Posted by: Francesca Di Meglio on June 25, 2009
By Francesca Di Meglio
As Harvard University announced it was going to eliminate 275 jobs earlier in the week, Harvard Business School (HBS School Profile) braced itself – as did the other schools on campus. Out of a staff of about 1,000, HBS laid off 16 staff members, which doesn’t seem like much on the surface. But others have left through attrition and still more will be leaving by way of early retirement plans and expiration of temporary work contracts for a total of about 13% fewer jobs.
“The overall effect of departures – whether through attrition, early retirement, end of contract, restructuring, or layoff – will be significant, and will be felt by every department on campus,” according to a June 23 letter sent to HBS staff and faculty from Dean of the Faculty Jay Light and Angela Crispi, associate dean for administration. “Cumulatively, at the start of the new academic year in September, HBS (including Publishing) will be 130 people smaller.”
Indeed, HBS, home of the case study and arbiter of Harvard Business Review, is facing the economic crisis as those it studies might – by making difficult decisions, sacrificing, and becoming leaner and leaner. The school has already reduced the use of temps and overtime, changed the way staff travels, closed some on-campus dining options, and taken a range of other steps to cut back on expenses, according to the letter.
“While these measures were effective in achieving our budget targets for the coming fiscal year, our goal (indeed, our need) has been to prepare the School not just for next year but also for the years after,” according to the letter. “Ultimately this means we must become a smaller organization.”
Some say there is a silver lining. Having only 16 layoffs in this latest university-wide downsizing seems to bode well. “HBS is less dependent on the endowment than some other parts of the university,” writes HBS spokesperson Jim Aisner in an e-mail. “But, as you probably know, there have been cutbacks in budgets across the board.”
There is an eye toward what’s to come. “Clearly, we need to do things differently in the future,” according to the letter from Light and Crispi. “While at some point we’ll need to turn to the work ahead, for now our focus should be on supporting the individuals affected and treating them and this event with professionalism and respect.”