Evolve or Dissolve … 5 Lessons from Chicago Sun-Times Staff Lay Off

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A particular article I read online inspired this piece.

One of Chicago’s two major newspapers, Chicago Sun–Times, on Thursday, May 30, 2013, laid off its entire photo staff. Many of the affected photographers had worked in the organization for over 40 years.

Commenting on the development, the newspaper said, “The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news. We have made great progress in meeting this demand and are focused on bolstering our reporting capabilities with video and other multimedia elements. The Chicago Sun-Times continues to evolve with our digitally savvy customers, and as a result, we have had to restructure the way we manage multimedia, including photography, across the network.”

This got me thinking. Many questions raced through my mind as I ponder on the article. Did the affected see it coming? Was there anything they could have done to prevent this? Was the decision justified and fair? Questions, questions, questions.

However, there are lessons all of us (employees and agencies) can learn from it.

1. THE SURVIVAL OF THE BUSINESS IS PARAMOUNT TO THE EMPLOYER/CLIENT — An average employer’s major pre-occupation is the survival of the business. Central to this survival is customer satisfaction. In the case under focus, the newspaper’s readers are craving for a different engagement platform (video) as opposed to the output of the affected staff (photography). The employer naturally aligns with the customer because they pay the bills.

For agency, the client doesn’t engage you in order to do you a favour. Client’s loyalty is primarily to his business and would not hesitate to fire you if he feels value is no longer being delivered.

2. BE AWARE OF EMERGING TRENDS — While the readers consumption pattern has evolved, the photographers in question were still stuck in their “old ways”. Any staff or organization that wants to be relevant must be consumer-centric; trying to match the dynamic demands of the consumer. As an employee, look for how best you can contribute to your organisation’s quest to add value to the consumer. As an agency, constantly review your deliverables in the light of your client’s changing business objectives.

3. EVOLVE WITH CHANGING TIMES — Whoever that is not ready to adapt in this ever-changing modern world, will sooner than later, be left behind. There is no more room for a ‘dinosaur’. You must constantly be abreast of latest trends, particularly in your industry. Be aware of the buzz words, latest tools, gadgets, strategies, trainings, opportunities and connections that can equip you to deliver better value in your professional functions. No employer or client wants to retain any staff or agency whose output doesn’t deliver maximum results. Instead of being exclusive photographers, the sacked staff would have easily added video to their output.

4. CREATIVELY “PREDICT” THE FUTURE — Evolving with times is good, but it’s more rewarding to be a trend setter in terms of innovations. Constant observation of current trends, events, mediums, technology, etc, in most cases, gives an inkling of future direction. Preparing for this future before it arrives puts one on a better performance pedestal.

5. HAVE A PLAN B — No need to say much about this. Even after doing all that is required, for whatever reason, an employee or agency could still be sacked. The question is: What happens after losing your job or business? Solution — Prepare, prepare, prepare.

On a last note, remember when you are no longer delivering the value that resonates with the consumer/client, it’s about time to dispense with you.