Queen’s Exec MBA Students Report Widespread Cutbacks in the Workplace

Posted on July 7, 2009

But expert advises that cutbacks can actually be a catalyst for “lean innovation”

KINGSTON, ON, – A survey of over 200 working managers and executives reveals that many employers are cutting back in response to the current economic climate. Almost three quarters (72 per cent) of the participants who are completing their Executive MBA at Queen’s School of Business in boardroom learning teams across Canada indicated that their organizations are spending less than they were two years ago.

However, an expert in operations and technology at Queen’s School of Business doesn’t feel that these widespread cutbacks necessitate a slowdown in innovation, if they are treated as inspiration for positive change.

“The scarce resources and short-term focus that often come with a tough economy are not barriers to innovation if executives choose the right ‘less’ and focus resources on improving skill sets for employees and enhancing the core value offerings to their customers,” said Barry Cross, Lecturer in Operations Management and Technology at Queen’s School of Business. “Innovative companies are finding ways to maintain that spirit of creativity, and establish some type of balance with efficiency in their day-to-day operations.”

Professor Cross sites the video rental company Zip.ca as an example of “lean innovation.” “Zip.ca has eliminated the in-store customer experience and enhanced the model to create new value elsewhere. Unlike traditional rental stores, they have no costly real estate, but have a substantial, centralized video inventory.  They also have adopted the Internet subscription model, where your personalized selections are delivered by mail.”

The same size, but better
While there has been employee attrition in all industries, the Queen’s Executive MBA respondents said that cost containment isn’t coming primarily in the form of staffing cuts. In fact, six in ten (62 per cent) believe the size of their organization’s workforce is likely to stay the same or even increase in the next six months. Additionally, almost three quarters (73 per cent) of those surveyed express little or no concern over their own job security over the next six months.

“If you look at your workforce performance and capabilities in a bell curve, consider what you can do with the group on the lower left of the curve,” said Cross. “Could you coach or provide additional training to help them reach a higher level of performance, or failing that, replace them with some of the all-stars currently in the job market? Take the opportunity of the slower business climate to shift the overall performance curve of your operation to the right.”

The road ahead
The Queen’s MBA survey also reveals optimism on future management of organizations and recovery:

o 65 per cent of respondents at Queen’s think the financial downturn “will” cause a long-term, fundamental change in how Canadian companies are managed, and 79 per cent believe it “should.”
o 85 per cent see light at the end of the tunnel and believe we will see economic recovery in the next two years.

The research was conducted between May 22nd and May 31st with 239 members of the EMBA and AMBA classes at Queen’s School of Business located in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. Survey participants responded to questions via the One Touch technology currently used in the program to allow students to be polled on-demand, communicate with the instructor and “electronically raise their hand.”

About Queen’s School of Business:
Queen’s School of Business (business.queensu.ca) is one of the world’s premier business schools — renowned for exceptional programs, outstanding faculty and research, and the quality of its graduates. Canadian executives regard Queen’s as Canada’s most innovative business school, offering students academic excellence and a superior overall experience. Queen’s School of Business — where Canada’s first Commerce program was launched in 1919 — is located at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. The School also delivers programs at locations across Canada, as well in the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates.
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Amy Davidson/Lisa Mills
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