The GM Layoffs — And Its Message About Creating Your Own Job Security in HR…

by Alan Collins

General Motors recently announced it’s laying off 14,700 employees, closing five factories, and discontinuing several car models. 

This includes 15% of the management staff — which means many HR professionals will get let go. 

Unfortunately, there’s nothing is unusual about this.  It happens frequently.

GM is no different than IBM, Boeing, Hewlett-Packard and the scores of firms who have done massive headcount reductions in recent years.

In GM’s case they’ve cited shifting consumer tastes as the main reason. 

In other words, you and I as fickle consumers are continuing to change what we buy.   

And as it relates to cars, we are buying more SUVs and trucks and moving away from from sedans like the Buick LaCrosse and Chevy Cruze.  So GM is closing the plants making these slower selling vehicles. 

And secondly, even a big company like GM only has so many resources. 

So it is investing less in traditional cars and more in the technology to produce what it thinks people will want in the future — like autonomous cars. 

Bottom line, big time disruptive consumer and technological changes are happening…and happening fast.   

But you know all this already.

So let me get to the point: what the heck does all this have to do with YOU and your HR career?

In a word: everything!

GM is yet another public reminder of what you already know…

Rapid consumer and technological change means
that corporate JOB SECURITY in HR is non-existent.
And what security you do 
have you
must create for yourself.

Again, this is not new.

But if you’re an HR pro employed anywhere in the world, the BIG question you should be asking yourself is:

Good questions.  My answer:  embrace and follow five HR job security steps…none of which should be surprising.

Here they are:

Step #1:   Realize that you must always be looking.

This is today’s brutal reality.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a ridiculously awesome HR professional.

Great HR people — from new HR managers to directors to experienced CHROs — get canned  every day, often for business reasons beyond their control, like those at GM.

So, even if you already have a great HR job, if you don’t have a plan for getting your next HR gig all lined up, right here, right now, at this very moment, then you’re at risk.

All it takes is JUST ONE unexpected business restructuring to eliminate your HR job.  (examples: GM, IBM, Boeing and hundreds of other firms)

All it takes is JUST ONE breakthrough in technology to make those clients you support — and you — obsolete.  (remember: Borders bookstores, Blockbuster video rentals, Palm pilots)

All it takes is JUST ONE big change in what consumers want to render that organization you support out-of-date…and you, potentially out of a job. (remember billion dollar brands like: Toys ‘R Us, Kodak photography, Viceroy cigarettes).

If you go to work tomorrow morning unprepared to get whacked that afternoon, then you have your head in the sand.

You must always be mindful of the possibility that today could be your final day at your company.

But, of course, you know this already.

Step #2:  Understand that loyalty is for your family.

Many companies try hard to foster a family environment to create loyalty to the organization.

And, it would be great if this loyalty were truly a two-way street and was sustainable.

But it isn’t.

And, you and I both know it can’t be, if organizations want to continue to stay competitive, profitable and viable into the future.

At GM (just like at IBM, Boeing, HP and anywhere else), HR jobs can be removed in an instant…without notice, if the company concludes that the role (or you)  doesn’t make them competitive or enhance the P&L — even if you’re a loyal member of the corporate family.

Again, whether you or I agree with the principle of this really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that it happens, and YOU shouldn’t let things get to that point.

By being too loyal to your company, you wind up being disloyal to those who matter most – your immediate family.

Yes, I know.  This isn’t anything new.

Step #3:  Have your resume ready to go at all times.

Some HR people let their resume and their LinkedIn profile get woefully out of date when they’re comfortable in their current job.

That’s insane.

These two assets are your insurance policies and your best marketing tools.

You never know who will come across them (or want them) and you don’t want to miss a great opportunity.

Most savvy headhunters do keyword searches on LinkedIn long before cold calling candidates or spending a dime on anything else.

So you want to make yourself easily “findable” – just in case.

If you’re not looking for a new opportunity, do yourself a favor…let recruiters know that AFTER they’ve contacted you, not before.

But keep your credentials polished up and make yourself reachable. If you’re not sure how, here are some suggestions here.

Step #4:  Relentlessly grow your HR competencies.

Keep your HR skills up to date.

Attend webinars, conferences and workshops.

Benchmark best practices.

Accept work assignments that stretch you.

Get coaching.

Build your leadership capability.

Embrace HR technology innovations and stay on the leading edge of our profession.

Not sure which work experiences are most valuable, go here.

Not sure which HR competencies to build, go here.

Don’t become a dinosaur…you know what happened to them.

Step #5:  Never stop building your army of supporters.

The best employment security you can create for yourself is having a thriving network of contacts, admirers, supporters and advocates.

These are folks who can speak up favorably for you and refer you to new opportunities…should you find yourself on the street in a hurry.

This means that the absolute worst thing you can possibly do is to get too busy doing your HR day job that you neglect to build relationships outside of your current organization.

Adopt a rule to never let a day pass without doing something to grow or enhance your network, no matter how busy and back-logged you are with work.

Take people to lunch. Put on your calendar coffees, dinners, after-work and networking events.  Follow the strategies I’ve outlined in this article.

It’s 90% likely that your next job in HR will come through your relationships you’ve built.

Again, I know none of this is new to you.

And while much of this probably applies to any profession…it’s ESPECIALLY important for you to pay attention to this because Human Resources folks have a tendency to be impacted more than any other group during these types of mass layoffs.

Here’s the bottom line on all this…

Every time you hear of news like that at GM, it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself that only YOU can create your own job security.

No one else can.

But, of course, you knew that already.

Didn’t you.

Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below by clicking HERE.


Want to keep yourself ready and prepared for your next HR opportunity — whenever it occurs?  Then, there are two indispensable resources you should check out:

HR RESUME SECRETS:  How to Create An Irresistible Human Resources Resume That Will Open Doors, Wow Hiring Managers & Get You Interviews! by CLICKING HERE.


HR INTERVIEW SECRETS: How to Ace Your Next Human Resources Interview, Dazzle Your Interviewers & LAND THE JOB YOU WANT!  For more details go HERE.

About the Author: Alan Collins is Founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of a variety of best selling HR books including:  HR RESUME SECRETS and  HR INTERVIEW SECRETS.  He was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses.

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