hey, by my own free will, I’m agreeing not to see you or something silly like that. Yeah, don’t sign it. There’s nothing. Just give me my two weeks. And, you know, I’ll leave and you know, maybe I want to consult with an employment attorney. Because I think there were some issues here that weren’t handled correctly.

Rob Stevenson 49:31
And I’ll maybe see you in court. Maybe not. We’ll see. Right? Yeah. Leave it open ended. Yeah, exactly. Don’t close the doors. Yeah. All right. Well, gentlemen, we are well past optimal podcast length here, but it’s only because I’ve enjoyed speaking with you both so much. And there’s so much to go into. So I’m sorry, I breezed over which we should plug your podcasts quickly if you want to share a little bit about your show.

Jason Walker 49:51
Well, we do a LinkedIn live show that we broadcast from LinkedIn 10 o’clock on Wednesdays. And so if you’re on On LinkedIn on 10 o’clock on Wednesdays, if you’d like to dial in for our diode, gosh, there’s my eight showing,

Rob Stevenson 50:08
send a carrier pigeon. If you’d like to join

Jason Walker 50:10
you, I don’t know what it is like to zoom in or video into our LinkedIn live, we’d love to have you. And we talked more about a lot of the things that we’ve talked about here, Rob. So we’ve enjoyed being on your show. It’s been fun.

Speaker 4 50:23
Now we have and we love helping other professionals in any way, networking, you know, connecting them with opportunities. That’s part of our approach in how we operate. So track us down, feel free to give us a call, or send us an email and we’d love to talk to you.

Jason Walker 50:39
Yeah, we love helping out people. I mean, we’ve been management, we’ve not been management. We’ve been individual contributors. We’ve hired we’ve been, we’ve been caught up in layoffs, we’ve been fired. So we’ve got like virtually every experience that you can imagine. And so we’re happy to share those experiences. If you want to join our Slack community. We have a Slack community that you can be a part of. And if you email me at Jason at Thrive HR consulting, I will add you to our Slack community and you can talk to us about all things HR, if you want to talk to us more about layoffs or anything else. We’d love to interact with you on Slack.

Rob Stevenson 51:18
Fantastic, all great resources for the folks out there to tune into. And at this point, I would just say thank you both for being here. This has been a great episode. Ray Ramirez has been re roomier as Jason Walker has been Jason Walker. I’ve been Rob Stevenson, and you’ve all been wonderful talent acquisition darlings. Have a spectacular week. And happy hunting.

Rey Ramirez 51:37
Take care.

Jason Walker 51:38
All right, thank you.

Rob Stevenson 51:42
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