During conversations with reporters Tuesday about the cost reduction plans, one question that kept coming up was why more wasn't said about the local impact about which employees were affected and facilities were being closed. The primary question being why the company wasn't more forthcoming?
This is a hard one. It raises an important issue about how a company should deliver such news. In fact, this question was debated a good deal internally, with strong arguments made on both sides.
In the end, we said only that expected reductions were to be about 3 to 4 percent of the global workforce and handled in accordance with local works councils and labor laws. A choice was made against providing a more detailed breakdown of the employee numbers or the expected impact at the segment, operating company or regional levels.
As Bill Weldon explained during the call and in his letter to employees the decisions were being made at each operating company - those organizations make the final decisions about how to manage their businesses and are best placed to determine which facilities or employees are going to be affected.
In some cases, the news of decisions reached followed swiftly. For instance, in Mountain View, Ca. employees at ALZA and Scios were told on Tuesday that the Mountain View site was going to be closed; some jobs would be eliminated and some relocated.
In some other cases, specific decisions may be revealed at a later date.
Regardless of what is decided, one thing is clear: the affected employees will be told before the media or investment community. It's only fair. Out of respect for the employees, it's important for the supervisors and business leaders to have discussions with the people who are affected by these actions before they are reported in the press.
Some reporters understood this approach. Others disagreed. The best approach to this type of issue will always be debated, but the underlying intention is sound and in keeping with how Johnson & Johnson has traditionally made such decisions.
One other thing about these decisions. - Johnson & Johnson is a big organization, with lots of opportunities. When it is said that every effort will be made to place affected employees, that generally means the company will include job fairs for internal and external opportunities, career centers, resume tips and other helpful hints.
The fact is that while management will work to reach these goals, they will also be working to minimize the number of employees affected by these actions through the use of attrition and hiring freezes in certain areas of the business.