European Companies Accelerate Downsizing Efforts, but Actions Vary Widely by Sector


  • By ; Carlos Andina, Director; Egé Edi Siva, Director; John Secker, Associate Partner; Keith Amos, Associate Partner; Michael Densmore, Senior Manager
  • Practice Areas: Rewards
  • Business Sectors: Financial Services (General)
  • Geography: Europe
  • Published: June 2020
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Organisations across Europe are accelerating plans to reduce headcount amid dire economic forecasts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In a three-week period from late March to mid-April, there was a doubling in the number of survey participants who said they are planning to downsize their workforce via layoffs or furlough arrangements — from 20% to 40%. From mid-April to 1 May we did not see significant movement in terms of the overall number of companies with downsizing plans; however, during the second half of April, the number of companies executing downsizing efforts doubled, from 14% to 28%. This indicates many organisations considering downsizing earlier executed their plans by end of April.

The data comes from three separate Aon pulse surveys on workforce and compensation arrangements conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, including our most recent on return to the workplace plans. More information and access to the survey on Adjusting Total Rewards Programs and Workforce Strategies in Response to COVID-19 can be found here. Results from our third survey conducted from 28 April to 1 May on Setting the Stage for a Return to Work and the New Normal, is available here.

Specific downsizing strategies vary by business sector. The highest levels of projected downsizing are in retail (including hotels, restaurants, wholesale and e-commerce), and manufacturing, which have been disproportionately impacted by government closures of non-essential businesses, followed by the energy sector. Financial services and technology companies are on the other end of the pendulum and have been more insulated from the economic downturn.

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