How companies are cutting costs

Companies get creative in cost-cutting measures, attempt to avoid permanent layoffs

Nearly half of companies working to reduce costs attempt to avoid permanent layoffs, according to recent survey results, opting instead to freeze salaries and cut travel expenses.

Global outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas released results Monday from a survey of 100 human resource executives that showed 92 percent are initiating some type of cost-cutting actions. Among those, more than 55.6 percent of the companies said they were reducing headcount to lower expenses. Yet nearly half (44.4 percent) are resorting to other measures to decrease costs, and only 2 percent of those surveyed said they used permanent layoffs as their sole cost-cutting initiative. According to the findings, 82 percent of companies employed at least two cost-cutting methods to make their numbers.

"Many companies cannot cut their payrolls as deeply as they have in previous downturns, simply because they did not do as much hiring during the most recent expansion. As a result, they are forced to find alternative ways to keep their costs down," said John Challenger, CEO at the firm, in a statement.

For instance, more than 66.7 percent said they cut travel expenses, more than 57.8 percent plan to freeze hiring and 32 percent cancelled the employee holiday party. Others froze salaries (27.2 percent) and reduced year-end bonuses (26.7 percent) or eliminated them altogether (22.2 percent), while some cut workers' hours (24.4 percent) and conducted temporary layoffs (15.6 percent).

Fewer companies (10.8 percent) reported cutting back tuition reimbursement programs, and 11 percent reduced or eliminated matching contributions to employees' 401(k) plans. More than 6 percent cut office space expenses through increased telecommuting.

"Companies that have thus far avoided job cuts may not be able to do so for the entire length of this recession, but by reducing costs in all these other areas, they may be able to limit the size of the cuts," Challenger said.

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