Take my workers – please

HR at JDS’ Victoria plant has a 112-page directory of laid-off staff for you to pick from.
By David Brown
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 02/23/2002

At one time the HR department at JDS Uniphase Victoria fought hard to keep employees from being stolen away by other companies — it spent much of last month trying to get every one of them hired by somebody else.

The plant wound up production at the end of January but rather than simply laying off its employees, JDS Uniphase was determined to help them find other work, said Arlene Keis, director of HR. And while it’s a common refrain from employers closing down operations, JDS Uniphase went to extraordinary lengths to do so.

They produced a 112-page directory with biographical sketches of the more than 180 people who were to be let go. It was mailed to 400 employers, mostly in manufacturing, throughout British Columbia and western Canada and thousands more flyers went out promoting the catalogue.

“As we prepare to close down our operations in Victoria, we know that we are leaving behind a valuable resource,” wrote general manager Stephen Neal. The workforce was superb with a tremendous depth of skill. “We wish to help our staff, as well as Victoria and B.C., to take advantage of this resource by providing this synopsis of available personnel.”

The directory lists employees from project engineers and customer service to production, executive administrative assistants and quality assurance. Responsibilities, previous experience, education and training, as well as other skills and abilities are detailed, sometimes with a personal comment and usually a supervisor’s summary.

It is in the interest of the company to treat the employees well, Keis said. The company wanted employees to know that it worked really hard to help them find other work because these people may one day return to JDS.

“The company is determined to treat employees well during good times and bad times,” said Keis, who herself is listed in the directory.

The decision to close the facility was made last August but as production would continue into the new year, they also needed to hold on to employees who knew they had no future there.

A compensation incentive was offered to keep employees to the end and only a few left early, she said.

Aside from the directory, JDS also offered other support and services to prepare employees for the closure. Career transition help was brought on site to teach employees about resume writing, job search techniques and how to find the “hidden jobs.” They were also offered courses to upgrade computer skills and speakers were brought in to explain the ins and outs of the employment insurance system, as well as the tax issues with regard to stock options. A job bulletin board was created and a job fair of sorts was even organized just off-site.

“We created a closure enhancement committee, charged with keeping morale and spirits up through a very difficult time,” Keis said. There were pancake days, donut days, fun contests and finally a farewell luncheon.

The booklets were sent out the week of Jan.14 and soon after they hit the desks the HR department began receiving calls, she said. Her finance people were in demand, as were engineers, technical writers and procurement people.

The idea for the directory came from two of Keis’ staff that worked at the Commonwealth Games held in Victoria in 1994. There was a large temporary workforce assembled to run the games and a booklet was produced to help those people find work after the games were over.

For more information call JDS’ HR department at (250) 544-4588.

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