Smartest thing your employer had done to cut costs.

Inspirec by this, what is the smartest way your employer cut costs?

For us, it was simple. In order to keep air conditioning costs down in summer, our schedules were adjusted so that we worked a little longer Monday-Thursday, but only had a half day Friday. They turn off the A/C Thursday night unless it’s a bad heat wave, where they wait until noon on Friday. Result: Everyone gets a long weekend in the summer, and the college saves a ton of money not having A/C running in most of the offices (obviously, the server room keeps it on so things don’t overheat).

Similarly, in order to save on heating costs, the college shuts down completely between Christmas Eve and New Years Day. Heat is turned as low as it goes, all personal computers are turned off, and lights are off. Also saves a lot and we get a long vacation just at the time we need one.

What other stories are there?

We have an aftercare program, and parents were being lax in picking up their kids on time, which meant that we had to pay people to stay and watch the kids. Parents had to pay to have their kids with us, and there was a small penalty for being late, but not enough of one. It made for people sometimes running into overtime, and other people, particularly the ones who didn’t go into overtime, being very discontented. So they increased the financial penalty, and also said that excessive failure to pick up your kid on time could result in your not being allowed to use aftercare at all. Suddenly NO ONE was ever late. Ever. No more paying overtime for people staying, and also, no more issues with absenteeism the day after someone had to stay excessively late. Yes, not very professional, I know, but sometimes someone (not me) who ended up staying really late (once, one person had to stay for 45 minutes) decided to be sick the next day. We all suspected she wasn’t really sick, but who could prove anything?

Fired my previous supervisor. He was making 150 a year after benefits and was a drain on productivity and chased away good talent. He made poor decisions that made us less equipped to deal with future challenges and as a general rule was a complete disaster. Right now we seem to be in the process of getting rid of middle managers. Not via layoffs, but when one leaves, rather than rehiring they close the gap between higher management and lower management with each taking on the middle’s responsibilities. I’m not sure if it’s smart or dumb, we’ll see in the long-run. In my particular department just due to how bad this guy was it has been positive, but I can already see that it’s not universally positive. You lose strategic direction. The lower level managers just care about things running correctly and the upper level has so much on their plate that they just want to hear that there are no problems from your particular unit. That mid-level guy that is able to advocate for the unit and give it some sort of direction is missing. We’ll see what happens.

Some cuts don’t need to be financial:

CEO fires entire development staff and outsource jobs to coder farm (slaves, essentially) in India.

Local newspaper reports CEO is involved in a insider trading and other nefarious activities.

Company board fires CEO and appoints competent replacement.

Replacment CEO fires overseas developers and rehires fired developers and gives them raises.

For the upper level guys, sounds like what a friend of mine called “creeping job description.” Every couple of weeks, or month, they add “one or two little things” to your workload, that they swear will only take five minutes a day, and they keep doing this until they’ve added an hour, or even 90 minutes to your day. You’re trying to get out by the same time, so you work through lunch, and eat power bars, and do a lot of stuff half-assed, and occasionally skip stuff, and are feeling grumpy all the time, when you started out liking the job.

I had a job like that. I really liked it at first, but I ended up quitting after two years. I took a similar position at another agency with one huge difference: I had a written job description. My direct supervisor couldn’t change it without meeting with me, everyone else in my position, the head of personnel, and the head of the agency.

We used to use a contract office services company. That company was horrible to its employees, and you could tell because the employees were despondent, lackadaisical, and careless. Copy jobs were botched, paperwork was lost, and it was just generally a mess.

Finally someone decided to just hire direct full-time employees to staff our office services department. It has been a big turnaround: now everyone there is cheerful and efficient and their work is topnotch. I have no way of knowing that this improves our balance sheets, though.

Replaced all the desktop computers with laptops, for sales and support staff. Suddenly instead of working until 5:30 instead of 5, when things got busy, we all took our laptops home, and after dinner or the kids were in bed, sat down to put in another couple of hours of work, in addition to “just answering a few emails” over the weekend. Since everyone was salary, that was free extra work, as far as the company was concerned.

