The right way to handle layoffs

In recent times, big tech companies have been getting a reputation for their inability to fire their staff gracefully. Due to an economic slowdown, they have been forced to conduct massive layoffs but choose to do so in the worst possible ways.

Klarna, a fintech company, cut loose 10% of its workforce through a prerecorded video. They did not make it clear who was leaving until two days later. Another business,, fired hundreds of people in a single Zoom call accusing employees of “stealing from the company” because of low productivity.

Consequently, Continuum, a consulting start-up, began providing layoff consulting services. It offers part-time consultants to advise and devise a plan to proceed with empathy and professionalism. This helps soften the blow for those leaving and builds a positive image of the employer’s brand.

Some of the advice given by the company is:

Create a strong team with music

An important study showed that members of a team who listened to rhythmic music together before carrying out a task worked more cooperatively and efficiently than groups who listened to music without a clear beat. People who listened to white noise did the worst. Why is that?

Brain studies have shown that music releases endorphins and dopamine. These neurochemicals cause us to feel pleasure and closeness to others. So when we listen to music together, we naturally feel closer to each other. Playing music together has an even stronger effect. And dancing together to rhythmic music creates the strongest bond of all.

Elon Musk bans remote work

Elon Musk has ordered all employees to return to the office full-time or resign. In two leaked memos, he makes it clear that remote work will not be allowed except for "particularly exceptional contributors for whom this is impossible". These memos have been reported on news networks and Twitter feeds. The news network CNBC transcribed the first memo.

Two types of digital transformation

To prosper in the digital age, companies must undergo two types of digital transformation. Firstly, they need to become digitized. Secondly, they have to become digital.

Though both transformations depend on new technologies, they require different strategies and rules to implement. Digitization requires companies to update their operational backbones. In the past, core operations, such as delivering goods and services, maintaining accounts, and completing back-office processes, were handled by people. These days, however, they can be enabled by software-as-a-service. In addition to digitizing themselves, companies also need to become digital, which means creating a digital platform for the company’s digital offerings. Not only does this facilitate business development and connection with partners and customers, it also allows companies to better target revenue growth.

Goldman Sachs addresses diversity

Goldman Sachs has instituted a new diversity program based not on quotas but on hard data trends that uncovered why even progressive recruitment out of college hasn’t solved the problem. Women and minorities, it turned out, even when hired at the same rates as their white male counterparts, kept falling out of the pipeline. Attrition was enormous.

According to the data, both populations were more likely to quit than their white male peers and were simultaneously more likely to be replaced by white men moving laterally from another company. Additionally, they were less likely to be promoted and less likely to even be considered for promotion.

Amazon's design strategy

Vice president of Amazon Echo, Mike George, explained: "We have a thing called 'working backwards.' The first thing we do is we write a press release, ignoring every technical thing we can’t do for now. It’s our aspirations. We also write FAQs where we identify every question we would receive as if we issued the press release. We answer the question in aspirational ways too, ignoring, for the moment, the technical hurdles. In some cases we actually build things."

The idea is to dream about what this product could be. The next step is to hash out the idea between a team of experts that would potentially work on the new product. "There's a team in there, in a room, debating, from vice presidents to junior software developers," he says.

Everyone is not only encouraged to speak their mind, they are obligated to, he says. That's because Amazon has a motto: "Have backbone." It means that Amazon wants all the people working on a new product to be on board with the idea.

Yamato reduces delivery times

Yamato Transport Co. has modified its parcel delivery time slots to reduce the burden on overworked drivers handling a sharp increase in parcels.

As of Monday, the door-to-door parcel delivery firm no longer allows noon to 2 p.m. as a designated delivery time so drivers can take a lunch break.

In addition, the company replaced the latest time slot in the day of 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. with a new slot of 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. to avoid the concentration of delivery orders in the final one hour.

In line with the change, Seven & I Holdings Co., Lawson Inc. and other retailers that offer online shopping using Yamato’s delivery services have revised their delivery time slots.

Amazon Japan seeks delivery drivers

Amazon Japan aims to build a team of 10,000 independent couriers in the Tokyo region by 2020 to continue offering same-day delivery service without relying on major parcel delivery companies.

In Tokyo, the epicenter of demand, private couriers will be organized by logistics company Maruwa Unyu Kikan, which handles deliveries for such clients as online grocers. The company will take on Amazon's same-day delivery by organizing a team of independent couriers and outsourcing the work. It has already begun the same-day service in some parts of Tokyo's 23 wards.

Maruwa aims to fence in private couriers by strictly regulating work hours while guaranteeing steady work and revenue. It will also offer worker dormitories, fuel discounts and training. When necessary, it will also rent out mini-trucks that are easy to drive even in metropolitan areas and will encourage new drivers to sign on.

The puzzle of motivation

In April 2017, economists at LSE looked at 51 studies of pay-for-performance plans, inside of companies. Here's what they said: "We find that financial incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance."

There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. And what worries me, as we stand here in the rubble of the economic collapse, is that too many organizations are making their decisions, their policies about talent and people, based on assumptions that are outdated, unexamined,and rooted more in folklore than in science. And if we really want to get out of this economic mess, if we really want high performance on those definitional tasks of the 21st century, the solution is not to do more of the wrong things, to entice people with a sweeter carrot, or threaten them with a sharper stick. We need a whole new approach.