How to retain your “A” players when you need to cut back

SkaddenArps, one of the largest law firms in the country, needed to cut back on its payroll but didn’t want to lose its talented associates. So they offered each one $80,000 to take  a year off. This is about one-third of their usual salary, but some of them took what equates to a paid vacation. The firm is encouraging its associates to do pro bono work with this paid leave and they also guaranteed the associates their jobs at the end of the year, a possibility not available to those who remain at full-pay and stand the chance of a layoff. This is Skadden Arps’ effort to cut back on overhead without losing their “A” players. While they’re not realizing a direct ROI from the expense, they’re investing in the future of the company by offering this direct reward to valued associates and encouraging pro bono work for people and organizations who benefit from these talents.

The economic downturn hits everyone, whether you’ve lost your job, can’t sell your house, or have to dedicate a bigger chunk of your salary to pay for gas and food. The question is, how do we respond to the challenge? Do you have A-players? Whether they are employees or customers, how do you plan on keeping them? What if you have an abundance of B- and C-players? Can you afford to carry extras on your team like you normally do? And what about your customers? What will it take to turn those C-customers into A’s? Take a look at your players, your team. Figure out who hunkers down and does three times the amount of work normally necessary. Determine which customers are willing to go the distance with you while you’re batting below .500 in order to make it to the big show. Strategy is everywhere. What’s yours?

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