CLOSE-UP PERSPECTIVE: Lowe Lintas hopes to ease the pain of cutting staff levels

It was long ago, but I’ll not forget the day I was made redundant or the crude and callous way it was done. Not my ashen-faced union rep deputed by a cowardly management to tell me my fate. Not my stumbling words on the phone as I broke the news to my wife.

It was long ago, but I’ll not forget the day I was made redundant

or the crude and callous way it was done. Not my ashen-faced union rep

deputed by a cowardly management to tell me my fate. Not my stumbling

words on the phone as I broke the news to my wife.



And certainly not the editorial director who sailed in a couple of days

later to reel off some figures about the parlous state of the group’s

finances and to assure us latest additions to the jobless statistics

that what had happened was in no way a reflection on our talent. Just

business.



My mind sometimes drifts back to that time when I hear merging global

networks talk euphemistically of making economies of scale and the need

to cut out duplication, or agency chairmen explain their latest bit of

downsizing.



You ask how many jobs will be lost. Not many, they answer. You could

count them on the fingers of one hand. What’s more, it will only be a

few low-level support staff. Nobody of any consequence is the

implication and certainly not deserving of much respect.



So it’s heartening to hear that the newly merged Lowe Lintas & Partners

is not planning to use the blunt instrument usually employed by agencies

to cull surplus staff but to ask for voluntary redundancies.



This is a novel idea in an industry which prides itself on being a

people business but makes a habit of swallowing them whole and spitting

them out.



Of course, agencies are obliged to keep staffing costs in check. The

death last year of Leagas Shafron Davis is a warning of the consequences

of maintaining staff levels in the wake of serious losses in the hope

that something will turn up. Moreover, the high salaries paid by the

industry are part compensation for the perpetual pressures and fragile

job security.



But if redundancies are a fact of life in advertising, will the Lowe

Lintas experiment prove the best way of confronting a necessary

evil?



For one thing, it may allow more generous payments to those choosing to

take redundancy. For another, it could help the agency identify personal

and organisational problems not foreseen when the merger was

planned.



In trying to find out why a highly valued staffer asks to take the money

and go, senior managers may find there are important tweaks to be made

if the marriage is to run smoothly. Maybe it’s simply that somebody has

not been cherished enough or that there is a chemistry problem within a

department to be resolved.



The Lowe Lintas initiative could leave everybody a winner. Those who go

do so out of choice and with proper compensation. Those who stay are

happy and motivated. Well, that’s the theory. Let’s hope it works.





john.tylee@haynet.com



Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4.



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