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Job Jeopardy - GWL Shocker

Wow - what a difference a day makes!!! A couple of days ago I penned a short article on the Great Job Prospects in Manitoba and today Winnipeg's largest private sector employer, Great-West Lifeco, announced "plans to lay off 1,500 Canadian workers this year and next year as part of a cost-cutting program." The GWL lay offs coupled with Manitoba Hydro's lay off announcement in early February 2017 is a 'double blow'. You will recall that Manitoba Hydro, a public sector crown corporation, "is cutting 900 positions across the province to improve operational efficiencies and strengthen its financial position." These two lay offs qualify for a TKO to Manitoba's economy. These two decisions will undoubtedly have a 'trickle down' effect on all aspects of Manitoba's economy - not only will it impact those losing their jobs but it will also impact the service provider supply chain.

So over-night many jobs at GWL are in jeopardy. GWL is reducing 13 per cent of its Canadian workforce and this translates into 'cutting 1,500 positions out of 12,000 over the course of the next two years." To dampen the shock GWL's news release stated that "reductions will come from reducing the temporary workforce, a voluntary retirement program and eliminating positions through a severance program." Specifically, what is the extent of this lay off on GWL employees in Winnipeg? A GWL spokesperson told CBC News that "almost a third of the job cuts, or 450 positions will come from the company's Winnipeg headquarters." Its head office operation currently employs 3,500 people.

Similarly, The Globe and Mail reported that "the Winnipeg-based insurer plans to broadly reduce its Canadian head count by as much as 13 per cent, or 1,500 positions, in the next two years." That's a lot of employees and during this period while lay offs are being identified the company environment will be in a state of uncertainty. One of the negative consequences of a 'stretch lay off' is that it will affect employee morale at GWL over a 2-year period. Situations such as this are never 'happy days'.

Let's look 'under the covers' to understand the underlying catalyst for this massive lay off at GWL. According to a feature Business Section article in the Winnipeg Free Press these lay offs are driven by a major technology-focused transformation. To be competitive in the industry the insurance giant has been investing more heavily in digital capabilities. According to its CEO, GWL "is evolving from a more manually intensive to a more digitally enabled organization." New technology is impacting GWL's way of doing business, to remain competitive in the industry, GWL embraced the new technology enabling the it to provide more competitive pricing with the intended result being to grow the business and retain customers. The CEO stated "As either direct competitors automate their processes they will provide more competitive pricing. We need to be able to do that as well."

Now, the good news, at least for professionals in the information technology (IT) industry.

Paul Mahon, CEO at GWL, stated "we need to hire and attract talent who are going to help us build our financial technology capabilities." "We needed to invest heavily in digital capabilities, which included hiring lots of people to build out our capabilities," Mahon said, referring to 200 technology hires last year." So if you are an information technology professional, the 'glass is half full' as GWL will continue to add new IT hires going forward.

The immediate impact of the lay off announcement will center on GWL's temporary work force in Winnipeg. The temporary jobs usually comprise 'contract' jobs and 'temps' filling in for workers away for personal reasons (stress-leave, sick leave, maternity leave, etc.). The proactive approach for this worker category is to get a 'Head Start'. You should start looking for job opportunities before the 'axe falls'. Take the 'bull by the horns' and send your resume to Zen Zen International. I maybe able to help you. Zen Zen International is always recruiting and looking to recruit Great People for Great Companies in Winnipeg.


Great-West Lifeco to lay off 13% of its Canadian workforce - CBC News - April 15, 2017

Manitoba Hydro cutting 900 jobs, offering buyouts as part of restructuring - The Globe and Mail - February 3, 2017

Great-West to cut 1,500 jobs, take charge amid restructuring plan - The Globe and Mail - April 25, 2017

Great-West Life shedding jobs - Winnipeg Free Press - April 26, 2017