The American Psychological Association downsizes, eliminating 100 employment positions
Here is a letter that recently went to staff at the American Psychological Association. 50 filled positions at APA were terminated and 50 empty positions won’t be filled. There is no word on how many of those individuals who were let go were in areas related to practice.
Dear APA staff –
This morning, APA underwent a major restructuring that required a reduction in force. I’m sending this email to you this evening to give you more information.
Each person whose position was eliminated was notified individually earlier today.
Let’s start with the question, why a reduction in force?
In February at an all-staff town hall meeting, I informed you that while our Fiscal Year 2020 budgeted deficit was less than last year’s deficit, this was because of one-time revenue in this year’s budget, and we were still facing a large continued structural deficit. At that time, I indicated to you that the gap between our expenses and revenue was not sustainable and that we would need to close that gap. The APA Board of Directors requested I bring a plan to achieve this to their June meeting and that this plan be consistent with our Council-adopted strategic plan.
Additionally, the existing structural budget deficit is now being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ongoing uncertainty in scholarly publishing, investments, and the real estate market mean we must act not only urgently, but thoughtfully to ensure APA has a strong future. The impact of the pandemic will not be temporary, so we must think long-term. It is my job and the job of the Board of Directors to ensure that APA is focused on and has enough resources to accomplish the work that advances our strategic objectives.
The Executive Management Team and I began work to assess how to get there. EMG members were tasked with assessing the alignment of resources, skills, and existing approaches within their units to achieve our strategic priorities. The what we do and the how we do it were our collective focus.
So how was it approached?
We began by carefully assessing our organizational goals and obligations and how our expenses were aligned with them. We first made significant reductions in non-salaried items, including outsourcing the print shop, reducing the amount of space that APA occupies in the building, and centralizing key operations, like moving existing staff into a new budget and finance team. We carefully assessed vacant positions and eliminated approximately 50 of those positions.
Some staff have asked about the financial impact of eliminating travel and meetings for 2020 because of the pandemic. These actions will offer a short-term financial benefit, as will the decision to cancel the in-person convention and offer a virtual experience instead. Although this will provide one-time savings this year, it does not offer a solution to the long-term structural misalignment that we have between our expenses and revenue.
As I said during February’s town hall and my virtual Coffee and Tea sessions when staff have asked me about layoffs, nothing – including layoffs – was off the table. Given the size of the fiscal challenge we faced, we had to consider all options to reduce our expenses. Our staff are and remain our greatest asset. Clearly a reduction in force was our least desirable option.
Unfortunately, in the face of the large deficit and the additional unforeseen uncertainty of a global pandemic, there was no way to ensure the long-term health of the organization without considering and implementing a reduction in force. Each Chief made decisions for his or her area based on the work ahead and the capacity of the teams to accomplish it, and approximately 50 filled positions in total were eliminated across the organization, in addition to the approximately 50 unfilled positions also eliminated. Our Chiefs approached these decisions in the most thoughtful way possible and in a way that would allow APA to continue to deliver on our important mission.
It is important to note that EMG focused on positions, not people. I know that may sound like a distinction without a difference, but the difference is important. Our friends and colleagues whose last employment day was today were working in positions that were eliminated, positions whose work will cease or be absorbed by others. It is not a reflection on them or their work, but on the position they held. We are sorry to see them go and wish them all the best.
How are we treating the people who are gone?
We wanted to take care of our colleagues whose positions were eliminated today. We recognize the hardship and fear they may be facing, and the effect this has on their lives, particularly in this unparalleled time.
Every employee who left today has been offered a generous severance package. In addition to the severance calculation outlined in our employee policies, which is based on factors like tenure, all employees whose positions have been eliminated as part of this action have been offered an additional three months of severance pay. APA is also paying for extended health care coverage via COBRA for employees and their families through the end of 2020, which includes APA’s generous mental health coverage benefit. And APA is extending access to the employee assistance program for the affected employees and their families for as long as they remain COBRA eligible, which provides counseling and support, as well as emotional support for staff as they engage in the process of seeking new job opportunities. In addition, because the position eliminations have been due in part to the pandemic, our former employees should be eligible for additional unemployment benefits.
What is next?
This week, we will begin processing these changes and looking toward the future. Tomorrow, I will host an all-hands virtual APA staff meeting to talk through these changes and take your questions.
I have also asked EMG members to be available tomorrow to answer questions and talk about what the changes in the budget and staffing mean to the team members who remain.
What does this mean about the organization’s future?
I believe APA has a bright future. I am so proud of the hard work everyone has been doing to move us through organization-wide transformation, align with our strategic goals, and shift to a more collaborative and innovative workplace even in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic. I believe in this team and know we can move together to a new normal. I have watched you rise above a pandemic and come together in ways we could not have imagined. I have seen APA transform itself. I know brighter days lie ahead.
When I first came to APA over three years ago, I told you that we would transform this organization together. The financial situation meant we had to reduce positions, but we are not reducing our commitment to achieving the strategic priorities that have been adopted by the Association’s governance.
This means we are counting on you more than ever.
I usually end my emails with “stay inspired.” That is because I believe that inspiration is what drives us, engages us, reminds us why we are doing the important work of the Association: “to benefit society and improve people’s lives.”
Today I would add that we also need to stay connected – whether creating a space to process this news, like tomorrow’s all-hands staff meeting, or thinking about how we can continue building stronger cross-organizational ties going forward. The world is evolving, and APA with it. It will take all of us to ensure that change takes us where we want to go.