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Be careful who you let go PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Dumont   

ImageIf you are a regular reader of this column, you know that I occasionally refer to Retail a cartoon strip done by Norm Feuti, a former retail worker in the United States.

Of course, many of the cartoons' scenarios are exaggerated to generate a laugh, but sometimes the themes are deadly accurate.

In last weeks series of Retail cartoons (which can be seen on every day or in the Toronto Star), the management group at ‘Gumbels' is trying to address the staffing levels after finishing a less than excellent holiday season.

Whereas I don't personally believe that Canadian retailers in any category will be facing the level of sales decline that many American retailers are facing, nonetheless this isn't the best time for some to be doing a great deal of new hiring.

Is there a reader of this periodic article that still believes there is any value to letting the most expensive employee go as opposed to the least productive? I must say that I was surprised that Feuti went down this path this past week.

The notion of laying off the best employee(s) because they are paid the most as opposed to laying off the poorest-performing employees is so wrong-headed as to be nonsense.  Any retailer who has lived through the extreme labour shortage that still exists (more on that later) and still thinks lay-offs should only be based on amount of money employees earn deserves to suffer or fold in this economic downtown.

I have stated this often recently - in newspaper articles (see any CanWest paper under on 24 January), on my blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on LinkedIn - there is no correlation between the current economic downturn/recession and the labour shortage.

The labour shortage is certainly being overshadowed by the economic situation, but it is entirely demographically driven and won't go away for a very long time, if ever.

Every industry, but retail and hospitality in particular, is facing far fewer ‘new' workers being introduced into the marketplace. Our children and our children's children (or at least mine - I'm a late baby boomer) have had far fewer children than we had or our parents had and therefore there are less workers - period.

So, while there may be an easement in the hiring arena for awhile, labour shortages will continue and every effort should continually be made to attract, train correctly, and retain good quality individuals. And that doesn't include letting the best ones go because, short-term you'll save a little bit more money.

Brenda Dumont is the founder of, the first ever specialty job board designed specifically for retailers. Prior to that, she founded and operated Dumont & Associates Retail Recruitment, a retail-only search firm for ten years and served as corporate human resources manager and training manager for Woodward's Stores Limited.





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