Employees were rewarded financially when their cost saving ideas were implemented.

I worked at one efficient government department where they provided every computer programmer with their own printer at their desk, thus saving the wasted time & interruptions of walking elsewhere to get your printouts. They often got the printers for minimal or no costs – used older, slow surplus printers that were being replaced by other departments. Still plenty fast enough for 1 worker.

This same department had one old, semi-retired employee who spent his day reviewing obituaries. He checked them against the list of people who owed the state money. Anytime he found a match, he filed a state lien against that persons’ estate, to collect back-due child support, unpaid traffic fines, taxes owed, etc. He found at least a few every week. The boss once told me he brought in 5-10 times his salary every year.

My campus goes to a short week for faculty support personnel throughout the summer, I think it’s a four/nine. It somehow works out salary-wise and there aren’t lights, AC, janitorial costs for one day a week (and fewer people commuting).

Two years ago we also rid ourselves of two VPs and deans on the admin side, which was appreciable savings. However, now three managers have been elevated and salaried for these positions – our admin side multiplies like hamsters, I swear there are four admins for every faculty member.

Are you at a private or public university?

To avoid layoffs, a former employer performed mandatory drug testing on everyone. Fail or refuse and you’re gone. They cut about 5% of total staff.


Terrible idea, and likely lost the best 5%.

Transferring custody of outside medical coverage back to owning facilities. (I’ll explain what that means if anyone cares.) It was my idea and it saved us a fortune.

My mom’s hospital supposedly had that sort of program and she started to use it and submitted almost a dozen suggestions the first year. Many of them were not implemented, which is understandable, but several of them were implemented but she was not rewarded because “they were planning on doing that anyway.” You can probably guess how often she submitted suggestions after that happened.

In 2008, my dad’s employer was hitting money issues and needed to cut back on salary expenses. They called a big meeting and were very upfront about it, and said that they’d decided that instead of doing layoffs, they were going to give everybody every second Friday off and cut everybody’s salary by 10%. According to my dad it worked pretty well; they avoided the morale hit from doing layoffs and people wound up enjoying getting a 3-day weekend every other week.

See, that’s the crux of it, I think. They were honest and up-front about it. Did people like getting a pay cut, even coupled with the gain of a day off? Probably not, but it’s better than a day or more lost due to layoff worries while waiting to see where the axe will fall, followed by the morale hit in the remaining workforce. In my experience, it’s never really just one layoff and it sets up a culture of fear inside a company while people wait for the next bit of bad financial news to trigger the expected next round.

My kids’ daycare charged $1 per minute per kid, paid in cash on pick up. So many stressful times of sitting on a disabled train with cartoon-like dollar signs flashing in my eyes, but I completely understand why they did that.

I know someone in the other thread said this was a stupid idea their employer implemented, but it was smart for my previous employer: moving from flat rate per diem to reimbursement upon submission of receipts. We had a few dishonest employees who would claim the whole per diem despite being at a conference which provided meals, for example. For a struggling non-profit, that move made sense.

That seems to happen a lot.

I worked at one financial company that also claimed to offer rewards for ideas. The first one I submitted was implemented, but I never got paid. i was told that all I had suggested was a general idea, with none of the specific details needed to make it work. (But the form for submitting ideas only had about 1/4 page space for them, and never mentioned details.)

So the next one I submitted had pages of specifics about how it could be implemented attached. They implemented this one too, but changed 1 or 2 of the specific details that I had suggested. So I didn’t get the promised reward for that one, either.

So I didn’t submit any more cost-saving suggestions. At least, not to them.

But when I had another cost-saving idea, I asked a friend, who worked at a competing financial company how they did it, and learned that they were doing it the same way, and my idea would also work there. Her employer didn’t have any official suggestions program, but she suggested it to them anyway. They implemented it, it worked, and they gave her a nice cash bonus. She took me out to dinner at a fancy restaurant & concert tickets afterwards. Which was more reward than I’d gotten from my employer’s suggestion plan!

P.S. That financial services company I worked for is no longer in business. I wonder why?